San Diego county welfare workers have been improperly denying Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) to qualifying refugees since late 2009, according to an article in Voice of San Diego. The county welfare office claims that the California state government did not tell them until last month that these refugees are eligible for RCA (instead of regular welfare via the state’s CalWORKs program).
It was in late 2009 that the county should have begun dispensing RCA itself. Before that, the four local refugee resettlement federal contractors had distributed the funds to refugees, yet according to the article in late 2009 the federal government (ORR?) decided that San Diego county welfare workers should instead, distribute it — the way its done in every other California county.
County social workers have instead inexplicably been signing refugees up for CalWORKs — federal welfare that the US Dept. of HHS channels to the state of California — even though these particular refugees were not eligible for it (due to the State’s Department’s initial resettlement grant — which was doubled in 2010. Thus, having an income during their first month too high to qualify for CalWORKs). At the beginning of this month, however, the San Diego county welfare office stopped doing this, but did not refer the refugees to RCA instead, because it has taken 30 days to train county workers to carry out the change.
…the county has been routinely denying refugee applications for welfare and not enrolling those families in the alternative program, called Refugee Cash Assistance, which provides the same cash payments as CalWORKs but is funded from a special pot of state money for refugees. Since the start of this year, resettlement workers say, the mistake has affected dozens of refugee families’ applications, leaving some of the county’s poorest and most vulnerable without the cash aid they’re entitled
…County officials acknowledge the mistake and say they’re working to fix it. But they don’t yet know how many refugees were improperly denied…
…The larger federal resettlement grant might not have been a problem…somewhere else. In California counties other than San Diego, welfare workers are trained to automatically refer refugees to the alternative cash aid program if their initial
resettlement grant makes them ineligible for welfare…
…But until recently, that wasn’t an issue in San Diego County, which has handled refugee assistance differently because its refugee community is so large. San Diego has four federally contracted resettlement
agencies that help newly arrived refugees adjust during their first months in the United States. Until late 2009, those agencies, not the county, were in charge of administering cash assistance to new refugee families for their first eight months.
The federal government funneled assistance money directly to the resettlement agencies with the hope that the agencies would be better equipped than the county to help refugees, who often have no English skills or experience navigating red tape.
But in late 2009, that money mostly stopped flowing to the local agencies. The federal government wanted refugee families to apply for welfare directly to San Diego County, just like in every other California county.
It’s still unclear why, but for most of 2010, the county approved refugee welfare applications, even for families with the larger resettlement payments that should have made them ineligible. Then this year, workers started counting the resettlement payment as income and just started denying applications…
…Kim Forrester, assistant deputy director of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, which administers the CalWORKs and food stamps program, said it wasn’t until last month that state officials told the county it should be enrolling families ineligible for CalWORKs in the special program for refugees.
“We’re going to have it fully implemented within 30 days,” Forrester said. She said her department would identify any families that were inappropriately denied and issue their payments retroactively.
It’s also not clear why it took the county a year to realize it should have been enrolling them in the alternative refugee program. But when the denials finally started early this year, resettlement agencies didn’t know what to do…
…Until the county fixes the problem and trains workers to enroll refugees in Refugee Cash Assistance, more families could be denied… Read more here
The article illistrates the issue via an Alliance for African Assistance Iraqi refugee woman client and her two children, whom the Alliance simply handed over the grant money to ($1100 x three people = $3300). The family bought beds, a new extra income their first month if the Alliance had done its job and bought these items for the family instead?
By the way, it was in early 2010 that we received word from SIV immigrants in Sacramento that they could not get the eight months of federal medical coverage that they qualified for. It that case, Thuan
Nguyen, the California state refugee coordinator, also claimed that it was a training issue at the local welfare office. An Iraqi SIV sat without coverage for months, and endured extremely painful passage of kidney stones.