There are some situations where the CalFresh office will count some money as income even if the household does not get the money directly. These include the following:
Garnishments — i.e. when funds are taken to pay a debt owed — can be counted as income even though the person does not get the money. However, payments specified by a court order or other legally binding agreement to go directly to a third party rather than the household are excluded because they are not otherwise payable to the household. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(1)(vii)(C).] In short, if the household receives the funds and uses them to pay a debt owed, the funds count as income, but if the funds are taken before the household receives them, the funds do not count as income.
An exception to this rule is if the money is recoupment of an overpayment made by the income source, provided that the overpayments were not the result of intentional failures on the part of the recipient. (See the section below about grants reduced for a sanction.) [MPP § 63-502.12; 7 C.F.R. § 273.9(b)(5)(i).]
Certain vendor payments
The CalFresh office will count vendor payments as income if the money is legally owed to the household, even if the household asked someone to use the money instead to pay the household’s bills. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(1)(vii); MPP §§ 63-502.141(a), 63-502.149.]
The CalFresh office will NOT count vendor payments from CalWORKs (TANF), GA (General Assistance) or other programs if the payments are:
- For medical care. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(1)(i)(A); MPP § 63-502.2(b)(2)(A).]
- For child care. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(1)(i)(B); MPP § 63-502.2(b)(2)(B).]
- A one-time payment or allowance for the costs of weatherization or emergency repair or replacement of an unsafe or broken furnace or heating or cooling device. [7 U.S.C. §§ 2014(d)(11)(B); 2014(k)(2)(C); MPP § 63-502.2(b)(2)(F).]
- Paid by a state or local public housing authority. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(1)(ii); MPP §§ 63-502.149(a), 63-502.2(b)(2)(C).]
- Emergency assistance for a migrant or seasonal farm worker household while the worker is in the job stream. [7 U.S.C. § 2014(k)(2)(E); MPP § 63-502.2(b)(2)(D).]
- Special or emergency benefits that are above the normal CalWORKs or GA checks. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(1)(i)(F); MPP § 63-502.2(b)(3).] An example in California would be CalWORKs non-recurring needs payments.
- Provided under a general assistance program if, under the state law, no assistance can be given directly to the household in the form of cash. [MPP § 63-502.2(b)(2).]
- An educational assistance vendor payment, unless the vendor payment is for living expenses, in which event the vendor payment is counted as if received. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(iv).]
- When the vendor payment is for reimbursement and the reimbursement would normally be excluded. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(v).]
- When the vendor payment is from funds not legally obligated to the household and is paid to a third party. (The vendor payment will count if the funds are legally obligated and used for the household’s living expenses.) [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(vii).]
The CalFresh office CAN count other vendor payments if they are part of the household’s CalWORKs or GA benefits and they are not on the list, above.
Grants reduced for a sanction
The CalFresh office also will count money that the welfare office or some other government agency is taking out of the CalWORKs, GA, or similar benefit checks to sanction the household for an intentional failure to comply with the program’s rules. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(b)(5)(i), 7 C.F.R. § 273.11(k); MPP § 63-502.17.]
That said, the CalFresh office will not count money taken out of the household’s benefits if the money is being held out for some reason other than an intentional violation of the other program’s rules. USDA’s preamble to the SNAP rules makes clear that in order for the money withheld by the agency to count as income, the agency that runs the other program must have decided to sanction the household for breaking its rules intentionally. See 49 Fed.Reg. 48678 (Dec. 14, 1984).] Where the agency running the other program cuts the household’s benefit checks without deciding if the household did something wrong on purpose, the SNAP program should not count the amount of money that is taken out of the reduced benefit checks. In addition, the CalFresh program should not count the money taken out of the household’s benefits if the money is being held out because of failure to comply with a purely procedural requirement. [7 C.F.R. § 273.11(j).]
Also, regardless of recipient intent, the CalFresh office will not count money overpayments recouped from “non-means-tested” programs — i.e., benefits people get no matter how much money they have, such as unemployment insurance benefits (UIB) and Social Security Retirement or Disability benefits.