Coming in for an interview before the certification period is over

Most of the time, households only have interviews when they first apply for CalFresh benefits or need to be recertified. [MPP §§ 63-300.4, 63-504.61(d); 7 C.F.R. §§ 273.2(e)(1) and 273.14(c)(2).] Sometimes, however, the CalFresh office, by written notice, will ask the household to come in for an interview in the middle of the certification period.

If it is not clear from the notice, it is important for the household to find out in advance why the county wants the household to come in. Households do have to go to some kinds of meetings, but do not for other kinds of meetings. The CalFresh office might want the household to meet with the worker about changes in the household’s case. It might want the household to meet with someone from the employment and training program, to talk about getting work or training. It might want the household to meet with people in its quality control (QC) department.

Households do not have to have an interview with the eligibility worker until it is time to be recertified. That said, it is a good idea to go in anyway if the worker has a fair reason for wanting to meet with household. Households should ask if anyone else will be at the interview. The household can always ask whether the meeting can be conducted by phone, or bring in a representative or friend for support and as a witness.

Households are required to comply with CalFresh work program requirements, which may include an interview with the work program staff. [See MPP § 63-407.8; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(e).] Unless otherwise exempt, a failure to attend an appointment with the employment and training program without good cause can lead to the termination of the non-compliant household member’s CalFresh benefits, until the household member attends the appointment. [MPP §§ 63-407.86, 63-407.5; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(f).]

Applicant and recipient households must attend appointments with the “quality control unit.” [MPP § 63-505.13; 7 C.F.R. §§ 275.3(c)(5), 275.12(g)(1)(ii).] If the household does not come for a quality control (QC) interview or does not provide the requested information, without good cause, the county office will deny or cut off the CalFresh benefits of the household. [MPP § 63-505.12-.13; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(d)(2).] If the non-cooperating person leaves the household during the QC penalty period, the ineligibility will follow that person. [See 75 Fed.Reg 33422 (June 11, 2010.]

Once a person has been cut off for not cooperating with the quality control unit, it can get back on CalFresh benefits only if 1) it reapplies and gives the CalFresh office the information it requests, or 2) waits 95 days after the end of the annual review period in which the refusal to cooperate with a state quality control reviewer [note that the federal regulation says 125 days after the end of the annual review period in which the refusal to cooperate with a state quality control reviewer] or 3) seven months after the refusal to cooperate with a federal quality control reviewer [note that the federal regulation says nine months after the refusal to cooperate with a federal quality control reviewer. [MPP § 63-505.13; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(d)(2); 75 Fed.Reg 33422 (June 11, 2010.] In addition, the household also will have to verify all of the information in household application to get back on CalFresh benefits, not just questionable information. [MPP § 63-505.132; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(f)(1)(ix).]

It is not required, but would not be surprising, to have the case referred for a fraud investigation upon reapplication. In any event, keep this in mind: Members of a CalFresh household do not have to talk with the fraud unit. The household should talk to a lawyer first before speaking with anyone from the fraud unit. If the household has not talked to a lawyer, and someone from a fraud unit comes into an interview the household is having with a worker, the household can leave, though should indicate they are not refusing to cooperate with eligablity. It is fine for recipients to find out the subject of the investigation, and then state that they would like to consult with an attorney prior to answering any questions.

The fraud investigators are not to threaten or intimidate recipients into confessing. If this occurs, recipients may file a complaint. If, however, the eligibility worker requests verification of a condition of eligibility, even if related to the suspected fraud, the household must cooperate or risk being terminated for refusal to verify.