Governor Okays Texting, Modernizing Communication with Public Benefit Recipients

Friday, September 14, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Today Governor Brown signed legislation authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) to modernize the way families receive information about their CalFresh and California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) benefits. Specifically, Assembly Bill 1957 authorizes county human services agencies to send notices and reminders via computer-generated text message.

“Representing the heart of Silicon Valley, I’ve witnessed how technology can add value and efficiency to people’s lives,” said Assemblymember Berman. “AB 1957 leverages technology to support our most vulnerable communities by preventing families from losing critical benefits due to outdated and impractical communication methods.”

More than four million Californians – over half of whom are children – rely on CalFresh benefits for food. Similarly, over one million Californians receive financial assistance from CalWORKs for housing, toiletries, and other necessities.

“The housing crisis has left too many Californians without a confidential mailing address where they can receive public benefit notices. Text messaging is becoming an increasingly important tool for communication between county workers and recipients,” said Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, a co-sponsor of the bill. “AB 1957 ensures that, as counties seek to modernize their communication practices, they do so in ways that are compliant with federal consumer laws and privacy best practices.”

Under AB 1957, the California Department of Social Services will work with stakeholders to develop guidelines for counties to effectively implement text messaging as a means to communicate with CalFresh and CalWORKs applicants and recipients.

“Food banks across the state have seen firsthand the need to utilize digital communication technologies to meet the needs of the people we serve,” said Andrew Cheyne, Director of Government Affairs for the California Association of Food Banks, a co-sponsor of the bill. “We are grateful that Assemblymember Berman brought forward AB 1957 to strengthen text messaging options for all Californians, while enhancing privacy protections that are needed more than ever.”

 

Contact: Elizabeth Schmitt, (916) 319-2024