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Chapter 5 - Public Assistance/Government Benefits

In California, people who apply for or receive public assistance have specific rights which protect them from discrimination in the administration of such programs. California Welfare and Institutions Code section 10000 states that aid shall be administered and services provided without discrimination on account of race, national origin or ancestry, religion, sex, marital status, or political affiliation. (94)

This code section pertains to persons applying for or receiving public assistance through any of the following programs:

  • Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)
  • California Medical Assistance (Medi-Cal)
  • County Medical Services Program
  • Food Stamps
  • In-Home Supportive Service (IHSS)
  • Multipurpose Senior Service Program
  • Social Services
  • SSI/SSP Special Circumstances Payments
  • Women, Infants and Children Program

When you apply for or receive public assistance, the right provided you by Welfare and Institutions Code section 10000 must be respected by every person and organization you come into contact with in connection with public assistance, including, for example, county welfare departments, boarding homes and institutions, day nurseries, work or training programs, hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, dentists, and druggists.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, you may file a complaint with your county welfare department's civil rights representative. Such a complaint must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act unless the agency extends the time period. If the representative is unable to resolve your complaint, you may request an investigation. The county is then required to investigate the complaint and inform you of the outcome. If you are dissatisfied with the result of this investigation, you have 30 days to appeal the county's action to the appropriate federal agency.

You have the right not to be retaliated against for either filing a discrimination complaint or for testifying, assisting or otherwise participating in the processing of a complaint. Any retaliation should be reported in the same manner as the original discrimination complaint.

In connection with all of the previously listed public assistance programs, except for the Medi-Cal program, you may also file a discrimination complaint with:

Department of Social Services
Civil Rights Bureau
744 P Street, MS 15-70
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 654-2107

Website: www.dss.cahwnet.gov/civilrights/

In connection with the Medi-Cal program, you may also file a discrimination complaint with:

Department of Health Services
Office of Civil Rights
714 P Street, Room 1050
Sacramento, CA 95814
General Information (916) 445-4171
TDD Only (916) 657-2861
AIDS (916) 445-0553

Website: www.dhs.ca.gov/DHS-REORG/ocr.html

Furthermore, you may also file a discrimination complaint with the following federal agency:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region IX
Office for Civil Rights
50 United Nations Plaza, Room 322
San Francisco, CA 94102
Voice Phone (415) 437-8310
TDD (415) 437-8311
FAX (415) 437-8329

If your complaint involves the Food Stamp Program, contact:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
14th & Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
Telephone: (202) 720-2791
Food Stamp Information: (800) 221-5689
California Hotline: (800) 952-5253
E-Mail: fsphq-web@fns.usda.gov
Website: www.usda.gov/da/

If you apply for or receive aid for aged, blind or disabled persons through the Supplemental Income/State Supplementary Program, you have rights similar to those stated above. Discrimination complaints concerning this program must be addressed to the Social Security Office nearest you since the Social Security Administration is the agency which handles discrimination complaints for this program.

In addition, California has a general statute prohibiting unlawful discrimination in the administration of any program funded partially or fully by the State. (95) Government Code section 11135, subdivision (a), states:

    "No person in the State of California shall, on the basis of ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, color, or disability, be unlawfully denied the benefits of, or be unlawfully subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity that is funded directly by the state or receives any financial assistance from the state."
If you have a discrimination problem which you believe is covered by Government Code section 11135, you can file a complaint with the particular state agency that provided state funds to the entity which acted in an alleged discriminatory fashion. Any person, including interested third parties, can file the complaint. The complaint must be filed within one year of the alleged unlawful discrimination. However, if you do not discover facts about an unlawful practice until after the expiration of the one-year filing period, you have an additional 90 days to file a complaint.

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  1. Welfare and Institutions Code section 10001.5 excludes illegal aliens from public social services. (Added by Initiative Measure (Prop. 187, § 5, approved November 8, 1994).) Back to link 94
  2. Congress has enacted a similar federal law, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000d), which prohibits discrimination in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance when such discrimination is based on race, color or national origin. For information regarding your rights and remedies under federal law, you should contact the federal agency providing the financial assistance or an attorney. The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, 20 U.S.C. section 1681 et seq., also requires recipients of federal funds to comply with federal laws forbidding discrimination based on sex or blindness. Back to link 95

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