Category Archives: Benefits

Question of the Week-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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Emergency Child Care Bridge Program

Q: I have a parenting foster youth who needs help with child care. I’m hoping to connect her to the new Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children. She lives outside of her county of origin/jurisdiction. My question is, which county does she go through to access the Bridge Program, and how do we find out whether that county has opted into the program?

A: To receive assistance from the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program, her county of origin/jurisdiction would have to be participating. This is the county she would access the funding/services through.

According to the recently released County Fiscal Letter 17-18/50, all counties have opted into the program with the exception of the following:

  • ALPINE
  • AMADOR
  • DEL NORTE
  • INYO
  • LASSEN
  • MADERA
  • MARIPOSA
  • MODOC
  • PLUMAS
  • RIVERSIDE
  • SANTA BARBARA
  • SIERRA
  • SISKIYOU
  • SUTTER
  • TUOLUMNE
  • YUBA

In the CFL, if the county has funding allocated to it, it has opted into the program.

Citation: California Department of Social Services County Fiscal Letter 17/18-50 (January 23, 2018)

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Selecting a Housing Plan on FAFSA

Q: I am completing the FAFSA and on the page where I indicate which schools I want my information sent to, it asks me to indicate if I will be living on-campus, off-campus or with parents. I am currently in foster care and have lived with my aunt since I entered the system, and I plan to continue living with her while I go to community college. Which option do I select?

A: You would select “off-campus.” Students should not select “With Parent” as their housing plan if they plan to live with a foster parent, relative caregiver, or legal guardian. Instead, select “Off-Campus.” This is crucial for getting all the money that is available to you to pay for your living expenses. The option you select has an impact on how much money you receive as the “cost of attendance” is considered more when living off-campus than when living with a parent. For more tips on how to complete the FAFSA, check out the Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth.

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CalFresh “households” & shared living

Q: I’m working with a non-minor dependent who lives in a Supervised Independent Living Placement with two roommates. She would like to apply for CalFresh, however one of her roommates already receives CalFresh benefits. I understand you apply for CalFresh as a household, so how does this work? Can she apply by herself?

A: You are correct that CalFresh benefits are awarded to eligible “households,” however it is possible to have a household of one. Rule of thumb is, in shared living arrangements where meals are purchased and prepared together, the head of household would apply for CalFresh benefits on behalf of the household. In shared living arrangements where meals are purchased and prepared separately, each individual may apply for CalFresh benefits as a separate household.

So, if this NMD purchases and prepares her meals separately from her two roommates, then she could submit a CalFresh application as a household of one.

To learn more about current and former foster youth applying for CalFresh, join a webinar today at 11:00.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Information Notice I-68-17 (October 2, 2017).

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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)

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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

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Documentation of unearned income for youth in THP+FC applying for CalFresh

Q: I’m a non-minor dependent, and I recently went to apply for food stamps. As instructed by my case manager for the THP+FC program I live in, I put down $500 for my unearned monthly income because that is what the program provides to me monthly.

However, the eligibility worker was under the impression that the entire foster care payment the THP+FC provider receives from the county ($3,007) should be put down as my unearned income. What should I do?

A: You are correct. Your unearned income is the $500 you receive directly from the THP+FC program. The best thing to do is to bring a printed copy of the CalFresh Program Request for Policy/Regulation Interpretation (CF24) posted by the California Department of Social Services’ CalFresh Policy Unit on June 28, 2016, that describes how to count unearned income for youth participating in THP+FC.

As described in the CF24 and in a previous Q of the W blog post, “The actual amount of THP monies made available to the youth whether spent, held or put into personal savings shall be considered unearned income in the month received for the CalFresh budget whether disbursed as part of THP+FC or THP-Plus programs.”

Additionally, I would suggest bringing a letter on letterhead from your THP+FC program stating how much your monthly stipend, is as you will likely be asked for verification of the amount.

Citation: CalFresh Program Request for Policy/Regulation Interpretation (June 28, 2016)

 

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Expanded exemptions for student restrictions on CalFresh eligibility

 Q: I’m participating in extended foster care and attending college full-time. I heard that youth in extended foster care are now exempt from the food stamp eligibility restrictions on college students. However when I went to apply for CalFresh, the eligibility worker said I did not qualify. What can I do?

A: You are correct. College students participating in Extended Foster Care are exempt from the CalFresh eligibility restrictions on college students.

College students who do not qualify for an exemption must work at least 20 hours per week to be eligible to participate in CalFresh. However as of February 14, 2017, the student eligibility exemptions were expanded as described in All County Letter 17-05. As a college student participating in extended foster care,  you are exempt from these work requirements.

These expanded exemptions are still very new, and it is likely that the eligibility worker you spoke with is not aware of these new exemptions. The best thing to do is to bring a printed copy of All County Letter 17-05 when you go to meet with the eligibility worker.

Citation: All County Letter 17-05 (February 14, 2017)

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Clothing allowance & SCI under CCR

Q: I understand that foster care rates have changed as of January 1, 2017 as a result of California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). What about the clothing allowance and the Specialized Care Increment? Do these still exist under CCR?

A: Yes, the clothing allowance and the Specialized Care Increment (SCI) still exist under Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). On top of the foster care rates which did change as of January 1, 2017 (see 11/9/17 Q of the W to learn more), counties may continue to pay an SCI and clothing allowance.

As stated in All County Letter 16-79, families paid at a higher rate than the basic level rate (e.g. any additional SCI) may continue receiving those rates at county discretion. Counties will continue to provide written guidelines for their discretionary continuation of SCI rates and clothing allowances, and apply these guidelines equitably to determine a family’s eligibility for SCI rates or clothing allowances.

Citation: All County Letter 16-79 (September 22, 2016)

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