BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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

          Bill No:              SB 1373
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          |Author:   |Stone                                                 |
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          |Version:  |February 19, 2016      |Hearing    |March 29, 2016   |
          |          |                       |Date:      |                 |
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          |Urgency:  |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant|Taryn Smith                                           |
          |:         |                                                      |
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             Subject:  CalWORKs:  welfare-to-work:  supportive services

            
          SUMMARY
          
          This bill requires that a standard allowance for transportation  
          costs be advanced to a Welfare-to-Work participant at the  
          beginning of each month in an amount that is equal to the cost  
          of a monthly pass for the county public transit system, or if a  
          county does not have a public transit system, in the amount of  
          $100 per month. It also requires that a participant who has been  
          assigned to an educational activity in a postsecondary school  
          receive a standard allowance of $500 for books and supplies,  
          adjusted annually as specified, at least 15 days before the  
          start of the semester. The bill authorizes the participant to  
          opt out of these standard allowances at any time and make a  
          reimbursement claim for actual costs, as specified. 


            ABSTRACT
          Existing law:

             1)   Establishes the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy  
               Families (TANF) program, which permits states to implement  
               the program under a state plan. (42 USC  601 et seq.)


             2)   Establishes in state law the California Work Opportunity  
               and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program to provide  
               cash assistance and other social services for low-income  







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               families through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy  
               Families (TANF) program. Under CalWORKs, each county  
               provides assistance through a combination of state, county  
               and federal TANF funds. (WIC 10530)


             3)   Generally requires a recipient of CalWORKs benefits to  
               participate in welfare-to-work activities as a condition of  
               eligibility for aid. (WIC 11320 et. seq.)


             4)   Requires that necessary supportive services be available  
               to participants in welfare-to-work activities, including  
               transportation costs and ancillary expenses, which include  
               the cost of books, as provided in the welfare-to-work plan  
               entered into between the county and participant (WIC  
               11323.2)


             5)   Requires that payments for supportive services shall be  
               advanced to the participant, wherever necessary, and when  
               desired by the participant, so that the participant need  
               not use his or her funds to pay for these services. (WIC  
               11323.4(a))


          





          This bill:


             1.   Requires that a standard allowance for transportation  
               costs be advanced to a participant at the beginning of each  
               month in an amount that is equal to the cost of a monthly  
               pass for the county public transit system, or if a county  
               does not have a public transit system, in the amount of  
               $100 per month. 


             2.   Allows that a participant is entitled to opt out of the  








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               standard allowance at any time and make a reimbursement  
               claim for the actual costs of transportation, and may  
               submit this claim to the county by mail, in person, or via  
               the county's Internet Web site.


             3.   Requires that a participant who has been assigned to an  
               educational activity in a postsecondary school receive a  
               standard allowance of $500 for books and supplies, adjusted  
               annually as specified, at least 15 days before the start of  
               the semester. 


             4.   Requires that the standard allowance be adjusted  
               annually for inflation according to the California Consumer  
               Price Index. 


             5.   Authorizes the participant to opt out of these standard  
               allowances at any time and make a reimbursement claim for  
               actual costs, and to submit this claim to the county by  
               mail, in person, or via the county's Internet Web site. 


             6.   Authorizes CDSS to implement this act through an  
               all-county letter or similar instruction from the director  
               no later than April 1, 2017.


          
            FISCAL IMPACT
          
          This bill has not been analyzed by a fiscal committee.


            BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION
          
          Purpose of the bill:

          According to the author, CalWORKs recipients who are  
          participating in Welfare-to-Work (WTW) activities sometimes have  
          to "dip into their fixed incomes" to pay for transportation  
          costs to and from their WTW activities.  According to the  
          author, "It can be weeks and sometimes months before ancillary  








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          payments are issued to pay for the books required by college  
          instructors." SB 1373 would facilitate advance payments to WTW  
          participants for their transportation and textbook costs. 

          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) according to the national  
          Supplemental Poverty Measure.  According to California Public  
          Policy Institute, 23.9% of California's children were living in  
          poverty in 2013. These families earn no more than $20,160 per  
          year for a family of three.  During and after the Great  
          Recession, California saw growing rates of childhood deep  
          poverty - those living below 50 percent of the federal poverty  
          line. One of California's most essential anti-poverty strategies  
          is the CalWORKs program, which provides cash assistance to  
          approximately 540,000 families - including more than 1 million  
          children, according to 2014 federal data. 

          CalWORKs implements the federal TANF program in California.  In  
          addition to temporary cash assistance to meet basic family  
          needs, CalWORKs provides education, employment and training  
          programs. CDSS is the designated state agency responsible for  
          program supervision at the state level.  The counties are  
          responsible for administering the caseloads at the local level.   
          The CalWORKs program is funded with a mix of federal, state, and  
          county funds. 

          State law provides for a cumulative 48-month lifetime limit on  
          cash aid for adults.  During those 48 months, adults may receive  
          a total of 24 months of Welfare-to-Work (WTW) services and  
          activities.  WTW activities include subsidized and unsubsidized  
          employment, community service, adult basic education, community  
          college, job skills, training, mental health counseling,  
          substance abuse treatment and other activities necessary to  
          assist recipients in obtaining employment. Once the 24 months of  
          WTW activities have been exhausted, adults must meet the  
          stricter federal work participation requirements (20, 30, or 35  
          hours weekly, depending on family composition) unless they are  
          exempt or receive an extension. 

          In order to be eligible for CalWORKs, families must meet income  
          and asset tests. In addition, children must be deprived of  








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          parental support and care due to the incapacity, death or  
          absence of apparent or unemployment of the principal  
          wage-earner.  Persons fleeing to avoid prosecution, custody or  
          confinement after conviction of a felony are not eligible for  
          CalWORKs. Per the 2016-2017 Governor's budget, the average  
          monthly grant for a CalWORKs household is $497.35 and the  
          maximum aid payment for a family of three is $704, or 42 percent  
          of FPL.

          Supportive Services for WTW Participants

          Under current law, payments for supportive services (including  
          costs for textbooks and transportation) "shall be advanced to  
          the participant, wherever necessary, and when desired by the  
          participant, so that the participant need not use his or her  
          funds to pay for these services." Expenses for transportation  
          can include but are not limited to gas for a vehicle, a bus  
          pass, taxi fare, parking costs, etc., necessary to complete WTW  
          activities.  Ancillary services are books, tools and other  
          expenses related to welfare-to-work activities.   These expenses  
          are reimbursed at the actual costs and there is no cap.  While  
          SB 1373 doesn't institute a cap, it would provide upfront funds  
          and also allow recipient households to be reimbursed for costs  
          exceeding those upfront costs. 

          CDSS activity reports show there were 162,617 WTW households in  
          January 2016.  Of those households, 56,575 received assistance  
          for transportation and 13,778 received assistance for ancillary  
          services. 

          According to the sponsor and the department, there is no  
          statewide standard for requesting, processing and issuing  
          advance payments for supportive services.  Additionally, there  
          is no data on how often such advance payments are made or the  
          dollar amount paid.

          Related legislation:

          AB 492 (Gonzalez and Gomez, 2016) would provide diaper-needs  
          benefit in the amount of $50.00 per month for diapers for every  
          child two years of age or younger enrolled in child care. 

            
          COMMENTS








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          The author requests the following amendments: 

          Amendment #1: 
          
          In order to simplify and make uniform the advance for  
          transportation costs: 

          11323.2(a)(2)(B) A standard allowance for transportation costs  
          shall be issued in advance to a participant at the beginning of  
          each month in an amount  that is equal to the cost of a monthly  
          pass for the county public transit system. If a county does not  
          have a public transit system, the participant shall receive   of   
          one hundred dollars ($100) per month. A participant is entitled  
          to opt out of the standard allowance at any time and make a  
          reimbursement claim for the actual costs of transportation, and  
          may submit this claim to the county by mail, in person, or via  
          the county's Internet Web site  if the county already has the  
          technological capacity to do so .

          Amendment #2:
          
          In order to differentiate payments for full-time versus  
          part-time students: 

          11322.2 (a)(3) (B) A participant who has been assigned to an  
          educational activity  full-time as defined by the   in a   
          postsecondary school shall receive a standard allowance of five  
          hundred dollars ($500)  and $250 for part-time student as defined  
          by the postsecondary school no later than  15 days before the  
          start of the semester to ensure that the participant has the  
          funds necessary to purchase books and supplies required by the  
          educational institution. The standard allowance shall be  
          adjusted annually for inflation according to the California  
          Consumer Price Index. A participant is entitled to opt out of  
          the standard allowance at any time and make a reimbursement  
          claim for the actual costs of books and supplies, and may submit  
          this claim to the county by mail, in person, or via the county's  
          Internet Web site  , if the county already has the capacity to do  
          so  .
          


            POSITIONS








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          Support:  
               Coalition of Welfare Rights Organizations (Sponsor)
               Western Center on Law and Poverty (Sponsor)
               Courage Campaign
               Food for People
               National Association of Social Workers
               


          Oppose:
               None received.

                                      -- END --