71. Non-compliance with a work or program requirement
- Voluntary quit or reducing work effort
- Substitute work program sanctions
- CalWORKs Welfare To Work program requirement sanctions
- Good cause
- Disqualification notice
- Length of sanctions, Notice and Effect
- Ending a disqualification
The CalFresh program has various sanctions (benefit loss/reduction) that occur for work-related failures. These sanctions do not apply to any applicant or recipient who meets one of the exemptions from work requirements.
When recipients do not comply with mandatory work requirements or voluntarily quits a job, without good cause, they are disqualified from food stamps and considered ineligible household members. [MPP §§ 63-407.5 and 63-407.86; 7 C.F.R. §§ 273.1(b)(7) (ineligible household member provisions) and 273.7(f) (disqualification provisions).]
Recipients can also be sanctioned for failing to comply with “substitute” work programs. This includes any person assigned a mandatory CalFresh work requirement who is sanctioned by a refugee or general assistance/general relief (GA/GR) work program. [MPP § 63-407.54; see ACL 10-11 and 12-03, however, for impact on sister program failure on deferred and voluntary CalFresh work participants.] Recipients also receive CalFresh sanctions for CalWORKs welfare to work failures.
The length of the sanction depends on the number of work requirement violations. The county must issue a specific disqualification notice. After serving the required length of sanction, the recipient must also end the disqualification.
Voluntary quit or reducing work effort
Food stamp applicants and recipients, unless exempt or deferred from work registration and participation, may not voluntarily quit a job or reduce earning without good cause. [MPP § 63-408.3; 7 C.F.R. §273.7(j).] This sanction only applies if the job was for 30 or more hours a week, or the pay was equal to 30 hours at minimum wage. [MPP § 63-408.1; 7 C.F.R. §§273.7(a)(1)(vii) and (j)(2)(i).]
“Voluntary quit” is defined at 63-408.11. The “quit” penalty is not imposed if the person quits, gets a new job, and then subsequently loses the job through no fault of the recipient. [MPP § 63-408.112; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(i)(3)(vii).] Ceasing self-employment is not considered a voluntary quit. [MPP § 63-408.111; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(j)(3)(ii).]
Regardless whether the application is for expedited (emergency) or regular food stamps, the county is not to delay the processing of the application, pending a “voluntary-quit” or “reduction-of-work-effort” good cause determination.
If the county finds that the applicant voluntarily quit without good cause within 60 days of the application, or during the application processing time period, it will impose the sanction by denying the application or reducing the benefits. (See Length of Sanctions, below.)
Substitute work program sanctions
The regulations provide that for the substitute work programs, a recipient can get a CalFresh penalty based on a failure to meet program requirements in the cash aid work program. [MPP § 63-407.242, 407.54; ACL 10-11.] (See, Length of Sanction section below.) Currently, other than for a CalWORKS welfare to work failures (see section below), FSET work program sanctions can only occur if the FSET assignment is mandatory. Counties must work register applicants/recipients, but after that all assignments can be voluntary. See ACL 10-11.
For purposes of the substitute program regulations, DSS considers only GA-GR and refugee work programs to be the substitute programs. Sanctions occur if the person is sanctioned for failing to comply with the work requirements of a non-CalWORKs welfare-to-work ((GA-GR or refugee program) assignment, if the assignment was also a mandatory Food Stamp Employment and Training (FSET) assignment. [7 C.F.R. § 273.7(f)(7); ACL 10-11 (clarifying MPP § 63-407.541) with regard to voluntary participants.] All that matters for CalFresh sanction purposes, however, is whether there is a mandatory FSET assignment to one of the substitute programs. The issue is not whether the cash aid program mandates the work program as a condition of eligibility for cash aid, but rather whether the person is also required to do the program as a mandatory FSET assignment. If the substitute work program assignment that was not a mandatory FSET assignment, there is no food stamp sanction.
Also, if the person meets a work registration exemption or deferral, the food stamp sanction will not be applied, or if already applied, will end.
Example 1: Bill is a GA recipient and a food stamp work registrant, but lives in a county that does not offer FSET. He fails to participate in a GA work assignment and receives a GA sanction. A food stamp sanction should not also be imposed along with the GA sanction.
Example 2: Linda is an FSET participant and is participating in unsupervised job search as her mandatory FSET activity. Unsupervised job search is not a GA component in her county. She also receives GA and has to participate in workfare as a condition of eligibility for GA. Linda fails to comply with GA workfare and a GA sanction is imposed. Food stamps will not be discontinued as Linda has not failed to comply with a mandatory FSET requirement. Linda must continue to participate in FSET job search as a condition of food stamp eligibility.
FNS has clarified that the “comparable disqualification” (from a needs-based-cash aid program) can only occur only if the household member is getting the cash aid and SNAP (i.e. GA/GR and CalFresh) at the time the disqualification for the cash aid program is imposed. FNS Memo: Clarification of Comparable Disqualification.
Once penalized, the individual can reapply when exempt or the penalty period has expired. [MPP § 63-408.22(b)(1) and (c); 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(g).] Note however, that if the individual is part of an aided CalFresh household, and the fixed period sanction time has expired, the county should automatically add the person back into the household/allotment. (See, for e.g., the Lopez instructions.) CDSS has not yet issued instructions regarding this, though.
CalWORKs Welfare To Work program requirements sanctions
If the recipient is a mandatory CalWORKs welfare to work participant, they will also have a CalFresh sanction if they are sanctioned for welfare to work, unless they meet a CalFresh work registration exemption (such as child under 6). [MPP § 63-407.54]. FNS has clarified that the “comparable disqualification” can only occur if the household member is getting both cash aid and food benefits (i.e. CalWORKs and CalFresh) at the time the disqualification for the cash aid program is imposed. FNS Memo: Clarification of Comparable Disqualification.
The definition of “good cause” is set out at MPP § 63-408.4. It includes:
- circumstances beyond the registrant’s control, such as illness, illness of another household member requiring the presence of the registrant, a household emergency, the unavailability of transportation, or problems caused by inability of the registrant to speak or write English;
- resigning from an unsuitable job (including one which illegally discriminates, imposes unreasonable work demands or schedules);
- acceptance by the individual of employment, or enrollment of at least half-time in any recognized school, training program or institution of higher education that requires the individual to leave employment;
- acceptance by any other household member of employment or enrollment at least half-time in any recognized school, training program or institution of higher education in another county or state which requires the household to move and thereby requires the work registrant to leave employment;
- resignations by persons under the age of 60 which are recognized by the employer as retirement;
- Acceptance of a bona fide offer of employment of 30 hours or more a week or at the equivalent wages, when, because of circumstances beyond the control of the individual, the job either does not materialize or results in fewer hours of employment;
- lack of adequate child care arrangements for a registrant’s children between six and 12 years old.
If the child is older than 13, but is unable to be left alone because of an impairment or is under court supervision, the exemption would also apply, since that is the standard for dependent care in food stamps.
Caution: Being dismissed from a government job because of a strike does not constitute “good cause.” [MPP §63-408.42.]
Within ten days of discovering the recipient did not have good cause for the non-compliance, the county is required to issue the notice of disqualification. [MPP § 63-407.52. The notice must list a description of the act of non-compliance; identify the minimum length of the food stamp disqualification; and specify that if at any time the individual becomes exempt from work requirements the disqualification shall end and the individual may reapply. The county must also inform the recipient, in the disqualification notice or a notice sent with it, the action that can be taken to avoid the ineligibility before the disqualification period begins. The disqualification notice must state that the individual, if otherwise eligible, may apply for food stamp benefits at the end of the disqualification period.
Length of sanctions, Notice, and Effect
The sanction will result in the deny the individual's application or a reduction to reflect the individual's benefits for one, three or six months, for the first, second and subsequent violations respectively. [MPP §§ 63-407.53; and 63-408.213 (Voluntary quit penalty); 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(j)(1) and (3)(vi).] (Note: These are the penalties for work program failures only; the CalFresh penalties based on non-work program failures is to not increase the Cal Fresh benefits when the household’s benefits from a means tested cash aid program has been reduced due to a substantive failure to comply with a requirement of that program. [MPP §63-503.71; 7 C.F.R. § 273.11(j).])
If a household of one, the person will be terminated. The sanctioned individual is treated as an ineligible household member, if there are others in the household. For more details about the treatment of the income and resources of ineligible household members, see the section about people who cannot get food stamps, and how to count their income and resources.
If the person leaves the food stamp program before the disqualification is imposed, the period of ineligibility will run continuously beginning with the first of the month after notice of disqualification, until the individual ends the disqualification. If the voluntary quit occurs in the last month of the certification period, the period of disqualification will begin the day after the certification period ends and continues for the length of the disqualification, regardless whether the individual reapplies for food stamps. [MPP § 63-408.225; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(j)(3)(vii).]
The length of the sanction is based upon any previous sanctions and/or disqualifications imposed for failing to comply with any of the work program requirements. This includes:
- failure to comply with the provisions of work registration in §63-407.4.
- failure to comply with work programs through unemployment, CalWORKs welfare-to-work, or other substitute work programs in § 63-407.54.
- voluntarily quitting or reducing work effort in § 63-408.
Ending a disqualification
If the individual had become exempt from work requirements at any time during the disqualification period, the person need only reapply, if not on aid. [MPP § 63-407.61.] If the sanctioned person who becomes exempt is part of an on-going CalFresh household, their eligibility is re-established the 1st of the month following the sanction ending. [See e.g. handbook section after 63-407.542(b).] There is no “cure” requirement.
The county will end the disqualification if the (otherwise eligible) individual is in compliance with the food stamp work registration requirements, by either having the county document that they are registered, or by agreeing to fulfill the requirements the county specifies at the time of application (such as signing an acknowledgment form]. [MPP § 63-407.6.]
If the person disqualified is an ABAWD (Able-Bodied Adult Without Children), the person must participate in the work program (work 80 hours or more, do workfare, or do 80 hours of an allowable work program activity to end the disqualification, or become exempt or deferred. [MPP §§63-407 and 62.63-410.5.] See, ACL 12-03, which sets out new deferrals for ABAWDs.
For other sanctions, after serving the minimum period of disqualification, the sanctioned individual must reapply for food stamps if not part of an existing household.
A person can reapply for food stamps in the final month of the disqualification period. If that happens, the county is to send a denial (for the final month of the disqualification) and process the application for the prospective months. [MPP §63-408.63.]
The sanction for these “sister” programs is that the county will not increase food stamp benefits when the household’s benefits in the cash aid program have been reduced due to failure to comply with a requirement of that program. [MPP § 63-503.71.]