BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     AB 608


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          Date of Hearing:   April 14, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES


                                  Kansen Chu, Chair


          AB 608  
          (Gordon) - As Introduced February 24, 2015


          SUBJECT:  CalFresh:  school meals


          SUMMARY:  Adds specific information about school-based nutrition  
          programs and other programs intended to serve children to the  
          information counties are required to provide to households  
          applying for CalFresh benefits.  


          Specifically, this bill:


          1)States a number of legislative findings pertaining to poverty  
            among children in California, including the following:


             a)   Over 2 million children in California live in low-income  
               families and are in danger of experiencing hunger; and


             b)   Child development experts have found that even one  
               incidence of hunger can impact a child's health and future  
               academic success.


          2)Declares the intent of the Legislature to reduce opportunities  








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            for children to go hungry by requiring increased coordination  
            between CalFresh and child nutrition programs administered by  
            the California Department of Education.


          3)Clarifies that, in addition to providing certain written  
            information pertaining to CalFresh, upon request, to community  
            action agencies, legal services offices and emergency food  
            programs, a county human services agency is also required to  
            provide such information, upon request, to other community  
            programs.


          4)Requires a county human services agency to compile a list of  
            emergency and supplemental food providers, including local  
            child feeding and summer feeding programs, and requires that  
            list to be updated with information the county receives from  
            emergency and supplemental food assistance providers, cities,  
            school districts, summer lunch providers, the State Department  
            of Education, and the California Special Supplemental  
            Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)  
            Program.


          5)Requires that list to be made available to households applying  
            for CalFresh and deletes the requirement for households to  
            receive the information only upon request.


          6)Requires the county human services agency to inform households  
            applying for CalFresh that if the household is certified for  
            CalFresh, any child under age five in the household is  
            income-eligible for the WIC Program, and that all children in  
            the household are directly certified for the National School  
            Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program without further  
            application.


          7)Requires the Department of Social Services (DSS) to inform all  








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            CalFresh households annually, prior to the end of the school  
            year, about the summer meal program, as specified.


          EXISTING LAW:


          1)Establishes, under federal law, the Supplemental Nutrition  
            Assistance Program (SNAP), pursuant to the Food Stamp Act of  
            1964 and subsequent revisions, and establishes, in California  
            law, the CalFresh program to administer the provision of  
            federal SNAP benefits to low-income families and individuals  
            meeting specified criteria.  (WIC 18900 et seq.)

          2)Establishes, under federal law, eligibility requirements for  
            receipt of SNAP benefits, including income that is at or below  
            130% of the federal poverty level and is determined to be a  
            substantial limiting factor in permitting a recipient to  
            obtain a more nutritious diet, as specified.  (7 CFR 273.9) 


          3)Provides that any child who is eligible for federal SNAP  
            benefits is automatically certified to receive free school  
            meals without an additional application.  (7 CFR 245.6)

          4)Provides that any child under age five who lives in a  
            household that is eligible for federal SNAP benefits is also  
            income-eligible for WIC Program benefits.  (7 CFR 246.7)

          5)Requires a CalFresh application to be processed within 30 days  
            from the date of application, and requires county welfare  
            departments to make information related to expedited CalFresh  
            benefits, as specified, available to each applicant upon his  
            or her initial application for CalFresh.  (WIC 18911)

          6)Requires each county welfare department to compile a list of  
            emergency food providers in the area served by the CalFresh  
            office, which shall be made available upon request and may be  
            used to refer individuals to emergency food assistance sites.   








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            (WIC 18911)

          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown


          COMMENTS:


          CalFresh:  CalFresh benefits are funded entirely by the federal  
          government through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  
          (SNAP), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)  
          sets specific eligibility requirements for SNAP programs across  
          the United States, including a gross and net income test, work  
          requirements, and other documentation requirements.  The maximum  
          allowable gross income is 130% of the Federal Poverty Level  
          (FPL).  Households with elderly or disabled members are not  
          subject to gross income criteria but must have a net monthly  
          income at or below 100% of the FPL.  Other households must meet  
          both gross and net monthly income tests.  CalFresh is  
          administered locally by county human services agencies, and the  
          federal, state, and county governments share in the cost of  
          administration of the program.  


          Benefits are made available on a monthly basis for food purchase  
          through an ATM-like electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card.   
          However, unlike other types of benefits that may be accessed  
          through an EBT card, CalFresh benefits cannot be withdrawn in  
          cash at point-of-sale terminals or at ATM machines.  CalFresh  
          benefits can only be used to purchase food items to be prepared  
          and consumed at home, as well as seeds and plants that can be  
          grown at home and produce food.  The average monthly benefit for  
          a CalFresh recipient is $152.87 per month, or $5.10 per person  
          per day, whereas the maximum monthly CalFresh benefit for a  
          household of four is $649, or $5.41 per person per day.


          CalFresh recipients are required to regularly provide personal  
          information to the county office, including a home address, bank  








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          account, phone number, and employer information.  This reporting  
          requirement allows county offices to routinely check a  
          recipient's household composition and financial information to  
          verify validity and continued CalFresh eligibility.  While most  
          safety net programs rely on related family composition in order  
          to determine eligibility for benefits, a CalFresh household is  
          defined as a group of people who meet the income and resource  
          eligibility criteria and live together, buy food, and prepare  
          meals together.  Fifty-seven percent of CalFresh recipients are  
          children. 


          National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs:  Public and  
          non-profit private schools can choose to participate in the  
          National School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs.  Both  
          programs provide schools with cash subsidies from the USDA for  
          each meal served, provided the meals meet specified federal  
          nutritional guidelines and are offered for free or at a reduced  
          price to eligible children.  Children from families who meet  
          federal SNAP guidelines are eligible for free meals through the  
          national school meals programs.  If their household incomes are  
          between 130% and 185% of the poverty level, they are eligible  
          for reducedprice meals, for which students can be charged no  
          more than 30 cents per breakfast and 40 cents per lunch.  





          According to the USDA, in Fiscal Year 2014, 13.6 million  
          children across the country participated in the National School  
          Breakfast Program every day.  Of those children, over 11 million  
          received those breakfasts for free or at a reduced price.   
          During that same fiscal year, 30.4 million children received  
          their lunch each day through the National School Lunch Program,  
          which included 21.7 million children who received their lunches  
          for free or at a reduced price.  










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          Hunger among Californians:  Despite efforts to increase access  
          to CalFresh nutrition assistance by reaching out to households  
          that are eligible but not currently participating in the  
          program, a number of California's families still experience food  
          insecurity, meaning they are unable to afford balanced meals and  
          often cut the size of their meals or go hungry.  Households  
          experiencing food insecurity don't have consistent access to  
          enough food for healthy living due to a lack of money and other  
          resources.  Some families that constantly battle with food  
          insecurity go without food for entire days, and parents in  
          food-insecure households often report going without food  
          themselves while ensuring their children have something to eat,  
          though it may be very little.  A national food security survey  
          conducted in 2013 by the USDA Economic Research Service revealed  
          that 14.3% of households were food-insecure at least some time  
          during the year, including 5.6% with very low food security.  


          Numerous studies have documented the link between healthy eating  
          and health.  Adults who go hungry have been shown to have higher  
          rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart  
          conditions, as well as depression and other mental health  
          challenges.  Children who suffer from extreme poverty and hunger  
          are found to fall behind in developmental milestones, experience  
          worse health outcomes and increased hospitalizations, and have  
          poorer economic outcomes as adults. 


          Need for this bill:  This bill seeks to ensure children do not  
          go hungry while a family's CalFresh application is pending.   
          While current law requires each county to compile a list of  
          local food providers (e.g., food pantries, soup kitchens) for  
          CalFresh applicants, there is no requirement for the list to  
          include child nutrition programs.  This bill requires counties  
          to provide applicant households with updated information about  
          local emergency and school-based food programs, and ensures  
          households with children are aware of the children's ability to  
          receive food at school through the national school meals  
          programs.  While this bill does not increase eligibility for  








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          statewide or national nutrition programs, it seeks to make  
          existing nutrition programs more accessible to eligible  
          individuals who are hungry by guaranteeing they receive  
          information about those existing programs.


          According to statewide CalFresh data from the Department of  
          Social Services, 96.7% of applications were processed within the  
          required 30-day timeframe in the fourth quarter of 2014.  While  
          this means most applications were processed in a timely manner,  
          this could still allow for up to a 30-day period during which a  
          family that has reached out to the county for help does not have  
          money to buy food.  Additionally, this average is built on data  
          from some counties meeting the 30-day requirement 100% of the  
          time while other counties are not, without any indication as to  
          the length of processing time for the additional applications  
          that were not processed within the required timeframe.


          The author states, "According to the Center on Budget and Policy  
          Priorities, approximately 81% of households applying for  
          CalFresh have children.  Children in households determined  
          eligible for CalFresh are also eligible for the National School  
          Lunch Program.  However, the application for CalFresh  
          eligibility can take up to 30 days to process and, in the  
          meantime, a child can go hungry.  Additionally, many families do  
          not know that their CalFresh certification can qualify them for  
          the school meal program or how to apply for the program if their  
          child is in need of a school day meal before their CalFresh  
          eligibility is determined.  This is especially true when a  
          family's change in circumstance, like loss of job or family  
          illness, makes the family newly eligible after the school year  
          begins.  This bill would better inform households applying for  
          CalFresh of resources.  These important changes would provide  
          struggling families with the ability to reduce the incidences of  
          child hunger."











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          PRIOR LEGISLATION:
          
          AB 2115 (Bradford), 2014, was substantially similar to this  
          bill.  It died on the Senate Appropriations Suspense File.

          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:





          Support





          Alameda County Community Food Bank 


          California Association of Food Banks 


          California Catholic Conference of Bishops 


          California Diabetic Association (CDA) 


          California Dietetic Association (CDA)


          California Food Policy Advocates


          California Hunger Action Coalition (CHAC)


          Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations, Inc.








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          Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations, Inc.  
          (CCWRO)


          Community Food and Justice Coalition


          Feeding American San Diego 


          Hunger Advocacy Network


          National Association of Social Workers (NASW-CA)


          Western Center on Law and Poverty (sponsor) support





          Opposition





          None on file.




          Analysis Prepared by:Myesha Jackson / HUM. S. / (916) 319-2089











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