BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
                             Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair
                            2015 - 2016  Regular  Session

          SB 312 (Pan) - Public assistance:  personal interviews
          
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          |Version: April 23, 2015         |Policy Vote: HUMAN S. 3 - 1     |
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          |Urgency: No                     |Mandate: Yes                    |
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          |Hearing Date: May 11, 2015      |Consultant: Jolie Onodera       |
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          This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense File.




          Bill  
          Summary:  SB 312 would provide that county human services  
          agencies are required to conduct the required personal interview  
          with an applicant for CalWORKs benefits either by telephone or  
          through electronic means. This bill would provide that a  
          face-to-face interview shall be conducted if requested by an  
          applicant or recipient.


          Fiscal  
          Impact:  
            Interview via telephonic/electronic means  :  Potentially  
            significant future costs to county agencies to enable  
            interviews by telephone or through "electronic means". To the  
            extent county agencies incur up-front costs for equipment,  
            staffing, and/or training, these costs could potentially  
            qualify as a reimbursable state mandate (General Fund), as  
            county agencies are required to conduct interviews by one of  







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            these two methods. To the extent conducting interviews by  
            telephone or electronic means results in administrative  
            efficiencies, counties could realize significant future cost  
            savings.
            CalWORKs benefits  :  Potential increases and decreases in  
            CalWORKs benefits (General Fund) to the extent conducting  
            interviews by telephone or electronic means results in a  
            greater or lesser number of applications for aid granted. To  
            the extent this bill removes barriers to applying for and  
            being granted assistance, CalWORKs program costs could  
            increase. However, as this bill only provides for a  
            face-to-face interview upon applicant request, to the extent a  
            county cannot verify or clarify a condition of eligibility  
            through a face-to-face interview (as allowable for CalFresh),  
            additional applications that otherwise may have been approved  
            could potentially be denied.


          Background:  Existing law provides that no applicant shall be granted  
          CalWORKs benefits until he or she is first personally  
          interviewed by the office of the county department or state  
          staff for patients in state hospitals. Under existing law, if an  
          applicant is incapable of acting in his or her own behalf, the  
          county department shall verify this fact by personal contact  
          with the applicant before aid is authorized. (Welfare and  
          Institutions Code (WIC)  11052.5.)
          Existing state regulations require a face-to-face interview with  
          the applicant prior to the granting of aid. (DSS Manual of  
          Policy and Procedures 40-131.11.)




          Proposed Law:  
            This bill would require a county human services agency or  
          state staff for patients in state hospitals to conduct the  
          required personal interview with an applicant for CalWORKs  
          benefits either by telephone or through electronic means. This  
          bill would require a face-to-face interview if requested by an  
          applicant or recipient.


          Related  
          Legislation:  SB 297 (McGuire) 2015 would require DSS to  








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          establish an electronic signature storage hub to enable counties  
          to record telephonic and electronic signatures during a CalFresh  
          interview. This bill would also require county eligibility  
          workers to conduct a CalFresh application interview by  
          telephone, and would allow the interview be 
          Prior Legislation:  AB 1970 (Skinner) 2012 would have required  
          counties to use electronic methods of communication for the  
          application and recertification process in CalWORKs and CalFresh  
          upon applicant or recipient request, and would have established  
          alternatives to in-person interviews for applications and  
          redeterminations. This bill was held on the Suspense File of  
          this Committee.




          Staff  
          Comments:  This bill provides that the personal interview for a  
          CalWORKs applicant shall be conducted promptly following the  
          application for assistance and may be conducted by telephone or  
          electronic means. As drafted, the provisions of this measure  
          appear to restrict local agencies' ability to conduct  
          face-to-face interviews with CalWORKs applicants, with the  
          exception of upon applicant request. As a result, to the extent  
          county agencies incur up-front costs for equipment, staffing,  
          and/or training to implement the process of interviews via  
          telephone or electronic means, which is undefined, these costs  
          could potentially qualify as a reimbursable state mandate  
          (General Fund). Staff notes that to the extent conducting  
          interviews by telephone or electronic means results in  
          administrative efficiencies, counties could realize significant  
          future cost savings.
          The provisions of this bill could result in potential increases  
          and decreases in CalWORKs benefits of an unknown, but  
          potentially significant amount. To the extent conducting  
          interviews by telephone or electronic means results in  
          applicants receiving benefits sooner than they otherwise would  
          have under existing law due to the removal of existing barriers  
          to application, CalWORKs program costs could increase. However,  
          to the extent the restriction on face-to-face interviews only  
          upon applicant request prohibit a county from verifying or  
          clarifying a condition of eligibility through a face-to-face  
          interview (as allowable for CalFresh), additional applications  
          that otherwise may have been approved could potentially be  








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          denied.

          Recommended Amendments:  This bill amends Article 2  
          ("Applications") of Chapter 1 of Part 3 of Division 9 of WIC. As  
          this Article is specific to applications, staff recommends an  
          amendment to delete the reference to CalWORKs recipients.


          On page 3, in line 2, delete "or recipient". 




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