CalWORKs WTW counting of self-employment time

On October 1, 2022, the Welfare-To-Work (WTW) changes adopted by Assembly Bill (AB) 461 (Chapter 582, Statutes of 2021) came into effect.  AB 461 changes how self-employed hours are calculated for a CalWORKs WTW member. Starting October 1, 2022, self-employment participation hours are calculated based on the number of hours the participant self-reported as being self-employed. These hours may be reported verbally, through a written self-assessment, timesheet, estimated hours for previous months, a business plan, or other means.

Counties can no longer requires participants to report their income to determine hours of participation in self-employment, and WTW participants may self-report any hours spent on activities related to their business to meet hourly requirements. In the case of non-subsidized employment, the participant may be self-employed if they have the income to support the hours, otherwise, they will follow the regular WTW stream to participate in self-employment. WTW participants who are self-employed as salespeople count all hours spent promoting their business or trying or contacting potential or actual customers as hours worked.

If the participant’s business is not generating income, the County should discuss what the business needs to be successful so that the member can support their family and reduce the need for support. Clients interested in becoming self-employed can explore the CalGOLD website to learn more about required licenses, permits, forms, and fees.

WTW participants must comply with all of the same applicable business licensing, permits, and tax reporting requirements as any other business operating in their locality. For more information, they should visit the California Department of Revenue website.

The county does not need to verify that WTW participants have received all legally required business documents or documents to conduct their business. Self-employment and support services are available to as needed for self-employed participants. Counties are encouraged to provide case management for self-employed members.

The CalWORKs County Plan and regional market rates govern transportation. Members may use their own vehicles if public transportation is not available, but the county cannot set a limit on monthly reimbursement.

Counties may provide the tools, clothing, fees, etc. that the participant needs to run their business as supportive services.  Licensing, permitting, and other fees and expenses necessary for self-employed participants to comply with local operating requirements are allowable as an ancillary supportive service. However, counties are not required to pay all of the participant’s expenses when starting the business. Counties may consider renting or leasing equipment to meet member needs if purchasing equipment is too expensive.

Self-employed participants may deduct 40 percent of their gross self-employment income, or reasonably anticipated self-employment expenses, from their gross income when determining eligibility and at each re-determination.

While limiting necessary support services is prohibited, counties may require a secondary review by a supervisor prior to issuing a supportive services payment.

MPP Section 42-750.42 requires county to inform members of changes to transportation arrangements and additional ancillary services at least ten calendar days in advance of the proposed change, except in emergencies or exceptional situations.

CalWORKs calculates work participation rates based on self-employment income divided by the federal minimum wage. Additional activities outside regular business hours are reported accordingly, depending on the type of activity.

For income reporting, CalWORKs recipients must report income during the semi-annual reporting period, annual redetermination, or any time their income exceeds the income reporting threshold.  (ACL 22-80, October 14, 2022.)

Treatment of Racial Equity Implicit Bias Initiative focus group payments

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance to County Welfare Departments regarding treatment of the Racial Equity and Implicit Bias (REIB) Initiative focus group payments. The focus groups will provide a unique client perspective and equity challenges.

CDSS is working with community partners to develop a trauma-informed, anti-racist, anti-stigma county training framework for the CalWORKs and CalFresh programs. This framework will promote positive outcomes for child and family health and well-being.

Community partner Parent Voices is working with consultant Anavo Solutions to convene a Community Advisory Committee comprised of nine community members. Participants in the Parent Voices Community Advisory Committee (PV-CAC) will receive a $1,000 stipend. The PV-CAC will operate and support a focus group of CalWORKs and CalFresh recipients.  Members of this focus group will receive $75 gift cards.

The $1,000 stipend is considered a lump sum payment and not income for CalWORKs or CalFresh.  The $1,000 stipend is a resource in the month received.  The $75 gift card is exempt from being considered a resource.

For CalFresh households subject to a resource test, both the $1,000 stipend and the $75 gift card count as a resource in the month received.

The PV Focus Group $75 Visa gift card is not countable as income for Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) Medi-Cal and Non-MAGI Medi-Cal. The $1,000 stipend would be counted as taxable income for MAGI Medi-Cal, which means it is counted in the month received as a one-time lump sum payment. (September 20, 2022)  For Non-MAGI Medi-Cal, the $1,000 payment is income in the month received and property in the month following the month of receipt.  (ACWDL, September 20, 2022.)

Treatment of CalKIDS accounts

In 2019, the passage of SB 77 provided one-time state funding to create CalKIDS, a qualified scholarship program. It opens a college savings account for every newborn child in California regardless of income. CalKIDS will provide an initial seed deposit of at least $25 in each savings account and other potential financial awards to participants. In 2021, the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act significantly expanded the program to include an additional 3.7 million low-income public school students in grades 1 through 12 who qualify for free or reduced lunch, are homeless, or are in foster care. Eligible students receive an initial seed deposit of $500. Later in 2021, CalKIDS clarified eligibility to include students attending state special schools.  The CalKIDS expansion was implemented on July 1, 2022. 

College Savings and CalKIDS Accounts allow families to save and invest money for their children’s future higher education expenses. Savings withdrawn from a CSA program that utilizes a 529 college savings account, such as CalKIDS, are not subject to federal or state taxes if they are used for qualified higher education expenses. 

Because CalKIDS Accounts are owned by the State and are not available to the Assistance Unit (AU) are not counted as income or resources for CalWORKs purposes. Any funds, including funds deposited and investment returns, originating from a CalKIDS account will not be considered in the eligibility determination or grant calculation for CalWORKs applicants or recipients. 

CalKIDS Accounts are entirely excluded as income or resources for the CalFresh and California Food Assistance Program CalKIDS shows accounts must be excluded from income and resources entirely. 

CalKIDS does not count as income for CalWORKs Homeless Assistance Program (HA) and the CalWORKs Housing Support Program (HSP) because they are CalWORKs programs.  CalKIDS also does not count as income when determining eligibility for assistance provided by other Housing and Homelessness Programs, including Project Roomkey/Homelessness COVID Response, Bringing Families Home, and the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program.

CalKIDS accounts do not count as income for CalWORKs Stage 1 Child Care.  For other child care programs,  CalKIDS accounts are not considered countable income because they are owned by the state.. CalKIDS funds that are withdrawn and not utilized for educational purposes may be considered countable income if not excluded on some other basis.

The impact of CalKIDS on RCA/ECA and TCVAP follows the income and assets eligibility and administration rules of the CalWORKs program unless specifically superseded by RCA regulations. The eligibility criteria for ECA and TCVAP Cash Assistance states benefits shall be the same as those for RCA, with certain exceptions. These CalWORKs regulations regarding the treatment of CalKIDS accounts and funds also apply to RCA, ECA, and TCVAP recipients.

CalKIDS accounts are not counted as a resource for SSI/SSP or CAPI because they are owned by the state.  Distributions that are used for educational expenses of the designated beneficiary are excluded as a resource in the month received, and if retained beyond the month of receipt, they are excluded for 9 months beginning with the month of receipt. However, since the funds will be distributed directly to the higher education institutions on behalf of the participants to pay for qualifying higher education expenses and not retained by the beneficiary, the distributions will likewise not be considered a resource to the beneficiary.  (ACL 22-79, October 4, 2022.)

Cuban and Haitian Entrant eligibility for benefits programs

The California Department of Social Services has issued information regarding eligibility of Cuban/Haitian entrants for public benefits programs. 

Cuban/Haitian entrants may be eligible for Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA),. This refers to federally funded cash assistance available to those who do not meet the categorical requirements of other state/federal cash assistance programs. ECA follows the rules of the Refugee Resettlement Program. ECA applicants are not required to have a Social Security Number.

Cuban/Haitian entrants can be eligible for CalWORKs upon entry into the United States.  They must submit proof of applying for a Social Security Number within 30 days or have good cause for not applying for a Social Security Number.  Cuban/ Haitian Entrants who apply for or receive CalWORKs must be eligible for Homeless Assistance or the Housing Support Program (HSP). Cuban/Haitian Entrants can be eligible for Project Roomkey, the Bringing Families Home (BFH) program, the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP), and/or the Home Safe program if they otherwise meet the eligibility requirements for each program.”

Cuban/Haitian entrants can be eligible for CalFresh immediately without a waiting period. Non-citizens who are eligible based on immigration status must meet all other requirements. These individuals are not eligible for the California Food Assistance Program while Entrant status is in effect because they are eligible for CalFresh.. 

Cuban/Haitian Entrants who are aged, blind, or disabled and meet income limits, may be eligible for SSI/SSP. Entrants are eligible for SSI for seven years. A Cuban/Haitian Entrant who is found ineligible for SSI because of their immigration status can be eligible for CAPI.

Cuban/Haitian Entrants who become eligible for ECA must meet work registration requirements.  Cuban/Haitian Entrants who do not have work authorization should be enrolled in services to help achieve self sufficiency.   (ACIN I-63-22, September 20, 2022.)

CalWORKs for Fork, Barnes and Mountain Fire evacuees

The California Department of Social Services has issued a reminder about policy for processing CalWORKs cases for persons evacuated because of the Fork Fire in Madera County, the Barnes Fire in Modoc County, and the Mountain Fire in Siskiyou County.

For evacuees who apply for CalWORKs, if the applicant and the county make a good faith effort to obtain verification and are unable to do so, including identity, time on aid, and CalWORKs eligibility factors, the county must accept the evacuee’s statements signed under penalty of perjury in lieu of verification.

When an individual or family displaced by fires applies for CalWORKs, counties must establish that the evacuee was living in a county designated as a federal disaster and/or state-declared emergency zone and ask if the evacuee or anyone else in their family is receiving CalWORKs from that county or another disaster county.

CalWORKs recipients may be eligible for nonrecurring special needs payments because of emergencies from the fires, such as damage to or loss of shelter or belongings. Nonrecurring special needs funds can be used to repair or replace clothing or household equipment, to provide assistance for damages to the home, or to pay for interim shelter when the AU’s home was destroyed or made uninhabitable or inaccessible. The maximum nonrecurring special needs payment is $600 for each individual incident.

Disaster assistance from federal, state or local government or disaster assistance organizations is excluded from consideration as income.

For CalWORKs applicants, counties are encouraged to offer CalWORKs diversion to evacuees to address their specific crisis or item of need. Applicants in an emergency should be evaluated for Immediate Need Payments. Both applicant and recipient evacuees should be entitled to an exception to the once in twelve months limitation on receiving Homeless Assistance. Recipient evacuees may also be eligible the CalWORKs Housing Support Program.

A written statement from the applicant is sufficient to establish intent to establish residency in California and in the county of application for the foreseeable future. Receipt of benefits at an address outside of California for two months or longer is not apparent evidence of intent to reside outside of California when return to California is prevented by a disaster.
For income, it is expected that some evacuees will no longer have reasonably anticipated income because of the disaster. For property and resources, counties must consider the applicant’s ability to access, occupy or sell their property at the time of application because of the disaster.

For families temporarily separated because of the disaster, a family member is considered temporary absent if they expect to reunite within one full calendar month. CalWORKs recipients can maintain a home in a different county than the county they are physically residing in if they intend to return to that home within four months.

Most evacuated families will not be able to participate in welfare-to-work activities. Counties should make a good cause determination for evacuated families for nonparticipation in welfare-to-work activities. Counties should also determine if an applicant needs barrier removal services such as mental health services or housing stabilization program services and provide these services as expeditiously as possible.

Counties are reminded that COVID-19 flexibilities remain in place and apply to evacuees, including flexibility regarding pregnancy verification, in-person photo identification requirements, and signature requirements. (ACWDL, September 20, 2022.)

Increase in CalWORKs resource limit

Starting January 1, 2023, there is an annual cost of living increase for the CalWORKs maximum resource limit.  The new maximum resource utilization will be $10,888, and  $16,333 for families with at least one member who is age 60 or over or disabled.  The rules regarding restricted accounts remain unchanged. 

The Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA), and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Programs (TCVAP) cash assistance programs follow the CalWORKs administrative rules and as a result this increase in the resource limit applies to RCA, ECA and TCVAP. 

The increase in the resource limit should be automated by January 1, 2023. (ACL 22-66, August 2, 2022.)