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.)

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.)

 

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.)

Reclassifying CalWORKs overpayments during COVID as IPVs

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued a clarification that CalWORKs overpayments established during COVID which were originally classified as administrative error must be reclassified as Intentional Program Violation (IPV) if the overpayments are later determined to be fraudulent.

CalWORKs overpayments established on or after August 1, 2021 for the period April, 2020 to or June 30, 2022, must initially be classified as administrative error. However, based on Welfare and Institutions Code section 11004.1, as amended by Senate Bill (SB) 187 (Chapter 50, Statutes of 2022), any of these claims can now be reclassified to IPV if they are later determined to be fraudulent.

Existing processes for issuing adequate and timely notice of action, referring cases to Special Investigations Unit (SIU), and IPV determination are unchanged.

This rule also applies to Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA), and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program (TCVAP) cash assistance programs.  (ACL 22-87, October 17, 2022.)

CalWORKs Home Visiting Program increase in material goods payment limit

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties participating in the CalWORKs Home Visiting Program (HVP) of an increase in the material goods fund limit from $500 to $1,000 beginning July 1, 2022. The funds may be spent on multiple items throughout the family’s participation in the HVP. Families currently enrolled in the program who have reached the $500 material goods limit may receive an additional $500 in material goods if they are eligible because the, $1,000 limit is cumulative per case.

Counties should coordinate with home visitors and CalWORKs staff for the distribution of funds for each family served by HVP. The material goods fund is to be used to remove barriers for vulnerable enrolled families and help support family stability. Not all needs will fall into the scope of this. Still, if a need is identified by the home visitor in a participating county, the material goods funds should be offered to eligible families. These funds cannot be used to supplant services already being provided through Welfare-to-Work supportive services, such as, diapers and transportation.

Counties and their contracting agencies must collaborate to establish the process of issuing the material goods funds and have the flexibility to decide how to track the payments of the material goods. CDSS recommends tracking the payments of the material goods in CalWORKs case documentation or the HVP monthly data reporting. CDSS also encourages counties and their subrecipient and/or contractor to make a reasonable effort to track aggregate information on the usage of these funds for ease of reporting and future program improvements.  (ACL 22-86, October 15, 2022.)