Good news for eligibility workers (EWs). Denial of at least certain instances of of Cal Fresh due to suspension of State Supplemental Payments may soon end.
In other words, soon Cal Fresh applicants or recipients who are currently found ineligible because the Social Security Administration has suspended but not terminated Supplemental Security Income-SSI (and with it California’s State Supplemental Payment-SSP) will again be able to receive benefits. Remember the idea behind Cal Fresh ineligibility for SSP recipients was that the SSP itself was meant to act as cash for nutritional supplements and thus those clients receiving SSP do not receive CalFresh as well.
But those clients with SSI/SSP in suspension were not receiving this supplement yet remained ineligible for CalFresh benefits. Something was (and still is) very wrong with that.
Thankfully, as is often the case with Social Services, the legal system came in and fixed something that was blatantly unfair.
July 11, 2016 – U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar of the Northern District of California, invalidating a 37-year-old U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulation, ruled on July 1, 2016 that Californians with suspended SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits are e(1ntitled to receive SNAP (food stamp) assistance.
Hector Riojas, the plaintiff in Riojas v. Vilsak, was homeless and residing in Humboldt County. He received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) food benefits and subsequently applied for SSI disability benefits. SSI (Supplemental Security Income) provides support for aged, blind and disabled individuals who are poor. In California, SSI recipients also receive a small amount of money as a replacement for SNAP benefits and so are ineligible for SNAP.
For confessed eligibility wonks like me, the court’s decision makes for fascinating and relatively short (15 pages) reading. And yes you read that right, the plaintiff is (or was) a Humboldt County resident.
Unfortunately, change isn’t immediate for the county Social Services Departments (such as Humboldt’s DHHS). Here is the language from this letter to County Social Services Branch Directors from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS)
The purpose of this letter is to inform counties of the outcome of the case. Counties do not need to take any action at this time as CDSS is awaiting guidance from USDA. CDSS will issue an All County Letter (ACL) with more information to bring California into compliance with the ruling as soon as possible.
So, in this case the system is working and the hard work of discovering that something is wrong is done. Now comes the administrative work of making sure eligibility workers get the chance to do their job as eligibility, rather than ineligibility, workers.
I’m not sure who to pressure to make this right quicker, whether it would be your county Supervisor (to pressure the DHHS), our CA representatives such as State Senator McGuire or Assembly-member Wood (to pressure the CDSS administrators) or our US Representative Congressman Huffman (to pressure the USDA). But if this is something you care about, let them know so line eligibility workers can begin doing the right thing.
Footnotes and Definitions:
(1) Suspended vs Non-Pay vs Terminated SSI payments. (see link – it’s long and in the weeds)
(2) What is the State Supplemental Payment (SSP)
This is the amount that a state may add to the national Federal Benefit Rate (FBR). California’s State Supplemental Payment is $156.40. Combined with the Federal Benefit Rate of $733, this allows an individual a total benefit of $889.40. The FBR for a couple is $1,100, while the SSP for a couple is $396.20. The maximum benefit for a couple is $1,496.20.
Some states that provide a State Supplement Payment, including California, have arranged with Social Security to combine their supplemental payments with the federal payment. There are other states that provide State Supplemental Payments and manage their own programs. These states may require an additional application.
Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a form of Social Security Disability benefit which is paid out based upon your inability to work and your financial needs. SSI differs from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is based upon your work history and the amount you have paid into the Social Security Disability program in the form of payroll taxes.
Both Social Security Disability programs (SSI and SSDI) are administered by the Social Security Administration, and the application process for both programs is similar. Generally speaking, the programs will approve or deny your claim based on the same medical criteria. The main difference is that SSI does not require you to have worked or paid into the Social Security Disability system, focusing instead on your financial need.
The main difference between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income is the revenue source through which they are funded. SSDI is funded through FICA and Social Security taxes. SSI is not financed through Social Security, but rather through general tax revenues.
Disclaimer. The views here are my own and not those of my employer (Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services). I have used information obtained on my own and publicly available to compose this post. This information is not meant for individuals to determine their own eligibility but as general program information.