People who leave the CalWORKs program

Transitional CalFresh (TCF) benefits program

The federal Transitional Food Stamp (TFS) program derives from the 2002 Food Stamp reauthorization law. It gives a state the option to provide up to five months of transitional food benefits to families that leave welfare. These families are not required to reapply or submit any additional paperwork or other information. In California the TFS program is called the Transitional CalFresh (TCF). It provides food benefits for five months to households that leave CalWORKs. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 18901.6; MPP § 63-504.13; see also 7 U.S.C. § 2020(s).]

The county determines eligibility for TCF without the households having to apply for it. [ACL 03-66.] TCF eligibility requires the household to be receiving CalFresh in the last month of CalWORKs cash assistance. Generally, a household is eligible for TCF each time it leaves CalWORKs. Prior TCF use does not preclude a household from using TCF again. [ACIN I-21-04, at No. 5.] Households receiving Kin-GAP are still eligible for TCF so long as the CalWORKs requirement is satisfied. A household also remains eligible for benefits after CalWORKs stops for other household members. [ACIN I-84-09E.] Households on TCF are covered by the Inter-County Transfer process. [ACL 13-78 (retracting prior instructions excluding TCF cases from the transfer process).]

CalWORKs household that are eligible for Transitional CalFresh include CalWORKs households that are discontinued because the household exceeded income or resource limits, asked to close their case, a parent timed out or a child aged out, or disqualified because of a CalWORKs rule change.  [ACL 20-129.]

A TCF household’s CalFresh amount is the same as the amount it received while on CalWORKs, adjusted for the decrease in household income due to CalWORKs grant loss. [7 U.S.C. § 2020(s)(3)(A); 7 C.F.R. § 273.27(a); MPP § 63-504.132(a); FNS Questions and Answers Regarding the Food Stamp Program Certification Provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill, § 4115-4.] The TCF amount remains the same even if a household member become ineligible for CalFresh benefits. This includes the loss of CalFresh benefits due to receipt of SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits; or becomes incarcerated (see ACIN I-84-09) during the TCF period. If some, but not all the members, of the TCF household leave and are granted CalWORKs (or CalFresh benefits) in another household, the TCF benefits will continue but be adjusted to remove the absent members.

When the TCF ends, California has chosen to use the recertification process to transition the household to regular CalFresh benefits without a break in aid. [7 U.S.C. § 2020(s)(4); 7 C.F.R. § 273.27; MPP § 63-504.132(d); ACL 11-70; ACL 03-66 at 2.]

A TCF household also may apply for regular CalFresh benefits during its transitional period or after TCF benefits stop, if the household did not recertify. [7 U.S.C. § 2020(s)(6); ACL 11-70; ACL 03-66 at 2.] This is not always a good idea unless the household changes will result in increased benefits. If approved for regular CalFresh benefits, TCF ends and all CalFresh program requirements apply. This includes the use of current income and resources to determine eligibility which may reduce the benefit amount. [7 U.S.C. § 2020(s)(6); ACL 03-66 at 2.] ACL 11-70 and ACL 20-129 require counties to inform households if the benefits would be lower, and allow the household to withdraw the application.

California Food Assistance Program recipients are eligible for five months of transitional benefits in the same way as CalFresh recipients are eligible for Transitional CalFresh.  {ACL 23-57.] For CFAP, that benefit is called Transitional CFAP.

TCF disqualifications

If a household loses CalWORKs or CalFresh benefits due to a disqualification or sanction, the household may lose TCF eligibility. A household may also become TCF ineligible if it does not provide the necessary information during eligibility determinations, periodic reports and redeterminations. [7 U.S.C. § 2020(s)(5); 7 C.F.R. § 273.12(f)(4); 7 C.F.R. § 273.26(c); MPP § 63-504.131(b); ACL 13-88.]

Households (or members) that are approved for either TANF or SNAP benefits elsewhere are also not eligible. Households which move out of California can still receive TCF benefits. (ACIN I-41-10 corrects and overrides MPP § 63-504.131(a) in this regard.) It does not matter if the person would otherwise be ineligible for CalFresh benefits — e.g. becoming an SSI recipient. For a disqualification to affect TCF eligibility, the disqualification needs to relate to, be the basis for stopping CalWORKs.

Reporting requirements

TCF households are not required to report changes in their circumstances during the transitional period, including address or income changes. [MPP § 63-504.132(b); ACIN I-21-04, Question and Answer 17.] The county calculates and issues benefits based on information that it already has. Contact with the household is not required. [MPP § 63-504.132(a); ACL 03-66 at 2.] If a TCF household member leaves for another CalFresh benefits household, the county will reduce the grant benefit as well as the departing individual’s income. [ACL 08-22.] If the household change would increase the CalFresh amount (i.e., someone moves into the household) then it may be advantageous to reapply for regular CalFresh benefits. [ACIN I-21-04, Question and Answer 12.]

Certification period

When the household becomes eligible for TCF, the county will adjust the household’s certification period to coincide with the end of the transitional benefit period. [MPP § 63-504.132(d); ACL 03-66 at 2.] When TCF, the household will be given the regular certification period. When recertifying at the end of the TCF period, all the regular recertification rules set forth at MPP § 63-504.6 apply.

Forms and notices

The county must send a notice to tell a household when its TCF begins. In some cases, the county must also send notice that the CalFresh certification period has either been extended or shortened to coincide with the end of the transitional period. [MPP § 63-504.132(d); ACL 03-66 at 2.]  New forms are attached to ACL 20-129.  Counties are to send a Notice of Expiration (NEC) one month before benefits expire (i.e., expire in the fourth month of the five-month TCF eligibility period). [ACL 11-70.] In order to avoid a break in aid, households must complete the recertification process as soon as possible. To recertify, a household must complete an application and interview before the 15th day of the last TCF month. Applicants must also submit proof of income and other relevant information 10 days prior to the interview. The counties are required to schedule interviews so that households have at least 10 days to provide the required verification before the certification period expires. [ACL 11-70.]

If the transitional CalFresh benefits are ending for any reasons other than the expiration of the five-month transitional period, the county must send a timely notice of action, 10 days before terminating transitional benefits. [MPP § 63-504.132(e); ACIN I-21-04.]

Terminating TCF benefits

In the final month of the transitional benefit period, the state agency must do one of the following: Either clarify “unclear information,” or recertify the household. [7 C.F.R. § 273.31(a).] To gain clarity, the state agency can send a Request for Contact (RFC) to resolve unclear information needed to determine benefits. California’s practice is to “recertify” the household. If the household does not submit a new application to recertify prior to the end of the TCF benefits, the household will be terminated. The NEC notices sent to “recertify” informs the household that benefits will be discontinued for failure to comply with the recertification process.