BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES
                               Senator McGuire, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:              AB 433
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          |Author:   |Chu                                                   |
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          |Version:  |March 26, 2015         |Hearing    | July 14, 2015   |
          |          |                       |Date:      |                 |
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          |Urgency:  |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant|Mareva Brown                                          |
          |:         |                                                      |
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                     Subject:  Public social services: CalWORKs.


            SUMMARY
          
          This bill requires that CalWORKs benefits be continued for a  
          child who dies until the end of the month following the death,  
          and prohibits sanctions from being applied in that time period  
          for a grieving parent's failure to comply with program  
          requirements. The bill also requires a county to assist a  
          grieving parent in accessing appropriate services and to provide  
          information to the grieving parent about mental health services,  
          as specified.


            ABSTRACT
          
          Existing law:
          
             1)   Establishes under federal law the Temporary Assistance  
               for Needy Families (TANF) program to provide aid and  
               welfare-to-work services to eligible families and, in  
               California, administers TANF funds through the California  
               Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)  
               program. (42 U.S.C. 601 et seq., WIC 11200 et seq.)

             2)   Establishes income, asset and real property limits used  
               to determine eligibility for the program, including net  
               income below the Maximum Aid Payment (MAP), based on family  
               size and county of residence, which is around 40 percent of  







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               the Federal Poverty Level. (WIC 11450, 11150 et seq.)

             3)   Establishes a 48-month lifetime limit of CalWORKs  
               benefits for eligible adults, including 24 months during  
               which a recipient must meet federal work requirements in  
               order to retain eligibility. (WIC 11454, 11322.85)

             4)   Requires all individuals over 16 years of age, unless  
               they are otherwise exempt, to participate in  
               welfare-to-work activities as a condition of eligibility  
               for CalWORKs. (WIC 11320.3, 11322.6)

             5)   Establishes the number of weekly hours of  
               welfare-to-work participation necessary to remain eligible  
               for aid, including requirements for an unemployed parent in  
               a two-parent assistance unit, as specified. (WIC 11322.8) 

             6)    Subjects an individual receiving CalWORKs benefits to a  
               financial sanction, as specified, when he or she does not  
               meet program requirements without good cause, and  
               establishes a corrective action process, which includes  
               communication between the county and the individual. (WIC  
               11327.4, 11327.5)

             7)   Requires a county to excuse a CalWORKs recipient from  
               welfare-to-work participation for good cause when the  
               county has determined the recipient has a condition or is  
               faced with a circumstance that temporarily prevents or  
               significantly impairs the recipient's ability to be  
               regularly employed or to participate in welfare-to-work  
               activities. Requires a county welfare department to review  
               a good cause determination to establish its continuing  
               appropriateness, as specified, no less than every three  
               months, and requires a recipient that has been granted good  
               cause to provide information to the county, including  
               written documentation, as required, to complete the review.  
               (WIC 11320.3(f))

             8)   Requires a family's aid be calculated based on the  
               number of needy of family members, as specified, including  
               aid for a pregnant, childless woman. (WIC 11450 et seq.)
          
          This bill:









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             1)   Prohibits the levying of sanctions for a grieving  
               parent's failure or refusal to comply with program  
               requirements during the month in which a child in the  
               assistance unit died, or the following month.

             2)   Requires a county upon receiving notification of the  
               death of a child in a CalWORKs assistance unit to do the  
               following: 

                  a.        Assist a grieving parent in accessing services  
                    for which the parent may be eligible. These services  
                    may include, but are not limited to, nutrition  
                    supplement programs, housing assistance, and other  
                    cash aid programs.
                  b.        Provide information to the grieving parent  
                    about mental health services, including, but not  
                    limited to, information about, and a referral to,  
                    services provided by the county human services agency,  
                    if appropriate.

             3)   Defines "grieving parent" to mean an aided adult who is  
               required to participate in welfare-to-work activities and  
               who experiences the death of a child in his or her  
               assistance unit.

             4)   Requires that, for purposes of determining a family's  
               maximum aid payment, the number of needy persons in the  
               same family shall not be decreased because of the death of  
               a child in the assistance unit for the month in which the  
               death occurred, or the following month.

             5)   Requires that any aid paid to a family experiencing a  
               death of a child shall not be deemed an overpayment unless  
               the county determines, as specified, that the assistance  
               unit would have been subject to overpayment recovery, and  
               the county would have sought recovery, even if the child  
               had not died.

             6)   Requires the state to reimburse local agencies if the  
               Commission on State Mandates determines this bill contains  
               state-mandated costs, as defined.











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            FISCAL IMPACT
          
          According to an Assembly Appropriations Committee analysis, this  
          bill will have ongoing costs of less than $70,000 (GF) annually  
          to provide grant aid to affected families in the month of the  
          child's death and the month after, that otherwise would not have  
          been provided. Additionally, the analysis projected unknown and  
          likely minor increased grant costs for sanctions not applied in  
          the month of the child's death and the month after, unknown  
          automation costs and unknown, likely minor, administrative and  
          other costs to counties which may require state reimbursement.

            BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION
          
          Purpose of the bill:

          When a child in a CalWORKs recipient family dies, an aided  
          parent may be eligible for a good cause exemption from  
          welfare-to-work requirements, but the exemption has to be  
          requested during what is a traumatic and stressful time,   
          according to the author. Under current law, there is no  
          requirement for counties to accommodate CalWORKs recipient  
          parents who have lost a child. While a good cause exemption for  
          a parent not meeting welfare-to-work requirements might apply  
          while a parent is grieving, the exemption can be applied at the  
          discretion of the county, meaning there's no automatic mechanism  
          in the program to allow the parent time to grieve, the author  
          states. 

          Additionally, the loss of a child while a family is receiving  
          CalWORKs benefits leads to a reduction in the family's grant  
          amount and results in the loss of CalWORKs eligibility  
          altogether, if there is no longer an aided child in the  
          household.  The author states this bill will help ensure that a  
          CalWORKs recipient family does not endure further financial  
          hardship for a short period of time following the loss of a  
          child, regardless of whether an aided parent in the family meets  
          welfare-to-work requirements while he or she is grieving.
          
          TANF and CalWORKs

          California has the highest poverty rate in the nation - just  
          under one-quarter of residents are living at or below the  
          federal poverty level (FPL). These families earn no more than  








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          $20,090 per year for a family of three. One of California's most  
          essential anti-poverty strategies is the CalWORKs program, which  
          provided cash assistance to approximately 540,000 families in  
          2014, including more than 1 million children. Nearly 80 percent  
          of the children are under age twelve and almost 40 percent are  
          under age five. Federal funding for CalWORKs comes from the TANF  
          block grant.


          A grant to a family of three in a high-cost California county is  
          $704 per month, or $8,448 per year, which is approximately 42  
          percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). This grant  
          translates to $23.46 per day, per family, or $7.82 per family  
          member, per day to meet basic needs, including rent, clothing,  
          utility bills, food, and anything else a family needs to ensure  
          children can be cared for at home and safely remain with their  
          families. 


          In 1989, a similar CalWORKs grant was worth about 81 percent of  
          FPL, and 55 percent in 1997. Part of the reason for this decline  
          has been a series of changes over the past five years including  
          significant grant cuts, the elimination of a Cost of Living  
          Adjustment, and a major restructuring of the welfare-to-work  
          activities, requirements and time limits. At the same time the  
          value of the grant has decreased, the program has changed adult  
          eligibility from a 60-month lifetime limit to a 48-month limit,  
          with strict requirements on work participation to remain in the  
          program after 24 months.


          Assistance calculation 

          Benefits for the CalWORKs program are established in statute,  
          and calculated based on the number of needy family members,  
          special needs of any family members, income and assets. Statute  
          requires that benefits be paid to a pregnant woman, who  
          qualifies for aid and prohibits benefits be paid for a child who  
          was born within 10 months of a family's commencement of  
          benefits, per the Maximum Family Grant, or MFG, rule.

          Sanctions and Good cause exemptions

          CalWORKs participants who fail to meet welfare-to-work  








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          requirements face financial sanctions. Specifically, sanctions  
          can be imposed if a participant fails or refuses to comply with  
          a CalWORKs requirement, to agree to a welfare-to-work plan, show  
          proof of satisfactory progress in an agreed-upon activity, or to  
          quit or refuse a job without a good reason for doing so. If  
          efforts at conciliation are unsuccessful, one or both parents  
          can be excluded from the assistance budget for a specified time.

          Counties are required to excuse CalWORKs recipients from  
          participation in a welfare-to-work activity if the county  
          determines that a condition or other circumstance exists that  
          temporarily prevents or significantly impairs a recipient's  
          ability to be regularly employed or to participate in  
          welfare-to-work activities. Counties may grant good cause  
          exemption for a number of reasons, including a lack of necessary  
          supportive services, a lack of access to child care or that the  
          recipient is a victim of domestic violence. Because statute does  
          not limit the reasons for an exemption, counties could grant a  
          good cause exemption for a parent who has suffered the loss of a  
          child. 

          Child deaths

          CDSS does not have data on the number of children who die each  
          year while participating in the  CalWORKs program. However, the  
          Assembly Appropriations committee projected an estimate based on  
          California's child mortality rate of 14/100,000, and studies  
          that indicate that low-income children die at higher rates than  
          other children. Assuming a mortality rate of up to twice the  
          state rate, up to 280 children would die each year. 

            COMMENTS
          
          Current statute requires a change in household composition for a  
          CalWORKs assistance unit that includes an adult to be reported  
          semi-annually, with no penalty for overpayment if there are  
          changes in the number of family members during that time. Should  
          this bill pass this committee, staff recommends the author  
          consider whether there are implications for the family's  
          eligibility in this or other programs related to the reporting  
          of a death in CalWORKs. 

            PRIOR VOTES
          








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          |Assembly Floor:                                            |     |
          |                                                           |74-0 |
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          |Assembly Appropriations Committee:                         |17 - |
          |                                                           |0    |
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          |Assembly Human Services Committee:                         |  7  |
          |                                                           |- 0  |
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            POSITIONS
                                          
          Support:       
               Western Center on Law and Poverty (Sponsor)
               California Alternative Payment Program Association
               California Black Health Network
               California Catholic Conference of Bishops
               California Communities United
               California Immigrant Policy Center
               Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations
               Courage Campaign 
               Friends Committee on Legislation in California 
               March of Dimes Foundation
               National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter
               St. Anthony Foundation

          Oppose:
               None received.


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