BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 309
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          Date of Hearing:    April 2, 2013

                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES
                                  Mark Stone, Chair
                   AB 309 (Mitchell) - As Amended:  March 19, 2013
           
          SUBJECT  :  CalFresh: homeless youth

           SUMMARY  :  Clarifies requirements pertaining to CalFresh  
          applications submitted by unaccompanied homeless children and  
          youth.

          Specifically,  this bill  : 

          1)Clarifies that there are no minimum age requirements for  
            CalFresh eligibility except for those imposed by federal law.

          2)Adds CalFresh eligibility criteria and specific information  
            regarding the eligibility of homeless children and youth to  
            annual trainings offered by the county welfare departments to  
            homeless shelter operators.

          3)Requires county welfare agencies, upon receipt of a CalFresh  
            application from an unaccompanied child or youth, to determine  
            the child or youth's eligibility without unnecessary delay,  
            which shall include determining whether the child or youth is  
            eligible to apply as the sole member of the household and  
            screening the application for entitlement to expedited  
            services, as specified.

          4)Requires county welfare agencies to provide written notice to  
            an unaccompanied homeless child or youth if his or her  
            CalFresh application is denied.

          5)Adds information about targeting expedited CalFresh services  
            to unaccompanied homeless children and youth to the  
            information the Department of Social Services is already  
            required to develop on targeting services to the greater  
            homeless population, and requires that information to be  
            provided to local education agency liaisons for homeless  
            children and youth, as well as homeless shelters, emergency  
            food programs, and other community agencies that provide  
            services to homeless people. 

           EXISTING LAW  







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             1)   Establishes the CalFresh program, through which federal  
               Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits  
               are administered and provided to eligible participants.

             2)   Defines "unaccompanied youth" as a youth not in the  
               physical custody of a parent or guardian.  (McKinney-Vento  
               Act) 42 U.S.C. 11434a(6).

             3)   Provides that any child who is eligible for federal SNAP  
               benefits is automatically certified to receive free school  
               meals without an additional application.  7 U.S.C.  
               2020(u)(2)(A).

             4)   Waives the residency verification requirement for  
               homeless individuals for purposes of determining  
               eligibility.  7 C.F.R. 273.2(f)(1)(vi).

             5)   Requires the Department of Social Services to develop  
               information on expedited CalFresh benefits for homeless  
               applicants pursuant to the federal Stewart B.  McKinney  
               Homeless Assistance Act (Public Law 100-77).

             6)   Requires county welfare agencies to provide trainings on  
               CalFresh application procedures to homeless shelters on an  
               annual basis.
           
          FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown

           BACKGROUND  :

          CalFresh benefits, which are entirely funded by the federal  
          government through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  
          (SNAP), are made available on a monthly basis for food purchase  
          through an ATM-like electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card.   
          CalFresh is administered locally by county welfare departments,  
          and the federal, state, and county governments share in the cost  
          of program administration.  The United States Department of  
          Agriculture (USDA) sets specific eligibility requirements for  
          SNAP programs across the United States and requires state  
          agencies that administer SNAP to establish methods of certifying  
          and issuing benefits to eligible homeless individuals to ensure  
          that the benefits are limited to eligible households.

          In a December 2012 memo to federal agencies, the Center on  







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          Budget and Policy Priorities and the National Association for  
          the Education of Homeless Children and Youth provided details on  
          the numerous barriers unaccompanied homeless children and youth  
          face when trying to access SNAP benefits.  They include: 1) an  
          age requirement for eligibility; 2) a requirement that  
          applicants provide specific photo identification or permanent  
          address; 3) a requirement for unaccompanied youth to provide  
          parental information; and 4) a requirement that the youth  
          applies with the household where he or she may be staying  
          temporarily, even though the youth is purchasing and preparing  
          food separately.  While there is neither basis for, nor  
          authorization in federal or California state law for counties to  
          impose any of the aforementioned requirements, some local  
          agencies continue to deny CalFresh benefits to unaccompanied  
          homeless minors for these reasons.

          The commonly used definition of "homeless" elicits images of  
          people sleeping outside at night without any shelter.  However,  
          the definition under SNAP is much broader, taking into  
          consideration the many circumstances an individual without a  
          stable home may encounter.  The federal Food and Nutrition Act  
          of 2008, which established SNAP, defines "homeless individual"  
          as: 

               1)     An individual who lacks a fixed and regular  
                 nighttime residence; or 

               2)     An individual who has a primary nighttime residence  
                 that is-

                  a)        A supervised publicly or privately operated  
                    shelter (including a welfare hotel or congregate  
                    shelter) designed to provide temporary living  
                    accommodations; 
                  b)        An institution that provides a temporary  
                    residence for individuals intended to be  
                    institutionalized; 
                  c)        A temporary accommodation for not more than 90  
                    days in the residence of another individual; or 
                  d)        A public or private place not designed for, or  
                    ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation  
                    for human beings. 7 U.S.C 2012(m).

          While some homeless youth stay with other people temporarily,  
          others often find themselves in even more unstable and dangerous  







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          situations; in cars, abandoned buildings, on buses or in transit  
          stations, in budget motels, in and out of shelters, or outside.

          According to the California Research Bureau's Homeless Youth  
          Project (HYP), based on national survey estimates and  
          California's youth population, it is estimated that there are  
          200,000 youth under the age of 18 who are homeless in  
          California.  Because of the transient nature of many homeless  
          youth and difficulties in obtaining accurate local counts, the  
          actual number for the state is likely much higher.  

          California's homeless youth population includes youth who run  
          away from home, youth who are forced out of the home and  
          prevented from returning, youth who have been released from the  
          juvenile justice system without housing, and youth who have aged  
          out of the foster care system with inadequate or no family  
          connections.  HYP research explains that youth have episodes of  
          running away or leave permanently for a number of reasons.  The  
          most commonly cited reasons are abuse or neglect, alcohol or  
          drug addiction of a family member, rejection over sexual  
          orientation, and pregnancy.

          Unaccompanied homeless youth often lack supervision and access  
          to the resources and coordinated services that can help them  
          find and keep stable housing and strive toward self-sufficiency.  
           The social, emotional, medical, economic and personal  
          challenges they face can lead to ongoing and chronic cycles of  
          homelessness throughout their lifetime, and research has shown  
          that the unmet needs of homeless youth put them at a greater  
          risk of sickness, physical and sexual abuse, sexual  
          exploitation, alcohol and drug abuse, mental health  
          disabilities, and death. 
           
          Need for the bill:  
          According to sponsor of the bill, the National Association for  
          the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY), "CalFresh  
          workers sometimes expect unaccompanied homeless youth to provide  
          a stable address or parental signature and income information  
          even when the youth have been forced out of their homes and  
          receive no support from their parents."  The NAEHCY also  
          highlights the importance of good nutrition in helping youth  
          achieve success in school and employment, and states, "[AB 309]  
          will help ensure that vulnerable young people do not have to go  
          hungry or resort to dangerous, injurious behaviors in exchange  
          for food."







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          The author of the bill believes AB 309 will provide  
          unaccompanied homeless youth timely access to the CalFresh food  
          benefits they so desperately need, and it will clarify  
          California law to ensure that county implementation is properly  
          aligned with the intent of state and federal law.












































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           COMMENTS
           
          The sponsor brought forth this bill to address reports that  
          certain counties were not complying with state guidelines upon  
          receiving CalFresh applications from unaccompanied homeless  
          children and youth. In response to problems documented in one  
          particular county, the Department of Social Services is in the  
          process of writing an All-County Information Notice to clarify  
          state and federal law on the subject and provide guidance to all  
          counties. The author may still want to move forward with this  
          legislation to ensure that CalFresh statutes pertaining to  
          targeted services for California's homeless population  
          explicitly include parity for unaccompanied homeless children  
          and youth. 

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 

           National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and  
          Youth (sponsor)
          California Association of Food Banks
          California Catholic Conference of Bishops
          California Coalition for Youth (CCY)
          California Communities United Institute
          California Food Policy Advocates
          County Welfare Directors Association of CA (CWDA)
          National Association of Social Workers, CA Chapter (NASW-CA)
          San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD)
          Western Center on Law and Poverty

           Opposition 
           
          None on File
           
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Myesha Jackson / HUM. S. / (916)  
          319-2089