Changes to electronic benefits theft replacement form and policy

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued a new form EBT 2259 for reporting benefits stolen by electronic theft.

CDSS has also changed its policy about electronic theft.  People reporting electronic theft no longer need to contact the electronic benefits transfer vendor prior to submitting the form EBT 2259 to the county.  People no longer are required to file a police report to submit the form EBT 2259 and get replacement benefits.

Counties review the form EBT 2259 to ensure that the form is complete prior to submitting it to CDSS.  If the claim is for scamming benefits (people being tricked to give out the PIN to their EBT card), the county decides if the claim is consistent with typical scamming practices.  If it is not, the claim should be referred for investigation.

If the theft report is made timely (which is within 10 days of the theft, and submitting the EBT 2259 within 90 days), the county has 10 business days to issue benefit replacement.   The county has a duty to assist persons with the report within 10 business days.  If the county cannot process the form within 10 business days, it must issue replacement benefits.

If the county refers the case for investigation, the case can be pended for up to 25 calendar days.  (ACL 23-13, January 27, 2023.)

Extension of benefits eligibility for Afghan migrants

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance extension of the arrival timeframe for Afghan Humanitarian Parolees and other persons who have left Afghanistan to be eligible for CalWORKs and CalFresh and refugee resettlement benefits.

Afghan Humanitarian Parolees, and their spouse and children, are eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as refugees.  Persons are Afghan Humanitarian Parolees if they are citizens or national paroled into the United States between July 31, 2021 and December 16, 2022 (an extension of the original cutoff date of September 30, 2022.).  They are eligible from October 1, 2021 or the date they are paroled in the United States, whichever is later, to March 31, 2023, or the end of parolees’ parole term, whichever is later.  Benefits that Humanitarian Parolees, and their spouse, children, parents or legal guardians are eligible for are Refugee Cash Assistance, CalWORKs, CalFresh, SSI, Refugee Support Services, and Services for Older Refugees.  Counties should redetermine eligibility for benefits when parole has expired or by March 31, 2023, whichever is later.

Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders, Special Immigrant Conditional Permanent Residents, and Afghan Special Immigrant Lawful Permanent Residents are eligible for public benefits to the same extent as refugees if their status is established between July 31, 2021 and December 16, 2022.

Effective November 21, 2022, Afghan parolees and their families with certain classes of admission are considered work authorized without waiting for their employment authorization.  This allows them to enroll in Refugee Cash Assistance employment services.  Their unexpired I-94 is sufficient to show employment authorization for 90 days after they are hired.

Afghan Humanitarian Parolees, and their spouse, children, parents and legal guardian, who are admitted into the United States between July 31, 2021 and December 16, 2022 are eligible for CalFresh.  They are not subject to the five year waiting period for refugees. They are eligible until March 31, 2023.

CDSS has provided an updated list of acceptable verification and an updated chart of acceptable verification.  (ACWDL, December 14, 2022.)

Impact of Social Security COLA on CalWORKs and CalFresh

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued information to County Welfare Departments (CWDs) that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will receive a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) effective December 30, 2022, and payable January 1, 2023. Depending on household composition, it will impact the CalWORKs grant and/or CalFresh benefit amount.

Social Security and SSI recipients will receive an 8.7% COLA effective January 1, 2023. Counties must give timely and adequate notice when the CalWORKs grant or the CalFresh benefit amount is adjusted because of a due to Social Security COLA.

For new CalWORKs and CalFresh applicants, the Social Security benefit amount, including the COLA increase, will be used to determine eligibility January 2023.

The Social Secuity COLA is considered reasonably anticipated income. The Social Security COLA is considered “known to the county” and shall be acted upon mid-period. Counties must take county-initiated mid-period action to adjust benefits effective January 1, 2023, for all cases in which Social Security benefits are being used to determine the CalWORKs grant or CalFresh benefit. For cases with a report due in December 2022, counties will include the COLA amount in the budget for the upcoming Semi-Annual Reporting (SAR) payment period.

CalWORKs cases subject to Annual Reporting/Child Only (AR/CO) rules, the amount of the SSA COLA will be considered “known to the county” and acted upon mid-period.

If counties do not decrease the CalWORKs grant or CalFresh benefit amount as a result of the increased January 2023 Social Security payment, they must reduce grant amounts in the month after they give timely and adequate notice.  In those cases, there will be an overpayment or overissuance for January.

SSI payments are exempt in CalWORKs; however, income should still be updated for excluded assistance unit (AU) members.  (ACIN I-72-22, November 8, 2022 and I-72-22E, January 4, 2023.)


Extension of COVID-19 CalFresh waivers

California has been granted waivers of the initial application and recertification interview (if certain criteria are met); and of the recording requirement for telephonic signatures (if certain criteria are met) because of COVID-19.  These waivers have been extended until March 31, 2023.

Approval of these waivers requires California to state that a State of Emergency or disaster declaration continues at the time of the request.  The federal Food and Nutrition Service will approve additional waivers for up to three months.  If the State wants to continue using a waiver for longer than three months, the State can submit an extension request in the third month of the waiver timeframe.  No waiver may continue beyond the end of the month after the month when the federal COVID-19 public health emergency declaration is lifted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  (ACWDL, December 21, 2022.)

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.)