Category Archives: Eligibility

Do Unemployment Insurance payments impact foster care benefits?

Q: Some youth in foster care in our county are receiving unemployment insurance after losing their jobs or having their hours reduced as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Do these payments impact their foster care payment or their eligibility for placement or services at all?

A: No, the Unemployment Insurance being provided under the CARES Act does not have a bearing on foster care benefits. Unemployment Insurance is unearned income, which does count toward certain means-tested benefits, however the federal Children’s Bureau has advised the California Department of Social Services that CARES Act unemployment payments are not be considered income or resources when determining Title IV-E eligibility.

Citation: California Department of Social Services, All County Letter 20-81 (July 9, 2020). https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/Additional-Resources/Letters-and-Notices/ACLs/2020/20-81.pdf

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Can youth receive unemployment in California?

Q: I understand that Congress is considering extending the current unemployment benefits. Can youth receive unemployment in California?

A: Yes, youth can receive unemployment insurance in California where there are no minimum age requirements, as long as they meet other eligibility requirements:

  • They lost job through no fault of their own
  • They earned enough money during a four-quarter base period:
    • $1,300 in the highest quarter of their base period* [or]
    • $900 in their highest quarter and
    • Total base period earnings of 1.25x their high quarter earnings
  • They must be able, available, and actively seeking work

*A base period is a specific 12-month term used to determine eligibility

It is also important to note that several youth may be eligible for unemployment insurance that previously were not. The categories of eligibility have been expanded to include the following types of workers impacted by the Coronavirus:

  • Self-employed workers (earned income from own work rather than as an employee)
  • Freelancers, e.g. baby-sitter, tutor, blogger, photographer, etc.
  • Independent contractors e.g. Lyft/Uber driver, barber/hair stylist, gardener, personal trainer, etc.
  • Part-time workers who had a reduction in hours

Weekly benefit amounts range from $40 to $450, and right now, those receiving unemployment get an additional $600 per week until the end of July. Congress is currently considering extending this additional benefit amount beyond July 31, 2020.

Apply for unemployment insurance HERE.

Read a fact sheet developed by the L.A. Opportunity Youth Collaborative for step-by-step instructions to apply, and for other helpful information about applying for unemployment insurance.

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Will Unemployment Benefits and Stimulus Payments Impact Financial Aid?

Q: If a student receives unemployment benefits during COVID-19, do they need to report them as income on the FAFSA? What about other benefits like stimulus payments or emergency aid a student receives from their campus?

A: Unemployment benefits, including those received in connection with the Coronavirus pandemic, must be reported as income on the FAFSA.  Since the FAFSA is on a prior-prior year basis, this income, which will be reported on their 2020 federal income tax return,  and would be reported on the 2022-2023 FAFSA but would not impact their current financial aid award.

In contrast, Economic Impact Payments, or stimulus checks, are not considered taxable income and do not affect their financial aid eligibility, either now or in the future. These checks do not need to be reported on the FAFSA.

In addition, emergency financial aid grants to students and other financial aid received from the government in connection with the Coronavirus pandemic do not need to be reported as income on the FAFSA and do not affect students’ financial aid. Emergency aid from other than a governmental source, however, including emergency aid made available by a college campus not paid for by CARES Act funding, may be considered “Estimated Financial Assistance” and may reduce a student’s financial aid award. In this scenario, students should request that the financial aid office exercise professional judgment to increase the student’s cost of attendance to make room for the aid.

For further information on student emergency aid and taxation, refer to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance.

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Many More Youth are Entitled to Stimulus Checks

Q: Some of the college youth in my foster youth program have already received their COVID-19 stimulus payments from the government, but others have not. What accounts for this difference and what should I tell youth who have not yet received payment?

A: Many people are entitled to a stimulus payment but are unaware how to receive it. Youth who have a social security number, are not claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s tax form, and earn less than $75,000 gross annually (or within these parameters if they are married, head of household or parenting) qualify for funding. As of April 13, 2020, many people automatically received direct deposits in their bank accounts if they filed 2018 or 2019 tax returns and have a bank account on file with the IRS. Everyone falling outside of this scenario must either wait a bit longer or take action to receive their check.

If the youth filed 2018 or 2019 taxes but did not provide bank account information, they should expect to receive a physical check in the beginning of May. They can also visit the IRS website to update their bank account information. However, even if they did not file a tax return, they can still receive payment by filling out this IRS form. A youth who receives Social Security Insurance (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with no dependents, will also automatically receive a payment.

In general, qualified single filers will receive $1,200, and potentially more, if they are married or parenting. Youth are encouraged to apply, even if they are unsure if they qualify. They can check the status of their check at any time here and refer to a Q&A by the Alliance for Children’s Rights for further information on eligibility and common scenarios.

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Expanded Eligibility and Timing for Unemployment Insurance

Q: Many of the youth who I work with are part-time workers or a part of the gig economy, and they have either lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, as a result of the coronavirus. Can they still file for unemployment? 

A:

Yes, and they should apply as soon as possible. California has expanded unemployment insurance eligibility to include self-employed workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers for up to 39 weeksMany youth who work as Lyft or Uber drivers, babysitters, dog walkers, or tutors, among other jobs, are now protected. In addition, youth who still have a job and had their hours reduced are also protected.  

In general, to qualify for unemployment insurance in California, one must have lost their job or experienced reduced hours through no fault of their own; met certain earnings thresholds during a base period; and be actively seeking new employment. To check their eligibility, youth should register as soon as possible with the State of California Employment Development Department on their phone or computer or call 1-800-300-5616 for directions on how to apply by phone, mail, or fax. 

If they qualify, youth can receive weekly benefits from $40-450, depending on their previous earnings, and right now, if approved, they would get an additional $600 week until the end of JulyFunds will arrive approximately 2-4 weeks after approval, so youth are encouraged to apply as soon as possible and should be prepared to “recertify for benefits” every two weeks. 

For more information refer to this fact sheet created by the Alliance for Children’s Rights. 

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Infant Supplement Payment Eligibility

Q: I work with parenting youth, how do I know if they are eligible for the infant supplement payment? Can both parents receive the infant supplement payment for their child?

A: The Department of Social Services has issued an All County Information Notice clarifying infant supplement eligibility, ACIN NO. I-10-20. The department clarifies that the following parenting youth populations who are living with their non-dependent child are eligible:

  • Youth under delinquency jurisdiction who are residing in foster care.
  • Nonminor dependents (NMDs) in Extended Foster Care.
  • Youth in non-related legal guardianships receiving AFDC-FC payments.
  • Youth receiving Kin-Guardianship Assistance Payment (Kin-GAP) payments.
  • Youth receiving Approved Relative Caregiver (ARC) payments.

The department further clarified that either male or female parenting youth may be eligible for an infant supplement and that all eligible teens and nonminor dependents be screened for current or expectant parents. Only one infant supplement may be paid per eligible child. If both parents are eligible, the infant supplement must be paid to the parent with primary physical custody of the child.

See more question of the week answers related to the infant supplement here.

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2019 California Earned Income Tax

Q:  I understand that the California Earned Income Tax Credit was expanded last year and that it is now available to transition-age youth, age 18 to 21, regardless of their parenting status.  Is there a minimum amount that a youth has to earn to qualify for the CalEITC? What materials are available to share with youth in my county?

A: Yes, the California EITC (CalEITC) was expanded from $400 million to $1 billion annually in the 2019-20 budget. This expansion made the following changes:

  • Expanded eligibility to families that earn up to $30,000 annually;
  • Increased the maximum credit to $2,982 for CalEITC, plus a maximum credit of $6,557 for federal EITC
  • Added a Young Child Tax Credit, which is an additional credit of up to $1,000 for tax filers who meet CalEITC requirements and have a child under six years old by the end of the year.

The California Franchise Tax Board has updated its materials for the 2019 tax year. To download the updated materials, follow this LINK.

John Burton Advocates for Youth will host a website on strategies to help transition-age youth access the CalEITC on January 30, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. To register, follow this LINK.

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Q of the W: Credit Reports for Non-Minor Dependents

Q: I’m working with a Non-Minor Dependent (NMD) that is experiencing identity theft. I thought requirements were in place to prevent this type of thing from happening. Do NMDs receive assistance with checking their credit histories and addressing identity theft?

A: Yes, Non-Minor Dependents (NMDs) may receive assistance from their county social worker or probation officer with checking their credit histories and addressing identity theft, however because NMDs are adults who have the choice to request their credit reports just as any other adult can under federal law, the assistance they receive is at the discretion.

County agencies are required to inform NMDs of the advisability of requesting credit reports and provide annual assistance in doing so if the NMD desires. Specifically, the social worker or probation officer must ensure the NMD receives assistance in requesting and reviewing the reports. If a NMD needs help requesting their credit reports, counties can obtain written permission from the NMD to request their credit reports on their behalf. County agencies must refer NMDs to appropriate resources to aid in clearing their credit reports of inaccuracies.

If a NMD does not request their credit reports on an annual basis, the social worker/probation officer is encouraged to continue to discuss, at monthly visits or other opportunities, the importance of checking one’s credit reports and maintaining good credit as part of a healthy financial management strategy.

Citation: California Department of Social Services, All County Information Notice I-47-19 (2019); All County Letter 14-23 (2014)

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Eligibility Requirements for the 3rd Year THP-Plus Extension for Youth in School

Q: I am working with a youth who is interested in remaining in her THP-Plus program for the third year as part of the THP-Plus extension for youth enrolled in school, established in 2014 by Senate Bill 1252 (Torres). Are there any minimum GPA requirements for youth participating in the extension?

A: No, there are no Grade Point Average requirements for a youth to access THP-Plus for an additional 12 months or up to the age of 25. The THP-Plus extension for youth in school was established by Senate Bill 1252 (Torres) in 2014 and took effect January 1, 2015. Following are the eligibility requirements for the third-year THP-Plus extension:

  • Meet basic eligibility requirements for THP-Plus.
    • Have an order for out-of-home placement on 18th birthday; and
    • Enter into a Transitional Independent Living Plan (TILP) that shall be mutually agreed upon, and annually reviewed by the youth and county welfare or probation department or independent living coordinator.
  • Be completing a secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential or enrolled in an institution that provides postsecondary education, including vocational education if from an accredited institution.

The THP-Plus extension for youth enrolled in school is optional for counties, however, once a county opts-in, the extension must be offered to all eligible youth, not applied on a case-by-case basis. Currently, 28 counties offer the extension. A list of these counties can be found here: https://www.jbaforyouth.org/thp-plus-extension/.

Citation:

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How Does Adult Adoption of a Non-minor Dependent Impact Extended Foster Care Eligibility?

Q: I am working with a nonminor dependent in a Supervised Independent Living Placement who is residing with a supportive adult mentor. The youth’s mentor has offered to adopt him, but they would like to better understand how an adult adoption would impact the youth’s eligibility for extended foster care. Would he still be in extended foster care? Would any circumstances change? 

A: No, if the youth is adopted, he would no longer be in extended foster care – his case would be closed. There are a number of factors to consider, along with the youth’s desire for permanency and the perceived stability of this permanency option. Below are the tangible circumstances that would change if he chose to proceed with the adult adoption:

  • Child welfare agency & court supervision: He would no longer have a court-appointed attorney, monthly visits with a county social worker, or six-month court review hearings.
  • Access to placement options: He would no longer have the option of a foster care placement such as a foster home, relative caregiver, Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP) or Transitional Housing Placement Program for Nonminor Dependents (THPP-NMD); nor the supportive services associated with some placements (i.e. THPP-NMD).
  • Financial support: The financial support he would be eligible for would be an Adoptions Assistance Program (AAP) payment, which would go to his adoptive parent(s). AAP, like foster care, was extended to age 21 by Assembly Bill 12. The monthly AAP rate is the basic rate, which is $1,000 in FY 2019-20, and can be increased to $1,112, $1,225, or $1,337, depending on the needs of the youth and as negotiated with the county.[1] He would no longer receive a monthly foster care payment. In his current placement—a SILP—this payment amount is the basic rate ($1,000 in FY 2019-20) and can go to him directly.
  • Support beyond age 21: He would maintain his eligibility for the THP-Plus program for former foster youth, which provides affordable housing and supportive services. Youth who were in foster care on or after their 18th birthdays are eligible for THP-Plus once they exit care for up to 24 months between the ages of 18 and 24 (up to 36 months and/or age 25 if in school, in counties that have opted into the THP-Plus extension).[2]
  • Health care: As a former foster youth who was in care on his 18th birthday, he would maintain his eligibility for Medi-Cal up to age 26.[3]
  • Educational financial aid:
    • He would maintain eligibility for independent student status because he was in foster care after turning 13. Independent students are not required to include any parental income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid; aid is calculated based on the student’s income only, therefore usually making them eligible for all need-based aid.
    • He would also maintain eligibility for the Chafee Education and Training Voucher, which provides up to $5,000 per year to youth who were in foster care between age 16 and 18.[4]
    • Lastly, he would be eligible for special exemptions and rules that apply to current and former foster youth for the Cal Grant[5] and the California Community College Promise Grant.[6]

Citation:

[1] California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 19-58 (June 28, 2019). https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2019/19-58_ES.pdf

[2] Welfare & Institutions Code §11403.2(2)

[3] For information about health care coverage for former foster youth up to age 26, visit Children Now’s website: http://coveredtil26.childrennow.org/

[4] California Student Aid Commission. https://www.chafee.csac.ca.gov/

[5] California Student Aid Commission. Special Alert: Cal Grant B Eligibility Expansion for Foster Youth-Update (July, 8, 2019). https://www.csac.ca.gov/sites/default/files/file-attachments/gsa_2019-19.pdf

[6] John Burton Advocates for Youth. Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth. https://www.jbaforyouth.org/ca-fy-financial-aid-guide/ (see page 5 for financial aid eligibility – foster youth are not subject to Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements for the California Community College Promise Grant).

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