CalWORKs Domestic Abuse policies

The California Department of Social Services has updated its guidance and provided policy reminders regarding the support of domestic abuse survivors through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. Before the implementation of AB 2277, the County Welfare Department (CWD) had the option to waive certain program requirements for a recipient who was identified as a past or present survivor of abuse if the CWD determined good cause existed. AB 2277 has changed this option to make it a requirement for the CWD to waive program requirements for recipients identified as past or present survivors of abuse. However, certain eligibility requirements can’t be waived including deprivation, assets, income, and homeless assistance (HA) except as detailed below.

Counties must provide informing materials about domestic abuse at application, the beginning of welfare-to-work services, and recertification.

County staff are required to recognize indicators of abuse to the best of their ability. Staff interacting with survivors must make every effort not to reinforce trauma by being aware of triggers that cause reactions to trauma. Using a trauma-informed lens, staff must make efforts to ensure that the program and waiver process are accessible and built around the client’s needs.

Counties can give good cause waivers if they determine there is a condition or circumstance that impairs or prevents the recipient’s ability to participate in Welfare-to-Work (WTW) activities. Program requirements that the county can waive include, but are not limited to: time limit on aid, paternity establishment, child support cooperation, and proof of age-appropriate immunizations for children under the age of six Sworn statements by survivors of abuse are enough to verify abuse. County staff must not require identifying details of abuse or the abuser. Adults who receive Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI), non-needy caregiver relatives, and ineligible non-citizens cannot be given good cause waivers. Counties may not condition these waivers upon participation in specific activities, including attending counseling.

Domestic abuse waivers stop the CalWORKs time on aid clock. Domestic abuse survivors can have their time on aid clock extended and be added to the Assistance Unit when they meet good cause criteria.

Counties must have written policies for re-evaluating good cause waivers and the granting of good cause waivers retroactively. These waivers must be reviewed every three months to ensure the survivor’s needs are met.  Waivers must continue to be granted if the effects of abuse are impacting the family. Counties must also establish criteria for granting good cause waivers retroactively. These waivers can be given for more than three months when the failure to grant the waiver was due to errors by the CWD. These criteria must be provided in the county’s domestic abuse policies and procedures.

Survivors are also eligible for programs including permanent or temporary CalWORKs Homeless Assistance (HA) to the maximum allowable amount and can be granted exceptions of up to an additional 48 days of temporary HA. Survivors may also be eligible for CalFresh benefits and receive expedited services and an additional month of benefit allotment as a separate household.

Non-citizen survivors certified by the Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) who are eligible are entitled to the same benefits as those admitted to the United States as refugees. Non-citizens who are not eligible for CalWORKS may be eligible for state-funded benefits and services through the Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program (TCVAP). Certain non-citizen survivors who are certified by OTIP may be eligible to receive Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) or Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA).  (ACL 23-109, December 29, 2023.)

Civil rights complaint language

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has updated its appeal language for civil rights complaints. There are three main changes to the appeal language. The first of these changes increases the amount of time CalFresh complainants have to file civil rights appeals to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to 90 days from the previously set 30 days.

The next two changes were implemented because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County which established that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is also considered discrimination based on sex. The second change establishes that complainants may appeal Cal Fresh complaints to USDA based on  gender identity and sexual orientation. It has also added reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity as a protected category. The third change establishes that complainants may file discrimination complaints with the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) based on  pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Counties must use the provided language from the USDA when informing people of their right to appeal to the USDA. Additionally, the requirements to inform of the right to appeal to CDSS or the USDA do not apply when the complainant fails to participate or withdraws the complaint and no County Welfare Department (CWD) decision was made. However, complainants must be informed of their right to file their complaint with the HHS. Mail or email can be used to inform complainants of complaint outcomes.  (ACL 23-98, November 27, 2023.)

Elimination of IHSS provider eligibility requirements for minor recipients

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding the end of In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) provider eligibility requirements for minor recipients.  Previously, minors could only hire a non-parent IHSS provider if their parents were not available to be providers.  In addition, parents could only be providers for their minor children if there were no other suitable providers, and the parent was prevented from full-time employment because of the need to care for the child.  Effective 60 days after December 21, 2023 (the date of the release of this ACL) these limits on parent providers are eliminated.

The limits on providers for minors still apply to minor recipients in the Personal Care Services Program.  Counties should ensure that minor applicants who want a parent provider are enrolled in the Community First Choice Option, the IHSS Plus Option, or the IHSS Residual program.  Counties should transfer qualifying minor recipients from the Personal Care Services Program to the Community First Choice Option upon request of the recipient or at the next scheduled reassessment, whichever is first.  Minor recipients who are institutionally deemed and enrolled in the Personal Care Services Program may hire a non-parent provider without limitation.

Other rules for IHSS remain unchanged.  Service assessment rules for minors are unchanged.  Minors remain ineligible for domestic services, heavy cleaning, yard hazard abatement, and teaching and demonstration. Provider enrollment rules are unchanged.  Provider overtime rules and exemptions are unchanged. (ACL 23-106, December 21, 2023.)



IHSS and nonmedical out-of-home care, and unmet need

In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) is available to persons who cannot remain in their own home without services.  Persons who receive SSI can get an additional payment if they are in a non-medical out-of-home living arrangement.

Individuals who receive the SSI non-medical out-of-home care rate are considered not to be living in their own home and are not eligible for IHSS.

IHSS applicants who are eligible for both IHSS and the SSI non-medical out-of-home care rate can choose whether they want IHSS or the SSI non-medical out-of-home care rate. Counties must inform people of this choice.

If an IHSS applicant states that they are not receiving the SSI non-medical out-of-home care rate, but the MEDS system says they are, the applicant must get a letter from the Social Security Administration stating that they do not get the SSI non-medical out-of-home care rate.  The applicant must also complete the SOC 810 form stating that they told the Social Security Administration that they have been discharged from a facility.

When evaluating for IHSS, county social workers must assess for all IHSS services, and must document any unmet need in the case file, identify other resources to meet the unmet need, and refer applicants to those programs at no cost.  (ACL 23-108, December 27, 2023.)


Effective January 1, 2024, Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants benefits will increase by 3.2 percent.  This increase is because of the Social Security and SSI 3.2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) and the amount of CAPI benefits is linked to the amount of SSI benefits.

The COLA increase will also increase the presumed value of in-kind support and maintenance, the allowance for ineligible children in deeming situations, the sponsor’s allocation in sponsor deeming situations, and the allowance for parents in parent-to-child deeming situations.  (ACIN I-66-23, November 9, 2023.)

Impact of Social Security COLA on CalWORKs and CalFresh

Effective January 1, 2024, Social Security and SSI benefits will increase by a 3.2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA).  For new  CalWORKs and CalFresh applications, the new Social Security and SSI amounts will be considered reasonably anticipated income beginning for January, 2024.

For CalWORKs Assistance Units and CalFresh households in their final month of their semi-annual reporting period, counties must reasonably anticipate the increase in Social Security and SSI.

The amount of the Social Security COLA is considered to be known to the county, and must be acted upon mid-period.  This means that benefits must be adjusted to reflect the new Social Security and SSI amounts effective January 1, 2024.

If the county cannot change the CalWORKs or CalFresh amount to reflect the Social Security COLA, counties must decrease the benefit amount after it gives timely and adequate notice.  In that case, January benefits will need to be recalculated and there may be overpayment or overissuance.

Although SSI payments are exempt for CalWORKs, counties must still update income information.  (ACIN I-64-23, October 30, 2023.)