A dime toward food benefits could cost a pretty penny
Absent legislative action, taxpayers will have to pay about 50 cents per letter to notify more than a million households that a 10-cent public benefit is about to expire.
Total cost: $745,000, split evenly between state and federal funds.
The unusual situation stems from a 10-cents-per-year federal subsidy that is placed on debit cards for 1.5 million households, generally working-poor families, that receive CalFresh food assistance but not monthly welfare grants.
The meager subsidy officially is called a low-income home energy assistance benefit, but a dime won't dent utility costs. More importantly, it qualifies families for a computation that raises their food benefits by about $62 per month.
Because the dime can be spent as cash, while there are restrictions on what food benefits can buy, the two must be segregated on debit cards. The result is that families tend to ignore the 10-cent subsidy and it sits idle, month after month.
After 180 days, the dime subsidy disappears, so regulations require families to be notified after 135 days.
Thus the state's dilemma.
Gov. Jerry Brown proposes to avoid the expense by adding a clause to a budget trailer bill that would require notification only for sums of $1 or more.
BY THE NUMBERS
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