CDSS has published instructions to local county welfare departments to assure compliance with recently enacted AB 1614 (2014). Its provisions codify a range of established practices in California’s EBT program, the default payment mechanism for CalFresh, CalWORKs, Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI), and several other state-administered cash programs, as well as some local county general assistance programs. AB 1614 also establishes a set of new requirements to make certain elements of the EBT program easier to use by recipients, including more ready access to the recipient’s EBT account information. Among the requirements now codified in AB 1614 are:
- 24-hour recipient access by toll-free telephone so they can hear a listing of their last ten EBT transactions, with the option to request by telephone to have a copy of their transaction history detail for the past two months mailed to them;
- Local county welfare offices must make a recipient’s EBT transaction history available to them within 10 business days of such a request, at no cost to the recipient;
- The EBT system must establish the capacity to deliver “system outage alerts” to recipients, to inform them when the system is not functioning or is expected not to function for more than one hour between 6am and midnight during any 24-hour period;
- Recipients must be informed by the county welfare department where they can use their EBT cards to withdraw benefits without incurring a fee, charge, or surcharge;
- If a local county welfare department makes direct deposit available to its employees, then it must also make direct deposit available to its CalWORKs recipients.
Providing recipients with information about how to access their EBT benefits without surcharge fees is no small matter. CDSS confirms in this ACL that “almost two-thirds of ATM withdrawals made by EBT recipients incur surcharge fees.” (Federal law prohibits surcharge fees for CalFresh transactions.) CDSS also notes that recipients can access the MoneyPass website (or its mobile apps, linked there) to locate ATMs that provide surcharge-free transactions. ACL 15-39 (April 21, 2015).