For Californians in need of food assistance, telephonic access to complete applications and redeterminations are necessary to helping them obtain and maintain vital food assistance. In particular, 2017 analysis from the SF-Marin Food Bank, “CalFresh Churn: What is it, and how do we fix it?” shows that “Statewide, one in five CalFresh applications received is from someone who was on CalFresh in the last 90 days.” This means that a significant number of households statewide are having trouble completing their mid-term reports and recertifications, resulting in them falling off the program and being forced to reapply.
Having a convenient and simple telephonic option to complete a recertification interview has potential to greatly reduce rates of churn, thus reducing administrative and client burden, and increasing the federal dollars flowing to low-income Californians to fight hunger.
According to the recent ACL 17-57 from CDSS, “the electronic signature provisions apply to the initial application, applications submitted at recertification, and periodic reports…” Using a Personal Identification Number (or PIN) over the phone qualifies as an electronic signature.
Electronic signature via a PIN number offers a unique solution that may allow counties to implement a telephonic option without most of the barriers associated with recorded verbal telephonic signatures. Using this type of electronic signature only requires that the SNAP administrator’s technology system be able to verify the keypad-typed authorization code and PIN, instead of recording and storing a lengthy verbal audio attestation. The PIN option could be used during a regular telephonic intake interview where an eligibility worker initiates a process to record the client entering their PIN number as an electronic signature.
An additional opportunity (and the focus of this report) is the option to automate the recertification process with an Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS). The IVRS process reviews a client’s case information and allows an applicant to confirm or update their case information using a keypad and entering a unique authorization number and PIN over the phone.
This report details the processes of the two known existing models of PIN signatures for SNAP recertification using an automated IVRS system. It offers compare/contrast analysis, sample scripts and business process summaries, and lists recommendations for federal, state, and county administers regarding implementation of the IVRS process for SNAP in California.
Implementing IVRS recertification could help reduce churn rates for populations with barriers to the internet, transportation barriers or poor health that limit their access to an eligibility office, or for people who struggle to connect with an eligibility worker during business hours.
We encourage state and county administrators to explore the option of expanding access to CalFresh, increasing food security, and reducing rates of churn by implementing a PIN electronic signature and automated IVRS recertification process for their households.