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New privacy protections for CalFresh and CalWORKs beneficiaries
Thursday, September 22, 2016
CalFresh (California’s food stamp program) and CalWORKs (the state’s welfare to work program) help disadvantaged families stay afloat when a paycheck falls short.
According to the Department of Agriculture, only 53% of eligible working families in California use CalFresh's vital food benefit, placing the state near the bottom in terms of food stamp participation rates. One reason for this low level of participation is unnecessary barriers during the application process (such as duplicative document requests) discourage some applicants from accessing the programs.
SB 1232 will encourage county administrators of these programs to use electronic databases to verify income and employment, which will speed the delivery of benefits, reduce paperwork, and eliminate the need for some in-person meetings. Importantly, it also will require that applicants provide written permission prior to use of consumer credit and employment reports, and require notice of an applicant’s federal right to access these reports, correct inaccurate information, or appeal a negative action.
SB 1232 was one of the final bills authored by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who has been unsurpassed as a consumer champion during his terms in the state legislature. He is termed out after this session.
When the law takes effect on Jan 1, 2017, we expect to see the CalFresh and CalWORKs application process streamlined, which hopefully will reduce existing barriers to participation by working families.
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