Applying for multiple financial aid sources

Q: I have seen that there are a lot of different kinds of financial aid – Pell Grant, Cal Grant, BOG fee waiver, Chafee grant, work study, loans – and I’m confused by all these different sources. Are these all covered by a single application or do I have to fill out multiple applications?

A: Most forms of financial aid, including the federal Pell Grant, Cal Grant, BOG fee waiver, work study, and loans are applied for through a single form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once the FAFSA is submitted, the financial aid office at your school will determine which specific forms of aid you are eligible for. If a student is undocumented, they would submit the California Dream Act Application instead to qualify for state aid.

One additional form that you will want to make sure to also submit is the separate Chafee grant application. This must be submitted in addition to the FAFSA in order to apply for the Chafee grant program which is a financial aid source just for foster youth. Finally, after you have submitted a FAFSA, you should confirm that your high school submitted your GPA to the Webgrants system, which is required to obtain a Cal Grant. You can read about how to do this and much more in the Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth.

Note that private scholarships typically do need to be applied for individually, with separate applications for each. To learn more about ways to search for scholarships, follow this LINK.

Use of infant supplement for youth in THP+FC

Q: The THP+FC program I work for provides parenting youth with a crib (as required by regulations), diapers and other items for their child, and a larger apartment unit to accommodate their family’s needs. I understand that there are new guidelines governing use of the infant supplement. Is my program able to utilize a portion of the infant supplement to cover the increased costs associated with serving parenting youth?

A: Yes, the provider may retain a portion of the infant supplement for the specified needs of the non-minor dependent (NMD)’s child, such as clothing; laundry; diapers; food; medical costs; household items; costs for providing childcare; or housing related costs, such as increased rent for a larger housing unit.

In order to retain a portion of the infant supplement, the NMD and provider must enter into a shared agreement discussed in the context of a Child and Family Team meeting, or other collaborative team meeting. The California Department of Social Services provides a suggested template for the shared agreement as an attachment to All County Letter 17-93.

It is important to note that because the funds are not authorized to be used for administrative costs under federal law, providers may not retain a portion of the infant supplement to cover the cost of staffing, case management and services.

Citation: All County Letter 17-93 (September 8, 2017)

Tagged ,

Re-enrolling in college after accruing student debt

Q: We are working with a youth who would like to reenroll in community college, but has incurred student debt from when he enrolled and received the Pell Grant, and then dropped out and did not pay the financial aid back. He reports that the debt has gone into collections. Will he be able to reapply for financial aid? Any advice on how to deal with the debt so he can reenroll in school?

A: If the debt he incurred was from federal financial aid such as the Pell Grant and it has gone to collections, then he will have to at least begin to make payments before being able to apply for any other federal financial aid (regardless of the school he enrolls in).

The student should call the phone number on his Student Aid Report and ask how many payments he must make before the hold can be lifted. The collections office his debt has been referred to will inform the Department of Education (DOE) if the student is making payments. The DOE can issue a letter to the student or school, and at that point the school can override the hold for the student to receive the Pell Grant again.

It is also good to know that if the student calls the collections office and indicates he would like to pay his debt in full, they will usually discount the payment amount for the student if the student asks.

For future reference, if the student was able to catch address the debt before it went to collections, he may have been able to make “satisfactory arrangements” with the school, where the school repays the debt and makes arrangements with the student for repayment. Many schools are willing to use future aid to pay off debt.

Tagged , ,

Can a NMD receive the infant supplement if their child does not reside with them?

Q: A youth in our THP+FC program is providing 100% financial support for his child, however his child lives with the mother, who is not a non-minor dependent. Because the father is supporting the child, is he eligible to receive the monthly infant supplement even though the child does not reside with him?

A: No, the non-minor dependent (NMD) father will not be eligible to receive the infant supplement during the time the non-dependent child is not living with the father. The monthly infant supplement is specifically for the care and supervision of a non-dependent infant/child living with their parent(s) who are in foster care.  

Citations:

  • California Welfare & Institutions Code §11465(a)
  • California Department of Social Services. Manual of Policies and Procedures. Sections 11-415.1 – 11-415.12
  • California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 17-93 (September 8, 2017)
Tagged

Homeless Students Claimed on Parent’s Tax Return

Q: I’m helping an unaccompanied homeless youth with the FAFSA. I’m wondering how to advise him if someone is still claiming him as a dependent on their taxes, even though they are not supporting him.

A: The issue of tax claims is completely separate from the FAFSA independent student status. The FAFSA status is based on the student’s living situation. As long as the student is determined to be unaccompanied and homeless in the year in which he is submitting the application, he is considered an independent student for the FAFSA, regardless of whether someone else is fraudulently claiming him as a dependent on their taxes.

How are gift cards counted when applying for CalFresh?

Q: I understand that when applying for CalFresh, youth in my THP+FC program are to indicate the monthly stipend we provide them as their ‘unearned income’ on the application. What if we provide them gift cards in lieu of cash, such as gift cards for the grocery store or gas cards? Should they be counting the gift cards as unearned income?

A: No, gift cards that are specific to the grocery store or gas station would not be counted as income. A gift card is only counted as income when determining a household’s eligibility or benefit level if it is a credit card company prepaid gift card (i.e. American Express, MasterCard, Visa, etc.), and the gift card can be reasonably anticipated by the youth. Establishment-specific gift cards (i.e. Target, Walmart, Safeway, Chevron, etc.) are always excluded as income when determining a household’s eligibility or benefit level.

Citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture. Memorandum: Revised Treatment of Gift Cards in Determining SNAP. https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/snap/Revised_Gift_Card_Policy_Memo.pdf. California Department of Social Services. All County Information Notice I-68-17 (October 2, 2017). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACIN/2017/I-68-17.pdf?ver=2017-10-02-151226-987

Tagged , , ,

Residing in a SILP with biological parent or home of removal now allowable

Q: A social worker told me that there are new rules regarding the Supervised Independent Living Placement. He stated that non-minor dependents are now allowed to reside with the parent from which they were removed, including their biological parent. Is this true? If so, are there any sort of guidelines?

A: Yes, this is accurate. In light of recent guidance provided by the California Department of Social Services, non-minor dependents (NMDs) may now live in a Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP) with a parent, which is defined as a parent from whom the youth was removed or any non-custodial parent, including but not limited to a biological parent, guardian or adoptive parent.

As far as guidelines go, the social worker or probation officer must make a determination of whether it is safe for the NMD to reside in the same home as the parent(s) in the same way it would be made with regards to anyone else a NMD chooses to live with in a SILP. Also in line with the general guidelines associated with the SILP, the SILP readiness assessment tool must be utilized to determine if the NMD is making appropriate decisions with regards to the person(s) with whom they plan to reside.

One different guideline that applies when NMDs reside with a parent in a SILP is that the parent may not be the NMD’s payee for the foster care payment.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 17-83 (September 5, 2017). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2017/17-83.pdf?ver=2017-09-07-111228-323

Tagged ,

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status – when to close the dependency case

Q: I’m working with a youth who is trying to get Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Once the Department of Child and Family Services files for SIJS and it’s “pending” can we close the dependency case?

A: No, the dependency case must remain open until the child receives their green card, unless the court’s jurisdiction is terminated due to the youth’s age (for example, when the youth turns 18 or 21).

Citation: 8 C.F.R. § 204.11(c)(5)

Tagged , ,

Completing the FAFSA – independent non-minor students who didn’t file taxes

Q: I’m going to be helping a 19-year-old young woman participating in extended foster care complete the FAFSA when it becomes available in October. I understand that foster youth are independent and so they do not provide any parent or guardian tax information, however are they required to provide their own tax information? What if they didn’t file taxes?

You are correct. If she was in foster care at least one day after age 13, she is considered independent on the FAFSA, and does not provide any information about parents, guardians or caregivers.

In some cases, non-minor dependents file taxes, however in many cases they do not file taxes because they have earned less than the standard deduction. The FAFSA now uses “prior-prior-year” data, so for the 2018-19 school year, 2016 taxes would be used.

  • If the youth was a non-minor in 2016 and did file taxes, he/she should submit tax transcripts using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
  • If the youth was a non-minor in 2016 and did not file taxes because he/she earned less than the standard deduction ($10,350 for a single taxpayer in 2016), then he/she would not be required to provide tax transcripts when applying for financial aid.

Students not required to file taxes will need to provide Verification of Nonfiling. This could be a signed statement by the student certifying that he/she has not filed and is not required to file a 2016 income tax return. Because the statement is very specific, most schools have created a document for students to complete and sign. If your school does not provide this, make sure that your certifying letter includes a listing of any 2016 earned income and a copy of any IRS Form W-2 for any income earned that year.

Citation:

Tagged ,

Resource Family Approval for non-minor dependents

Q: Do counties need to approve Resource Families for non-minor dependents (participating in extended foster care)?

A: For a non-minor dependent placed in a Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP), Resource Family Approval (RFA) is not required. However, if the youth is placed in a foster home, RFA is required.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. Statewide RFA Technical Assistance Call (June 21,  2017). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/RFA/Final%20RFA%20Bi-WeeklyMinutes6-21-17.pdf?ver=2017-07-05-084918-000

Tagged , , ,