Failing to fill out or submit the Semi-Annual Report form (SAR 7)


California has adopted a Semi-Annual Reporting (SAR) system that uses a SAR 7 form. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued detailed instructions for implementation of the SAR system in the CalFresh and CalWORKs programs. [See ACL 12-25; see also ACIN I-58-13 (sets out an extensive list of Q&As about SAR implementation).]

All households (except those that are change-reporting households and those that qualify for the Elderly Simplified Application Project) must turn in a SAR 7 form. Semi-annual reports are budgeted prospectively, i.e. for the upcoming six-month period. The SAR 7 is due on the 5th of the month, in the sixth month after application or recertification. It is late if the county has not received it by the 11th of that sixth month. The case will be discontinued if a complete report is not received by the first business day of the following month, i.e., the seventh month.

Prior to terminating aid, the county must comply with notice requirements for late and incomplete SAR 7s. If the household does not turn in a complete SAR 7 by the end of the first business of the seventh month after application or recertification, the household will be terminated from aid and must reapply, unless they had “good cause.” [See MPP § 63-508.63; 7 C.F.R. § 273.21(m)(1)(ii); see also ACL 10-32 (regarding good cause).]

CDSS recommends that counties issue a SAR 90 reminder letter if a household that got a notice of non-receipt or incomplete SAR 7 turns in a report that is still not complete. [ACIN I-01-14.] If a household gets a notice of incomplete SAR 7 when it thinks it has turned one in, it can ask for a hearing prior to the termination and get “aid paid pending,” i.e., pending the opportunity for a fair hearing to resolve the request for impartial review. If the family has already been cut off, it still can ask for a hearing, but will not get aid pending the hearing, and should reapply and/or talk to the worker about “good cause,” in addition to requesting a hearing.

Incomplete Semi-Annual Report form (SAR 7)

The CalFresh office will consider a semi-annual report incomplete if:

Semi-annual reports (SAR 7) no longer must be signed no earlier than the first of the month to be considered complete. [ACL 21-24.]

Mid-period reports that were previously verified do not need to be re-verified. [MPP § 63-508.44; 7 C.F.R. § 273.21(j)(1)(ii)(B) and (C).]

If something is missing from the SAR 7 that relates to a particular welfare program’s requirements, the form will be considered incomplete for that program only. [MPP § 63-508.44(c).]

Notice requirements for submission of a late or incomplete SAR 7 form

The county must provide a notice of action to a semi-annual reporting household that either fails to file a SAR 7 by the 11th day of the “submit month” (i.e., the sixth month of the reporting period) or files an incomplete SAR 7 form. This notice must tell the household:

  • The report is late or incomplete;
  • What the household must do to complete the form;
  • What papers the household needs to send in with the form;
  • The date by which the household must file the late report (i.e., the close of the first business day of the next six-month payment period); and
  • The CalFresh office will help the household complete the semi-annual report form if the household asks for help.

[MPP § 63-508.6; 7 C.F.R. § 273.21(j)(3)(ii)(A-F).]

These notices are the NA 960 X when the report not received and the NA 960 Y when the county says the report is incomplete.

The county must also provide notice if it considers information reported on the SAR 7 to be questionable. If so, the county must inform the household it has until the first of the following month to submit the necessary clarifying information or verification. [MPP § 63-508.616(d).]

The county must send the notice no later than 10 days before the end of the “submit month,” i.e., the sixth month of the reporting period. [MPP §63-508.62; 7 C.F.R. § 273.21(j)(3)(i).]

The notices also serve as the notice of adverse action if the household does not submit a complete SAR 7.  Because of a federal waiver, counties can continue to combine the reminder notice and the termination notice.  [ACL 18-74.]  This waiver is extended until April 30, 2025.  [ACL 20-52.]

“Good cause” for submission of a late SAR 7 form

The CalFresh Program uses CalWORKs [TANF] rules to determine “good cause” for late filing of a SAR 7. [MPP § 63-508.642.] Good cause exists only when the recipient cannot reasonably be expected to fulfill her reporting responsibilities due to factors outside of her control. The burden of proof rests with the recipient. [MPP § 40-181.23.]

Good cause exists:

  • When the recipient is suffering from a mental or physical condition which prevents timely and complete reporting;
  • When the recipient’s failure to submit a timely and complete report is directly attributable to county error; or
  • When the county finds other extenuating circumstances.

[MPP § 40-181.233.]

Generally, the household must ask for a “good cause” finding. The household does not need to use specific words but must clearly express to the county, whether orally or in writing, that the recipient wants an opportunity to present his explanation for not meeting the semi-annual reporting requirements. A request for a fair hearing may also be considered a request for good cause determination. [See, generally, MPP § 63-508.63-.64.]

The county is required to make a good cause finding if a household that was discontinued for failure to submit a complete SAR 7 requests restoration of CalWORKs during the calendar month following discontinuance. [MPP § 40-125.94.] Also, the county has the discretion to make its own good cause finding, without a household request. [MPP § 40-181.232.]

Once a full calendar month has passed since the SAR 7 discontinuance date, the household may not claim good cause and must reapply for benefits. [MPP § 63-508.644.]

If the county finds good cause, it rescinds the discontinuance action and determines CalFresh eligibility and benefit amount based on the information on the SAR 7. [MPP § 63-508.643.] If information reported on the SAR 7 results in a decrease in benefits, the county must issue the regular (higher) allotment, provide 10-day notice before taking action to decrease benefits, and establish an overpayment. [MPP § 63-508.645.] If there was good cause for late filing, and the household is due an increase, the county must issue a supplement for the first month of the next payment period. [MPP § 63-508.645(c).]

Restoration of aid when the SAR 7 form is incomplete or missing

If a household either does not turn in a complete SAR 7 during the extended filing period (up through the close of the first business day of the month after the report was due), or fails to turn in any SAR 7 at all, the household will be discontinued. If the household turns in a completed SAR 7 any time in the month after the SAR 7 was due, the household (if otherwise eligible) will be restored to aid and the benefits pro-rated from the date the form was turned in. [ACL 12-35.]  This rule is based on a federal waiver that will be effective until June 30, 2027.  [ACL 22-51.]

The conditions for the waiver are:

  • The household’s case must be in closed status;
  • Reinstatement depends on the applicant providing the required report, information, or verification within 30 days of the date of ineligibility;
  • The household has at least one month remaining in the certification period after the effective date of ineligibility;
  • The household must fully resolve the reason for the case closure and reestablish eligibility;
  • The household must still be eligible for benefits for the remaining months of the reinstatement period;
  • Benefits for the initial month of reinstatement must be prorated from the date household performed the required action; and
  • The county must retain the established recertification period.

This waiver does not change CalFresh information and verification requirements.  If a household is granted restoration of benefits, the county must send the CF 388 CalFresh Notice of Restoration Approval notice.  If restoration is denied, the county must send the CF 389 Notice of Denial of Restoration notice.  [ACL 22-51.]

Households being restored to aid are treated as recipients, not applicants. The exception is for households who are receiving benefits under the Transitional CalFresh (TCF) program, which prohibits getting both CalWORKs and (regular) CalFresh in the same month. [ACIN I-50-12.] For those families, after proper notice and after having submitted the completed SAR 7, full aid — both CalWORKs and CalFresh — should be restored the first of the following month. [Id.]