The California Department of Social Services’ (CDSS) CalFresh Branch recently announced via All County Letter that beginning March 1, 2022, the annual periodic report for CalFresh households (SAR-7) will no longer be required for households enrolled under the state’s Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP). This important policy change will reduce administrative barriers and immediately improve access for over 600,000 households statewide. Over time, more than 1,000,000 households could benefit from the new policy. The State received approval to extend this and other important ESAP policies through September 30, 2026.
While we celebrate this important policy victory now, our work continues to eliminate barriers to CalFresh. Last month, Nourish California and partners including the California Association of Food Banks, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, Justice in Aging, and Children Now sent a request to CDSS to amend the current ESAP waiver to allow households with children to also qualify under ESAP rules. This change would significantly expand the number of households that benefit from the easier application and reporting requirements, and also reduce state administrative costs.
Read our letter here.
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Meeting the nutritional needs of households with low-income is an urgent and ongoing need. Our 2022 State Legislative Agenda again calls for the bold actions state leaders should take to alleviate food insecurity and bring equity to our nutrition safety net. We look forward to working with existing and new partners to cultivate policies that disrupt poverty, end hunger, and extend equitable opportunity to all.
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Hunger and poverty are persistent problems in California that were greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Before the crisis began there were more than 4.1 million low-income households affected by food insecurity, and the number of older Californians experiencing hunger continues to grow at an alarming rate. Based on data from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, nearly forty percent of low-income Californians over the age of sixty are food insecure — a 21 percent increase over the last 15 years. Food insecurity has significant negative impacts on older adults—particularly on their health. Older adults who are food-insecure are more likely to die of a heart attack, have depression, and face limitations in activities of daily living. Food insecurity therefore places an already vulnerable population at increased risk for more serious health and economic hardships from COVID-19.
As a proven positive public health intervention and powerful economic stabilizer, CalFresh has a critical dual role to play in California’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Yet, California ranks last in the nation in enrolling eligible older adults in CalFresh.
In recent years, the state has made progress in its efforts to increase CalFresh enrollment among older adults, but has yet to implement certain promising policy options. Since October 1, 2017 California has participated in the federally-authorized Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP)Elderly Simplified Application Project demonstration project. The intent of the demonstration project is to simplify the application and reporting requirements for households composed solely of Elderly and/or Disabled members with no earned income. More than 600,000 California households have benefitted from ESAP certification.
After more than two years of advocacy by state anti-hunger and older adult advocacy organizations, led by Nourish California, the California Association of Food Banks, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, AARP-CA, Justice in Aging, and the CA Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved the California Department of Social Services’ (CDSS) CalFresh Branch request to waive the annual periodic report for ESAP households.
At a time when CalFresh application volume remains elevated, causing significant strains on the eligibility workforce, supporting the County Welfare Department’s operational efficiency is paramount. Removing unnecessary and burdensome administrative tasks like the periodic report for ESAP households is a smart and cost-effective way to “do more with less” while simultaneously improving client customer service and outcomes.
Contact Jared Call at 323.401.4972