Changes to CalWORKs student rules

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties about changes to CalWORKs student rules.  These changes modify the student program established by SB 1232, and implemented by ACL 21-04E, summarized here.  CDSS is now calling this program Student Training and Education Program (STEP).  The program includes standard supportive services payments, not needed to complete job search, and welfare-to-work counting three hours of study time for each hour of class time.

The most important change is STEP participants are no longer required to participate in welfare-to-work activities during school breaks.  This includes within terms and between terms, winter and summer breaks, and transfer periods between institutions.  This means that bridging activities and bridging activity plans can no longer be required.  STEP participants can volunteer to participate during breaks and are entitled to supportive services in the same way that all volunteer participants are.

The STEP program now includes non-profit postsecondary institutions in addition to public postsecondary institutions.

Students who are not eligible for STEP must not be enrolled in a Self-Initiated Program instead.

For purposes of STEP, summer sessions are counted as quarters.  This means that full time students in the summer get a $375 standard supportive services payment, and part-time students get a $175 standard supportive services payment.

Counties no longer need to do a welfare-to-work plan for each new academic term.  However, students must have a plan to get supportive services. Counties cannot require a plan prior to advance paying supportive services.

Counties may now calculate a part-time STEP participant’s hours using either academic units or instruction hours.  Whether a student is full-time or part-time is determined by the institution.

STEP participants cannot be required to participate in orientation and appraisal more than once, unless the participant has had a break of at least one year in receiving aid or supportive services.  (ACL 24-32, May 10, 2024.)