State No Longer Will Seek Refunds for Some Welfare Overpayments
California counties no longer can seek refunds from some CalWORKs beneficiaries who were minors when their caregivers were overpaid, according to a letter issued by the state Department of Social Services, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
CalWORKs is the state's welfare-to-work program that provides financial assistance to individuals with children who have difficulty meeting needs such as food, housing and medical care (Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/10).
California law allows the state to seek overpayments from the family of a CalWORKs beneficiary when the beneficiary does not repay funds. Counties had been seeking repayments by using strategies such as intercepting tax refunds and reducing CalWORKs grants.
In November 2011, a 19-year-old and a 14-year-old filed a lawsuit against the state because they were being forced to repay their mothers' CalWORKs debts.
Details of the Policy Change
In response to the lawsuit, the state decided to halt debt collections only from adults and children no longer enrolled in the program (Vara, Wall Street Journal, 1/9).
Patti Prunhuber, an attorney who is part of the lawsuit, said that if a minor still is receiving CalWORKs grants, counties can continue to seek repayment.
DSS said it was able to make the decision to stop collecting debts from former beneficiaries without a change in law.
Michael Weston -- a spokesperson for DSS -- said that the ongoing litigation prevents him from commenting on why minors who are stillÂ receiving CalWORKs payments are excluded from the new rule.
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) praised the new rule and said state law should be amended so that minors who are current beneficiaries can avoid debts (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.