Treatment of CAPP payments for various programs

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance to County Welfare Departments (CWDs) regarding treatment of California Arrearages Payment Program (CAPP) payments issued to California assistance program applicants and recipients to help pay eligible past due energy bills that increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

CAPP payments do not count as income when determining eligibility and/or grant amount for the CalWORKs program and do not count against the resource limit for the 12 months after receipt of payment. Furthermore, CAPP authorized payments are not considered in-kind income for CalWORKs recipients.

For both CalFresh and the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), CAPP payments are considered third-party payments that are not owed to the household and therefore are not counted income. CAPP payments are not considered resources for CalFresh and CFAP.

For Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) Medi-Cal, CAPP payments are treated as a qualified disaster relief payment similar to other disaster payments that the IRS exempts from gross income. This means that CAPP payments are not counted in the MAGI Medi-Cal eligibility determination. For Non-MAGI Medi-Cal, CAPP payments are considered exempt disaster and emergency assistance and do not count as income or a resource.

CAPP payments do not count as income for the Cash Assistance Programs for Immigrants (CAPI), because they are considered to be a tax refund. CAPP payments do not count as a resource for CAPI for the 12 months after the payment is made.

RCA, ECA, and TCVAP programs do not count CAPP payments as income and do not count as a resource limit for 12 months after receipt of the payment because their programs use the same rules as CalWORKs. (ACL 22-83, October 21, 2022.)

Treatment of Better for Families Tax Refund, and the Young Child and Foster Youth Tax Credits

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance for various programs about the treatment of Better for Families Tax Refund, and the Young Child and Foster Youth Tax Credits.

AB 192 established the Better for Families Tax Refund program, called the middle-class tax refund. SB 201 expanded the definition of a qualified taxpayer to include taxpayers with no earned income and those in foster care between the ages of 18 and 25.

The CalWORKs program treats the Better for Families Tax Refund the same as the federal earned income tax credit. It does not count as income and does not count as a resource for 12 months.  Refunds from the Young Child and Adopted Youth Tax Credit are treated the same as federal earned income refunds and do not count as income, and do not count as a resource for 12 months.

CalFresh and the California Food Assistance Program do not count either the of Better for Families Tax Refund, or the Young Child and Foster Youth Credits as income. CalFresh and the California Food Assistance Program counts them as a resource beginning in the month received. However, most households are in California are not subject to a resource limit because they have either Categorical Eligibility or Modified Categorical Eligibility.

The Better for Families Tax Refund does not count as income for Medi-Cal Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) applicants or recipients. It will be considered property for non-MAGI Medi-Cal recipients.  Counties are reminded that the property limit for non-MAGI Medi-Cal is now $130,000 for one person and $65,000 for each additional person.

The Department of Health Services (DHCS) is seeking a federal waiver to exempt the Young Child and Foster Youth Tax Credit from being treated as income.

The CalWORKs program rules apply to RCA, ECA, and TCVAP programs, and they must follow the CalWORKs rule above both the Better for Families Tax Refund, and the Young Child and Foster Youth Tax Credits.

The Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) treats both the Better for Families Tax Refunds and the Young Child and Foster Youth Tax Credit in the same way as federal earned income refunds, and federal tax refunds are excluded from counting as income and from the resource limit.  (ACL 22-91, October 28, 2022.)

COVID-19 CalFresh emergency allotment for November, 2022

California has been approved to issue an emergency allotment of CalFresh for October, 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 December 18, 2022.

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, November 1, 2022.)

CalFresh race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity data

The California Department of Social Services has issued a reminder to counties to submit the CalFresh Participants by Race/Ethnicity Federal-Only and Combined Households (CF 358F) and CalFresh Participants by Race/Ethnicity State-Only Households (CF 358S) reports. These reports will provide the county and state entities with information needed for budgeting, staffing, and program planning. The CF 358F annual report contains statistical information on the number of federal and federal/state combined households participating in CalFresh during the month of July. The CF 358S report contains statistical information on the number of state households participating in CalFresh during the month of July.

The CF 358F and CF 358S annual reports incorporate the racial and ethnic data collection and reporting requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). County Welfare Department (CWD) are responsible for ensuring that the report is fully and accurately completed. The report’s statewide and county specific data is available on the CDSS, Research and Data Reports (RADR) website. Counties are encouraged to review their data on the website to confirm that the county’s data coincides with the data on file at CDSS.  (ACIN I-61-22, September 1, 2022.)

Treatment of Racial Equity Implicit Bias Initiative focus group payments

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance to County Welfare Departments regarding treatment of the Racial Equity and Implicit Bias (REIB) Initiative focus group payments. The focus groups will provide a unique client perspective and equity challenges.

CDSS is working with community partners to develop a trauma-informed, anti-racist, anti-stigma county training framework for the CalWORKs and CalFresh programs. This framework will promote positive outcomes for child and family health and well-being.

Community partner Parent Voices is working with consultant Anavo Solutions to convene a Community Advisory Committee comprised of nine community members. Participants in the Parent Voices Community Advisory Committee (PV-CAC) will receive a $1,000 stipend. The PV-CAC will operate and support a focus group of CalWORKs and CalFresh recipients.  Members of this focus group will receive $75 gift cards.

The $1,000 stipend is considered a lump sum payment and not income for CalWORKs or CalFresh.  The $1,000 stipend is a resource in the month received.  The $75 gift card is exempt from being considered a resource.

For CalFresh households subject to a resource test, both the $1,000 stipend and the $75 gift card count as a resource in the month received.

The PV Focus Group $75 Visa gift card is not countable as income for Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) Medi-Cal and Non-MAGI Medi-Cal. The $1,000 stipend would be counted as taxable income for MAGI Medi-Cal, which means it is counted in the month received as a one-time lump sum payment. (September 20, 2022)  For Non-MAGI Medi-Cal, the $1,000 payment is income in the month received and property in the month following the month of receipt.  (ACWDL, September 20, 2022.)

Treatment of CalKIDS accounts

In 2019, the passage of SB 77 provided one-time state funding to create CalKIDS, a qualified scholarship program. It opens a college savings account for every newborn child in California regardless of income. CalKIDS will provide an initial seed deposit of at least $25 in each savings account and other potential financial awards to participants. In 2021, the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act significantly expanded the program to include an additional 3.7 million low-income public school students in grades 1 through 12 who qualify for free or reduced lunch, are homeless, or are in foster care. Eligible students receive an initial seed deposit of $500. Later in 2021, CalKIDS clarified eligibility to include students attending state special schools.  The CalKIDS expansion was implemented on July 1, 2022. 

College Savings and CalKIDS Accounts allow families to save and invest money for their children’s future higher education expenses. Savings withdrawn from a CSA program that utilizes a 529 college savings account, such as CalKIDS, are not subject to federal or state taxes if they are used for qualified higher education expenses. 

Because CalKIDS Accounts are owned by the State and are not available to the Assistance Unit (AU) are not counted as income or resources for CalWORKs purposes. Any funds, including funds deposited and investment returns, originating from a CalKIDS account will not be considered in the eligibility determination or grant calculation for CalWORKs applicants or recipients. 

CalKIDS Accounts are entirely excluded as income or resources for the CalFresh and California Food Assistance Program CalKIDS shows accounts must be excluded from income and resources entirely. 

CalKIDS does not count as income for CalWORKs Homeless Assistance Program (HA) and the CalWORKs Housing Support Program (HSP) because they are CalWORKs programs.  CalKIDS also does not count as income when determining eligibility for assistance provided by other Housing and Homelessness Programs, including Project Roomkey/Homelessness COVID Response, Bringing Families Home, and the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program.

CalKIDS accounts do not count as income for CalWORKs Stage 1 Child Care.  For other child care programs,  CalKIDS accounts are not considered countable income because they are owned by the state.. CalKIDS funds that are withdrawn and not utilized for educational purposes may be considered countable income if not excluded on some other basis.

The impact of CalKIDS on RCA/ECA and TCVAP follows the income and assets eligibility and administration rules of the CalWORKs program unless specifically superseded by RCA regulations. The eligibility criteria for ECA and TCVAP Cash Assistance states benefits shall be the same as those for RCA, with certain exceptions. These CalWORKs regulations regarding the treatment of CalKIDS accounts and funds also apply to RCA, ECA, and TCVAP recipients.

CalKIDS accounts are not counted as a resource for SSI/SSP or CAPI because they are owned by the state.  Distributions that are used for educational expenses of the designated beneficiary are excluded as a resource in the month received, and if retained beyond the month of receipt, they are excluded for 9 months beginning with the month of receipt. However, since the funds will be distributed directly to the higher education institutions on behalf of the participants to pay for qualifying higher education expenses and not retained by the beneficiary, the distributions will likewise not be considered a resource to the beneficiary.  (ACL 22-79, October 4, 2022.)