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.)

Eligibility of Ukranian nationals for federal and state benefits


The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance regarding eligibility of Ukranian nationals for various public benefits programs.

Ukranian arrivals who have refugee or asylee status qualify for CalWORKs, CalFresh, SSI, and Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA).

Ukranian refugees and asylees are eligible for RCA. Persons with Temporary Protected Status are not eligible for RCA.  Counties must accept a declaration under penalty of perjury of the applicant’s immigration status while documentary verification is pending.

Ukranian nationals who have Temporary Protected Status are not eligible for most federal or state public benefits.

Ukranian humanitarian parolees can be eligible for CalWORKs with state funds.  This is because humanitarian parolees have Permanent Residence Under Color of Law (PRUCOL).  This includes eligibility for Homeless Assistance and Housing Support Program, both of which can supplement federal refugee resettlement funding.

Ukranian humanitarian parolees are eligible for the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI).  They are not eligible for SSI.

Ukranian humanitarian parolees are eligible for CalFresh or California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) if they have been paroled into the United States for at least one year.  Paroled for at least one year means the duration of parole.  A humanitarian parolee is eligible for CalFresh or CFAP from the day they are paroled into the United States if their parole will last at least one year.  Ukranian humanitarian parolees for less than one year are not eligible for CalFresh or CFAP.

Public interest parolees must be admitted to the United States for at least one year and must meet two additional criteria to be eligible for CalFresh, including five years of residence, working 40 quarters, children under age 18, elderly or disabled as defined.  People who do not meet two of the additional criteria can be eligible for CFAP.

Ukranians with refugee, asylee or humanitarian parolee status are eligible for Project Roomkey, Bringing Families Home, Housing and Disability Advocacy Program, and Home Safe.

Ukranian arrivals, including humanitarian parolees, can be eligible for Medi-Cal.

Regardless of the documentation presented, counties must verify immigration status with the SAVE system.  (ACIN I-40-22, April 22, 2022, ACIN I-40-22E, May 24, 2022.)

Interim housing and homeless program guidance on COVID-19

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding CDSS housing and homeless programs for COVID-19.  The guidance relates to CalWORKs Homeless Assistance (HA), CalWORKs Housing Support Program (HSP), Bringing Families Home (BFH), Housing and Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP) and Home Safe.

CDSS does not limit the number of days of interim shelter, including nights in a hotel or motel, for HSP, Bringing Families Home, HDAP and Home Safe.

HA applications are not required to be in person or to include a face-to-interview.  Counties can complete the CW 42 application form for the client and have then sign electronically.  Existing rules requiring issuing 3-days of benefits while homelessness is verified remain in effect.  However, counties are strongly encouraged to issue benefits without requiring clients to come to the office, including allowing sworn statements and granting good cause instead of requiring clients to come to county offices.  Although existing guidance requires counties to issue vendor payments when there has been a finding of mismanagement, if there is no feasible way to issue vendor payments because of COVID-19, counties should consider issuing benefits on the client’s EBT card.

Clients affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for an exception to the once-every 12 months rule for HA.  For example, if a parent in an assistance unit is concerned about infection and asks to isolate themselves, HA should be granted based on an exception because of illness.

HDAP funds can expand existing housing options used by HDAP clients, including shelters, recuperative care housing, hotel or motel leases, or interim housing programs.  For example, expanding a shelter program could include offering specialized quarantine options or leases with motels to provide housing for homeless persons impacted by COVID-19.  Counties can also purchase supplies for a specialized quarantine area or establish a new shelter program for HDAP clients specific to COVID-19.  In addition, HDAP funds can be spent on outreach to locate persons potentially eligible for HDAP who are residing in homeless camps who require medical care related to COVID-19.

Home Safe funds can be spent on landlord engagement, including incentives for landlords to participate in Home Safe.  Such payments can include in-kind goods to address COVID-19 impacts such as medical or sanitizing equipment and supplies.  Home Safe funds may also be used for interim housing, including motels.

HSP funds can be used for a range of financial and supportive services, including providing interim housing, helping participants navigate systems of care, providing rental assistance, incentive payments in the form of good for landlords participating in HSP, and supplies necessary to keep housing habitable.  Counties can provide landlord mediation and discussion of tenant’s rights to avoid eviction or housing displacement.

BFH for families experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness with an open child welfare case can include interim housing, tenant engagement, case management, public systems assistance, and conflict mediation with landlords or neighbors.  BFH can locate and pay for motel stays for families seeking interim housing that is not a shelter.  BFH can also pay for cleaning supplies.

A three-day notice to pay rent or quit meets eligibility requirements for HA, BFH, HDAP and Home Safe.  HA can be used to pay up to two month rental arrearages to prevent eviction.  (ACWDL, March 19, 2020.)

The HA provisions of this letter are superceeded by All County Welfare Directors Letter, March 31, 2020, summarized here.

CDSS guidance regarding COVID-19

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding the impct of COVID-19 on CalWORKs, CalFresh, housing and homelessness programs, and Refugee Cash Assistance.  Counties must ensure continuity of and safe access to services during pandemic conditions or periods of social distancing.

Current CalWORKs recipients are eligible for waiver of existing rules regarding homeless assistance, including the once-every-12-months limit.

Counties are encouraged to explore Diversion eligibility.  Diversion is designed to address a specific crisis or item of need and may be appropriate for affected families.  People who receive diversion are not subject to work requirements or child support assignment.  However, Diversion payments count toward the 48-month time on aid clock.

For CalWORKs applicants, when evidence concerning eligibility does not exist, the applicant’s sworn statement under penalty of perjury is sufficient except for verification of U.S. citizenship or immigration status, and medical verification of pregnancy.  Written statement is also acceptable to establish residency for the forseeable future.  The photo identification requirement is unchanged, meaning that if the applicant cannot present photo identification within 15 days of application, aid shall continue if the applicant presents evidence of good faith efforts to obtain photo identification.  Income rules remain the same.  Some persons impacted by school or work closures will no longer have an income that is reasonably anticipated.

For CalWORKs, counties can conduct interviews telephonically or by electronic means.  Counties that want to implement electronic/telephonic interviewing now because of COVID-19 can contact CDSS for immediate approval, and must submit a plan to CDSS within one week of implementation.

Counties may provide welfare-to-work good cause or exemptions in response to COVID-19. Good cause determinations should be made on a case-by-case basis.  However, counties can implement county-wide good cause to avoid face-to-face interactions to mitigate COVID-19.

Child care providers may not be reimbursed for days on which the provider is not operating unless that provider has a paid day of non-operation and can provide documentation that contractual terms require parents to pay for days of non-operation.  Reimbursable days of non-operation are limited to 10 days per fiscal year.  Payments to alternative providers when regular providers are not operating are limited to 10 days per child per fiscal year.  Counties must pay for child care on behalf of the client when the child is ill for during excuses absences for illness or quarantine.

For CalFresh, counties should promote online, phone or mail-in applications.  Counties should conduct as many interviews as possible by phone.  Counties should fulfill EBT card replacement requests by phone or mail as often as possible.

Counties must ensure that they are granting maximum allowable CalFresh certification periods.  Counties should maximize use of existing databases for verification.  If a household cannot provide required verification because of unusual circumstances, self-certification can be used.

Counties can exempt households from certain requirements for good cause.

If county offices close during regular business hours, they must make it possible for individuals to apply for and receive CalWORKs and CalFresh, including emergency benefits, within time frames required by state and federal law.  Counties must also provide notice of hours of operation, and procedures during closure hours for applying for and receiving benefits.  These procedures must include making applications available and providing a drop-box or mail slot for filing applications.  Such applications must be deemed to have been filed on the date of the county closure.  Counties must maintain sufficient staff to accept and act upon all applications, and telephone staff to accept and act upon all applications as if they were made in person.  This includes making immediate need available no later than the third calendar day following the application date.

Refugee Cash Assistance and Refugee Support Services will use the CalWORKs guidance.  (ACWDL, March 12, 2020.)

EDD benefits eligibility for Covid-19

The Employment Development Department (EDD) has issued a statement on its website about benefits eligibility for people impacted by Covid-19.   People certified by a medical professional as unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 are eligible for State Disability Insurance.

People unable to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19  as certified by a medical professional are eligible for Paid Family Leave, which is up to 6 weeks of benefits.

People who have reduced work hours because the employer has reduced hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, can file for Unemployment Insurance.

In addition, employers experiencing a slowdown in their businesses or services as a result of the coronavirus impact on the economy may apply for the UI Work Sharing Program which allows employers to retain their trained employees by reducing their hours and wages that can be partially offset with UI benefits.  (EDD Coronavirus-2019.)


CalWORKs overpayment collection threshold and discharge

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding the CalWORKs overpayment collection threshold and discharge policies.  This guidance supersedes ACL 19-19.

Effective July 1, 2019, the overpayment collection threshold for closed CalWORKs cases is increased from $35 to $250. Counties cannot demand collection of any non-fraudulent overpayments with a balance of $249 or less if the liable individual is no longer receiving CalWORKs.  The $250 threshold includes claims related to Welfare-to-Work supportive services.  The overpayment collection threshold applies to each individual claim, not to the total of multiple overpayment claims.

There is also a new discharge process for CalWORKs overpayments.  If the liable individual has not received CalWORKs for 36 consecutive months or longer, the county must deem a non-fraudulent CalWORKs overpayment uncollectable and must discharge it.  This rule applies even when there is a repayment agreement or a civil judgment if the overpayment is non-fraudulent.  This discharge rule applies to each individual overpayment claim, not to the total of multiple overpayment claims.  Counties must send a notice of action informing individuals when they are no longer liable for the overpayment.

The discharge policy does not apply to cases where fraud is alleged.  If a fraud investigation is pending when the 36 month timeframe occurs, collection is placed in suspense until the result of the investigation.  Collection can restart if the investigation determines there was fraud.

The discharge policy is not effective until it is programmed into the new single statewide computer system CalSAWS. However, when the discharge policy is programmed into CalSAWS, counties must apply it retroactively to any outstanding non-fraudulent CalWORKs overpayments established on or after December 1, 1996.

In addition, effective July 1, 2019, counties must now report any mass overpayment of CalWORKs benefits to CDSS.  A mass overpayment is an overpayment caused by the same action or inaction that impacts either eight percent of the county’s CalWORKs caseload or more than 1,000 CalWORKs recipients, whichever is greater.

Also effective July 1, 2019, a civil or criminal welfare fraud action cannot be commenced if case record, or any consumer credit report used in the civil or criminal case for the purpose of determining the overpayment, has not been made available or has been destroyed after the three year retention period.

These policies also apply to Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Programs.  (ACL 19-102, November 12, 2019.)