- California has all but removed resource limitations
- What is a “countable” resource?
- Commingling resources
- Irrevocable trusts
- For related information, see resource exclusions
California has all but removed resource limitations
The federal SNAP program has specific rules governing how many resources a household can have to qualify for benefits. California, however, has dramatically modified its rules for “categorical eligibility” in the CalFresh program, such that resource limitations have all but been removed.
The only exceptions would be if either the household includes one or more members who are aged or disabled, with household income over 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) [ACL 13-32] (the asset limit for these households is $3,250); or the household fits within a narrow group of cases where it has been disqualified because of an intentional program violation, a failure to submit a semi-annual report (SAR 7), or some other specific compliance requirement; or there is a disputed claim for benefits paid in the past, prior to the effective date of the newer rules about categorical and modified categorical eligibility put in place in 2009 and 2011.
(For more details, see the section of this Guide explaining when CalWORKs and General Assistance households are not categorically eligible.)
That’s California, people. Read on for details about how, where otherwise applicable, the regular SNAP resource rules work.
What is a “countable” resource in the CalFresh program?
In general, a SNAP or CalFresh program resource is real or personal property that is available to support the household. [MPP § 63-501.3(i) (excluding property when the cash value is inaccessible to the household); 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(e)(8).] An “excludable” resource is property whose cash value is, for all practical purposes, inaccessible and therefore not available to support the household. [MPP §63-501.3(i).]
Resources are distinguished from income. Income is money the household gets from time to time or on a regular basis. [MPP § 63-502.1; 7 C.F.R. § 273.9(b)(1), (2).] A resource is money or property the household already has or does not regularly receive, like a one-time payment. [MPP § 63-501.1; 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(c)(1), (2)]. Resources include cash-on-hand or in the bank, stocks and bonds, money from insurance settlements, personal injury claims, tax refunds, and inheritances. [MPP § 63-501.1; 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(c)(1), (2).] When the resource limit applies, the determination of whether a household is withing the resource limit occurs when processing a semi-annual report or annual recertification. [ACIN I-19-12.]
Tax-preferred “savings vehicles,” such as Keoghs, IRAs, pension plans, and so on, and education savings accounts, ABLE accounts and funds in a Federal Thrist Savings Plan are “excluded” as resources. [ACL 17-98, ACIN I-28-09.] (See the section about resource exclusions for more information.)
Resources are valued at their equity value. [MPP § 63-501.5; 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(c)(2).] There are special vehicle resource rules for valuing cars. [See 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(f) (determining value of non-excluded vehicle).] In California, vehicles do not count as a resource in the SNAP program.
Excluded resources that are no longer exempt — e.g., after cashing out an IRA — generally are treated as a resource and not income. This is because the person already had the property and is just changing its classification (e.g., from exempt to non-exempt), as opposed to getting a new payment for something. [See § MPP 63-502 (when money is treated as earned or unearned income) and MPP § 63-501.1 (when money is treated as a resource).] Non-recurring lump-sum payments are defined as resources in the month received for CalFresh purposes. [ACIN I-19-12; ACIN I-13-01.]
Inaccessible resources are defined as those where, if the property were sold, the equity value would be $1,500 or less. [MPP § 63-501.3(i)(5); 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(e)(18).]
Jointly owned property is considered entirely available, unless the household can show it is inaccessible to that household. If the household can show it has access to only a portion of the resource, only the value of that portion is counted. If the resource cannot practically be subdivided, or the household’s access to the value of the resource is dependent on the agreement of a joint owner who refuses to comply, the resource is considered totally inaccessible. [MPP § 63-501.2, 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(d).]
There is a special provision for applicants who are residents of domestic violence shelters, when the abuser co-owns the property and access to the property would require the abuser’s consent. [MPP § 63-501.3(n); 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(d).] In other words, the family residing in a domestic violence shelter does not have to seek consent, just show that consent would be needed to access the resource.
Credit card company gift cards are counted as resources. [FNS Revised Treatment of Gift Cards in Determining SNAP.]
Funds that are excluded as a resource and kept in a separate account are excluded indefinitely. [MPP § 63-501.41; 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(g).] If commingled, the excluded funds will count after six months. [MPP § 63-501.43; 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(g).]
Income which has been pro-rated over a period of time is not counted as a resource. [See MPP § 63-503.212(b) (averaging income) and MPP § 63-503.41 (self-employment income); see also MPP § 63-501.3(j); 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(e)(9) and (g).] If the pro-rated income is commingled with other non-excluded resources, however, it is excluded only for the period of time the income was pro-rated. [MPP § 63-501.42; 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(g).]
Irrevocable trust funds
For a trust to be considered an “inaccessible” resource:
- The trustee must not be controlled by a household member, or must be one appointed by a court;
- The funds must be either established from the household’s own funds if used solely for the purpose of making investments on behalf of the trust, or to pay the educational or medical expenses of any person named by the household creating the trust;
- The trust investments do not directly involve or assist any business or corporation under the control, direction or influence of a household member;
- The trust is not likely to end during the certification period;
- The household cannot revoke the trust or change beneficiaries during the certification period.
[MPP § 63-501.3, 7 C.F.R. § 273.8(e)(8).]