Expedited (emergency) Calfresh benefits

Who can get expedited (emergency) CalFresh benefits?

An applicant household with very low income and few resources may qualify for “expedited service,” commonly referred to as “emergency benefits.” [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(1); MPP § 63-301.51.] In California, if an applicant qualifies for expedited service, she will get the CalFresh benefits no more than three calendar days after applying. [See Welf. & Inst. Code § 18914(b), implementing 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(3)(i); MPP § 63-301.531(a).] In other states, the general rule in the federal regulation allows states to take up to seven days to complete expedited service of CalFresh benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(3)(i).]

The household will qualify for expedited service if:

  • It has less than $150 in gross monthly income and has $100 or less in “liquid resources.” [MPP § 63-301.51; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(1)(i).] “Liquid resources” are cash, checking or savings accounts, savings certificates, and lump sum payments such as income tax refunds or back payments of Social Security or CalWORKs; or
  • Its monthly housing costs (rent or mortgage, and the standard utility allowance) for the month are more than the sum of its liquid resources and gross income for the month. [MPP § 63-301.513; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(1)(iii).]
  • The household includes a domestic violence survivor who is a resident of or on a waiting list for a domestic violence shelter and certifies as a separate household from the abuser if the separate household is otherwise eligible.  [Welf. & Inst. Code § 19814.5.]

If eligible, the household will get expedited CalFresh benefits for the month of application and possibly for the next month as well. [MPP § 63-301.543-.544.] If the household applies after the 15th of the month, and qualifies for expedited services, it will get CalFresh benefits for the following month, also. [MPP § 63-301.546.] ACL 08-39 clarifies the regulation, stating that the second month’s benefits will be issued regardless whether verification is provided or postponed.

In determining whether a household qualifies for expedited service, states must permit households to claim the standard utility allowance (SUA). [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(1)(iii); Preamble to Final Regulations, 58 Fed. Reg. 58448 (Nov. 1, 1993).]

Migrant and seasonal farm workers are eligible

Migrant or seasonal farm workers can also qualify for expedited service under the special rules recognizing discontinued sources of income these workers face:

Procedure for expedited service

A household must apply for CalFresh benefits to get expedited service.  The county must screen all CalFresh applications for expedited service.  [ACIN I-11-20.]  Some CalFresh offices do not always give people expedited service when they should, so if the applicant might qualify, advocates should advise them to ask for expedited service.

The CalFresh office must inform the applicant household about the availability of expedited service and talk with the applicant household the day it applies to see if expedited service is needed. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(2); Welf. & Inst. Code § 18912; MPP § 63-301.52.] The county is required to notify all applicants for CalFresh benefits, orally and in writing, of the right to expedited CalFresh benefits and how to apply. [MPP § 62-301.52; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(b)(vi).] The first page of the application identifies households needing expedited CalFresh benefits. [MPP § 63-301.522.] Applicants do not need to fill out the full application to get reviewed for expedited CalFresh benefits. They are permitted to fill out just the one-page screening form. [ACIN I-11-07.] The county must also process mailed applications indicating a need for expedited services within the three-day processing time. [MPP § 63-301.532.]

Regardless of the answers the household provides about its income and resources, if the household completes the expedited services section of the application the CalFresh office must immediately start processing the application. [MPP § 63-301.522; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(2).] If the county does not identify the household for expedited CalFresh benefits but later becomes aware that the household is entitled, the county must process the household for expedited service within three days of the discovery. [MPP § 63-301.533; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(3)(iv).]

Verification needed for expedited service

If the household qualifies for expedited service, the only real “verification” needed for the first month is a piece of identification. All other verification requirements are subject to exemption or postponement, described below. After the first allotment of CalFresh benefits, the household must also comply with the Social Security number requirements and other outstanding verification demands of the CalFresh office.

Proof of identity

If the household qualifies for expedited service, the only threshold verification requirement is a piece of identification. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(4)(i)(A); MPP § 63-301.541(a).] Only the individual person who makes the CalFresh application — not the whole household membership — must verify her identity. [MPP § 63-301.541(a), (c); 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(4)(i)(A).] The proof of identity can be a driver’s license, a voter registration card, a library card or any other document that proves who the person is. If this I.D. is not readily available, the CalFresh office must try to call someone (such as a friend, a relative, or a worker at a shelter or other agency) to check the applicant’s identity (called collateral contact in the regulation). [MPP §§ 63-301.54, 63-301.542; 7 C.F.R. §§ 273.2(i)(4)(ii), 273.2(f)(4)(ii).]

The verification can be turned in in-person or through an “authorized representative” (AR). [MPP § 63-300.5(i).] If verifying through an authorized representative, the AR will also need to provide his or her own identification. [MPP § 63-300.5(e)(3); 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(f)(1)(C)(vii).]

As part of the “identification” process, the CalFresh office will also ask for something that shows where the applicant lives. [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.2(i)(4)(i)(B), 273.2(f)(1)(vi); MPP §§ 63-301.541(b), 63-300.51(e).] An applicant does not have to have any fixed or permanent residence to get expedited CalFresh benefits. If there is not any proof of residence, or any other verification, the CalFresh office must still give the household expedited CalFresh benefits as long as the applicant has some I.D.

Work registration is nominally required but not strictly required

Households found eligible for expedited CalFresh benefits will also need to register for work, but verification of questionable exemptions from work registration can be postponed if it would interfere with the three-day delivery time frame. [MPP § 63-301.541(d); 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(4)(B).].

Finger imaging is no longer required

As of January 1, 2010, California no longer requires relies on the Statewide Fingerprint Imaging System (SFIS) in the CalFresh program. [ACL 11-83.] Although finger imaging is still a requirement in CalWORKs (California TANF cash-aid program), CalFresh benefits cannot be delayed or denied for a SFIS failure in the cash-aid program.

Social Security number

Households can get their first CalFresh benefits allotment without the members verifying their Social Security numbers (SSN). [MPP § 63-404.2; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(4)(B).] After the first allotment, however, all members of the household must verify their SSNs. All household members must either provide their SSNs or verify that they applied, have good cause to not apply, or are exempt (e.g., fleeing human trafficking, domestic abuse or other serious crimes). [MPP § 63-404.1.]

Good cause is set forth at MPP § 63-404.5; exemptions from the SSN number requirements are described in ACL 07-45 and ACL 07-45E (errata). (See the section about Social Security number requirements for more details.)

Expedited service cannot be delayed due to other verification requirements

While applicants should verify as many other factors — e.g., income, resources, social security number, immigrant status — as are practicable, the CalFresh office cannot deny or delay expedited service due to lack of these other verifications. Counties must “reasonably” attempt to obtain all the other verification needed for the full certification through documentary evidence or collateral contacts, but cannot hold up the expedited CalFresh benefits processing to get it. [MPP § 63-301.541(b); 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(4)(B).]

Deadlines for issuing expedited benefits

If the household qualifies, in California the CalFresh office must provide the expedited CalFresh benefits no later than three calendar days after the application date. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(3)(i); MPP § 63-301.531.] For the details of how to count the days, especially with mail and on-line applications, see ACIN I-14-11, ACIN I-14-11E (errata), ACIN I-14-11EII (second errata that days mailing an application do not count toward the three day processing time).

In most counties, the CalFresh office will ask the household to come in to pick up the expedited issuance and (new) EBT card. (See the section about the Electronic Benefits Transfer system for more information about EBT cards.) The county can mail the EBT card if it makes sure that the household can get the card within three calendar days.

The CalFresh office must get the CalFresh benefits to the applicant within three days even if the third day is a weekend or holiday. For example, if the household applies on a Wednesday and qualifies for expedited service, the CalFresh office must have the CalFresh benefits available by that Friday (if the CalFresh office is closed on Saturday). [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(3)(i); MPP § 63-301.531(a)(1).] In California, the weekend counts as one day. [Id.]

If a household is entitled to receive expedited service applies for CalFresh benefits after the 15th of the month, the county welfare department must issue the first and second months’ allotments even when verification is postponed. [ACL 08-39.]

If an applicant doesn’t qualify for expedited CalFresh benefits, then the office will process the application in the regular way, which can take up to 30 calendar days. [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.2(g)(1), 272.2 (f)(4); MPP § 63-301.1.]

Authorized representatives and homebound applicants

Expedited CalFresh benefits are available even if an authorized representative, such as a friend or relative, applies on behalf of the applicant. Home bound applicants can get expedited service through a phone interview or an interview. If a phone interview is done, the county that same day must mail the application for the person to sign. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(c)(2)(i); MPP § 63-300.34.] Then the deadline for the expedited benefits is no later than three calendar days after the CalFresh office received the signed application. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(3)(iii); MPP § 63-301.532.]

Receiving ongoing CalFresh benefits after expedited service

After someone gets expedited CalFresh benefits, the person will need to submit all necessary verifications to get continuing benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(4)(iii), MPP § 63-301.545.] The CalFresh office will send a notice asking for the delayed verification. [7 C.F.R. § 273.10(g)(1)(i)(B), MPP § 63-301.545(a), MPP § 63-504.223.] If it is not turned in, the CalFresh office will send a new notice of action terminating benefits. [MPP § 63-504.267(e)(i).] Once terminated, the person must reapply.

There is no limit to the number of times a household may be certified under expedited procedures, so long as prior to each certification the household either completes previously postponed verification or has been certified under normal procedures since the last expedited certification. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(4)(iv); MPP § 63-301.548.]

“Notice of Action” and fair hearing rights for denials of expedited service

In general the CalFresh office must provide a written notice of action denying  CalFresh benefits. [MPP § 63-504.23; MPP § 22-071.1(b).]  CDSS has taken the position that there is no notice of action required when the county denies expedited CalFresh.

If the applicant is denied and does not agree with the CalFresh office’s decision not to give expedited service, there is a right to an “agency conference” (i.e., a meeting with a supervisor that is less formal than a “fair hearing” before an administrative law judge) within two days. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(d)(1)-(2); MPP § 63-804.4.] The person also has the right to request a formal fair hearing regardless whether the person had an agency conference or not. [Id.]

In California, the household also has the right to ask for an expedited fair hearing, since it has been denied “emergency benefits.” [ACL 13-40; California Department of Social Services, All County Appeals Letter – Expedited State Hearings (January 19, 2004).]  The hearing is held within 10 business days of the state determining there is an urgent need for the hearing.  [ACL 13-40.]