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State Acts to Boost Senior CalFresh Participation and Benefits

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4.20.2017 USDA recently approved two waiver requests submitted by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to streamline enrollment and increase benefits CalFresh households with seniors and/or disabled members. The Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP) and Standard Medical Deduction (SMD) demonstration project will be implemented simultaneously beginning October 1, 2017. The state should be commended for pursuing and securing this package of waivers, which are a major component of CDSS’s current initiatives to improve the low CalFresh participation rate among seniors.

The ESAP is designed to simplify the application and recertification processes by making three significant changes to the application and recertification requirements for households with only elderly (age 60 or older) and/or disabled household members with no earned income.

  • Waiving the recertification interview requirement
  • Making use of data matching to reduce clients’ verification burden
  • Extending the certification period to 36 months
  • These changes can help increase senior participation, improve the customer service experience, and enhance administrative efficiency.

    Read the All County Letter (ACL) implementing the ESAP. PDF

    The state will leverage the positive impacts of these policy changes by combining the ESAP with the adoption of a Standard Medical Deduction (SMD), also effective October 1, 2017. The SMD allows households with at least one elderly and/or disabled member who verify medical expenses of $35.01 or more to assume a standard deduction of $120. Households with medical expenses above $155 may continue to deduct actual expenses. It is anticipated that households with at least one elderly and/or disabled member new to CalFresh on or after October 1, 2017, or receiving CalFresh but not currently claiming the medical expense deduction and with verifiable expenses above $35.01, will experience an average benefit increase of $36 per month as a result of the $120 SMD. The average benefit increase among all CalFresh households with at least one elderly and/or disabled member, including those currently claiming the medical deduction, is estimated to be $22 per month.

    Participating households will continue to receive the standard medical deduction at subsequent recertification if they declare that their expenses continue to exceed $35 per month. Verification is not required at recertification unless questionable. In order to ensure the cost neutrality of this demonstration project, the Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) will offset by $3 on October 1, 2017, resulting in a minor benefit decrease across the CalFresh caseload.

    The SMD simplifies the application process for CalFresh participants by reducing the paperwork burden and reduces time that eligibility workers must spend verifying every expense.

    Read the All County Letter (ACL) implementing the SMD. PDF

    CDSS plans convene a broad group of nutrition and senior stakeholders in summer 2017 to plan and coordinate the October 1 rollout of these two significant policy changes. In designing a targeted outreach campaign, the state should seek to partner with senior-focused organizations, such as the state Department of Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, AARP, and others to help seniors learn about the benefits of CalFresh, and refer seniors to application assistance that can help maximize their CalFresh benefits under the ESAP and SMD projects.

    Learn more by reading CFPA’s report, Seniors and the CalFresh Medical Expense Deduction. PDF

    Read our two page summary of state strategies to increase CalFresh participation and benefits for seniors. PDF

    Learn more about efforts to improve CalFresh at CFPA's CalFresh page.

    Questions? Contact Jared Call at 213.482.8200 ext. 201