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.)

Impact of Social Security COLA on CalWORKs and CalFresh

Social Security recipients will get a 5.9 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase effective January 1, 2022.  For new CalWORKs and CalFresh applicants, the actual amount of the Social Security benefit, including the COLA, is used for eligibility beginning in January, 2022.  Applicants who apply in November or December, 2021 will have the January amount of Social Security included for January as reasonably anticipated income.

For CalWORKs and CalFresh households in the final month of their Semi-Annual Reporting (SAR) period the county will reasonably anticipate the increase in the Social Security benefit for their upcoming SAR period beginning in January, 2022.

Counties must adjust benefits effective January 1, 2022 to reflect the COLA for all CalWORKs and CalFresh cases with Social Security income as a mid-period county initiated action.

If counties cannot change the CalWORKs or CalFresh grant because of the January, 2022 Social Security COLA, they must decrease the grant amounts the first of the month after timely and adequate notice is provided, and an overpayment assessed accordingly.  (ACIN I-91-21, November 12, 2021.)

CalWORKs pregnancy verification, signature and photo identification requirements

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties about changes to the CalWORKs pregnancy verification, signature and photo identification requirements.

Effective July 1, 2021, a pregnant person only applicant who cannot provide medical verification of pregnancy can submit a sworn statement to verify pregnancy for CalWORKs and the pregnancy special needs payment.  Pregnant Person Only applicants who provide a sworn statement must provide medical verification of pregnancy within 30 working days.  Counties must extend this time for good cause.

Counties must give written notice of required documentation within 10 days of the date of application.  Counties must assist in obtaining documentation when the applicant has made every attempt necessary to obtain it.

Effective July 1, 2021, an applicant can sign a CalWORKs application by oral attestation if the applicant cannot provide a physical signature or the county is unable to accept an electronic or telephonic signature.  Except for Homeless Assistance benefits, the applicant must submit a physical signature within 30 working days following an oral attestation for benefits to continue.

Following verbal attestation, the county shall mail the Statement of Facts and all other application forms to the client to be signed and returned via U.S. mail within 30 days.  If the client has not submitted a physical signature within 30 days, the client must terminate the case.

Effective July 1, 2021, CalWORKs applicants can present photo identification virtually, including by videoconference.  (ACL 21-134, November 9, 2021.)

Changes to CalWORKs Homeless Assistance program

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding changes to the CalWORKs Homeless Assistance program in SB 1065.  These changes will become effective when CDSS notifies the legislature that the statewide computer system can perform necessary automation to implement them, which is estimated to be in 9 to 12 months.

The $100 liquid resource limit for applying for Homeless Assistance will be removed.  There will no longer be a liquid resource limit for applying for Homeless Assistance.

A county will be required to accept a sworn statement to verify homelessness.  The CW 42 is a sworn statement so it will meet that requirement.  The county will not be allowed to seek additional verification.

Counties can refer families to their early fraud prevention and detection unit if they believe the applicant is questionably homeless.  SB 1065 defines “questionable homeless” as “when there is a reason to suspect the family has permanent housing.”  The county must have evidence to suspect that the family has safe and stable permanent housing in which the family can continue to reside without support for a referral of the family as questionably homeless.

Homeless assistance for domestic abuse victims is for two 16-day periods. When SB 1065 is implemented, the family will be eligible for the second 16-day period even if CalWORKs is granted during the first 16-day period.  Note that homeless assistance for domestic abuse victims is in addition to any other temporary or permanent homeless assistance the family may be eligible for.

For families affected by disaster, SB 1065 will remove the requirement for eligibility for disaster homeless assistance that the state or federally declared disaster be a natural disaster.

SB 1065 removes the requirement that security deposit or last month rent be reasonable.  Counties will no longer be allowed to reject payment of security deposit or last month rent that is a condition of securing a residence.

SB 1065 will require that any refund of permanent homeless assistance funds be returned to the family.  Counties will no longer be allowed to collect homeless assistance funds that are refunded to the family. (ACL 21-121, October 6, 2021.)

County welfare department access requirements

The California Department of Social Services has issued guidance on county welfare department access requirements.  County welfare departments must implement procedures that ensure members of the public, including those with disabilities, are notified of and have access to county welfare department programs.  Counties must conduct an annual review of the hours of operation of public offices to ensure that the needs of recipients, including those who work, are adequately met.

Regular business hours are defined as a minimum of 8 hours per day, except Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.  Counties maintain an office that is open to the public that offers basic certification services during regular business hours, including accepting applications, interviewing applicants, and accepting notice of change in household circumstances. Counties can implement risk reduction measures because of COVID-19 in accordance with local county health orders, such as limiting capacity in lobbies and social distancing.

If counties must close for health and safety reasons during regular business hours, counties must

  • Make applications available and provide the opportunity to file applications for and receive benefits within legally mandated time frames, including expedited CalFresh, immediate need CalWORKs, and homeless assistance. This includes availability of application in all threshold languages for that office.  Counties must maintain sufficient staff to accept and act upon all applications, and/or maintain a local telephone service with sufficient staff to accept and act upon all applications as if the request had been made in person at the county welfare department office.
  • Provide a drop-box, mail slot or other means to file applications. Applications are assumed to be filed on the date the office is closed.  The county must have a method to give a receipt on request.
  • Inform callers to the county main telephone line of the working days or hours of the regular working day, when offices will be closed, procedures for obtaining and filing applications when offices are closed, and procedures for applying for expedited CalFresh, immediate need CalWORKs, and homeless assistance while offices are closed.
  • Post notices in prominent locations within the county welfare department offices and in the public areas, including the doors immediately outside of the office, which inform the public when offices will be closed, procedures for obtaining and filing applications when offices are closed, and procedures for applying for expedited CalFresh, immediate need CalWORKs, and homeless assistance while offices are closed and the right to a receipt of hand delivered documents. (ACIN I-83-21, October 5, 2021.)

CalWORKs eligibility for victims of the Fawn Fire in Shasta County

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) reminded counties about CalWORKs regulations and policies for processing applications and documents on behalf of disaster victims and evacuees.  An emergency proclamation has been issued for Shasta County because of the Fawn Fire.

Some evacuees will apply for CalWORKs in disaster counties or counties other than the county in which they live because of disaster related-relocation.  Counties will need to establish whether evacuees are from a county that has been designated a federal or state disaster, and whether other family members are receiving CalWORKs in that county.

Many evacuees will not have documentation.  If the applicant and the county make a good faith effort to obtain verification of identity, time on aid, and linking and non-linking conditions of CalWORKs eligibility and are unable to contact the evacuee’s financial institutions or necessary entities or institutions, the county must accept the evacuee’s statement signed under penalty of perjury.

CalWORKs recipients may be eligible for nonrecurring special needs payments because of emergencies such as damage to or loss of shelter because of fires.  Funds can be used to repair or replace clothing or household equipment, to provide assistance for damage to the home or to pay for interim shelter.  Nonrecurring special needs payments are a maximum of $600 for each incident.  An assistance unit is eligible if it has less than $100 in nonexempt liquid resources.

Federal disaster and emergency assistance, and comparable disaster assistance from state or local governments, and disaster assistance organizations, is exempt from consideration as income or resources.

Counties are encouraged to explore diversion eligibility for fire evacuees.

Fire evacuees are in an emergency and should be evaluated for an immediate need payment.

Because of the disaster, some income that evacuees had will no longer have income that can be reasonably anticipated.

Many evacuees will not be able to access, occupy or sell their property.  The county shall consider the ability to access or sell property and make a good faith effort to obtain needed verification or accept a statement signed under penalty of perjury.

A family is considered temporarily absent from their county if they expect to reunite within one calendar month.  Evacuee recipients can maintain a home in a different county if they intend to return to their home county within four months.

Counties should make a Welfare-to-Work good cause determination for evacuees.  Counties are encouraged to exercise flexibility in this regard.  Counties should determine if an applicant or recipient needs barrier removal services such as mental health services, housing support program, or temporary homeless assistance.  For homeless assistance, disaster is an exception to the once-every-12-month limit. (ACWDL, September 29, 2021.)