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SB-285 Public social services.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 07/08/2019 09:00 PM
SB285:v95#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  July 08, 2019
Amended  IN  Assembly  June 25, 2019
Amended  IN  Senate  May 17, 2019
Amended  IN  Senate  April 02, 2019

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 285


Introduced by Senator Wiener
(Coauthor: Senator Dodd)
(Coauthor: Assembly Member Wicks)(Coauthors: Assembly Members Mathis and Wicks)

February 13, 2019


An act to amend Section 10823.1 of, and to add Sections 18900.3 and 18900.4 to, the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to public social services.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 285, as amended, Wiener. Public social services.
Existing law requires the Office of Systems Integration to implement a statewide automated welfare system for specified public assistance programs. Existing law declares the intent of the Legislature that representatives from the State Department of Social Services, the State Department of Health Care Services, the Office of Systems Integration, the Interim Statewide Automated Welfare System (SAWS) consortia, and counties meet with advocates, clients, and other stakeholders at least quarterly to review the development status of the California Statewide Automated Welfare System (CalSAWS) project and to engage with stakeholders to discuss current and planned functionality changes, among other topics.
This bill would additionally require those entities to discuss and recommend how the public-facing elements of CalSAWS may allow users to initiate applications for other health and human services benefits serving low-income Californians, including, but not limited to, the California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and other programs that are in substantial use, as specified, in order to minimize the burdens of the overall enrollment processes for eligible individuals and households to receive health and human services benefits.
Existing federal law provides for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known in California as CalFresh, under which supplemental nutrition assistance benefits allocated to the state by the federal government are distributed to eligible individuals by each county. Existing law requires the State Department of Social Services, in conjunction with the State Department of Public Health and appropriate stakeholders, to develop and submit to the Legislature a community outreach and education campaign to help families learn about, and apply for, CalFresh.
This bill would require the State Department of Social Services to oversee a state and local accountability partnership to increase CalFresh participation and retention, to foster continuous quality improvement in the administration of the CalFresh program, and establish specified statewide goals for CalFresh participation and improvement. The bill would require the department to take specified actions to support counties in increasing and retaining CalFresh participants so that counties can achieve the statewide participation goals, including, among others, maintaining a dynamic and publicly available CalFresh data dashboard. The bill would require county human services agencies to work with the department to increase CalFresh participation and retention rates and identify the most effective actions to increase access to, and participation in, CalFresh. The bill would encourage counties to implement cost-effective actions that can be implemented within existing resources or at the expense of the county, but would prohibit counties from being required to implement specific improvements that require additional funds unless the state provides the county with those additional funds. By imposing new requirements on counties, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
Existing law requires each county welfare department, to the extent permitted by federal law, to exempt a household from complying with face-to-face interview requirements for the purpose of determining eligibility at initial application and recertification.
This bill would, to the extent permitted by federal law, give an individual the option to apply, report, and recertify for CalFresh in person, by mail, online, or by telephone, and permit an individual to complete the interview requirement and client signature by telephone. The bill would authorize counties to implement any method of telephonic or electronic signature that is supported by county business practice and technology. The bill would require the department, with the input of stakeholders, to develop and execute a plan of support for counties that have not already implemented a telephone-based application and renewal process and to provide technical assistance or resources. The bill would require the application process to satisfy specified criteria, including simple, user-friendly language and instructions. The bill would require certain counties to comply with these provisions beginning on or before January 1, 2022, and require the remaining counties to comply with the provisions beginning on or before January 1, 2023. By imposing new duties on counties, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
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.

 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) Inadequate nutrition and food insecurity threatens the health of 3.7 million low-income adults and over 2 million children in California, leading to adverse health outcomes among children, and increased risk of chronic disease, including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, yet nearly 2 million eligible Californians are not receiving CalFresh nutrition benefits.
(2) The average CalFresh benefit in California is $136 per person per month. If the state enrolled these 2 million eligible Californians into CalFresh, it would draw up to $3.5 billion in federal food benefits to the state annually, which would also significantly help farmers, grocers, and the local economy.
(3) Due to the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, Medi-Cal has expanded to provide health coverage to one in three Californians, and one in two children, with a statewide coverage rate of 95 percent of those eligible participating.
(4) While working poor Californians struggle with increased costs of housing and basic needs that outpaced growth in wages, California ranks third to last in the nation at connecting working poor households to CalFresh.
(5) While California’s population is aging, with a growing number of seniors experiencing hunger and poverty, California ranks last in the nation at connecting seniors to CalFresh, failing to reach nearly four in five eligible, low-income seniors, despite recent policy changes to simplify enrollment processes and medical deductions for seniors.
(6) CalFresh has undergone several significant changes over the past several years, including all of the following:
(A) Reduced barriers to enrollment by removing asset test and finger imaging requirements.
(B) Increased guidance to make online and phone applications more widely available so that residents can apply for benefits without visiting an office, similar to Medi-Cal.
(C) Interdepartmental collaboration to improve horizontal integration among social service programs, including CalFresh, Medi-Cal, CalWORKs, and the California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC Program).
(D) Reversal of the longstanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) “cashout” policy, which provides a pivotal opportunity to establish CalFresh eligibility for 500,000 seniors and disabled Californians receiving SSI benefits.
(7) Given these changes in CalFresh and the need to connect health and nutrition, particularly for newly eligible SSI recipients, the time is right to improve CalFresh entry points, better align Medi-Cal and CalFresh enrollment, and set statewide goals for CalFresh participation outcomes.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to maximize the impact of federal safety net funding to reduce poverty, fight hunger, and improve health by enrolling all eligible, low-income Californians into CalFresh.

SEC. 2.

 Section 10823.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

10823.1.
 (a) It is the intent of the Legislature that representatives from the State Department of Social Services, the State Department of Health Care Services, the Office of Systems Integration, the SAWS consortia, and the counties meet with advocates, clients, and other stakeholders no less than quarterly to review the development status of the California Statewide Automated Welfare System (CalSAWS) project.
(b) Meeting agendas shall be established based on input from all parties, who may indicate their priorities for discussion.
(c) The State Department of Social Services, the State Department of Health Care Services, the Office of Systems Integration, and the SAWS consortia shall engage with stakeholders to discuss current and planned functionality changes, system demonstrations of public portals and mobile applications, and advocates’ identification of areas of concern, especially with the design of public-facing elements and other areas that directly impact clients. These entities shall also discuss and recommend how the public-facing elements of CalSAWS may allow users to initiate applications for other health and human services benefits serving low-income Californians, including, but not limited to, the California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and other programs that are in substantial use, as determined by the California Health and Human Services Agency, in order to minimize the burdens of the overall enrollment processes for eligible individuals and households to receive health and human services benefits.
(d) These meetings shall commence in the summer of 2018 and shall continue at least quarterly through development, implementation, and maintenance.

SEC. 3.

 Section 18900.3 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

18900.3.
 (a) To ensure that eligible Californians have universally excellent access to CalFresh, the State Department of Social Services shall oversee a state and local accountability partnership with county human services agencies and other stakeholders to increase CalFresh participation and retention statewide, and to foster continuous quality improvement in CalFresh program administration.
(b) In order to provide universally excellent access to CalFresh, the department shall establish the following statewide goals for CalFresh participation and improvement:
(1) By January 1, 2021, the department shall aim to have at least 75 percent of households eligible for CalFresh under Section 18900.5 enrolled in CalFresh, with the goal of no county having less than 65 percent of eligible households enrolled.
(2) By July 1, 2022, the department shall aim to have at least 85 percent of all households eligible for CalFresh under Section 18901 enrolled in CalFresh, with the goal of no county having less than 75 percent of eligible households enrolled.
(3) By July 1, 2024, the department shall aim to have at least 95 percent of all households eligible for CalFresh under Section 18901 enrolled in CalFresh, with the goal of no county having less than 85 percent of eligible households enrolled.
(c) For the purpose of evaluating progress towards the participation goals identified in subdivision (b), the department, in consultation with counties and other stakeholders, shall identify or develop a proxy metric for the CalFresh participation rate. The proxy metric shall be applied statewide in order to periodically calculate state- and county-level estimates for the CalFresh participation rate. The department shall identify or develop this proxy metric by September 1, 2020. This proxy metric shall be used only to evaluate progress toward participation goals and does not supplant existing methods for determining participation rates established by the department or the United States Department of Agriculture. The department may also identify or develop additional metrics to evaluate progress toward the participation goals identified in subdivision (b).
(d) (1) County human services agencies shall work with the department to increase CalFresh participation and retention rates within the county, as necessary to meet statewide goals identified in subdivision (b), and to set county-specific goals for increased participation and retention. These continuous improvement efforts shall incorporate community stakeholder feedback and take into account community efforts, occurring outside of, and in partnership with, the county human services agency, to increase outreach, enrollment, and retention, as well as improvements identified within the agency.
(2) (A) The department and counties shall work with community partners and stakeholders to identify the most effective actions that can be implemented to increase access and participation in CalFresh, consistent with state and federal law. These actions may include, but are not limited to, flexible interview scheduling, electronic signature by telephone, maximized use of electronic verification and verification standards that adhere to federally allowable minimum requirements of documentation, minimization of procedural denials, simplified and streamlined enrollment of any individual receiving Medi-Cal or CalWORKs, and other actions identified as effective.
(B) Counties are encouraged to implement cost-effective actions that can be implemented within existing resources, or at the expense of the county or through public-private partnerships, but shall not be required to implement specific improvements identified pursuant to subparagraph (A) that require additional funds unless the state provides those additional funds, which may be appropriated in the annual Budget Act.
(e) In order to support counties and their community partners in increasing and retaining CalFresh participants so that counties can achieve the statewide goals identified in subdivision (b), the department shall do all of the following:
(1) Provide counties with timely, accurately translated materials that are reviewed for understandability with native language speakers to ensure limited-English-proficient language households have the required access in every community.
(2) Conduct ongoing user-experience testing of CalFresh application, recertification, and reporting mechanisms with program participants, applicants, application assisters, and counties in order to reduce barriers to participation.
(3) Participate in all elements of the Elderly Simplified Application Project, a demonstration project, operated by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service and develop a user-centered application for seniors that minimizes the burdens of the overall enrollment process.
(4) Maintain a dynamic, publicly available CalFresh data dashboard that presents data showing change, activity, or progress over time, and that allows for data extraction for further analysis. If appropriate, the department may utilize existing technology for this purpose. In order to support continuous improvement, and to inform the Legislature and the public about CalFresh enrollment, benefit retention, customer service, and performance, the data management tool shall include statewide and county-specific data. The data shall include, but is not limited to, all of the following:
(A) Data regarding multiprogram enrollment, including, but not limited to, dual eligibility and dual participation among CalFresh and Medi-Cal recipients.
(B) Data regarding CalFresh applications received through multiple channels, including, but not limited to, applications received in-person, online, and by telephone.
(C) Data regarding CalFresh application and recertification outcomes, including, but not limited to, disposition, processing times, and procedural denials.
(D) Data regarding CalFresh reapplication, which may include, but is not limited to, rate of return within 30, 60, and 90 days.
(E) Data regarding results of ongoing user-experience testing with CalFresh program participants and applicants, as available.
(F) Metrics that allow an analysis by county, census tract, primary language, race, ethnicity, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability status, to the extent that the data is collected and is statistically reliable, and that the stratification of data does not breach confidentiality.
(G) Additional data identified by the department, counties, or stakeholders as necessary to advance the goals established pursuant to subdivision (b).
(5) Provide oversight and technical assistance to counties with regard to the process of continuous improvement described in this section.

SEC. 4.

 Section 18900.4 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

18900.4.
 (a) To the extent permitted under federal law, an individual shall have the option to apply, report, and recertify for CalFresh in person, by mail, online, or by telephone, and shall have the option to complete the interview and the required client signature by telephone.
(b) Counties may implement any method of telephonic signature or electronic signature over the telephone, signature, in compliance with state and federal program requirements, that is supported by county business practices and available technology.
(c) (1) The department shall work with counties, representatives of the statewide automated welfare system consortia, representatives of county eligibility workers, and advocates for CalFresh participants, to develop and execute a plan of support for counties that have not already implemented a telephone-based application and renewal processes, and to provide technical assistance or resources.
(2) The results of this planning effort, including, but not limited to, the resources identified as necessary for counties to implement this section, shall be reported to the Legislature during the 2020–21 budget hearings.
(d) To the extent permitted under federal law, the application process shall satisfy both of the following criteria:
(1) Include simple, user-friendly language and instructions that incorporate user testing with CalFresh applicants, participants, eligibility workers, and application assisters.
(2) Require the eligibility, enrollment, and retention system to offer an applicant or recipient assistance with their application, required reporting, or recertification for the CalFresh program in person, over the telephone, and online, and in a manner that is accessible to individuals with disabilities and those who have limited English proficiency.
(e) Counties currently using the Consortium IV (C-IV) or LEADER Replacement System (LRS) of the Statewide Automated Welfare System (SAWS) shall comply with this section beginning on or before January 1, 2022, and counties currently using the Welfare Client Data System (WCDS) of SAWS shall comply with this section beginning on or before January 1, 2023.

SEC. 5.

 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.