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.)

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.)

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.)

Changes to RCA, ECA and TCVAP

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) informs counties about the effect of various CalWORKs changes on the Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) program, Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA) program and Trafficking and Crime Victims Protection Act (TCVAP) benefits.  In general, CalWORKs financial eligibility and payment rules apply to RCA, ECA and TCVAP.

Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits now are considered disability-based unearned income for purposes of CalWORKs.  PFL benefits fall under the CalWORKs disability-based unearned income disregard.  As a result, PFL benefits also fall under the RCA, ECA and TCVAP disability-based unearned income disregard.

PFL benefits are also a CalWORKs 60-mont time on aid limit time limit clock stopper. However, PFL benefits do not stop the 12-month eligibility time limit for RCA, ECA and TCVAP.

RCA, ECA and TCVAP applicants who are 16 or 17 years old, and are full time students are exempt from employment registration.  Parents under age 20 are also exempt from employment registration.  Because of a change in CalWORKs law, an individual who loses this exemption may again receive it if they resume full-time school attendance if they are otherwise eligible.

Counties can exempt RCA, ECA and TCVAP recipients from employment registration for good cause.  Because of a change in CalWORKs law, these good cause reasons have been expanded to include that hours of employment are unpredictable,  the recipient has one of a list of labor or employment law violations, the recipients states they have experienced sexual harassment or other abusive conduct at work, or the recipient states that their rights under and federal, state or local labor or employment law were violated.  (See ACL 23-30, summarized here.)  (ACL 23-95, November 14. 2023.)

Additions to county web pages regarding programs for immigrants

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding revising or adding information to county websites regarding programs available for Refugees; Asylees; Cuban/Haitian Entrants; certain Humanitarian Parolees; Special Immigrant Visa Holders; Amerasians; and Noncitizen Victims of Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, and Other Serious Crimes populations.

County webpages must include CalWORKs, CAPI, RCA, TCVAP, and all county programs available for Refugees; Asylees; Cuban/Haitian Entrants; certain Humanitarian Parolees; Special Immigrant Visa Holders; Amerasians; and Noncitizen Victims of Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, and Other Serious Crimes. Counties that do not have this information on their webpages should include it as soon as possible.  Counties that do not have this information on their webpage should notify CDSS as soon as the webpage updates are completed, but no later than December 1, 2023.

The information in the website should be clear and in plain language, with simple instructions about how to apply for benefits. Information on how to apply for programs should include both the link to BenefitsCal and a description of other ways to apply, such as applying in person at their respective CWD offices.

For CalWORKs, counties should review their public-facing websites on a regular basis to ensure that content is accurate, and contains plain language information about how to apply, and services and services available through CalWORKs.

For the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI), county websites must direct CAPI applicants to the county social services office to apply in person because the CAPI application is not available in BenefitsCal.

For Refugee Cash Assistance, and Trafficking and Crime Victims Protection Act (TCVAP), applicants who have minor children should be evaluated for CalWORKs first.  If they are ineligible for CalWORKs, or they do not have minor children, they should be evaluated for RCA and TCVAP.

Counties should notify CDSS as soon as their websites are updated, but no later then December 1, 2023.  (ACWDL, October 19, 2023.)