Requesting a fair hearing

If there is an urgent matter, a person can ask for an “expedited hearing” which will be held within 10 business days of the state determining that there is an urgent need for a hearing. [ACL 13-40.] The expedited hearing request should be sent to the local presiding judge.

A CalFresh household can ask for a fair hearing to appeal any action affecting its benefits by doing so in person, by telephone or in writing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); MPP § 22-004., 63-804.3.] The applicant or recipient can ask for the hearing or can also have a representative request a hearing on his behalf. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); Welf. & Inst. Code § 10950; MPP §§ 22-004, 63-804.3.]

It is always best to ask for the hearing in writing. The household should keep a copy of its request and make very clear that it wants a hearing. If the household does not understand what to do to question a decision affecting its benefits or has some type of trouble asking for a fair hearing, the CalFresh office must help the household make such a request. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(i)(1); MPP § 22-004.211.]

To request a hearing, the applicant or recipient household can use the back of the Notice of Action (NOA) or can write its own letter. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); MPP § 22-004.211.] All one has to do is say that she wants a fair hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); MPP § 22-004, 63-804.]

If the person appealing would like an interpreter, including sign language, the language needed should be listed. This will result in the state providing a free interpreter. (Given the amount of information and that some of it is technical, an interpreter is recommended for anyone whose primary language is not English, unless the person is completely bilingual.) The household has a right to have an interpreter who speaks the claimant’s preferred language explain the hearing procedures in that preferred language, and interpret for the household during the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); MPP § 22-004.211.]

The state agency will set up the hearing, but the time, place and date must fit the schedule of the applicant or recipient. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(l)(1); MPP § 22-045.2.] The state agency must tell the household in writing, at least 10 days in advance, when and where the fair hearing will be. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(l); Welf. & Inst. Code § 10952; MPP § 22-045.3.]

The state is currently setting hearings to be over the telephone (claimant can be in person with the county but the judge will be on the phone) as the “default” for rural counties. Claimants have the right to have the judge be present in person. If the hearing notice says that the hearing will be a telephone hearing, the claimant has the right to call the state number listed on that hearing notice and ask that the hearing be changed to “in person.” This will not count as a claimant postponement.

The notice must tell the household what rules the hearing officer will follow in running the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(l).] California does this by including the multi-language State Hearing Information sheet (PUB 412) with the hearing date notice. If the applicant or recipient cannot make it to the hearing, he should ask the state agency to change the date. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(c)(4); Welf. & Inst. Code § 10957; MPP § 22-053.11.] The household has the right to put off the hearing for 30 days for any reason. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(c)(4); MPP § 22-053.11.] After that, the person must have “good cause” — a good reason — for postponing the hearing. This can be things like needing to get a representative, illness, no childcare, etc.

The state SNAP agency or local county welfare office cannot stop the household from having a hearing unless the applicant or recipient household, or its authorized representative, says in writing it does not want the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(2); MPP § 22-054.211(a).] State and county workers are prohibited from influencing the applicant or recipient to withdraw a fair hearing request. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(2).]

If the household agrees to withdraw its appeal but does not do so in writing, the withdrawal of the appeal must be confirmed in writing within 10 days of the request, and the household has an additional 10 days from the date it receives the notice of withdrawal to reinstate or request a new hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(2).] During this 10-day period, a recipient household will continue to receive CalFresh benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(k)(2).] If the household requests the fair hearing be reinstated, it is entitled to a hearing within 60 days of that request. [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.15(j)(2), 273.15(c).] The state agency must reinstate a fair hearing as requested from a household at least once. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(2).]

The ALJ will dismiss a request for a hearing if the household or its representative does not show up for the hearing and does not have a good reason for not showing up. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(1)(ii); MPP § 22-054.221.]