CalFresh denials for missing verification waiver extension

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued instructions regarding denials of CalFresh applications for failure to provide requested verification.  California has been granted an extension of a waiver by the federal government that allows counties to choose to deny CalFresh applications for failure to submit requested verification within 10 days of the written request even if 30 days have not passed since the application date.  The new waiver is in effect until April 30, 2029.  46 counties have chosen to implement this waiver.

Counties must meet several conditions to deny an application for failure to submit requested verification within 10 days of the written request even if 30 days have not passed since the application date including:

  • The county schedules an interview for all applicants who are not interviewed on the day of application. The county cannot deny the application prior to the 30th day if the household does not appear for the first scheduled interview.
  • The county sends a notice of denial on the 30th day after the date of application if the household does not appear for a scheduled interview and has not contact the county.
  • The household is given at least 10 days to submit missing information
  • The denial notice states why the application was denied and that the application will be reopened if the required verification is received within 30 days of the date of application and benefits will be provided from the date of application. (ACL 24-30, April 25, 2024.)

Verification and eligibility for public benefits for public interest parolees

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding verification and eligibility for persons paroled into the United States under Immigration and Naturalization Act section 212(d)(5), also known as public interest parolees, when determining eligibility for CalWORKs, CalFresh, California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), and Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA).

When someone entering the United States is granted parole status at a port of entry or District Office, they are given a DT code.

People who are paroled into the United States are eligible for CalWORKs.  In verifying parole status for CalWORKs, counties must accept documentation showing the DT code and the length of parole, and must not ask for additional verification.  Counties can ask for additional verification or run a SAVE match if the length of parole is unclear.  Counties must review CalWORKs applications received after June 30, 2023 and were denied for failure to provide additional verification of parole status, and retroactively approve aid if the family is otherwise eligible.  When the recipient’s parole term expires, counties must evaluate whether the family meets another eligible noncitizen category.

Office of Refugee Resettlement eligible parolees are eligible for RCA or ECA if they meet all other program eligibility requirements.  Any CalWORKs applicant with a DT code who is found ineligible for CalWORKs should be evaluated for RCA and ECA. Counties must review RCA applications received after June 30, 2023 and were denied for failure to provide additional verification of parole status, and retroactively approve aid if the family is otherwise eligible.

To be eligible for CalFresh, a parolee must have a duration of parole into the United States of at least one year, and must have been in the United States for 5 years.

To be eligible for CFAP, a parolee must have a duration of parole into the United States of at least one year.  CFAP does not have the 5 year waiting period requirement. (ACL 24-27, April 24, 2024.)

New policy for in person PIN changes on EBT cards

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has a new policy about in person requests for changes to the PIN number on Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. This policy change is because of an increase in in person fraudulent requests to change PIN numbers.

In person PIN changes at a county outside of cardholders residence will no longer be allowed.  Counties must tell people that they can change their PIN number by calling the Automated Response Unit number on the back of the card, or by using the ebtEDGE app or online portal.

If there is a pending intercounty transfer, the county must issue a new card.  If benefits remain on the old card from the previous county, the new county must change the PIN number.

For in person PIN change requests in the county of benefit issuance, counties must verify the identity of the person asking to change the PIN.  The identity information and the physical EBT card must match the case information in CalSAWS before the PIN is changed.  The county must also check the PIN change receipt to make sure the last four digits of the card number on the receipt match the physical card number.

Only the cardholder can change the PIN on their own EBT card.

To verify identity, the county must first use a photo ID.  If the individual does not present a photo ID, the county must verify two points of personal identifying information from the case:  name of any other persons on the case and their relationship on the case, date of birth, last four digits of Social Security Number, or address on the case.  (ACL 24-25, April 10, 2024.)

CalFresh treatment of earmarked income

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding treatment of earmarked income when determining eligibility for CalFresh and benefit amount.  Earmarked income is income received by the CalFresh applicant or recipient that is designated for a particular purpose.

Unless the source of the earmarked income is otherwise excluded, recurring income that is earmarked and reasonable anticipated to continue is not excluded.  Earmarked income that is received only once, or that is so infrequent that it cannot be reasonably anticipated does not court for CalFresh purposes.

Education assistance that is not otherwise excluded from being considered income for CalFresh is excluded to the extent that it is earmarked by the lender, used for, or intended to be used for, education expenses.

Voluntary contributions from nongovernmental persons or organizations having no liability for the support of the recipient are excluded as income because they are also excluded under CalWORKs rules.

Excluded income is not subject to verification.  Counties can only request verification if the information provided by the applicant or recipient is questionable, that is,the information is inconsistent with the applicant or recipient’s prior statements or with other information the County has.  A county’s determination that information is questionable must be based on an individualized inquiry.  When verification is required, the county must use the CW 2200 form to request the verification, document in the case file why the information received was considered questionable, and state what documentation was used to resolve the questionable information. (ACIN I-01-24, January 5, 2024.)

Changes to CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program

The CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program allows eligible household buy hot or prepared food at participating restaurants.  Eligible CalFresh participants are adults age 60 or over and their spouses, people with disabilities and their spouses, and people experiencing homelessness.

Because of recent guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture, the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program is limited to household where all members of the household are eligible for it.  The only exception is spouses do not need to meet the age or disability criteria.  Households that include a member who does not meet the Restaurant Meals criteria (except for a spouse) are not eligible for the Restaurant Meals Program.  This change will be effective upon automation in the CalSAWS system, which is expected in early 2025.

After automation is completed, CalSAWS will identify existing households that are no longer eligible for Restaurant Meals and will terminate their access to it.

When automation is completed, any member of a household that is eligible for Restaurant Meals, including spouses, will be able to access the program.

When automation is completed, counties will be required to provide the CF 889 form to all households that are approved for or terminated from the Restaurant Meals Program.  (ACL 24-01, January 19, 2024.)

Prepopulated SAR 7

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has developed a new SAR 7 semi-annual report form.  Effective the date automation is complete, counties must provide the new SAR 7 form prepopulated to recipients of CalWORKs, CalFresh, California Food Assistance Program, Refugee Cash Assistance, Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program, and Entrant Cash Assistance.

CDSS also has a blank version of the new SAR 7 form to be made available in welfare department lobbies and online for on demand access.  For cash aid recipients, counties must also provide the new Domestic Abuse Addendum.

Most households are required to submit a report six months after benefits are granted, and six months after completing annual recertification.  Elderly and disabled households that do not have earned income are not required to submit semi-annual reports.

Counties must continue to provide the SAR forms to the household by mail, email or in person by so that it is received by the 5th day of the month it is due.

For CalFresh households, changes in immigration status, student status, fleeing felon status or a violation of probation or parole, are not required to be reported on the semi-annual report and the new SAR 7 does not ask those questions.

For CalWORKs and other cash aid, effective the date the prepopulated SAR 7 is automated, property and/or resources will no longer be evaluated semi-annually.  Property and resources will only be evaluated at application and annual redetermination.

The new SAR 7 form includes questions about exemptions from the Able-Bodies Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD rules because federal rules require that screening (and it will be needed if the ABAWD rules become effective again in California at some point in the future).

The new SAR 7DA allows households to disclose any history of domestic abuse in order to receive services or assistance.  Information about domestic abuse cannot be released to any outside party, agency, or county employee who is not directly involved in the case unless the information is required to be disclosed to law enforcement or the recipient gives written authorization.  When an individual completes the SAR 7DA, the county must privately contact them to provide information, resources or needed accommodations.

The SAR 7DA can only be released as part of an intercounty transfer if the recipient has signed a WTW 37 release form.

The disability question on the SAR 7/SAR 7B allows disclosure of a disability or a request for assistance because of a disability.  When households report having a disability or state that they need assistance because of a disability, counties must contact the household to assist and provide information, resources or needed accommodations.

When a household checks the “I am homeless” box, counties are strongly encouraged to screen households for homeless assistance or other available services, and to identify eligibility for an ABAWD exemption when necessary.  (ACL 24-06, February 2, 2024.)