Reasonable accommodations the CalFresh programs

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding reasonable accommodation for disabilities in the CalFresh program.

Counties must notify all CalFresh applicants, recipients, authorized representatives, and other interested parties, of the right to request reasonable accommodations.  Counties must prominently display posters on nondiscrimination, give printed notices (including having the PUB 13 available in all waiting rooms and reception areas), on websites, and verbally at initial application and recertification.

Counties have an affirmative duty to determine wither a CalFresh applicant/recipient needs additional assistance because of a disability and, if applicable, to provide a disability related accommodation.  This means that, even if an applicant/recipient does not request an accommodation, the county must ask if a CalFresh applicant/recipient needs a reasonable accommodation when the need is obvious or known.  If such disabilities are discovered, the county must assist the individual in self-identifying the disability and/or the appropriate accommodation.  Counties can also identify a possible disability related need by reviewing application or recertification forms.

The county computer systems have a flag that counties must use when an applicant/recipient indicates the need for a disability accommodation and/or the applicant/recipient has disclosed a disability.

Counties must ask the applicant/recipient if they need assistance, but counties cannot ask the applicant/recipient if they have a particular diagnosis or condition.

Counties must offer disability-related assistance if an applicant/recipient identifies as having a disability or if the disability-related need is obvious or known.

If the county notices that an applicant/recipient is having difficulty completing CalFresh eligibility requirements, they must still offer assistance and document it in the case file even if the assistance is not disability-related.

CalFresh applicants/recipients may request a reasonable accommodation at any time in their interaction with the county.  Reasonable accommodation requests can be made in person, by telephone, or in writing by the applicant/recipient or be someone acting on their behalf.  There are no “magic” words to request a reasonable accommodation.  An applicant/recipient does not need to disclose a specific diagnosis or condition to request a reasonable accommodation.  An applicant/recipient can request a reasonable accommodation for another person with whom they are associated.  The county cannot question the need for an accommodation.  The county can ask to clarify the nature of the disability-related need and related accommodation request.

Counties cannot require a particular form to request a reasonable accommodation.  There is no limit on the number of reasonable accommodation request a person may make.   A reasonable accommodation can be considered and granted if a person cannot comply with a program requirement because of a disability.  If the applicant/recipient requests a reasonable accommodation, that accommodation must be provided in all interactions where the need arises.  The county cannot require the person to re-request the accommodation in every interaction.

Counties must document all reasonable accommodation requests and subsequent county actions.  If there is an interactive process, that process must documented in the case file.  The county must document a reasonable accommodation every time it is provided.

Counties must provide annual civil rights training to all of their employees.  Counties must train public contact staff, program managers, and supervisors on hiring and at least annually, on providing reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities.  (ACL 21-78, June 28, 2021.)