Last week, the California Department Of Aging released the first progress report of the state's Master Plan for Aging (MPA) work to date. The MPA aims to build a California for All Ages by 2030 through the achievement of Five Strategic Goals, including Goal Five, Affordable Aging.
Nourish California was proud to participate in the stakeholder engagement sessions that shaped the final plan. We identified opportunities that would support our priorities for Californians to age with food and dignity. We are encouraged by the MPA’s early progress and look forward to continuing to work towards the implementation of the over 100 MPA initiatives.
We especially applaud the progress of Initiative 131, which includes the actions of CDSS to submit a request to USDA Food and Nutrition Services to extend and expand California’s Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP) Demonstration Project; the report notes that “CDSS will continue with four main strategies, including a) Waiving the recertification interview requirement; b) Making use of data matching to reduce client-provided verifications; c) Extending the certification period to 36 months, including for ESAP cases processed by the Social Security Administration; d) Waiving the requirement to contact the household at least once every 12 months, thereby eliminating the need to send and collect a SAR 7 Eligibility Status Report.”
What does this mean?
The state’s actions will greatly reduce the administrative burden of keeping CalFresh benefits for over half a million older adults and people with disabilities. Instead of risking losing vital food assistance every 12 months due to paperwork problems, those households will only have to complete a short form every three years to stay connected to CalFresh. We commend the state for taking this action and look forward to continuing to work with them to make CalFresh work better for everyone, especially older adults who participate at a much lower rate than the general population.
For nearly three years, Nourish California led the effort to secure these important ESAP waivers by sponsoring state legislation: SB 285 (Wiener) in 2019 (held in Assembly Appropriations) and SB 882 (Wiener) in 2020 (held in Senate Appropriations). When SB 882 was held, we refocused our advocacy on the administration and were pleased when in November 2020 CDSS announced they had applied for the ESAP interim report waiver. We look forward to announcing the implementation of the annual report waiver in March 2023 after the necessary automation in the state welfare system has been completed.
More food access wins
The progress report mentions other significant nutrition milestones:
Initiative 130: More than 27 million meals were provided by the Older Adult programs in 2020, a 51 percent increase over the prior year.
Initiative 131: CA Department of Social Services (CDSS) implemented Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) online purchasing to allow CalFresh recipients to order groceries online for delivery in 2020, and now, CDSS is working with USDA to grow the number and variety of approved EBT online retailers.
Initiative 132: California received USDA approval to increase our Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) caseload by an additional 2,200.
We expect the next MPA progress report to highlight the recent state budget win on CalFresh for seniors. After three years of advocacy, including sponsoring SB 107 (Wiener) this year, the state allocated funding to create a shorter, simplified CalFresh application for older adults. As we celebrate this long-sought achievement, we would like to thank Senator Wiener for his leadership on CalFresh access, as well as our cosponsors AARP-CA, CA Association of Food Banks, and San Francisco-Marin Food Bank for your tireless support and advocacy. We also look forward to working with CDSS and other stakeholders to design and implement the new user-friendly application.
And of course, we will continue to engage in the MPA implementation process and look forward to the next MPA progress report! We invite you to join us by signing up using the form below.