California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued a general overview of the Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) program and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program (TCVAP).
RCA is a federally-funded, 12-month cash assistance program available for non-citizen populations who are not otherwise eligible for cash aid. The state may operate a publicly-administered RCA program consistent with CalWORKs where program regulations relating to financial eligibility and payments apply, unless specifically superseded by RCA regulations.
RCA benefits are available to refugees, asylees, Cuban and Haitian Entrants, certified survivors of human trafficking, and Iraqi or Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders.
Although humanitarian parolees are generally not eligible for federal public benefits, including RCA, Afghan Humanitarian Parolees (AHP), Cuban and Haitian Entrant Humanitarian Parolees (CHP and HHP), and Ukrainian Humanitarian Parolees (UHP) are now eligible.
Cuban and Haitian Entrant Humanitarian Parolees (CHP and HHP) previously received benefits from the Entrant Cash Assistance program. They do not meet the requirements for other state or federal cash assistance programs. The term “Cuban or Haitian Entrant” refers to benefit eligibility rather than an immigration status. Cuban-Haitian Entrants may be eligible for certain federal public benefits, including Medicaid, Refugee Cash and Medical Assistance, Refugee Social Services, Social Security, SSI, SNAP, TANF, and Federal Student Aid.
Cuban or Haitian Entrants must meet all RCA eligibility criteria except for refugee status. The twelve month time eligibility starts the date of parole, and they retain eligibility for services even if their parole status expires prior to the end of the twelve month time eligibility.
Refugees awarded RCA benefits and services must participate in employment services (unless exempt or found to have good cause) and other social services designed to assist them in becoming self-sufficient. Recipients must provide proof of registration and participation in CDSS or other county-approved employment services. If CDSS or county approved programs are unavailable, recipients must be referred to EDD for registration.
Individuals must be given the opportunity to apply for cash assistance and counties must determine eligibility no more than 30 days from date of application, including an evaluation of immediate need. In order to avoid RCA overpayments, counties should contact resettlement agencies that may assist refugees to find out what assistance they are providing to the refugee and possible Matching Grant enrollment. Participants in Matching Grant programs are not eligible to receive RCA. Refugees who lose contact with their sponsor may be granted RCA until they have another sponsor.
RCA applicants are not required to disclose their Social Security Number, but counties may ask them to voluntarily do so.
For information regarding required immigration documents, verifying the entry and eligibility dates and other specific program information for the eligible arrivals, refer to ORR PL 16-01 and the corresponding ORR Documentation Guide. If the county is unable to confirm immigration status, a written declaration under penalty of perjury may permitted and benefits issued while using other methods, such as SAVE, to verify information.
TCVAP is a state-funded program that provides critical support, benefits, and services to non-citizen victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and other serious crimes who are not eligible for federally-funded benefits and services. TCVAP is available for holders of a nonimmigrant T-Visa or U-Visa which allows them to remain in the U.S. while cooperating with law enforcement in investigations and/or prosecution of the perpetrator. TCVAP is also available for victims who have a Continued Presence (CP) designation. CP designation is for victims of a “severe form of trafficking in persons” who may be potential victims. CP allows victims to remain in the U.S. temporarily and find employment while the investigations and any civil actions against their traffickers are ongoing. TCVAP benefits and services are state-funded equivalents of RCA and Refugee Support Services (RSS).
Eligibility for TCVAP benefits and services is dependent on applicants establishing that they are a victim of a severe form of human trafficking, domestic violence, or other serious crimes. Applicants must make a sworn statement or have documentation showing that they are a victim of a severe form of human trafficking, and show they meet the income and resource limitations. In addition, applicants must be able to show they are taking steps to meet eligibility conditions for federal benefits such as applying for a T-Visa with USCIS.
TCVAP recipients must participate in employment services, unless exempt or found to have good cause, and other social services designed to assist them in becoming self-sufficient. Recipients must provide proof of registration and participation in CDSS or other county-approved employment services. If CDSS or county-approved programs are unavailable, recipients must be referred to EDD for registration.
TCVAP also provides benefits and services to noncitizen victims of domestic violence or other serious crimes. The U Visa is available to noncitizen victims of qualifying crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity; have information about the criminal activity; and were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. Applicants are eligible for TCVAP if they have filed an application for a U-Visa or have been granted a U-Visa and meet the income and resource limitations.
Eligibility for state-funded benefits and services are extended to domestic violence and other serious crimes victims who have filed an application for a U-Visa or have been granted a U-Visa, and meet the income and resource limitations.
TCVAP-eligible individuals qualify for TCVAP Cash Assistance, TCVAP CalWORKs, TCVAP Employment and Social Services, and California Food Assistance Program (CFAP). TCVAP benefits and services are equivalent to benefits available in the RCA program. TCVAP cash assistance is available for up to 12 months for adults/families without children, and up to 60 months for families with children and begins the date of initial application for public benefits.
Counties must determine the eligibility of applicants for TCVAP Cash Assistance within 30 days and TCVAP CalWORKs within 45 days.
Employment and training requirements must be appropriate for the recipient. If a recipient is not authorized to work, or is technically or legally unable to participate, they are exempt and cannot be required to participate. Recipients should be provided with activities that will help them prepare for future employment such as English language training, job skills development, and job specific training.
TCVAP recipients are also exempt if physical or psychological trauma related to or arising from the victimization impedes their ability to comply. A physician’s written statement is required to show that the illness or injury is serious enough to temporarily prevent their participation in an education or training program.
RSS program is available in impacted counties that provides up to five years of employability and other services that address certain barriers to employment. The employability services are designed to enable refugees to obtain jobs within one year of becoming enrolled by providing social adjustment, culturally and linguistically appropriate services, and acquisition of skills needed to gain employment and become self-sufficient.
In refugee-impacted counties, TCVAP services are available for up to 5 years and one year in non-impacted counties following the date of application. TCVAP provides services equivalent to those under the RSS program. Current refugee-impacted counties include Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Stanislaus. These counties have designated County Refugee Coordinators that can be contacted with questions regarding RCA/Entrant RCA or RSS.
Non-impacted counties refer RCA recipients to approved CDSS-funded or county-approved employment programs. If no employment programs are available to the recipient, the county must refer them to EDD for registration using the EDD-approved forms and clearly indicating the recipient’s immigration and eligibility status. (ACIN I-36-23, July 10, 2023.)