Despite its office being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sonoma County Human Services Department is continuing to help connect community members with public benefits.
On Monday, the department shared answers to some frequently asked questions about how COVID-19 may impact public benefits such as CalFresh, General Assistance, In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), Medi-Cal and SonomaWORKS.
“It is important to know that some state and federal reporting requirements have been adjusted to ensure that you continue to receive benefits during this difficult time,” the department said in a press release.
Applying for New Benefits
Q: If I need help paying for food for myself or my family, how can I apply for benefits?
A: Apply for CalFresh (a.k.a. food stamps or SNAP) online by visiting mybenefitscalwin.org or GetCalFresh.org, or apply by phone via 2-1-1. Please submit your application and required documentation, and your application interview will be waived. If you have CalFresh questions, call (877) 699-6868. For more information about the CalFresh program, please go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Human-Services-Department.
Q: If I need cash assistance to help support my family, how can I apply for benefits?
A: SonomaWORKS (CalWORKs/TANF) provides temporary help to families with children who are having trouble making ends meet. Apply for SonomaWORKS online by visiting mybenefitscalwin.org. After you submit your application and required documentation, we will contact you to set up an application interview by phone. If you have questions about SonomaWORKS, please call (707) 565-5500. For more information about the SonomaWORKS program, visit sonomacounty.ca.gov/Human-Services-Department.
Q: I lost my health insurance or can no longer afford the cost as a result of losing my job, how can I apply for medical benefits?
A: Medi-Cal provides free or low-cost medical and dental coverage for eligible individuals and families, and has no interview requirement. To apply for Medi-Cal online, visit either mybenefitscalwin.org or coveredca.com. If you have any questions, please call (877) 699-6868.
Q: If I lost my job or had my hours reduced, how can I apply for unemployment?
A: If you have been laid off or had your scheduled hours reduced due to COVID-19, you can file an Unemployment Insurance claim online, by phone, or by mail. The Governor waived the one week waiting period for Unemployment Insurance, so you do not need to wait to apply. To file an unemployment insurance claim online, go to edd.ca.gov/Unemployment. Applying online is the best way to ensure that you get your benefits as quickly as possible. However, you can file a claim by phone: call (800) 300-5616 to apply in English or (800) 326-8937 to apply in Spanish.
Q: If I need help applying for unemployment, who can I call?
Renewing Your Existing Benefits
Q: Do I need to call or visit a Human Services Department office to renew my CalFresh, General Assistance, or SonomaWORKS (CalWORKs) benefits?
A: You do not need to call nor visit one of our offices to renew your CalFresh, General Assistance, or SonomaWORKS (CalWORKs) benefits at this time. Current recipients will continue to get benefits at the same level (without interruption) for March, April, and May 2020. If you had a recertification due in March, April, or May 2020, expect to receive a letter saying that your recertification will be due six months from your original due date. For example, if your original recertification was due in March 2020, it will now be due in September 2020. This applies to both annual recertification and periodic reports (Semi-Annual Report, a.k.a. SAR 7). Regular reporting requirements for CalFresh, General Assistance, and SonomaWORKS are expected to resume in June 2020.
Q: Will I be required to complete my work requirements during the COVID-19 crisis?
A: The work requirements for General Assistance and SonomaWORKS (CalWORKs) Welfare-to-Work have been waived for the months of March, April, and May 2020. If you are still able to complete your assigned activities, please turn in your attendance as usual. However, if you are unable to submit attendance during the COVID-19 crisis, you will not be penalized.
Q: What is a CalFresh Emergency Allotment?
A: The CalFresh Emergency Allotment is an increase to your benefits that will be automatically added to your EBT card for March and April 2020. The allotment will increase CalFresh benefits to the maximum amount for eligible household members (up to six individuals). You can expect the first allotment (for March) to be added to your EBT card on April 12th and the second allotment (for April) to be added on May 10th, 2020. If your household is already receiving the maximum amount for CalFresh, no additional benefits will be issued.
Q: If I lose my EBT card, can I still get it replaced?
A: Please call the customer service number at (877) 328-9677 to request a replacement EBT card. If you require an emergency replacement: CalFresh recipients can visit 2550 Paulin Drive in Santa Rosa and SonomaWORKS recipients can visit 2227 Capricorn Way, Suite 100, in Santa Rosa. The lobby doors will be locked; however, our reception staff will be available Monday - Friday between 8:00am - 4:30pm to assist you with this type of critical need. To protect yourself and others, we ask that you wear a face covering, wash your hands, and respect social distancing guidelines.
Q: If I lose my Medi-Cal Identification Card (BIC), can I still get it replaced?
A: Yes, please contact our service center at (877) 699-6868 to request a new Medi-Cal Identification Card (BIC). If you need to access services right away, most Medi-Cal providers can confirm your eligibility in their office by using your social security number.
Q: What can I do if my children are currently covered by a Medi-Cal program with a monthly premium that I cannot afford as a result of COVID-19?
A: If your children receive health care coverage through the Medi-Cal For Families program and you cannot pay the premium due to COVID-19, you can request a waiver of your premium by calling the Medi-Cal For Families Payment Section at (800) 880-5305.
Q: Do I need to call or visit a Human Services Department office to renew my Medi-Cal benefits?
A: No. Due to the Governor’s executive order, current Medi-Cal recipients will continue to receive benefits for March, April, and May 2020. All negative actions have been delayed for Medi-Cal beneficiaries and will be processed at a later date. If you receive information from the county, including renewal packets for Medi-Cal, please make sure to respond. Renewals can be returned via mail or uploaded via mybenefitscalwin.org.
Q: Will In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) be impacted by COVID-19?
A: In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) continues to provide services remotely. IHSS referrals can be made through the regular process of calling (707) 565-5900. IHSS social workers are working remotely and able to respond to calls, do outreach to vulnerable clients, and complete assessments by phone. Note that the state still currently requires an in-person interview for new IHSS applications, which will be completed once it is safe to do so.
Q: Does COVID-19 affect In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Payroll or Public Authority?
A: In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Payroll and Public Authority are providing all services, including supporting new provider enrollment and referring new providers to clients. Please call (707) 565-2852 for IHSS Payroll and (707) 565-5700 for IHSS Public Authority.
Reporting Abuse or Neglect
Q: How can I report concerns about child abuse or neglect?
A: If a child is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 right away. Otherwise, please call the confidential Child Protection Hotline at (707) 565-4304 or (800) 870-7064 to report your concerns regarding child neglect, parental abandonment, and emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
Q: How can I report abuse or neglect concerns about an older adult or dependent adult?
A: If you are concerned that an older adult (age 60+) or dependent adult (age 18+) may be experiencing neglect or emotional, physical, financial, or sexual abuse, please call the confidential Adult Protective Services (APS) Hotline at (707) 565-5940 or (800) 667-0404.