Inter-Departmental Correspondence

Human Services Agency



September 19, 2003


October 7, 2003



Honorable Board of Supervisors



Maureen D. Borland, Director, Human Services Agency


Glen H. Brooks, Jr., Director, Central Region






Adopt a Resolution authorizing three modifications to the General Assistance (GA) standard of aid effective October 1, 2003. The changes include a GA rate adjustment based on the adjustment to the state CalWORKs grant, a fifteen day residency requirement as a condition of eligibility for GA, and a reduction of the GA rate for those individuals who reside in substance abuse treatment facilities to the same rate paid to those recipients who are not in residential treatment.



State law requires counties to provide support for indigent county residents who do not qualify for other financial assistance. Every county has a GA program, which meets this requirement by providing financial assistance to adults without children and who are not eligible for federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or State CalWORKs assistance. It is incumbent on the County Board of Supervisors to set the County "standard of aid."


Since 1993, the County has set its GA grant levels according to a statutory "safe harbor" formula, which provides that a GA grant level, based on and subject to the same annual adjustment as CalWORKs grant levels, are "sufficient standard of aid". Compliance with the formula relieves the County of the requirement of setting the grant based on the cost of subsistence in the County, which would inevitably; result in a much higher grant. This approach ensures consistency of grant levels between counties, minimizes the risk of a legal challenge to the grant level, and discourages recipients from "grant shopping."


In 1997, the Board of Supervisors authorized implementation of a statute that permitted the GA grant to include the value of in-kind payments up to forty dollars ($40) per month in medical care provided by counties for those GA recipients who are not eligible for Medi-Cal.


As part of the GA eligibility determination, Welfare Institutions Code 17001.5 (1) (A) authorizes counties to establish residency requirements that shall not exceed 15 days. Implementation of a residency requirement requires Board of Supervisors' approval. Presently the residency standard is for the client to state they physically reside in the county and intend on remaining.



San Mateo County has historically chosen to pay rates for GA clients in licensed Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) facilities somewhat higher than those rates paid to standard non-AOD clients. This was based on the assumption that the higher rate would encourage clients to seek substance abuse treatment. Thus, the current standard is $371 per month for GA clients in AOD residential treatment and $296 per month for standard non-AOD clients. In response to the Board mandate to reduce Agency Net County Cost, the Human Services Agency included discontinuance of this practice as part of its Net County Cost Reduction Plan approved by the Board in June. Therefore, it is proposed that the Board of Supervisors align the grant level for GA clients in AOD residential treatment facilities with the individual rate for non-AOD clients. In Fiscal Year 2002-03 a monthly average of 94 GA recipients resided in AOD facilities, which accounts for 30 percent of the total recipient GA population.


The second proposed change is to require a 15-day continuous residency in San Mateo County prior to the date of application for GA. San Mateo County's residency requirements are currently met by a client's statement that he or she resides in the County and intends to stay. In contrast, all of the adjacent counties have a 15-day continuous residency requirement. Establishing a 15-day continuous residency requirement would provide a disincentive for migration to San Mateo County from counties with more stringent residency requirements.


The third item is to align the GA grant consistent with the CalWORKs grant level, consistent with statutory formula. Effective June 1, 2003 the State Department of Social Services advised counties there would be a 3.74 percent increase for CalWORKs. This Cost-of Living Adjustment (COLA) will increase grants to CalWORKs assistance units for one person from $336 to $349 per month. Consistent with the 1991 legislative intent that permits counties to set GA grants according to the CalWORKs grant, we recommend that monthly GA standard for aid be modified effective October 1, 2003 as follows.



Increase the GA grant from $336 to $349 (3.74%) for individuals who live alone, in shared housing, or who are homeless. For individuals in this group who are not eligible for Medi-Cal and who rely on the County of San Mateo to provide their health care needs, $40 of this $349 will continue to be the value of in-kind health care services, resulting in an increase from $296 to $309 in vendor/vouchers and cash;


Align the GA grant from $371 to $309 for individuals who are in AOD residential treatment and are not eligible for Medi-Cal. This rate would be consistent with the realignment of AOD residential rates to the standard non-AOD clients; and


Increase the GA grant from $395 to $410 for individuals who reside in board and care treatment facilities.


In 1993, the Board adopted a Resolution, which authorized a change in the General Assistance Program from a cash program to a program comprised of cash and vendor/vouchers for housing and food. As with the October 1, 2001, General Assistance grant level increase we are requesting that this proposed increase be added to the vendor voucher portion which is used primarily for housing costs. This is beneficial since housing costs in San Mateo County continue to be problematic for these clients. The maximum cash payment issued to clients remains at $58.


Vision Alignment

The proposed action will keep the commitment of responsive, effective and collaborative government and goal number 20: Government decisions are based on careful consideration of future impact, rather than temporary relief or immediate gain. The modifications to the GA program in collaboration with the AOD program contributes to this commitment and goal since these changes have been adjusted for the least impact to San Mateo County residents while allowing the County to continue to provide services during this time of budgetary crises.


Fiscal Impact

The appropriation for General Assistance payments in the Tentatively Adopted 2003-04 budget reflects a reduction in the GA substance abuse treatment differential. With the implementation of the proposed changes, the appropriation in the Tentatively Adopted 2003-04 budget is adequate. There is no Net County Cost increase anticipated as a result of this action.