Category Archives: Benefits

Getting Chafee if You Have an Overpayment

Q: Can a student still receive a Chafee grant if they have an outstanding Pell grant overpayment or a loan in default?

A: Yes, a student can receive a Chafee grant even if they have an outstanding Pell grant overpayment or a loan in default. The requirements for the Chafee grant vary somewhat from the Pell grant requirements, and Chafee grants are not held as a result of an outstanding federal Pell grant overpayment or loan default. Eligibility for a Chafee grant differs in a couple other ways from that of a Pell grant as well – students are not required to meet selective service requirements (i.e. draft registration) in order to qualify for a Chafee grant and do not need a high school diploma to be eligible.

Provider Attendance at CFT Meetings

Q: Can a THP+FC provider attend a Child and Family Team (CFT) meeting?

 A: Yes, a THP+FC provider should be invited to attend a CFT. This issue was addressed in a recent Frequently Asked Questions document disseminated by the California Department of Social Services, stated below:

 “Should providers be invited to attend CFT meetings?

 Yes. When children, youth, and nonminor dependents receive services from private provider organizations, it is imperative that county placing agencies engage those providers in the CFT process, including CFT meetings.

 In reference to ACL 16-84, the CFT composition always includes the child, youth, or nonminor dependent, family members, the current caregiver, a representative from the placing agency, and other individuals identified by the family as being important. A CFT shall also include a representative of the child or youth’s tribe or Indian custodian, behavioral health staff, foster family agency social worker, or STRTP representative, when applicable. Other professionals that may be included are: youth and/or parent partners, public health providers, Court Appointed Special Advocates, school personnel, or others. In addition to formal supports, effective CFT processes support and encourage family members to invite the participation of individuals who are part of their own network of informal support. This may include extended family, friends, neighbors, coaches, clergy, co-workers, or others who the family has identified as a potential source of support”

 Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 18-23, Attachment: Frequently Asked Questions for the Child and Family Team Process, Question 11 (June 1, 2018). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2018/18-23.pdf

Waiving Court Attendance

Q: Recently I heard a co-worker state that a dependency attorney can waive the child having to appear in court for their hearing. I thought if a child over 10 wanted to attend their court hearing, the attorney could not waive their appearance.

Please let me know if the attorney can waive the child’s appearance, especially when the child knows they have the right to be at their court hearing and they want to attend.

A:  All minors and nonminors in foster care have the right to attend their court hearing and speak to the judge. The important right is included in the foster care bill of rights. To waiver their appearance in court, an attorney must secure their consent prior to the court hearing.

If a child is age 10 or older and does not attend their court hearing, the court is required to determine whether the minor or nonminor was properly notified of his or her right to attend the hearing and inquire whether the minor was given an opportunity to attend. If the court finds that was not the case, the court hearing is continued for the period of time, “necessary to provide notice and secure the presence of the child.”

Source: WIC 16001.9. & WIC 349(d)

Housing Resources for Youth who Exited Foster Care at Age 16

Q: I exited foster care to guardianship at age 16. I am now 22 and am homeless. I understand that because I was not in care on my 18th birthday that I am not eligible for the THP-Plus program. Are there any housing resources that I might be eligible for?

A: Yes, you might be able to access a Family Unification Program (FUP) voucher to assist with the cost of housing, if there are vouchers available in your area. FUP is a program under which Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs), also commonly known as Section 8 vouchers, are provided to:

  • Families for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in either the imminent placement of the family’s children in out-of-home care or delay in the discharge of the children to the family from out-of-home care.
  • Youth at least 18 years old and not more than 24 years old who left foster care at age 16 or older or will leave foster care within 90 days and are homeless or at risk of homelessness.* FUP vouchers used by youth are limited to 36 months of housing assistance.

*For information about the definition of “at risk of homelessness,” see a FUP factsheet by HUD.

Currently, 33 housing authorities in California administer 3,159 FUP vouchers in partnership with their county child welfare agencies. In addition to rental assistance provided through the voucher, the child welfare agency provides supportive services to the youth for the first 18 months.

For transition-age former foster youth, the child welfare agency initially determines if the youth meets the FUP eligibility requirements, certifies that the youth is eligible, and refers those youth to the housing authority. Once child welfare makes the referral, the housing authority places the FUP applicant on its HCV waiting list and determines whether the youth meets HCV program eligibility requirements.

Income eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the housing authority based on the total annual gross income and family size compared with the HUD-established income limits for the area. In general, the youth’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income (very low-income limit) for the county or metropolitan area in which the family or youth chooses to live. Median income levels are published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For example, for the State of California, the Very Low-Income Limit for a household of one is $27,150/year, however when calculated by county it will vary.

To find out whether FUP vouchers are available in your area, contact the Independent Living Program (ILP) at your county’s child welfare agency, or your local housing authorities. Click HERE for a list of ILP coordinators by county, or HERE for a list of city and county housing authorities in California. For more information about the process after a youth receives a FUP voucher, read the FUP factsheet by HUD.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has introduced legislation to permanently reauthorize $200 million annually for FUP vouchers. For more information about the bill, read a recent press release.

Citation:  

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Office of Housing Voucher Programs. Fact Sheet, Housing Choice Voucher Program, Family Unification Program. https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/FUP_FACT_SHEET.PDF

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. Income Limits. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/il.html

Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) and Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC)

Q: What is the difference between Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) and Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC)?

A: The Therapeutic Family Care (TFC) service model allows for the provision of short‐term, intensive, highly coordinated, trauma-informed and individualized Specialty Mental Health Service activities (plan development, rehabilitation and collateral) to children and youth up to age 21 who have complex emotional and behavioral needs and who are placed with trained, intensely supervised and supported TFC parents.

Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC) is a state licensed Foster Family Agency model for eligible foster children, youth and Non-Minor Dependents who require specially trained resource parents and intensive services and support to remain in a home ‐based setting, or to avoid or exit congregate care in a short ‐term residential therapeutic program, group home, or out ‐of‐state residential center.

Still confused or want more  information? If so, attend a web seminar on Wednesday,  May 30th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  hosted by the Department of Healthcare Services the California Department of Social Services to explain the differences between these two important programs. The webinar will help counties and providers understand TFC and ISFC requirements, including similarities and differences between them, and how ITFC and TFC can support children, youth, and their families.

Slides and resource materials will be e-mailed to registered participants prior to the webinar.  To register, follow this link.

Source: WIC §18360 et seq, All County Letter I-91-17 and accompanying toolkit.

IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter

Q: I assisted an 18-year-old with her FAFSA. She reported on her FAFSA that she didn’t file taxes, but is now being asked by her college to submit an IRS Verification of Nonfiling Letter. I’ve never heard of this form before. How do I assist the student with submitting it? 

A: The FAFSA now uses “prior-prior” year tax data, so for the 2018-2019 school year, 2016 taxes would be used. Many students do not file taxes because they have earned less than the standard deduction. Students applying for the 2018-2019 academic school year who did not file taxes may now be required to submit an IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter. This letter confirms that the IRS has not received a federal income tax return from the individual. The Verification of Nonfiling Letter is not an indication that the person is not required to file a return, just that they did not file one.

To obtain an IRS Verification of NonFiling Letter, the student will need to request an IRS Tax Return Transcript. This can be a complicated process and many students will need assistance.

1. A student can request their transcript online at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript. Through this website the student can either have their transcript sent to them online or via mail.

  • To obtain a transcript online, the student must satisfy certain security requirements such as owning a cell phone with their name on the account and having a credit card, auto loan or mortgage in their name. These requirements may be difficult for many students to satisfy and therefore they may need to request their transcript be sent to them via mail.
  • To have the transcript mailed via the online tool, it will take 5-10 days to receive the tax transcript. Generally, there will be no address on file with the IRS if the student has never filed taxes. In this case, the letter will be mailed to the current address they provide. However, the IRS may already have the student’s address in their system, such as from W-2 or 1099 statements or a prior tax return. In this case, the mailing address on the form must match the address on file with the IRS. If the student’s current mailing address does not match the address on file with the IRS, the student should first file IRS Form 8822 to change their address, which will take approximately 10 days.
  • Students may also call the IRS automated phone transcript service at 800-908-9946 to order a tax return or tax account transcript to be sent by mail.

2. Alternately, the student can complete IRS Form 4506-T on paper, check box 7 and send this form by mail or fax. On line 5 of IRS Form 4506-T the student can specify that the Verification of Nonfiling Letter be sent to a third-party address. In most cases the student should have it sent to themselves, not directly to the college. However, it is best to ask each college what they prefer. If a student submits this paper form by mail, it will take 7-14 days to be processed.

Note that there is no fee for obtaining the Verification of Nonfiling Letter or a tax transcript. If the student says there is a $50 fee, they are filing the wrong form. The form that is required is IRS Form 4506-T, not IRS Form 4506.

Chafee Education and Training Voucher (ETV)

Q: I am working with a foster youth attending community college. As the summer approaches, she is worried about how to pay for housing and other living expenses. I asked, and it turns out she didn’t receive a Chafee Education and Training Voucher (ETV) for the current academic year.

Can she still get the Chafee ETV for the current academic year? Would she be eligible for any funding over the summer? Also, would a student who is enrolling for the first time at community college this summer be able to get a grant?

A: Chafee ETV funds have not yet been fully expended and she may be able to get the Chafee ETV for the 2017-18 academic year, including the upcoming summer term. New students enrolling for the first time for the summer may also be able to receive a grant. In order to apply she must submit a 2017/2018 FAFSA and a Chafee application.

The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) administers the Chafee Education and Training Voucher. CSAC will be issuing Chafee awards for students who attended school during the 2017-18 academic year through September 24, 2018. While the $14 million state budget allocation will likely run out before all approved students are granted awards, it is possible that the student you are working with could still receive a grant. If she was enrolled at least half time for the fall and spring terms this year, she could qualify for the full maximum of $5000. If she was enrolled for one term, she could qualify for $2500, plus an additional $2500 if she chooses to enroll in classes over the summer. New students enrolling for the first time for this coming summer may also be able to receive up to $2500.

The deadline to apply for this year is September 10, however the 2017/2018 FAFSA must be submitted and accepted no later than June 30, 2018 to qualify.

It is also worth it to have her to apply for a Chafee ETV for the current academic year because even if the student is not awarded a grant, it may make her a higher priority next year. According to CSAC, prioritization of applications is in part based on the date that the Chafee application is submitted. So, if the young person applies for the Chafee ETV for the 2017-18 academic year and is approved, but is not awarded a grant, that student has a higher likelihood of getting a Chafee ETV in the next academic year than if they wait until later to submit their application.

Minimum Income for Filing Taxes

Q: I am working with youth to ensure they file their income taxes before the April 17 tax filing deadline. What is the minimum income level after which an individual is required to file taxes?

A: Assuming the youth is single, those who make $10,400 and over are required to file a tax return for 2017. However, even if they do not meet the minimum required income, youth should consider filing taxes if they can get money back.  According to Efile.com, an individual can get money back for the following reasons:

  • If they had taxes withheld from their pay, they must file a tax return to receive a tax refund.
  • If they qualify, they must file a return to receive the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • If they are claiming education credits, they must file to be refunded the American Opportunity Credit.
  • If they have a qualifying child but owe no tax, they can file to be refunded the Additional Child Tax Credit.
  • If they qualify, they must file to claim the refundable Health Coverage Tax Credit.
  • If they overpaid estimated tax or applied a prior year overpayment to this year, they must file to receive the refund.

For assistance with filing taxes, please visit a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site near you.  You can find a site near you by visiting www.CalEITC4Me.org and using the Free Tax Prep Finder Tool, or call the IRS at 1-800-906-9887.

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Foster Care Payments for NMDs

Q: When do foster care payments for non-minor dependents cease – the day the NMD turns 21 or at the end of their birthday month?

A: As of February 16, 2018, foster care payments for non-minor dependents (NMDs) will end no later than the day before their 21st birthday. This is a change from the previous practice of the foster care payment covering the entire month during which the NMD turned 21.

Unless you hear otherwise from your county that they intend to use county-only funding to provide a full month’s payment, be aware that the payment will be pro-rated based on the number of days in the month that preceded the NMD’s 21st birthday or preceded their juvenile court jurisdiction termination date (which in some cases may be set prior to their 21st birthday).

Citation: California Department of Social Services, All County Letter 18-15 (February 16, 2008)

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Cal Grant Time Limits

Q: I was awarded a Cal Grant to attend community college, but my counselor is telling me I shouldn’t take the money because it could run out later. Could you explain why I wouldn’t want to accept this money?

A: Currently, the Cal Grant is available only for a maximum of four years of full-time enrollment at a community college, CSU, UC or private institution. At a community college, the grant provides up to $1,672 to cover non-tuition costs, such as books, housing and transportation. At a 4-year university, the money can also be used to pay for tuition costs and therefore provides significantly more: up to $7,414 for a student attending a CSU campus, $14,302 for students attending a UC campus and $10,756 for students enrolled at a qualifying private institution. If you utilize the funding while in community college, you run the risk of not having enough funds remaining when you transfer to a university and when the available benefit is significantly more.

It should also be noted, that this limitation would change if Senate Bill 940 passes. For foster youth specifically, the maximum time would be extended from four to eight years, allowing students to utilize the grant throughout their educational career. To support the passage of this bill, please consider sending in a letter of support as well as sign on to the budget request letter to expand Cal Grant access for foster youth. Support letters can be sent to Carolyn@jbay.org

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