Revised CalWORKs Welfare-to-Work exemption and time on aid forms

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued revised CW 2186A, CalWORKs Exemption Request, and CW 2184, CalWORKs 60-Month Time limit forms.

Effective January 1, 2022, all pregnant CalWORKs recipients are exempt from Welfare-to-Work.  Effective October 1, 2024, or when automation is complete, whichever is later, the CalWORKs time on aid will stop for recipients who also receive Paid Family Leave benefits from the Employment Development Department.

CDSS has issued revised CW 2186A and CW 2184 forms that include these new exemptions.  Counties must begin using these new forms when the Paid Family Leave exemption goes into effect. (ACL 24-07, January 26, 2024.)

CalWORKs Domestic Abuse policies

The California Department of Social Services has updated its guidance and provided policy reminders regarding the support of domestic abuse survivors through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. Before the implementation of AB 2277, the County Welfare Department (CWD) had the option to waive certain program requirements for a recipient who was identified as a past or present survivor of abuse if the CWD determined good cause existed. AB 2277 has changed this option to make it a requirement for the CWD to waive program requirements for recipients identified as past or present survivors of abuse. However, certain eligibility requirements can’t be waived including deprivation, assets, income, and homeless assistance (HA) except as detailed below.

Counties must provide informing materials about domestic abuse at application, the beginning of welfare-to-work services, and recertification.

County staff are required to recognize indicators of abuse to the best of their ability. Staff interacting with survivors must make every effort not to reinforce trauma by being aware of triggers that cause reactions to trauma. Using a trauma-informed lens, staff must make efforts to ensure that the program and waiver process are accessible and built around the client’s needs.

Counties can give good cause waivers if they determine there is a condition or circumstance that impairs or prevents the recipient’s ability to participate in Welfare-to-Work (WTW) activities. Program requirements that the county can waive include, but are not limited to: time limit on aid, paternity establishment, child support cooperation, and proof of age-appropriate immunizations for children under the age of six Sworn statements by survivors of abuse are enough to verify abuse. County staff must not require identifying details of abuse or the abuser. Adults who receive Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI), non-needy caregiver relatives, and ineligible non-citizens cannot be given good cause waivers. Counties may not condition these waivers upon participation in specific activities, including attending counseling.

Domestic abuse waivers stop the CalWORKs time on aid clock. Domestic abuse survivors can have their time on aid clock extended and be added to the Assistance Unit when they meet good cause criteria.

Counties must have written policies for re-evaluating good cause waivers and the granting of good cause waivers retroactively. These waivers must be reviewed every three months to ensure the survivor’s needs are met.  Waivers must continue to be granted if the effects of abuse are impacting the family. Counties must also establish criteria for granting good cause waivers retroactively. These waivers can be given for more than three months when the failure to grant the waiver was due to errors by the CWD. These criteria must be provided in the county’s domestic abuse policies and procedures.

Survivors are also eligible for programs including permanent or temporary CalWORKs Homeless Assistance (HA) to the maximum allowable amount and can be granted exceptions of up to an additional 48 days of temporary HA. Survivors may also be eligible for CalFresh benefits and receive expedited services and an additional month of benefit allotment as a separate household.

Non-citizen survivors certified by the Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) who are eligible are entitled to the same benefits as those admitted to the United States as refugees. Non-citizens who are not eligible for CalWORKS may be eligible for state-funded benefits and services through the Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program (TCVAP). Certain non-citizen survivors who are certified by OTIP may be eligible to receive Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) or Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA).  (ACL 23-109, December 29, 2023.)

Civil rights complaint language

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has updated its appeal language for civil rights complaints. There are three main changes to the appeal language. The first of these changes increases the amount of time CalFresh complainants have to file civil rights appeals to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to 90 days from the previously set 30 days.

The next two changes were implemented because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County which established that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is also considered discrimination based on sex. The second change establishes that complainants may appeal Cal Fresh complaints to USDA based on  gender identity and sexual orientation. It has also added reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity as a protected category. The third change establishes that complainants may file discrimination complaints with the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) based on  pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Counties must use the provided language from the USDA when informing people of their right to appeal to the USDA. Additionally, the requirements to inform of the right to appeal to CDSS or the USDA do not apply when the complainant fails to participate or withdraws the complaint and no County Welfare Department (CWD) decision was made. However, complainants must be informed of their right to file their complaint with the HHS. Mail or email can be used to inform complainants of complaint outcomes.  (ACL 23-98, November 27, 2023.)

Impact of Social Security COLA on CalWORKs and CalFresh

Effective January 1, 2024, Social Security and SSI benefits will increase by a 3.2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA).  For new  CalWORKs and CalFresh applications, the new Social Security and SSI amounts will be considered reasonably anticipated income beginning for January, 2024.

For CalWORKs Assistance Units and CalFresh households in their final month of their semi-annual reporting period, counties must reasonably anticipate the increase in Social Security and SSI.

The amount of the Social Security COLA is considered to be known to the county, and must be acted upon mid-period.  This means that benefits must be adjusted to reflect the new Social Security and SSI amounts effective January 1, 2024.

If the county cannot change the CalWORKs or CalFresh amount to reflect the Social Security COLA, counties must decrease the benefit amount after it gives timely and adequate notice.  In that case, January benefits will need to be recalculated and there may be overpayment or overissuance.

Although SSI payments are exempt for CalWORKs, counties must still update income information.  (ACIN I-64-23, October 30, 2023.)

 

Full child support pass-through for former CalWORKs recipients child only CalWORKs cases

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding full pass through of collected child support for CalWORKs recipients child only CalWORKs cases.

Effective January 1, 2024, or when automation is completed, whichever is later, all child support collected must be passed through to former recipients and to CalWORKs recipients where only the children receive benefits (known as K1 and 3F families).  Any pass through payments that cannot be delivered to former CalWORKs recipients for six months will be used to recoup CalWORKs paid to the former recipient.  The former recipient family can make a claim with the Local Child Support Agency for the recouped funds within 12 months of the payment being sent for recoupment.

Also effective January 1, 2024, or when automation is completed, all support payments received in child only CalWORKs cases do not count as income for purposes of CalWORKs eligibility.

Child support payments received by a CalFresh or California Food Assistance household, including child support pass through payments, are counted as unearned income when determining CalFresh eligibility and benefit amount.

Child support payments are considered unearned income of the child when determining eligibility for Supplemental Security Income and Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants.  Any unspent child support payments count as a resource for Supplemental Security Income and Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants.  (ACL 23-93, November 6, 2023, and ACL 23-93E, December 27, 2023.)

Changes to CalWORKs Homeless Assistance and referrals for Pregnancy Special Needs

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding changes to the CalWORKs Homeless Assistance program and referrals for Pregnancy Special Needs.

CalWORKs applicants can verify pregnancy by a sworn statement or verbal attestation, and submitting medical verification within 30 working days of submitting the sworn statement or verbal attestation.  This change now applies to requests for CalWORKs Homeless Assistance.  CalWORKs applicants with no other CalWORKs eligible children can satisfy the pregnancy verification requirement for Homeless Assistance by sworn statement or verbal attestation.  If the applicant does not submit medical verification within 30 days, counties cannot issue issue additional homeless assistance benefits unless the pregnant person presents evidence of good-faith efforts to get verification of pregnancy.

Counties can require a homeless avoidance case plan when a family receives homeless assistance for the second time in a 24-month period.  Effective October 1, 2023, counties that require a homeless avoidance plan must also provide a housing navigator to the family.  CDSS encourages that homeless avoidance plan be optional.  CDSS also encourages counties to refer all homeless assistance recipients to Housing Support Program and Family Stabilization.  Family may receive both Housing Support Program and Family Stabilization at the same time.

If a county requires a homeless avoidance case plan for a family that verifies domestic violence by sworn statement, the plan shall include providing domestic violence services.

Homeless Assistance eligibility is expanded to families who receive any notice that could lead to an eviction, regardless of the reason for the notice.  This change is effective July 1, 2024, or when computer automation is completed, whichever is later.

Note that counties must accept a sworn statement to verify homelessness.

For purposes of homeless assistance eligibility, domestic violence is expanded to include actions done by any roommate.  This expansion applies to both the domestic violence homeless assistance benefit, and the domestic violence exception to the once in 12 months limit on homeless assistance.  This change is effective July 1, 2024, or when computer automation is completed, whichever is later.

Effective October 1, 2023, counties must refer pregnancy special needs payment recipients to perinatal home visiting services administered county public health, county social services, or county home visiting providers.  This includes CalWORKs Home Visiting Program and California Home Visiting Program.  (ACL 23-83, October 6, 2023.)