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.)

New policy for in person PIN changes on EBT cards

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has a new policy about in person requests for changes to the PIN number on Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. This policy change is because of an increase in in person fraudulent requests to change PIN numbers.

In person PIN changes at a county outside of cardholders residence will no longer be allowed.  Counties must tell people that they can change their PIN number by calling the Automated Response Unit number on the back of the card, or by using the ebtEDGE app or online portal.

If there is a pending intercounty transfer, the county must issue a new card.  If benefits remain on the old card from the previous county, the new county must change the PIN number.

For in person PIN change requests in the county of benefit issuance, counties must verify the identity of the person asking to change the PIN.  The identity information and the physical EBT card must match the case information in CalSAWS before the PIN is changed.  The county must also check the PIN change receipt to make sure the last four digits of the card number on the receipt match the physical card number.

Only the cardholder can change the PIN on their own EBT card.

To verify identity, the county must first use a photo ID.  If the individual does not present a photo ID, the county must verify two points of personal identifying information from the case:  name of any other persons on the case and their relationship on the case, date of birth, last four digits of Social Security Number, or address on the case.  (ACL 24-25, April 10, 2024.)

CalFresh treatment of earmarked income

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding treatment of earmarked income when determining eligibility for CalFresh and benefit amount.  Earmarked income is income received by the CalFresh applicant or recipient that is designated for a particular purpose.

Unless the source of the earmarked income is otherwise excluded, recurring income that is earmarked and reasonable anticipated to continue is not excluded.  Earmarked income that is received only once, or that is so infrequent that it cannot be reasonably anticipated does not court for CalFresh purposes.

Education assistance that is not otherwise excluded from being considered income for CalFresh is excluded to the extent that it is earmarked by the lender, used for, or intended to be used for, education expenses.

Voluntary contributions from nongovernmental persons or organizations having no liability for the support of the recipient are excluded as income because they are also excluded under CalWORKs rules.

Excluded income is not subject to verification.  Counties can only request verification if the information provided by the applicant or recipient is questionable, that is,the information is inconsistent with the applicant or recipient’s prior statements or with other information the County has.  A county’s determination that information is questionable must be based on an individualized inquiry.  When verification is required, the county must use the CW 2200 form to request the verification, document in the case file why the information received was considered questionable, and state what documentation was used to resolve the questionable information. (ACIN I-01-24, January 5, 2024.)

Change to SSI In Kind Support and Maintenance shelter rule

The Social Security Administration has published a final rule changing the In Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) rule.  The ISM rule counted shelter that SSI recipient receives for less than fair market value as unearned income that could reduce Supplemental Security Income.  Effective September 30, 2024, only rent that is less than Social Security’s defined Presumed Market Value counts as ISM.  For 2024, the Presumed Market Value amount is $334.33.  (Social Security Dear Colleague Letter, April 17, 2024.)

Posted in SSI

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.)

Changes to Social Security overpayment policies

The Social Security Administration has announced four changes to its policies about overpayments.

  1. Reducing the default withholding rate for overpayments from Social Security benefits from 100 percent of monthly benefits to 10 percent of monthly benefits.
  2. Shifting the burden of proof away from the claimant when determining whether the claimant was at fault in causing the overpayment. This change should make it easier to have waiver of overpayment granted.
  3. Increasing the possible timeframe for a payment plan from 36 months to 60 months. This change should make it easier to enter into and follow repayment agreements.
  4. Making it easier to request waiver of overpayment. The policy is not specific about now it will be easier to request waiver of overpayment.

The change in default withholding is effective March 25, 2024.  There is an exception when the overpayment is the result of fraud.

If people who receive overpayment notices are March 25, 2024 are incorrectly subject to 100 percent withholding, they should call 1-800-772-1213 to lower their withholding rate.

For overpayments established before March 25, 2024 that have a withholding rate greater than ten percent, people can ask for a lower recovery rate by callin Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or contacting their local Social Security office. If a beneficiary requests a withholding rate lower than ten percent, Social Security can the request if the overpayment will be repaid within 60 months.  If the beneficiary’s proposed repayment rate would extend recovery of the overpayment beyond 60 months, Social Security will gather income, resource, and expense information from the beneficiary and make a determination about the repayment rate. (Social Security Dear Colleague Letters, March 20, 2024 and March 29, 2024.)

Posted in SSI