Looking Back on Last Year’s Legislative CalFresh Wins

 This post summarizes two important CalFresh Bills signed into law in 2016: SB1232 and AB1747

 

SB1232 is related to the use of The Work Number, a consumer credit report data base that counties may use to obtain information related to a person’s earnings, wages, hours worked and credit history. Often used to identify possible fraud, this database may also be used to verify income information for applicants and recipients. SB 1232 ensures that clients are informed by the county of their rights and able to correct erroneous information in The Work Number or other consumer credit reports.

 

The bill was written in part to address instances where Californians have been accused of fraud, and even faced time in jail, based on erroneous information obtained via The Work Number and where the applicant/recipient was not informed of their right under federal law to dispute the information. This bill is intended to address these issues by ensuring client’s rights to know that the report was used, to get a copy of the report and to correct information in the report.

 

Specifically, the bill requires:

  • That counties obtain written authorization from applicants/recipients in order to access their data via The Work Number;
  • Applicants/recipients to be informed of their rights when an adverse action is taken based on information obtained via The Work Number. This means that if an applicant/recipient’s benefits are reduced or terminated based on their profile in the Work Number they must be: given notice regarding the information on which the determination was based.
  • Applicants/recipients must be informed of their right to dispute the information, their right to obtain a free copy of their credit report and their right to obtain from the county human services department their case file including the consumer credit report.
  • Counties who use the information obtained in The Work Number cannot “require the applicant/recipient to submit hard copy documentation that is duplicative of the information obtained via the consumer credit report” unless the client disputes the information in the report or it is otherwise questionable.

County advocates can ensure SB1232 is implemented by:

  • Confirming that your county has implemented the required language used to request permission from and inform applicants/recipients of their rights related to the usage of the Work Number.
  • Talking to your clients about the use of The Work Number. They should know how to obtain their free credit report and review it for errors. They should file an appeal and submit accurate verifications in the instance that the county obtains incorrect information via the Work Number.

 

For more information, the ACL is available here and the SB1232 bill language is available here.

 

 

AB1747: Restaurant Meals, CalFresh Outreach and the Emergency Food Assistance Fund (ACL 16-112)

 

Homeless, disabled and elderly college students who struggle with hunger have faced the additional barrier of being unable to use their EBT cards on campus where they may be spending most of their day. Though they may have CalFresh, the funds are, in effect, unavailable to them without an authorized location that can accept their CalFresh benefits in exchange for food, thus contributing even further to hunger and malnutrition among college students.

 

AB1747 seeks to remedy this barrier by requiring that all public and private 2- and 4-year colleges and universities in counties that operate the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) become an authorized food vendor. AB 1747 also requires that these education institutions “provide contracting food vendors with information about the RMP.” For a list of the colleges currently required to comply with this section of the new law, see the Western Center on Law and Poverty’s AB 1747 Implementation Guide.

 

Separate from the RMP, the law has two other requirements. One is the establishment of a Public Higher Education Pantry Assistance Account within the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Program Fund, which, upon the appropriation of funding by the legislature, would allocate money to food banks that operate food pantries on college campuses. The second is a requirement for CDSS to act as the state entity for CalFresh Outreach activity reimbursement on behalf of state education institutions or other state and local agencies (previously CDSS was only allowed to contract with nonprofits).

 

Advocates in RMP counties can support the implementation of AB-1747 by:

  • Reaching out to their counties to encourage them to engage with local education institutions to comply with the law;
  • Connecting with their local colleges and universities to offer support in complying with the law;
  • Educating your clients who are RMP eligible and may be college students that they may be able to use their EBT cards on campus. Students can also request their school comply with the law if they haven’t already.

 

For advocates in counties that have not authorized the RMP program, you can connect with your county to discuss the importance of food access for college students and how implementing the RMP would bring additional dollars to your region and support low income homeless, disabled or elderly CalFresh recipients complete their degree and become more self-sufficient.

 

For more information, the ACL is available here and the AB1747 bill language is available here.