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AB-1957 Social Services Modernization, Efficiency, and Due Process Protection Act of 2018.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 01/30/2018 09:00 PM
AB1957:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill No. 1957


Introduced by Assembly Member Berman

January 30, 2018


An act to add Sections 11023.6 and 11023.7 to the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to public social services.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1957, as introduced, Berman. Social Services Modernization, Efficiency, and Due Process Protection Act of 2018.
Existing law provides for various public social services programs for purposes of providing on behalf of the general public, and within the limits of public resources, reasonable support and maintenance for needy and dependent families and persons, including, among others, the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program, under which each county provides cash assistance and other benefits to qualified low-income families and individuals, and CalFresh, under which supplemental nutrition assistance benefits allocated to the state by the federal government are distributed to eligible individuals by each county.
This bill, to extent permitted by federal law, guidance, or waiver, would authorize applicants for and recipients of public social services to, at any time, affirmatively choose to receive communications and notices of action either electronically only, via United States Postal Service only, or both electronically and via the United States Postal Service, as specified. The bill would require a record of this request, and of each notice of action and communication sent electronically or otherwise, to be maintained in the recipient’s case record. The bill would authorize applicants and recipients to opt out of receiving electronic notice, and would provide for the privacy and security of an applicant’s or recipient’s electronic information, as specified.
This bill would prohibit a county from requiring an applicant for or recipient of public social services to provide verification of information provided to the county, unless verification is federally required and necessary to determine current eligibility for services or to compute the amount of aid, and the information is not already available to the county eligibility worker. The bill would require a county human services agency to maximize the use of electronic means of verifying information required to be verified for any applicant or recipient, except as specified. The bill provides, to the extent permitted by federal law, that information that is verified in any public social services program shall be deemed to be verified for all public human services programs.
The bill would require the department to implement these provisions through an all-county letter or similar instruction from the director no later than July 1, 2019, as specified.
By increasing the duties of counties administering public social services programs, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
Existing law continuously appropriates moneys from the General Fund to defray a portion of county costs under the CalWORKs program.
This bill would provide that the continuous appropriation would not be made for purposes of implementing the bill.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

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


SECTION 1.

 This act shall be known, and may be cited, as the Social Services Modernization, Efficiency & Due Process Protection Act of 2018.

SEC. 2.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) CalFresh is our state’s most important defense against hunger, and CalWORKs is needed to prevent homelessness and basic needs deprivation among our state’s poorest families with children.
(b) While low-income consumers struggle to secure and maintain regular access to telephone and internet service, especially in rural communities, making forms and notices for social safety net programs available electronically or telephonically can benefit a significant portion of applicants and recipients.
(c) The State Department of Social Services and county human services agencies in the state have been leaders in increasing access to applications, forms, and notices of actions electronically and telephonically, which has increased efficiency for county workers and improved outcomes for applicants and recipients.
(d) Modernization of state law is needed to reflect these recent changes in practice and to protect the due process and privacy of all applicants and recipients as the use of technology continues to advance in the delivery of social safety net services.

SEC. 3.

 Section 11023.6 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

11023.6.
 (a) (1) Applicants for and recipients of public social services provided under this division may, at any time, affirmatively choose to receive communications and notices of action either electronically only, via United States Postal Service only, or both electronically and via the United States Postal Service, as provided by this section.
(2) A notice of action or any other form of communication shall not be sent electronically unless that method of communicating has been affirmatively requested in writing by the applicant or recipient. A record of the request required by this paragraph, and of each notice of action and communication sent electronically or otherwise, shall be maintained in the recipient’s case record.
(3) An applicant or recipient may, in writing, in person, by telephone, by electronic mail, or online if there is an online option available, opt out of receiving electronic notices of action and communications. A request to opt out shall be processed within 24 hours of receipt. If a county is aware that an applicant or recipient is a victim of domestic abuse, and the county receives a request to terminate electronic notices of action and communications from the applicant or recipient, the county shall immediately, within one hour, cease all electronic communication with the applicant or recipient until and unless the applicant or recipient requests to receive electronic notices of action and communications again.
(4) Notices of action that are sent electronically shall be sent via a secured server. A notice of action shall not be sent as an electronic mail attachment. For all notices of action sent, the county human services agency shall have the ability to be informed when the recipient has opened or downloaded the notice of action, and shall send notices via the United States Postal Service if the applicant recipient has not opened or downloaded the notice of action or there is no proof that a notice of action sent electronically was received and opened within seven days of having been sent.
(5) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, notices of action terminating benefits, sanctioning benefits, or establishing an intentional program violation for any household member or for establishing or collecting an overpayment, underpayment, overissuance, or underissuance from recipients or former recipients shall also be sent via the United States Postal Service in addition to being sent electronically.
(6) A county human services agency employee shall not have any electronic communications with an applicant or recipient through the employee’s private email or phone.
(7) Every effort shall be made to maintain the privacy and security of applicant or recipient information at all times.
(8) Notices of action and communications that are sent electronically and data storage shall comply with state security standards, which shall be posted on the department’s Internet Web site and on all online applications.
(b) Under no circumstances shall data that is available electronically which identifies an applicant or recipient, the permanent or temporary internet protocol (IP) address assigned to an applicant or recipient, or the geographic location of the IP address or mobile device, their Internet activity, or any other information that is available through the Internet, be collected or used for any purpose other than transmitting information to the applicant or recipient as authorized by this section.
(c) For the purposes of this section, “electronically,” refers to communication made by email, computer-generated text message, interactive voice response, or via online server.
(d) This section shall only apply to the extent permitted by federal law, guidance, or waiver thereof.

SEC. 4.

 Section 11023.7 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

11023.7.
 (a) A county shall not require an applicant for or recipient of public social services provided under this division to provide verification of information provided to the county, unless verification is federally required and necessary to determine current eligibility for services or to compute the amount of aid, and the information is not already available to the county eligibility worker.
(b) A county human services agency shall maximize the use of electronic means of verifying information required to be verified for any applicant or recipient, except for information that federal law permits to be verified through self-attestation statement of the applicant or recipient. A county human services agency shall not request verification that is available electronically to the county human services agency.
(c) To the extent permitted by federal law, information that is verified in any public social services program shall be deemed to be verified for all public human services programs.
(d) An applicant or recipient whose information is electronically verified pursuant to this section shall be given an opportunity to review the information obtained electronically and to make corrections, as necessary.
(e) In order to ensure privacy and accuracy, unless explicitly permitted by federal or state law, privately maintained databases shall not be used for verification purposes in any public social services program under this division.
(f) To ensure the accuracy of information used in public social services program eligibility decisions, the department, county human services agencies, and county consortia shall not contract with a consumer reporting agency or nongovernmental third party for any service related to verification or eligibility, unless the contract includes a provision that requires the consumer reporting agency or nongovernmental third party to report to the department, county human services agency, or county consortia when it experiences a security breach and provides the names and identifying information of the people impacted by the breach.

SEC. 5.

  Notwithstanding the rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code), the State Department of Social Services shall implement this act through an all-county letter or similar instruction from the director issued no later than July 1, 2019. As part of the all-county letter or similar instruction, the department, in consultation with client and patient advocates, representatives of county human services agencies, and representatives of county eligibility workers, shall provide guidance to counties for electronic delivery of notices of actions and other communications to the applicant or recipient by computer-generated text message.

SEC. 6.

  No appropriation pursuant to Section 15200 of the Welfare and Institutions Code shall be made for purposes of this act.

SEC. 7.

 If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.