CALFRESH FOR NON-CITIZENS
Public Charge – On September 22, 2018 the Department of Homeland Security published a press release announcing proposed updates to the Public Charge rules (full text of draft here) under which programs that have previously been excluded, such as SNAP, Medicaid, and Section 8 Housing, would now qualify as a "public charge" in immigration proceedings. While nothing has changed yet, we are aware that this announcement is already having a negative impact on the communities we serve. The update has not yet posted to the Federal Register (as of 9/28/18). The public comment period will open on the date of the official version’s publication.
Organizations that have non-federal funding may be able to make comments in the Federal Register, and you can also comment as private citizens.
The Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign, co-chaired by the National Immigration Law Center and CLASP, will be providing regular updates via their listserv. You can subscribe and check updates at https://www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org/. Additional information can be found at https://www.nilc.org/.
Prior to this year, here is the following information we made available. Please stay tuned for updates:
- Learn more by viewing an explanation straight from the U.S. government, available to view/download in both English and Spanish.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also provides this fact sheet on public charge, explaining that CalFresh (SNAP at the federal level) will not impact becoming a citizen in the future.
- View/download Food for People's "Myths & Facts" flyer that addresses many questions that arise when applying for CalFresh as a non-citizen, available in both Spanish and English.
- View/download this resource from San Diego Hunger Coalition in both Spanish and English.
- The State created flyers for CalFresh applicants concerned about immigration and public charge issues, available in Spanish and English.
- Chick here for an explanation from the California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative on "public charge" and which assistance programs are and are not affected.
- The California Immigrant Policy Center created this document providing Federal Guidance on Public Charge, to explain when it is safe to use public benefits.
- Download these frequently asked questions about CalFresh and immigration in Spanish and English, from the San Francisco Human Services Agency.
- Dowload information and additional forms for sponsored non-citizens applying for or receiving CalFresh, available in Spanish and English.
- Check out this compilation of links for additional information and training on helping non-citizens apply for CalFresh.
- Download an informational brochure about applying for DHHS programs-- in Spanish.
CALFRESH FOR STUDENTS
Students qualify for CalFresh too, though some special rules apply. Learn more about reaching students with CalFresh by watching this webinar.
New rule change: Current rules in CalFresh restrict most full time students from receiving benefits, unless they meet an exemption, despite reports of widespread hunger on college campuses. Exemptions to the rule exist for students who are working a certain number of hours, participating in federal work-study, or caring for young children, to name a few. Unfortunately, the shortage of jobs has made it hard for students to survive.
The Hunger Free Education Act reduces barriers to achieving academic success and social mobility for low-income college students. It draws down federal food assistance funding through procedures for determining whether students qualify for exemptions to the CalFresh student work requirement. A new exemption includes students who participate in the Extended Opportunity Programs (EOP). More info at Western Center on Law & Poverty.
Many studies are finding that a significant number of students nationwide struggle with hunger, homelessness, and poverty, and many colleges are opening campus food pantries. California State University (CSU) published a February 2016 study showing that 24% of the CSU system's 460,000 students could be struggling with hunger. The report recommends CSU administrators devote more funding to addressing student hunger and homelessness.
CALFRESH OUTREACH WITH THE HOMELESS
This presentation, by River City Food Bank, answers questions regarding doing outreach with people who do not have a permanent home. This includes the CalFresh definition of homeless, homeless youth, ID verification, residency and address issues, shelter residents, reporting, and other information.
This July 2013 All County Letter (ACL) provides clarification on homeless youth applying for CalFresh. This includes specific information on the definition of homeless, proof of identification, verification of address, and the misconception that there is an age requirement.
REMOVAL OF LIFETIME BAN FOR CERTAIN DRUG FELONS
The 2014-15 state budget repealed the lifetime ban on CalFresh benefits for individuals with prior drug-related felony offenses, as long as they are complying with the conditions of their probation or parole. Since March 1, 2015, people with felony drug convictions can apply for CalFresh. This helps ensure that Californians have access to the nutrition resources necessary for a successful re-entry. The budget action also repeals the ban on CalWORKs basic needs assistance benefits.
Click here to download a new flyer, in English or in Spanish, generated for outreach workers across the state to utilize to get the word out, which you can customize with your organization's contact info for application assistance.
CalFresh and CalWORKs are crucial to many low-income individuals and families in California. These programs help with food, rent, job training and placement, and other important services that many of us might need at some point. Many families and individuals have been denied access to these programs through “Tough On Crime” policies that instituted lifetime bans on basic survival services.
Individuals with drug and felony convictions are disproportionately low-income, and more than half are parents. That is a lot of families left without a safety net of social services, especially when the unemployment rate for people with criminal records can be quite high. Lack of services, employment, and assistance leads to homelessness and recidivism (relapsing into criminal behavior). It also continues to criminalize past acts that have already been settled through fines and imprisonment. Additionally, it denies food and housing to children who are innocent of whatever crimes their parents committed.
The lifetime ban on receiving CalFresh for people with drug related felony offenses has been in place across California since 1996. That year a lifetime ban went into effect, nationwide, on what was then known as the Food Stamp Program, for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense. By 1998 states were allowed to "opt out" of the lifetime ban. Since then a majority of states have partially or wholly opted out of the ban. Only 12 states currently maintain the full lifetime ban for any type of felony drug offense. Advocates across California have attempted to eliminate the ban every legislative session since 1998. More information is available from California Food Policy Advocates.
DISASTER SNAP FOR HOUSEHOLDS AFFECTED BY NATURAL DISASTER
Disaster CalFresh (or Disaster SNAP / D-SNAP) provides temporary food assistance for households affected by a natural disaster. It provides one month of benefits to eligible disaster survivors and can facilitate the issuance of supplemental benefits for ongoing households. People who are not usually eligible for CalFresh can qualify for Disaster CalFresh if they meet the criteria below. This includes people on SSI. The State and affected counties work together to apply to the USDA for Disaster CalFresh. Once approved, there is a 7 day application window. In order to get Disaster CalFresh, people must apply for it within that 7 day window. To be eligible for Disaster CalFresh, a household must fall under these guidelines:
Live and/or work in the identified disaster area and experienced at least one of the following:
- Cannot work or get paid because of the disaster, or
- Had your home or place of self-employment damaged, or
- Have disaster-related costs (including lost food), or
- Cannot access savings or checking accounts.
An affected area must have received a Presidential declaration of "Major Disaster" in order to request Disaster CalFresh.
Disaster CalFresh timing varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster, but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored, and families are able to purchase and prepare food at home. The idea behind this is that stores need to be open and able to process EBT cards. In some cases resources might be focused on congregate meal sites and emergency food distribution, if there isn't a way to access grocery stores and/or prepare food at home. Before operating Disaster CalFresh, a State will ensure that proper public information, staffing, and resources are in place.
After Disaster CalFresh goes live for applications to be submitted, interviews must be face-to-face.
If people with disabilities who are displaced require accommodation, the County needs to work with them.
More about Disaster CalFresh (known at the federal level as D-SNAP)
D-SNAP is designed for situations where a large number of households have disaster-related expenses not considered by the regular program and where the need is so great that the vastly streamlined D-SNAP certification process is warranted. The State has the primary role for planning, requesting, and operating a D-SNAP from the Food & Nutrition Service (FNS). D-SNAP provides a full month's allotment to households who may not normally qualify for or participate in SNAP/CalFresh. The allotment for a household is equal to the maximum monthly allotment for the household size provided under regular SNAP/CalFresh. States supplement the regular SNAP/CalFresh benefits of ongoing households affected by the disaster to bring them up to the maximum allotment. D-SNAP applications are usually accepted for a period of seven days. Households receive 30 days worth of benefits, except in extraordinary circumstances. Verification rules are eased for the eligibility process during a disaster, application and interview are done immediately on site, and benefits will be granted on EBT cards. The brief eligibility interview is for verifying information presented on the application. An authorized representative can do this for the applicant, if needed. For each disaster, the State determines the exact number and location of application/issuance sites.
Providing Outreach Assistance for Disaster CalFresh:
It is essential to take a proactive approach to public information and outreach from the start of the disaster response. Providing accurate, timely information to the public about what Disaster CalFresh is, how it works, and who may be eligible is a crucial first step in ensuring a successful program. Experience has shown that offering clear, consistent information is particularly important for easing the public's concerns and providing efficient application processing. Publicity materials must include application sites for each county or area and should indicate what site(s) households in a given area can apply. It is important to indicate the operating hours/days at each site, including if they will be accepting applications on weekends or beyond normal business hours. Encourage applicants to bring any documentation they have.
Our outreach partners in other areas of the state, who have assisted with massive natural disasters, offered the feedback of how important it was for Outreach partners to have flyers indicating County phone number, location(s) for applying for Disaster CalFresh, and the deadline for applying. There is a short window of time for completing an application for Disaster CalFresh. As an Outreach worker, be prepared with enough food and water to feed yourself while in the field, and consider training in advance on how to approach people who are processing a major life-changing disaster.
Ways to help: In addition to helping to get accurate information out to the public, there are ways you can help at Disaster CalFresh application sites. Help those who have difficulty understanding or completing the application. Pre-screen and talk about basic eligibility criteria (not potential eligibility), and review applications for completeness. Help provide human comforts: distribute food/water, direct applicants to restrooms, assist applicants with disabilities and the elderly. Not everyone will be prepared for a potentially long line or long wait.
Households can apply online in any county at http://benefitscal.org, however please remember that there is a 7 day window for applying for Disaster CalFresh, and interviews must be conducted face-to-face (not via phone). Therefore, applying in person at a county CalFresh office is the fastest way to ensure benefits within the 7 day window.
Q: Can households have a Disaster CalFresh interview in the county they have evacuated to?
A: Yes, it is possible for the State is work with county offices to prepare to conduct these interviews.
Q: Is the Disaster CalFresh application available online?
For more details:
Additional information can be found at DisasterAssistance.gov
View this D-SNAP fact sheet published by the USDA FNS.
View California Dept of Social Services' (CDSS) October 2017 Wildfires Disaster and Emergency Response and Recovery Tool Kit, full of information, webinars, and resources.
View/download CDSS' Guide to Disaster Assistance Services for Californians, which provides detailed information about the types of federal, state, and local disaster assistance services available in California. There are no costs to apply for these programs. View the version of this same guide specific to immigrant Californians (in English) and here in Spanish.