The process that California will use to steer federal stimulus checks to young adults with foster care experience has become more clear, with details provided to The Imprint by the state and instructions sent to all 58 counties.
As The Imprint reported last week, California will issue $600 prepaid cash cards to eligible current and former foster youth between the ages of 18 and 20, and $1,500 cards to those between ages 21 and 26. The state projects that 31,000 people will be eligible for one of those payments.
The front door of the California application process is being handled by Think of Us, a nonprofit organization that has set up the #CheckForUs website to help raise awareness about the pandemic assistance program across the country. Here is what else The Imprint has learned about the process:
Verification: In an all-county letter sent out last week, the California Department of Social Services instructed county child welfare agencies that they would be responsible for verifying potentially eligible people between 18 and 20. And not just the ones in extended foster care; counties will also be tasked with verification of applicants in this age range who left the system at 18, or who are residing in California but experienced foster care in another state. The state agency is handling outreach and verification for the older bloc of applicants.
The Cards: The state Department of Social Services contracted with e-commerce company Blackhawk Network to issue the prepaid Visa debit cards at a cost of $73,469. These cards will be usable with any merchant that accepts Visa, but will not be accepted at gas pumps. The physical card can be used an ATM, but the virtual ones can only act as a credit card.
Those young adults deemed eligible can receive the debit card virtually, or can choose to receive it in the mail. Cards that are mailed to applicants will arrive via First Class USPS, with the California Department of Social Services logo in the top left corner.
To activate that card, recipients can 1-877-610-1075 or visit MyPrepaidCenter.com to activate it. Each card has a unique identifier that is provided directly to the recipient, said department spokesman Jason Montiel, in an email to The Imprint.
Notification/Tracking: The California Department of Social Services will receive the names and contact information of applicants, and then agency staff will work on verifying eligibility. If there are questions about eligibility, staff will contact the youth to manually complete the process, said Montiel.
If an applicant wants to check on their status with the department, they can email [email protected]. “Our customer service team will review and contact them,” Montiel said.
Once a current or former foster youth is verified, he said, “they will receive a link through the Blackhawk system, which will provide them with a tracking number for further technical support and provide tracking information that will inform the youth of when and how the card was sent.”
Those applicants who chose to receive the debit card through the mail will be required to verify a current address upon approval before the card is sent. This is meant to prevent the funds from being sent to an outdated address.
Potential Second Round: One unknown in the process is that while the state projects more than 30,000 people in the state are eligible for the federal relief, there’s no way to know how many will claim it. In its letter to counties, the Department of Social Services said it may issue a second round of prepaid cards to approved applicants in September, if there is money left over. Specifically, the department said, the second round would be issued if there’s enough left to provide at least $100 to each recipient.