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AB-164 Food assistance.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 01/13/2017 08:55 PM


Assembly Bill No. 164

Introduced by Assembly Member Arambula

January 13, 2017

An act to add Chapter 10.05 (commencing with Section 18929) to Part 6 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to food assistance.


AB 164, as introduced, Arambula. Food assistance.
Existing law provides the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), administered in California as CalFresh, under which each county distributes nutrition assistance benefits provided by the federal government to eligible households. Existing state law authorizes a county to deliver CalFresh benefits through the use of an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system.
Existing law establishes the CalFood Program, formerly known as the State Emergency Food Assistance Program, administered by the State Department of Social Services, whose ongoing primary function is to facilitate the distribution of food to low-income households.
This bill would require the department to develop a system to respond to changing needs for food assistance and to provide benefits for specific needs. The bill would set forth criteria for the system, including requiring the system to be compatible with and utilize the EBT in accordance with federal law governing the use of EBT. The bill would also require that benefits be provided under the system contingent upon the appropriation of funds for that purpose by the Legislature. The bill would also include a statement of legislative findings and declarations.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


 Chapter 10.05 (commencing with Section 18929) is added to Part 6 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:
CHAPTER  10.05. California Food Assistance

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Across California, 40 percent of low-income households cannot consistently afford enough food. In all, 1.7 million Californians live in these food-insecure households.
(b) Food insecurity is a serious public health issue with many negative health consequences, including lower nutrient intakes, mental health problems, physical health problems, depression, diabetes, and higher levels of chronic disease.
(c) The key policy tool to address food insecurity is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), called CalFresh in California, and formerly known as the food stamp program. SNAP is the largest and most effective food assistance program in the nation.
(d) CalFresh is a crucial safety net program that provides benefits for low-income Californians with the aim of improving access to nutritious, affordable food. CalFresh also mitigates poverty for struggling Californians. Between 2009 and 2012, CalFresh kept 806,000 people out of poverty in California, on average per year.
(e) CalFresh has utilized an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system statewide in California since 2004. EBT has many advantages for delivering public benefits. For recipients, EBT offers greater convenience, improved security, and reduced stigmatization. For state governments, EBT provides cost and time savings, improves operational efficiencies, and promotes accountability while stimulating local economies.
(f) SNAP is a federal entitlement program; the federal government funds the nutrition benefits, and determines benefit levels and other key rules. The state determines certain conditions of eligibility and oversees county administration of the program.
(g) In order to address issues of eligibility and nutrition benefit sufficiency, California has previously established state nutrition benefit programs, including a food assistance program for legal immigrants, as set forth in Chapter 10.1 (commencing with Section 18930), and the Work Incentive Nutritional Supplement program, established pursuant to Section 15525.
(h) California often faces unique situations that present challenges to the health and economic stability of low-income Californians, including the ongoing five-year drought emergency, which has led to water shortages and underemployment, and has exacerbated persistent drinking water quality problems in some areas of the state.
(i) So that California may effectively respond to the nutrition needs of low-income residents, the state should design a flexible and adaptable food assistance system that can efficiently respond to California needs.

 For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply:
(a) “Department” means the State Department of Social Services.
(b) “EBT” refers to the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system and benefit delivery infrastructure established in Section 10072.

 (a) The department shall develop a system to respond to changing needs for food assistance. The system shall provide benefits for specific needs and shall comply with all of the following:
(1) Benefits provided pursuant to this system shall not replace any federal funding that is available for that purpose. These benefits may include any combination of authorized federal, state, or private funds.
(2) The system shall be compatible with and shall utilize EBT to distribute benefits in accordance with any federal laws and regulations governing the use of EBT.
(3) The system shall comply with all applicable state and federal law governing procedures to ensure privacy and confidentiality.
(4) California food assistance benefits may be provided when CalFresh benefits are unavailable or insufficient. The system shall permit benefits to be issued to low-income residents for purposes that include, but are not limited to, the following:
(A) To provide temporary nutrition assistance during state-recognized emergencies in the absence of federal nutrition assistance.
(B) To provide supplemental nutrition benefits to meet specific health-related needs.
(C) To provide nutrition assistance equivalent to CalFresh benefits for persons living in California who are ineligible for federal nutrition assistance.
(b) Benefits shall be provided through the system described in subdivision (a) contingent upon the appropriation of funds for that purpose by the Legislature.