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Budget and Policy Post
November 6, 2023

The 2023-24 California Spending Plan

Human Services

Food Assistance

Implements a Revised Methodology for County CalFresh Administration Funding. CalFresh provides federally funded nutrition assistance to approximately two million low-income California households per month. Although the benefits are federally funded, related administrative costs are split between the federal, state, and county governments. State administrative funding provided to counties generally increases or decreases with projected caseload changes but does not automatically increase alongside changes in actual administrative costs. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) used data from 50 counties to inform a new methodology for determining annual county CalFresh administration funding. The new methodology includes updated assumptions and variables such as application volume, case types, and current eligibility worker costs. Based on the revised formula, the spending plan includes an additional $407 million ($160 million General Fund) in 2023-24 for county CalFresh administration activities as compared to the 2022-23 Budget Act. This additional funding represents a 19 percent increase compared to funding levels under the previous methodology.

Continues Working Towards Expanding the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to All Immigrants Age 55 or Older. Under prior law, CFAP provides state-funded nutrition benefits to low-income legal permanent residents who have resided in the U.S. for less than five years and are therefore ineligible for CalFresh. The 2022-23 Budget Act included funding to expand CFAP eligibility to all income-eligible individuals aged 55 or older who are ineligible for CalFresh due solely to their immigration status. The expansion was initially expected to be implemented in January 2025. The Governor’s January budget proposal pushed the expected implementation back to January 2027. However, under the final budget agreement, implementation is now expected in October 2025. The 2023-24 spending plan includes $40 million General Fund for automation and outreach efforts associated with the expansion.

Addresses Food Benefit Theft and EBT Card Security. The federal Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2023 mandated federal reimbursement of food benefit theft from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or CalFresh in California). The spending plan includes $31 million in federal funds for stolen food benefit reimbursements and $12 million in federal funds for county administration and automation related to this theft. Prior to the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, California reimbursed CalFresh recipients whose benefits were stolen with state General Fund. The spending plan also includes $50 million ($15.5 million General Fund) in 2023-24, $23 million ($7.9 million General Fund) in 2024-25, and $3.5 million ($1.2 million General Fund) in 2024-26 to improve Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card technology and security. CDSS will pursue EBT security upgrades and technology enhancements to better protect against theft. The administration currently estimates, beginning in May 2024, EBT cards will be issued with chip and tap-to-pay technologies, which provide improved fraud protection over the current magnetic stripe technology. The anticipated EBT card improvements are described more fully in our recent post, The 2023-24 California Spending Plan: CalWORKs.

Provides Support for Food Banks. The spending plan includes $60 million General Fund ($52 million one time) in 2023-24 for the CalFood Program. The CalFood program provides funding to a network of food banks statewide to purchase, store, and transport food grown or produced in California. A similar one-time augmentation of $112 million General Fund was made in 2022-23.

Allocates Funds for Summer EBT Program Outreach and Automation Costs. The Summer EBT Program was established by the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. Once implemented, the program will provide $40 per month in summertime food benefits to children in households that qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. The state plans to phase-in the program in summer 2024 by automatically enrolling known qualified students based on existing CDSS and California Department of Education records. Beginning in summer 2025, CDSS anticipates that potentially qualified families who are not automatically enrolled will be able to apply for the program through a standalone application. The 2023-24 spending plan provides $47 million ($24 million General Fund) for program outreach and automation costs. Program benefits will be 100 percent federally funded. The administrative and automation costs will be split evenly between federal and state funds.

Includes Funding and Supplemental Reporting Language to Support the CalFresh Oral Notice of Work Rules. Federal guidance requires county welfare departments to provide a written notice and oral explanation of the CalFresh work rules to individuals in a household subject to these rules. The notice includes details on work registration, information on the CalFresh time limit for some able-bodied adult recipients without dependents (ABAWD), and an overview of the CalFresh Employment and Training program in counties with this program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, California has waived the ABAWD time limit through October 21, 2024. A similar federal suspension of the ABAWD time limit due to the COVID-19 pandemic was lifted in July 2023. Despite California’s waiver of the time limit, counties must notify ABAWDs and other CalFresh participants of the work rules that are either currently relevant to their case or will be relevant when the waiver ends. The 2023-24 spending plan includes $9.7 million ($3.4 million General Fund) in 2023-24 for CalFresh county administration to comply with this federal guidance on providing notice. The spending plan also includes supplemental reporting language requiring CDSS to convene Legislative staff; client representatives; counties; anti-poverty and anti-hunger stakeholders; and additional parties in the administration, such as the Department of Finance, to review implementation details for complying with the federal requirements. The convening should occur by or before December 15, 2023. The supplemental report language directs the convening develop a further understanding of how the state and counties are implementing the CalFresh Oral Notice of Work Rules in a way that:

  • Ensures the rules are only read to CalFresh recipients to whom the federal rule applies.

  • Is conducted in a trauma-informed manner.

  • And is unbiased, inoffensive, and respectful to the recipient population impacted.

Refer to the Supplemental Report of the 2023-24 Budget Act for additional information.