94. What the food stamp office must do when the household asks for a fair hearing
In most cases where a recipient household asks for a hearing, the food stamp office must make sure that the household keeps getting the same amount of food stamps while waiting for a decision on the hearing. (See the section of this guide about continuing benefits while waiting for fair hearing for more details).
If an applicant household asks for a hearing because the food stamp office did not give it “expedited service,” i.e. emergency food stamps), a supervisor from the food stamp office must offer to meet with the applicant within two days of when s/he asked for a hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(d)(2); MPP § 63-804.4.] This is called an “agency conference” and is optional. The food stamp household can have both an agency conference and also have a hearing later if it still does not agree with what the food stamp office did. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(d)(1); MPP § 63-804.4.]
California has a “state” fair hearing system. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(b); Welf. & Inst. Code § 10950; MPP § 63-804.4.] Fair hearings are held by the State Hearings Division (SHD) of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), the state agency that administers the California food stamp program. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 10950; MPP §§ 22-001.1; 22-004.22.] The hearing official, or administrative law judge (ALJ), is an impartial party who works for the state agency, not your local food stamp office. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(m)(1); MPP § 22-001(a)(2)(handbook).]
The household is entitled to get notice of the time, date and place of the hearing at least 10 days prior to the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(l); MPP §§ 22-045.2 and .3.] The household will also be notified of any legal services available that can provide representation at the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(i)(1) MPP § 22-073.232(c).] The applicant or recipient may also review its case file prior to the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(l)(4); MPP § 22-051.]
After requesting a hearing, the case will be assigned to a county representative who will develop the case and will present the county’s side of the story to the administrative law judge at the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(m); Welf. & Inst. Code § 10954; MPP §§ 22-073.13; 22-073.3.] The county representative will review the case file and will speak with the eligibility worker and other county personnel. [MPP §§ 22-073.22.] If the county representative finds that the county action was wrong, the representative can resolve the case with you without the need for a hearing. [MPP § 22-073.231.] If the county representative concludes that the county action was correct, the county representative must prepare a position statement, explaining the county’s position on the issues. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 10952.5; MPP §§ 22-073.23 and .25.] A copy of the position statement must be made available to the food stamp household two business days before the hearing. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 10952.5; MPP § 22-073.253.] If this is not done, the household can postpone the hearing to a later date. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 10952.5; MPP § 22-073.253.]