Dr. Pan’s Measure to Modernize CalWORKs Application Process Heads to Governor’s Desk

SB 947 will focus staff time on moving families into the workforce and cut transportation expenses

August 25, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Senate Bill 947 to reduce red tape in the application process for the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program was passed by the State Senate and will now go to the Governor’s desk.

Since 2009, applicants for the CalFresh program, which offers food to families in need, have had the opportunity to be interviewed over the telephone.  Conversely, applicants for the CalWORKs program must be interviewed in-person, even in counties that would rather conduct interviews over the phone to improve efficiencies and better utilize limited staff time.

“SB 947 makes the CalWORKs application process more efficient and cuts unnecessary bureaucratic red tape,” said Dr. Richard Pan, State Senator representing the Sacramento region. “By using infrastructure counties already use to perform eligibility interviews over the phone, families who qualify for CalWORKs can get the help they need faster.”

SB 947 would do nothing to change the eligibility criteria that currently exist for CalWORKs; rather it will simply give counties the option to conduct their interviews by telephone. 

There are strict eligibility criteria for the CalWORKs program that takes income, resources, and assets into account. To demonstrate that they meet the criteria, families are required to provide documentation, which can be handled through electronic or traditional mail, as well as in person.

SB 947 is sponsored by the Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organization (CCWRO), the Western Center on Law & Poverty and the County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA). “This bill would free up the time of CalWORKs staff to assist families toward self-sufficiency, rather than conducting time-consuming, in-person interviews.  By utilizing the current technology to do electronic interviews, this would also reduce overcrowdings at county human services offices and prevent low-income families from incurring unnecessary transportation costs,” said Kevin Aslanian of CCWRO.

“California’s poorest families with children turn to CalWORKs to help meet their basic needs and prevent hunger and homelessness during very trying times. County workers who serve these families have heavy very workloads.  Giving counties flexibility to conduct eligibility interviews over the phone will offer relief to both applicants and administrators,” said Jessica Bartholow, Western Center on Law & Poverty. 

“Counties already conduct telephone interviews for CalFresh as well as for Medi-Cal health care coverage, so it makes sense to use that same technology for CalWORKs,” said Cathy Senderling-McDonald of CWDA, which represents the county human services agencies that run these programs on the state’s behalf. “This legislative change will help us get needed assistance to these families more quickly.”

If SB 947 becomes law, California will join dozens of other states that have decided to forego the inefficient face-to-face interview for their public assistance programs, known nationally as the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (and called CalWorks in California).