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AB 494 (Berman) signed: CalFresh access simplified in recognition of housing crisis

July 16, 2019

The law will help Californians, especially newly eligible SSI recipients, quickly access & maximize CalFresh benefits.

On July 12th, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 494 – authored by anti-hunger champion Assemblymember Marc Berman. The California Association of Food Banks was a co-sponsor of this legislation, in partnership with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and the Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations. Thank you to our many food bank members who sent in letters of support throughout the process – we would not have been able to pass this bill without your advocacy!

AB 494 will make a significant improvement to the experience of applying for CalFresh by allowing applicants to self-certify their housing costs, instead of requiring them to provide an official bill or document, unless the amount stated was questionable. This is a particularly critical issue for the 500,000 SSI recipients who face unlivable rent burdens, and are applying for CalFresh this year, because they can utilize the un-capped shelter deduction. SSI recipients, like any California senior or person with a disability, can deduct all of their housing costs when applying for CalFresh, making a simple verification process even more important to maximizing CalFresh benefits. In short, simplifying the housing verification process will help ensure that all applicants can receive benefits more quickly by lifting a verification burden, and it will help to ensure that SSI recipients receive the maximum CalFresh benefit to which they are entitled.

AB 494 continues our work to reduce senior hunger and fulfill the historic CalFresh expansion that reversed the 44 year-old “SSI cash-out” policy, achieved in 2018 with significant leadership from CAFB through the Californians for SSI coalition.

Because AB 494 was an “urgency” bill, the law will go into effect immediately, instead of at the beginning of next year, which we undertook specifically to aid the CalFresh Expansion to SSI recipients. Our research showed a variety of current practices to verify housing costs, so AB 494 is a key opportunity to streamline verifications across the state, and we are already preparing to assist the Department of Social Services and counties to implement the law. In the coming weeks, the state will be providing guidance to counties about the new law, and how to implement it locally. We encourage you to stay in touch with your county’s CalFresh division about how they will implement this and make any necessary changes to their business process.

Please reach out to our Policy team if you have questions, and share stories about how AB 494 has improved CalFresh access in your county: Becky Gershon, Advocacy Manager (becky@cafoodbanks.org)

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