BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
                             Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair
                            2015 - 2016  Regular  Session

          AB 608 (Gordon) - CalFresh:  school meals
          
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |                                                                 |
          |                                                                 |
          |                                                                 |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |--------------------------------+--------------------------------|
          |                                |                                |
          |Version: February 24, 2015      |Policy Vote: HUMAN S. 5 - 0     |
          |                                |                                |
          |--------------------------------+--------------------------------|
          |                                |                                |
          |Urgency: No                     |Mandate: Yes                    |
          |                                |                                |
          |--------------------------------+--------------------------------|
          |                                |                                |
          |Hearing Date: June 22, 2015     |Consultant: Jolie Onodera       |
          |                                |                                |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 

          This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense File. 


          Bill  
          Summary:  AB 608 would require county human services agencies to  
          add additional information to the list of food providers to be  
          made available to families applying for CalFresh benefits. This  
          bill additionally requires counties to inform applicants that,  
          if the household is approved for CalFresh benefits, young  
          children are income eligible for the WIC Program and that all  
          children in the household are directly certified for free and  
          reduced school meals. This bill also requires the Department of  
          Social Services (DSS) to inform all CalFresh households annually  
          about the summer meal program, as specified.


          Fiscal  
          Impact:  
           Likely minor state-reimbursable county administrative costs  
            (General Fund) to add providers to, and update, food provider  
            and nutrition assistance program lists. 
           Potential one-time automation costs (General Fund) to revise  
            the Statewide Automated Welfare System (SAWS) to the extent  
            counties print and distribute the updated list of food service  







          AB 608 (Gordon)                                        Page 1 of  
          ?
          
          
            providers and summer meal program information to each  
            applicant through SAWS.
           Potentially significant state-reimbursable county  
            administrative costs in the range of $440,000 to $585,000  
            (General Fund) per year to inform CalFresh households prior to  
            the end of each school year about the summer meal program and  
            provide food service provider and nutrition program  
            information. This estimate includes the cost of printing and  
            mailing of this information, and assumes DSS would delegate  
            the notification requirement to the counties, as client  
            addresses are not maintained at the state level. 
           Potentially significant ongoing state-reimbursable county  
            administrative costs (General Fund) to inform all CalFresh  
            applicants of income eligibility for WIC and direct  
            certification for free and reduced school meals. Based on  
            nearly 2 million CalFresh applications received annually,  
            providing even one additional minute of eligibility worker  
            time would cost nearly $1.9 million annually. This estimate  
            assumes many counties utilize the option of waiving the  
            face-to-face interview and instead provide a telephone  
            interview in which case the informing would have to be  
            provided verbally in lieu of providing the information in  
            written format. To the extent a document is mailed in lieu of  
            information provided over the phone would also incur  
            administrative resources and mailing costs. 
           Potentially significant increase in federal WIC Program  
            (Federal) and National School Lunch Program/School Breakfast  
            Program (NSLP/SBP) benefits (Federal/General Fund) to the  
            extent the mandated county human services agency efforts  
            result in increased enrollment in these programs. 


          Background:  Existing state law requires each county welfare department to  
          compile a list of emergency food providers in the area served by  
          the local CalFresh office. Existing law requires this list to be  
          made available upon request and may be used to refer individuals  
          to emergency food assistance sites. 

          The federal WIC Program seeks to serve low-income, nutritionally  
          at risk pregnant women, breastfeeding women, infants and  
          children up to their fifth birthday. WIC benefits include  
          supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education and  
          counseling at WIC clinics, and screening and referrals to other  
          health, welfare, and social services. WIC is not an entitlement  








          AB 608 (Gordon)                                        Page 2 of  
          ?
          
          
          program as Congress does not set aside funds to allow every  
          eligible individual to participate in the program. Rather, WIC  
          is a federal grant program for which Congress authorizes a  
          specific amount of funds each year for the program. The FFY 2014  
          grant to California of $1.2 billion included $878 million for  
          food and $328 million for nutrition services and administration.  
          As of March 2013, the WIC Program served 8.6 million  
          participants and provided an average benefit of $42.57 per  
          month. Families who are eligible for SNAP (CalFresh in  
          California), Medi-Cal, or TANF benefits are automatically  
          income-eligible for WIC benefits.

          The NSLP is a federally assisted meal program operating in over  
          100,000 public and nonprofit private schools and residential  
          care institutions. It is estimated that over 552 million  
          nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches will be  
          provided to more than 31 million children in 2015-16. In 1998,  
          Congress expanded the NSLP to include reimbursement for snacks  
          served to children in after-school educational and enrichment  
          programs to include children through 18 years of age. The Food  
          and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the program at the  
          federal level. At the state level, the NSLP is administered by  
          CDE, which operates the program through agreements with school  
          food authorities. 

          The SBP provides cash assistance to states to operate nonprofit  
          breakfast programs in schools and residential childcare  
          institutions. The FNS administers the SBP at the federal level,  
          CDE administers the SBP at the state level, and local school  
          food authorities operate the program in schools. Most of the  
          support USDA provides to schools in the School Breakfast Program  
          comes in the form of a cash reimbursement for each breakfast  
          served. The current basic cash reimbursement rates (through June  
          30, 2015) for non-severe need are: Free breakfast-$1.62,  
          reduced-price breakfast-$1.32, paid breakfasts-$0.28. Schools  
          may qualify for higher "severe need" reimbursements if 40  
          percent or more of their lunches are served free or at a reduced  
          price in the second preceding year. 

          Existing federal law provides that any child who is eligible for  
          federal SNAP benefits (CalFresh benefits in California) is  
          automatically certified to receive free school meals without an  
          additional application (7 U.S.C.  2020(u)(2)(A)).









          AB 608 (Gordon)                                        Page 3 of  
          ?
          
          
          Proposed Law:  This bill:
           Requires additional providers to be added to the list of food  
            assistance providers currently compiled by county human  
            services agencies.
           Requires the list to be updated based on information a county  
            human services agency receives from various entities including  
            the WIC Program, CDE, cities, school districts, and summer  
            lunch providers, and requires the list to be made available to  
            all households applying for CalFresh benefits, rather than  
            only upon request.
           Requires a county human services agency to inform households  
            applying for CalFresh that, if the household is certified for  
            CalFresh, children under five years of age in the household  
            are income-eligible for the WIC Program, and all children in  
            the household are directly certified for the National School  
            Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program without further  
            application, as specified.
           Requires DSS to inform all CalFresh households annually, prior  
            to the end of the school year, about the summer meal program  
            using information the department receives from the CDE and a  
            method deemed appropriate by the department.
           Requires DSS to implement the change through all-county  
            letters or similar instructions beginning no later than March  
            1, 2016, until regulations are adopted and to adopt  
            regulations implementing this act on or before October 1,  
            2017.


          Related  
          Legislation:  AB 2115 (Bradford) 2014 was similar but broader in  
          scope than this measure. This bill was held on the Suspense File  
          of this Committee.


          Staff  
          Comments:  By increasing the duties of county human services agencies,  
          this bill imposes a state-mandated local program, the costs of  
          which could require a General Fund subvention of funds should  
          county agencies submit claims and the Commission on State  
          Mandates (CSM) determines the provisions of this measure  
          constitute a reimbursable state mandate.

          While many county human services agencies may already be  
          informing applicants and providing the information specified in  








          AB 608 (Gordon)                                        Page 4 of  
          ?
          
          
          this bill, by mandating the activities specifically in statute,  
          county human service agencies could potentially file claims for  
          reimbursement for these administrative costs.

          Based on the data from the CalFresh Monthly Caseload Movement  
          Report (DFA 296), nearly two million CalFresh applications are  
          received annually. Providing even one additional minute of  
          eligibility worker time, based on an estimated eligibility  
          worker cost of $57.57 per hour, would cost over $1.9 million  
          annually. This estimate assumes many counties utilize the option  
          of waiving the face-to-face interview and instead provide a  
          telephone interview in which case the informing would have to be  
          provided verbally in lieu of via a written document. Because it  
          is unknown at this time how the CSM would interpret the  
          requirement "to inform" households of this eligibility, the  
          amount of time incurred by eligibility workers that will be  
          eligible for reimbursement cannot be known with certainty. To  
          the extent a document is mailed in lieu of information provided  
          over the phone would also incur administrative resources and  
          mailing costs. 

          The costs to counties to update and add providers to food  
          assistance provider lists, while potentially state-reimbursable,  
          are estimated to be minor.

          This bill requires the DSS to inform all CalFresh households  
          annually, prior to the end of the school year, about the summer  
          meal program using a method deemed appropriate by the  
          department. The DSS has indicated the department itself would  
          not send information to CalFresh households, as addresses of  
          clients are not kept at the state level. It is anticipated this  
          information would be sent by the counties. The estimated  
          printing and mailing costs to send out one mailer to each of  
          719,000 CalFresh households with school-aged children is  
          approximately $440,000 per year. As the bill requires this  
          information to be sent to all CalFresh households, however,  
          costs could be as high as $585,000 per year.

          The DSS has also indicated that while the bill directs counties  
          to update the directory of emergency food service providers and  
          provide it to each applicant, the printing and distribution to  
          each client will likely be done through SAWS, which could  
          require programming changes. At this time, the extent of the  
          automation changes is unknown and it is not known whether the  








          AB 608 (Gordon)                                        Page 5 of  
          ?
          
          
          additional costs can be absorbed within the existing maintenance  
          and operations budget or if new funding would be required. 

          To the extent the mandated county efforts result in increased  
          enrollment in these food assistance programs, could result in a  
          significant increase in federal WIC Program (Federal) and NSLSB  
          Program (Federal/State) benefits which would assist families  
          access these critical programs aimed at reducing the incidence  
          of food insecurity among low-income Californians. 

                                      -- END --