CalFresh electronic signature requirements

The California Department of Social Services has issued instructions implementing Welfare and Institutions Code section 18900.4.  This section requires counties to give CalFresh households the option to complete an application and recertification by telephone and capture their signature by an electronic method, such as a telephone signature.  The electronic signature method must require the client to take an affirmative action to indicate concurrence, such as a PIN number or giving verbal affirmation; the record of the signature must be maintained electronically and linked to the documents; and the process must constitute a legal signature.

In addition, federal law requires the county to make an audio recording of the household’s verbal assent and a summary of the information to which the household assents; the audio file must be linked to the application; and the county must provide the household with a printed copy of the application with instructions for how to correct any errors or omissions.  (ACL 22-20, March 4, 2022.)

EBT card CVV enablement and card replacement

The California Department of Social Services is activating Card Verification Value (CVV) on Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards.  CVV is an is an additional layer of coding embedded in the magnetic stripe on the back of the EBT card and not visible to clients.  It is the three-digit code on the back of credit cards.  However, unlike the CVV number on most credit or debit cards, the EBT CVV number is not printed on the EBT card.

All cards issued by the EBT vendor after June, 2018, and all cards printed at the county welfare department since October, 2019, have the CVV embedded.  Cardholders with EBT cards printed before those dates will need a replacement card.  This is about 911,000 replacement cards.  New cards were mailed from mid-February to mid-March, 2022.  The mailing has instructions for activating the new cards.

The CVV technology will be enabled in late April, 2022.  Cards that do not have the CVV will not work after the CVV technology is activated.  If cardholders have issues with not receiving new cards or with activation of new cards, cardholders need to contact the EBT vendor.  Counties will refer callers to the EBT Customer Service Center.  Counties should follow the current card replacement process if a customer did not receive their new card or otherwise needs a replacement card.  (ACWDL, March 17, 2022.)

COVID-19 CalFresh emergency allotment for February, 2022

California has been approved to issue an emergency allotment of CalFresh for February, 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 emergency allotment will be issued on March 20, 2022 for CalWIN counties and March 27, 2022 for CalSAWS counties.

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, February 23, 2022.)

Elimination of periodic reporting for CalFresh Elderly Simplified Application Project households

The Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP) is a federal waiver to allow elderly and disabled CalFresh households to waive recertification interviews, use data matching to reduce needed verifications, extend certification period for up to 36 months, and waive the requirement to contact the household every 12 months, which eliminates the need to send and collect SAR-7 reports.

These waivers apply to households where all members are either elderly (age 60 or older) or disabled with no earned income.  Households that include excluded or ineligible members who are also elderly or disabled are eligible for ESAP.

The California Department of Social Services has announced that the elimination of periodic reporting for ESAP households will be effective on March 1, 2022 through September 30, 2026.  ESAP households will no longer need to complete a periodic report at 12th and 24th months of their 36-month certification period.  ESAP households will still need to complete mandatory mid-period reporting, including gross income over the Income Reporting Threshold during the 36 month-certification period.  If an ESAP household submits a SAR 7 report due on or after March 1, 2022, the county must treat it as a voluntary mid-period report.

ESAP households will get a notice in early March, 2022 informing them that they will no longer need to submit SAR 7 reports to maintain their CalFresh eligibility.  Counties must continue to issue notices at the 12th and 24th months of the certification period to report income over the income reporting threshold. (ACL 22-15, February 10, 2022.)

Effect of SSI COLA on CalFresh benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients received a Cost of Living Increase effective January 1, 2022.  The new SSI amount must be acted on for CalFresh purposes no later than March, 2022.  This will happen automatically for most CalFresh cases. Counties must manually process some cases, including cases that receive SSI amount that are more than the maximum monthly SSI payment (because of a retroactive SSI payment for example).  Supplemental Nutrition Benefits and Transitional Nutrition Benefit cases are not affected by the SSI COLA increase.

Note that retroactive SSI payments are excluded as income for CalFresh purposes.  January 2022 should include a higher than usual number of retroactive payments because of improper benefits reductions and denials caused by Social Security incorrectly counting pandemic benefits as income.  Any cases with amounts over the SSI maximum payment will be excluded from automatic processing to prevent improperly counting SSI retroactive payments.

As a reminder, amounts recouped from SSI benefits, including recoupment of SSI overpayments, do not count as income for CalFresh. (ACIN I-11-22, January 28, 2022.)

COVID-19 CalFresh emergency allotment for January, 2022

California has been approved to issue an emergency allotment of CalFresh for January, 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 emergency allotment will be issued on February 27, 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, January 21, 2022.)