Registering for work

How to register for work

The work registration process is something the county completes, not the individual. Registration occurs when the county determines the individual does not qualify for an exemption, and enters that finding into the automated eligibility system. The various county practices of how to register a person for work are set out at ACIN I-01-13. The majority of county welfare departments determine an individual’s work registrant status at application and the information is entered into the case file. In this case, the individual is not required to take additional steps to complete the work registration process. CDSS “strongly advises” counties to use this process, and not require other, burdensome, steps. [Id.]

Every “non-exempt” member of a non-assistance household must register for work. [MPP § 63-407.1; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(a)(1).] (See the section about exemptions from work requirements for related details.) This is done at application, recertification, and when there is a change in the household circumstances that then requires registration. [MPP § 63-407.221.] For example, a change requiring registration would be a loss of exemption or employment. If the change is not one that needs to be reported outside of the periodic reporting or change reporting, then the person just registers at the next recertification. [MPP § 63-407.222.] The counties enter the registration information in a data tracking system on line.

Penalties for not registering for work

Individuals disqualified for not complying with the work requirements without good cause cannot get CalFresh benefits. This is called a “disqualification” or “penalty.” [MPP § 63-407.53; 7 C.F.R. § 273.1(b)(7)(iii).] Since the county handles the work registration, CalFresh applicants and recipients should not face penalties for failure to register. However, the law provides that if the person failed to register — i.e., the failure is their fault, not the county’s — the penalty would be one month for the first failure, three months for the second, and six months for the third and subsequent failure. [MPP § 63-407.53.] The county will count each work program failure as an “instance.” So, for example, if you previously were sanctioned for a failure to participate in a mandatory E&T assignment and then became exempt, if you then fail to work register it would be a second “instance.” [Id.]

When the person decides to “cure” the penalty by registering, or their circumstances change and are granted good cause or an exemption, the person may reapply and be approved if otherwise eligible. [MPP § 63-407.52; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(f)(2).]

Good cause for not registering for work

Before sanctioning a participant for not registering for work, the CalFresh office must determine if the person has “good cause”. [MPP § 63-407.51; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(f)(1)(i).] Good cause includes circumstances beyond the person’s control, such as illness, illness of another household member requiring the presence of the member, a household emergency, the lack of transportation, or the lack of adequate child care for children from 6 to 12 years old. [MPP § 63-407.51; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(i)(2). ] California also provides that good cause includes “problems caused by inability of the work registrant to speak, read, or write English.” [MPP § 63-407.51.] The lack of adequate child care is explained in MPP § 63-408.41(j).

The office must look at the person’s situation and any information from the household or any employer in deciding if there is good cause. [MPP § 63-407.51; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(i)(1).] (For more information, see the section about exemptions from work requirements.)

The county CalFresh office must issue a Notice of Action (NOA) when it finds no good cause for not registering for work. [MPP § 63-407.52; 7 C.F.R. § 273.13.] If the individual complies, or is granted an exemption or good cause, before the end of the notice period, the penalty or disqualification is cancelled. The notice must be sent within 10 days of the county office deciding the person does not have good cause. The person has a right to a state hearing on the finding of no good cause and the penalty or disqualification. [MPP § 63-407.521.]

County’s duty to provide information and notices of action

As part of the work registration process, and at recertification, the CalFresh office must give written information to all applicants explaining:

  • Work requirements;
  • Rights and responsibilities of work-registered household members; and
  • Consequences of a failure to comply.

[MPP § 63-407.311-.313; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(c)(1).]

Counties must inform all applicants of available local employment services related to experience, training, and education that the individual has.  This includes services related to experience, training, and education that the individual obtained before or during incarceration.  [ACWDL, November 18, 2022.]

Counties must inform CalFresh work registrants with no earned income reported at initial certification, at their last recertification, or at their last required report, of the availability of local
employment services.  [ACL 20-10.]

When a person fails to register, a notice of action must be sent before any penalty or disqualification is imposed. [MPP § 63-407.52; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(c)(3); 7 C.F.R. § 273.13.] The notice must state:

  • What they failed to do;
  • Good cause was not found;
  • The length of the penalty;
  • What they can do to avoid the penalty; and
  • The penalty can end if they subsequently qualify for good cause or an exemption.

[MPP § 63-407.52.]

The county office must also issue a Notice of Action when a previously exempt individual or new household member becomes subject to a work requirement, and at recertification. [MPP § 63-407.313; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(c)(1).] The notice must be both timely and adequate. [MPP § 63-504.21; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(c)(3); 273.13.]

Loss of work registration exemption

When recipients lose exemption status, they must report the change and register for work with the county welfare department. The date that they need to report varies based on their circumstances. [MPP § 63-407.22; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(b)(2)(i).] If the change must be reported on the SAR 7 Eligibility Status Report (e.g., loss of a job), then they will have to register soon after they report the change. [MPP § 63-407.221.] If the change is not one that needs to be reported, then they register at the next recertification. [MPP § 63-407.222.] In either case, the county welfare department must send them a form and then a notice informing them that they need to register.