Increase in CalWORKs vehicle value limit

The California Department of Social Services has informed counties that the vehicle value for the CalWORKs program increases to $32,968 effective July 1, 2024. This increase also applies to Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance, and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program (TCVAP). The vehicle value is the amount of the value of a vehicle that does not count toward the program resource limit.

The welfare department computer systems will be programmed for the increased vehicle value effective July 1, 2024. (ACL 24-36, May 31, 2024.)

CalWORKs MBSAC increase

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties that the CalWORKs Minimum Basic Standard of Care (MBSAC) will increase by 4.32% effective July 1, 2024. This is an annual cost of living increase. This will increase the MBSAC in Region 1 to $899 for a 1 one-person assistance unit, $1,476 for a two-person assistance unit, $1,829 for a 3 person assistance unit and increasing with increases in assistance unit size. The MBSAC for Region 2 will increase to $853 for a 1 one person assistance unit, $1,401 for a 2 person assistance unit, $1,736 for a 3 person assistance unit and increasing with increases in assistance unit size.

The MBSAC is the maximum income before deductions that a family can have to be eligible for CalWORKs.

The same increase will apply to the MBSAC for Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program. The same increase will apply to the CalWORKs Income in-kind level, which is the maximum amount of in kind income that is counted against the grant. (ACL 24-37, May 31, 2024.)

Verification and eligibility for public benefits for public interest parolees

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding verification and eligibility for persons paroled into the United States under Immigration and Naturalization Act section 212(d)(5), also known as public interest parolees, when determining eligibility for CalWORKs, CalFresh, California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), and Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA).

When someone entering the United States is granted parole status at a port of entry or District Office, they are given a DT code.

People who are paroled into the United States are eligible for CalWORKs.  In verifying parole status for CalWORKs, counties must accept documentation showing the DT code and the length of parole, and must not ask for additional verification.  Counties can ask for additional verification or run a SAVE match if the length of parole is unclear.  Counties must review CalWORKs applications received after June 30, 2023 and were denied for failure to provide additional verification of parole status, and retroactively approve aid if the family is otherwise eligible.  When the recipient’s parole term expires, counties must evaluate whether the family meets another eligible noncitizen category.

Office of Refugee Resettlement eligible parolees are eligible for RCA or ECA if they meet all other program eligibility requirements.  Any CalWORKs applicant with a DT code who is found ineligible for CalWORKs should be evaluated for RCA and ECA. Counties must review RCA applications received after June 30, 2023 and were denied for failure to provide additional verification of parole status, and retroactively approve aid if the family is otherwise eligible.

To be eligible for CalFresh, a parolee must have a duration of parole into the United States of at least one year, and must have been in the United States for 5 years.

To be eligible for CFAP, a parolee must have a duration of parole into the United States of at least one year.  CFAP does not have the 5 year waiting period requirement. (ACL 24-27, April 24, 2024.)

Changes to CalWORKs recipient financial eligibility test

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding continuing financial eligibility for CalWORKs recipients.  When a family receiving CalWORKs has an income increase that takes over 130% of the Federal Poverty Level (the Income Reporting Threshold or IRT), they must report that to the county.  This is a report that must be made mid-period when it happens, this is between required semi-annual reports.

Counties must now determine continuing eligibility after an income report of income report determining: 1) whether the income is over the IRT; 2) if it is over the IRT, is it reasonable anticipated to continue; 3) if it is does the income reported, minus any of that income which is exempt from consideration for CalWORKs purposes, is more than the IRT.  If it is, the CalWORKs grant will be recalculated accordingly.  The critical change is subtracting any exempt income before redetermining eligibility and benefit amount.

Families must continue to report when their total gross and unearned income exceeds the IRT, but continuing financial eligibility will be determined after determining if the income is reasonably anticipated to continue, and whether it exceeds the IRT after subtracting exempt income.

This change also applies to Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance, and Trafficking and Crime Victim Assistance Program benefits.  (ACL 23-96, December 26, 2023.)

Refugee Cash Assistance income disregards

Many refugees receive assistance from Reception and Placement (R&P) grants. R&P grants do not count as income for purposes of Refugee Cash Assistance.  The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has directed counties to also disregard cash grants that refugees and other eligible individuals receive through programs determined by Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to be equivalent to R&P programs for purposes of Refugee Cash Assistance.

ORR has determined that Welcome Corps and the Afghan Placement and Assistance program are equivalent to R&P. CDSS will advise counties if and when ORR identifies other programs as equivalent to R&P or CDSS determines that RCA income disregards should be extended to other federal resettlement initiatives. (ACL 24-16, March 8, 2024.)

Prepopulated SAR 7

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has developed a new SAR 7 semi-annual report form.  Effective the date automation is complete, counties must provide the new SAR 7 form prepopulated to recipients of CalWORKs, CalFresh, California Food Assistance Program, Refugee Cash Assistance, Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program, and Entrant Cash Assistance.

CDSS also has a blank version of the new SAR 7 form to be made available in welfare department lobbies and online for on demand access.  For cash aid recipients, counties must also provide the new Domestic Abuse Addendum.

Most households are required to submit a report six months after benefits are granted, and six months after completing annual recertification.  Elderly and disabled households that do not have earned income are not required to submit semi-annual reports.

Counties must continue to provide the SAR forms to the household by mail, email or in person by so that it is received by the 5th day of the month it is due.

For CalFresh households, changes in immigration status, student status, fleeing felon status or a violation of probation or parole, are not required to be reported on the semi-annual report and the new SAR 7 does not ask those questions.

For CalWORKs and other cash aid, effective the date the prepopulated SAR 7 is automated, property and/or resources will no longer be evaluated semi-annually.  Property and resources will only be evaluated at application and annual redetermination.

The new SAR 7 form includes questions about exemptions from the Able-Bodies Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD rules because federal rules require that screening (and it will be needed if the ABAWD rules become effective again in California at some point in the future).

The new SAR 7DA allows households to disclose any history of domestic abuse in order to receive services or assistance.  Information about domestic abuse cannot be released to any outside party, agency, or county employee who is not directly involved in the case unless the information is required to be disclosed to law enforcement or the recipient gives written authorization.  When an individual completes the SAR 7DA, the county must privately contact them to provide information, resources or needed accommodations.

The SAR 7DA can only be released as part of an intercounty transfer if the recipient has signed a WTW 37 release form.

The disability question on the SAR 7/SAR 7B allows disclosure of a disability or a request for assistance because of a disability.  When households report having a disability or state that they need assistance because of a disability, counties must contact the household to assist and provide information, resources or needed accommodations.

When a household checks the “I am homeless” box, counties are strongly encouraged to screen households for homeless assistance or other available services, and to identify eligibility for an ABAWD exemption when necessary.  (ACL 24-06, February 2, 2024.)