CalFresh pre-release application process for incarcerated persons

The California Department of Social Services has issued recommendations regarding processing CalFresh applications for incarcerated persons.  Currently, California does not have a statewide process for processing pre-release CalFresh applications.  California has requested a federal waiver to create such a process.  However, California has a waiver for a pilot project in Orange County from March 1, 2021 to February 28, 2023 that allows incarcerated persons to apply for CalFresh up to 30 days before their release date.

For verifying the identity of the applicant, counties must accept any readily available documentary evidence which reasonably establishes the applicant’s identity and, if documentary evidence is not readily available, counties may verify identity through a collateral contact.  For formerly incarcerated individuals, identification cards and booking sheets from the prison or jail are examples of acceptable forms of identification. Any documents which reasonably establish the applicant’s identity must be accepted, and counties cannot require a specific type of document.

For Social Security Numbers, applications should be filed using the exact name associated with the Social Security Number even when the applicant is incarcerated under an alias or other alternate name.

Counties must assist all households in getting mandatory verification. Counties must use existing verification when available including electronic sources when applicable to the household.

Counties must screen all CalFresh applicants for work registration requirements.  This includes formerly incarcerated individuals.  Counties must inform all applicants of available local employment services related to experience, training, and education that the individual has obtained before or during their incarceration.

Counties can partner with community based organizations to provide application assistance inside county jails.  (ACWDL, November 18, 2022.)

New two year waiver of ABAWD rule

The United States Department of Agriculture has approved a new statewide waiver for California of the CalFresh Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) time limit.

The ABAWD rule limits CalFresh recipients between the ages of 18 and 50 with no children and who are not disabled to three months of CalFresh benefits every three years. The new ABAWD waiver is effective from November 1, 2022 to October 31, 2024.

Counties must continue to 1) Identify ABAWDs, screen for exemptions, and inform clients of ABAWD rules; 2) provide an information notice about the ABAWS rules, and 3) track and report work registrant, ABAWD, and Employment and Training data.  (ACL 22-103, December 16, 2022.)

COVID-19 CalFresh emergency allotment for December, 2022

California has been approved to issue an emergency allotment of CalFresh for December, 2022.  All households will receive at least the maximum CalFresh allotment.  Households eligible to receive the maximum allowable allotment based on household size are now eligible to receive an emergency allotment of $95 per month. Households who are not eligible to receive the maximum allowable allotment based on household size, but whose emergency allotment would be less than $95 per month to receive the maximum allotment, will receive additional CalFresh benefits to raise their emergency allotment to the $95 minimum.

The Food and Nutrition Service will allow a one-month emergency allotment phaseout after the State-issued emergency or disaster declaration expires. States may request emergency allotment approval for one additional issuance month if the Secretary for Health and Human Services public health emergency declaration remains in place, and the State-issued emergency or disaster declaration has expired or will expire in the current month. The Department will release county guidance via letter if the phase-out emergency allotment is implemented.

The emergency allotment will be issued on January 8, 2023 for CalSAWS counties, and on January 14, 2023 for the counties that remain on the CalWIN computer system.

Moving forward, emergency allotments may be approved by FNS on a month-to-month basis until the Secretary of Health and Human Services rescinds the public health emergency.  There will be a one-month phase out of emergency allotments after the public health emergency is rescinded.  (ACWDL, December 9, 2022.)

CalWORKs direct deposit bank account standards

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has released an update on bank account standards for direct deposit of CalWORKs benefits.

The Welfare and Institutions Code allows direct deposit by electronic fund transfers to qualifying financial institution accounts selected by CalWORKs recipients. However, some non-bank organizations charge an overdraft fee. To protect against these actions, SB 497 and this ACL set out criteria that extend protection from overdraft fees, and sets standards accounts to be considered qualifying accounts for direct deposit of government benefits.

There are two types of account that are considered qualifying accounts.  One is a demand deposit or savings account at an insured depository financial institution

County treasurer and county welfare departments are not responsible for allowing direct deposits into accounts that do not meet the necessary requirements for a “qualifying account” under SB 497.  Counties are recommended to give information about qualifying accounts when telling applicants and recipients about their option to use direct deposit accounts at application and redetermination, and additionally upon request.  The EBT 2216 form can be used to give this information.

Form EBT 2216 was created to inform clients and recipients about using EBT cards and direct deposit accounts to receive government assistance benefits. This form now includes information on overdraft fees and qualified accounts. EBT 2216 is a mandatory form and cannot be changed.  (ACL 22-82, October 20, 2022.)

Exclusion of foster care and guaranteed income payments for child care eligibility

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance and information on the exclusion of foster care payments and guaranteed income payments when determining eligibility for subsidized child care and development programs. CDSS will implement these changes via childcare bulletin immediately until regulations are adopted, and these changes are effective immediately.

Foster care payments, Approved Relative Caregiver Funding Program payments, Emergency Assistance Program payments, and Tribal Approved Relative Caregiver Funding Program payments are no longer counted as income when determining eligibility for subsidized child care.

Guaranteed income payments received by an individual will not be included as income when determining eligibility for subsidized child care. Guaranteed income payments are unconditional, recurring, regular cash payments, whether publicly or privately funded, that are intended to support the basic needs of eligible recipients. Guaranteed income payments include, but are not limited to, payments provided through pilot programs and projects receiving funding from the California Guaranteed Income Pilot Program. (CCB 22-30, October 10, 2022.)

Implementation of CalWORKs Homeless Assistance changes

SB 1065 (2020) made several changes to CalWORKs Homeless Assistance benefits.  Implementation of those changes was contingent on programming into the CalSAWS computer system.  The California Department of Social Services has announced that the programming has been completed, and the changes to the Homeless Assistance program are operational effective September 1, 2022.  These changes are described in ACL 21-121, summarized here.

Any family denied Homeless Assistance on or after September 1, 2022 based on rules that were changed shall have that denial reversed.  (ACIN I-70-22, November 1, 2022.)