CalWORKs questions and answers regarding changes to semi-annual reporting and annual recertification

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued questions and answers regarding changes to the semi-annual reporting and annual recertification processes. CalWORKs assistance units may now provide information about income received during the 30 days prior to submitting the annual recertification.  Counties must determine the relevant period based on when the household or assistance unit submits their annual recertification or when the county sends a CW 2200 Request for Verification form.  If the assistance unit reports income and provides verification for a 30 day period, and that income is reasonably anticipated to continue, the county can use the information provided.  A paystub outside of the 30 day period is sufficient if it represents reasonably anticipated income.

Semi-annual reports (SAR 7) no longer must be signed no earlier than the first of the month to be considered complete.  The SAR 7 is now considered complete if the form is signed and dated by persons specified by CDSS, all questions and items are fully answered, and all required verification is provided, regardless of the date the it is signed.  If the signature and/or date is missing, then the SAR 7 is incomplete.  The date can be captured via electronic signature, or, if the county does not have electronic signature capability, by verbal attestation.

Automated calls can meet the personal contact for late or incomplete SAR 7 as long as the call provides information that leads to a worker, call center or provides a phone number that the recipient can call for assistance.  If the assistance unit does not have a working phone number, the county can use email or text if the client previously gave consent for electronic communication.  If that is unsuccessful, then the county must mail a written reminder no later than five days prior to the last calendar day of the submit month.  The county must document in the case record that it made an attempt to contact and collect information necessary for the report.

The policy for third party verification remains unchanged.  Counties can use information from The Work Number in the same manner as information provided by an employer.  (ACIN I-21-22, March 4, 2022.)

Instructions on interpreter services and confidentiality agreement

County welfare departments must offer free bilingual or interpreter services to all non-English speaking or limited English proficient persons. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued a new form, the CR 6181, to inform non-English speaking or limited English proficient persons of the risks of using their own interpreter instead of using a free interpreter provided the county.  Counties must use this form when applicants or recipients choose to use their own interpreter after being offer a free interpreter by the county.  The CR 6181 form replaces any county form previously used for this purpose.

The county must ensure that the applicant or recipient and their interpreter have read and understood the CR 6181 form.  The county must provide the CR 6181 form in the applicant or recipient’s primary language (if it has been translated into that language), and provide an interpreter to help with understanding the form.   If the applicant/recipient or their interpreter refuse to sign the form, the county must use a county-provided interpreter or bilingual staff member.

The form must be completed at redetermination, if it was signed over a year previous, or if the applicant/recipient chooses a different interpreter.

For telephone or virtual communication, the county must use a county provided interpreter unless a CR 6181 is already on file.  If there is a CR 6181 on file, the applicant/recipient can use their own interpreter.  If there is not a CR 6181 on file, it was signed over a year previous, or a different interpreter was named on the form, the county must read the form to the applicant/recipient in their primary language age get verbal consent to the risks of using their own interpreter.

The CR 6181 does not replace the GEN 1365 Notice of Language Services which informs individuals of their right to free language assistance services.  Counties are reminded that they must advise clients of their right to a free interpreter, and must provide interpreter services promptly and without delay.  Although clients can use their own interpreter, a county must not compel or encourage them to do so.  A client can use a minor as an interpreter only in extenuating circumstances.  (ACL 21-128, November 12, 2021.)

Limit on collection of CalWORKs overpayments of less than $250

Effective July 1, 2019, the threshold for collection of CalWORKs overpayments from people no longer receiving CalWORKs increased from $35 to $250.  Counties cannot demand collection of non-fraudulent overpayments totaling less than $250.

The California Department of Social Services has issued guidance that debt collection cannot occur for administrative error or client error CalWORKs overpayments of less $250.  The collectable limit for Intentional Program Violations has not changed.  (ACL 21-124, November 4, 2021.)

CalWORKs Housing Support Program funding and rules changes

The CalWORKs Housing Support Program (HSP) is intended to foster housing stability for families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness in the CalWORKs program.  All CalWORKs recipient families are eligible for the HSP.  HSP eligibility now includes families in CalWORKs who are at-risk of homelessness including recipients who have not yet received an eviction notice, and for whom housing instability would be a barrier to self-sufficiency or child well-being.

In general, homeless for purposes of HSP means either 1) an individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, 2) An individual or family who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence, 3) Any individual or family who is fleeing, or is attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions that relate to violence against the individual or a family member, has no other housing and lacks resources to obtain other housing.

For the purposes of HSP, a person is defined as at-risk of homelessness when they are experiencing housing instability, including recipients who have not yet received an eviction notice, and for whom housing instability would be a barrier to self-sufficiency or child well-being; have no subsequent permanent residence secured; and lack resources to secure subsequent permanent housing.  Families must be allowed to self-attest that they are at-risk of homelessness.

HSP provides rapid rehousing service, which includes housing identification, rent and move-in assistance, and case management.  HSP can also provide homelessness prevention assistance, which includes payment rent or utility arrears, late fee payments, first month rent and/or security deposit, landlord mediation, repairs, habitability/accessibility improvements, and housing navigation.  Counties are encouraged to limit their spending on homelessness prevention assistance to no more than 30 percent of their HSP allocation.

HSP must operate in accordance with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Housing First principles.  This means that individuals should be connected to housing or housing support without preconditions, services must be voluntary, client choice must be respected, and client cannot be rejected on the basis of income, past evictions, substance abuse, or any other behavior that might indicate a lack of housing readiness.

HSP should assist participants who are behind in rent with accessing ERAP funds before using Home Safe funds to pay back rent.  This is not requirement for Home Safe eligibility, but is a requirement to use ERAP funds before Home Safe funds for rental assistance.  If ERAP rent relief would not prevent a loss of housing and the family is eligible for HSP, then HSP funds can be utilized to keep the family housed, including by covering arrears to prevent a loss of housing.  (ACWDL, December 13, 2021.)

Eligibility of Afghan Humanitarian Parolees and Afghan Special Immigrant Conditional Permanent Residents for Refugee Resettlement Program, CalWORKs, CalFresh and SSI

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided revised guidance regarding eligibility of Afghan Humanitarian Parolees Afghanistan for Refugee Resettlement Program, CalWORKs and CalFresh benefits, and new guidance regarding eligibility for Afghan Special Immigrant Conditional Permanent Residents.  This guidance superceedes ACWDL September 3, 2021.

Afghan Special Immigrant Conditional Permanent Residents and Afghan Special Immigrant Lawful Permanent Residents are eligible for public benefits to the same extent as refugees.  Afghan Special Immigrant Conditional Permanent Residents are persons waiting for medical clearance to enter the United States.

Afghan Humanitarian Parolees, and their spouse and children, are eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as refugees.  They are eligible from October 1, 2021 or the date they are paroled in the United States, whichever is later, to March 31, 2023, or the end of parolees’ parole term, whichever is later.  Benefits that Humanitarian Parolees, and their spouse and children, are eligible for are Refugee Cash Assistance, CalWORKs, CalFresh, SSI, Refugee Support Services, and Services for Older Refugees.  Counties should redetermine eligibility for benefits when parole has expired or by March 31, 2023, whichever is later.

For CalWORKs, Afghan Humanitarian Parolees are not subject to the five-year ban on federally funded CalWORKs benefits.

For CalWORKs, reception and placement cash benefits count as property because they are considered recurring lump sum payments.

Afghan Humanitarian Parolees can be eligible for CalWORKs Housing Support Program.  Housing Support and Homeless Assistance can supplement federal refugee resettlement funds.  (ACWDL, December 2, 2021.)

Changes to CalWORKs eligibility for pregnant persons

Effective July 1, 2022, pregnant CalWORKs recipients with no other eligible children will get an increase on their monthly pregnancy special needs (PSN) payment from $47 to $100.

Previously, pregnant adults age 19 or over with no other eligible children were eligible for CalWORKs benefits beginning of their second trimester of pregnancy, six months before the expected birth date.  Effective July 1, 2022, pregnant persons will be eligible for CalWORKs as of the date of application. They will no longer need to wait until their second trimester to receive CalWORKs and are eligible in their first trimester of pregnancy. 

In addition, medical verification requirements will change to allow recipients to provide a sworn statement or verbal attestation of pregnancy. This sworn statement shall include the applicant’s name, date of application, and declaration of pregnancy. Medical verification of pregnancy must be given to the county within 30 days of sworn statement/verbal attestation. Aid will discontinue with failure to provide medical proof unless the recipient presents evidence of a good-faith effort to provide information to fulfill this requirement. 

Benefits provided to Pregnant teens under the age of 19 or without a high school diploma will remain the same.

If a pregnancy ends before the delivery date, the $100 monthly Pregnancy Special Needs payment will end the month following the date the recipient reports the end of their pregnancy.

Although CalWORKs rules apply to Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA), and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program (TCVAP), those programs are intended for families without children.  However, recipients of those benefits can apply for  CalWORKs anytime during their pregnancy.

To be eligible for CalWORKs Home Visiting Program (HVP), an individual must a) be a member of the CalWORKs assistance unit b) The individual is pregnant, or c) the individual is a parent/caretaker relative of a child less than 24 months of age at the time the individual enrolls in the program.  (ACL 21-140, November 18, 2021.)