- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
States that include TANF in the Combined State Plan must outline how the State will meet the requirements of section 402 of the Social Security Act including how it will:
(OMB Control Number: 0970-0145)
k. Set forth objective criteria for the delivery of benefits and the determination of eligibility and for fair and equitable treatment, including an explanation of how it will provide opportunities for recipients who have been adversely affected to be heard in a State administrative or appeal process (section 402(a)(1)(B)(iii) of the Social Security Act)
Delivery of benefits is dependent on the component program of the FA Program and includes delivery by Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), by vendor payment, cash payments or provision of services.
Eligibility rules of the Department of Human Resources will be uniformly applied in all cases in a county. The determination of need and amount of assistance for all applicants and recipients will be made on an objective and equitable basis and all types of income and potential income will be taken into consideration in the same way except where otherwise specifically authorized by State or Federal law or the Administrative Code of the Department of Human Resources or as stated in program operating guidelines issued by the State Department of Human Resources, Family Assistance Division. The State will adhere to prohibitions and requirements of Section 408 of Part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act. Pursuant to subparagraph (B) of Section 408(a)(10) Good cause exceptions to subparagraph (A) of Section 408(a)(10) include absence due to medical reasons, school attendance, visits, conducting business, participating in Job Corps or vocational training.
1. Financial Responsibility for Program Benefits
For assistance subject to time limits, financial responsibility for needy children includes parents and stepparents in the home and alleged fathers living in the home with their child and the child’s mother. Income of all members of the assistance unit will be considered in determining eligibility of the assistance unit for benefits and amount of payment.
Income of parents and stepparents ineligible due to alien status, disqualification for fraud or spending restrictions violations, exclusion as a parole violator, or for a conviction of a felony or for fraudulently misrepresenting residence will also be used to determine eligibility if appropriate and applicable according to department operating manuals or other instructions. Earned income from new employment may be disregarded for the first twelve months wages are received if timely and accurately reported and the individual is otherwise eligible for the disregard pursuant to Family Assistance Program guidelines.
2. Summarized Eligibility Rules
In order to be eligible families must:
— meet component specific conditions including the following if applicable
— be U.S. citizens (or meet alienage requirements in Title IV of P.L. 104—193 and/or be a legal immigrant residing in the U.S. prior to August 22, 1996).
— be residents of Alabama.
— be in need by agency financial standards. See Attachment E.
— cooperate in self—sufficiency requirements including work and child support
enforcement activities unless deferred from work requirements or unless good
cause exists not to cooperate with child support if applicable.
— provide or apply for a SSN for each member of the assistance unit
— not be on strike (applicable to cash component only)
— complete applicant job search
— cooperate with drug screening activities
3. Medical Services
Federal law prohibits the use of federal funds to provide medical services and states that the term “medical services” does not include pre—pregnancy family planning services.
In addition to pre—pregnancy family planning services for purposes of federal expenditures, the following activities/services that are consistent with a TANF purpose and related to employment and/or work participation activities for cash assistance recipients or required as a condition of eligibility for cash assistance are not considered medical services:
— pre—employment physical examination by a health professional that does not include treatment.
— payment to a health professional for completion of Department forms. (Used for eligibility determinations related to time limits which constitutes an administrative cost and for work activities).
— payment to a health professional or entity for administration of a pre—employment drug test or TB test or for administration of a drug test as a condition of eligibility for cash assistance.
— assessment, testing or other determinations of modification by a health professional needed for reasonable accommodation related to a participant’s incapacity/disability. Excludes treatment.
— dental services (cosmetic, extractions, filings, etc.) needed to eliminate a barrier to participation or employment. The service may not be of a surgical or other medical nature.
The Family Assistance Program will provide cash assistance pursuant to 45 CFR 260.31 on a time limited basis (time limit is 5 years) consistent with provisions in section 408, Part A, Title IV of the Social Security Act (and supportive services to enable families to become self-sufficient) to eligible families. In order to receive past 60 months the grantee or spouse of the grantee must have a circumstance/situation which creates a barrier to self sufficiency known as a hardship and s/he must be cooperating with child support and complying with JOBS as appropriate. See Attachment F below.
CRITERIA FOR EXCEPTION TO TIME LIMITS
In order to receive past 60 months the grantee or spouse of the grantee must have a circumstance/situation which creates a barrier to self sufficiency known as a hardship and s/he must be cooperating with Child Support and complying with JOBS as appropriate. To be eligible both criteria in A & B must be met and continue to be met in each month after 60.
The grantee or spouse of the grantee must meet one of the following circumstances and must not be employed. If a hardship is established but the individual becomes employed or employable (as determined by the JOBS worker) eligibility is lost.
A hardship may exist when the grantee or spouse of the grantee:
1. Is a person whose presence is required on a substantially continuous basis due to the illness or incapacity of the spouse, child, mother-in-law, father-in-law or of an individual to whom the relationship of the caregiver is within certain degrees of relationship and no other person is available to provide the needed care.
2. Has an illness or injury which has lasted or is expected to last at least 30 days and which is serious enough to temporarily prevent employment (or training with the hope of employment) when determined on the basis of medical evidence from the attending physician/clinic. This includes pregnancy when it has been determined by medical evidence that working or participation in training would be detrimental to the woman or the unborn child.
3. Is incapacitated with a physical or mental impairment determined by a physician or a licensed or certified psychologist which prevents or substantially reduces the individual’s ability to work.
4. Is fleeing current domestic violence or abuse because s/he recently has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty as verified by certain documentary evidence specified in program manuals.
5. Is participating in drug, alcohol or mental health counseling as verified through the sources of the counseling to the extent participation in program work requirements is precluded.
6. Is age 60 or older.
7. Has a personal barrier of such significance as to preclude training and/or employment and is engaged in an activity to overcome the barrier.
8. Lives in a Food Assistance ABAWD waiver county and has not been disqualified due to noncompliance with JOBS since December, 1996.
B. Program Compliance Criteria
The grantee and/or the spouse of the grantee must cooperate with Child Support and comply with JOBS in each month past 60. Failure to meet this criteria results in (1) permanent loss of program eligibility for the grantee and spouse of the grantee regardless of family circumstances and (2) recovery of all benefits received past month 60.
CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM
Individuals receiving assistance are required to cooperate in child support enforcement activities unless good cause as defined in department program manuals exists not to do so. See Attachment D below. The penalties for failure to cooperate are as follows:
Upon overt refusal of the grantee relative or other member(s) of the assistance unit required to cooperate with child support enforcement, the application will be denied and entitlement to benefits for the month of application through the month of application disposition is lost even if reapplication is made in the month of the original application disposition.
For the first three months of non-cooperation (consecutive or not) the grant amount is reduced by 50% of the payment standard for the assistance unit size. For months of non-cooperation in excess of three months, the assistance unit is disqualified for a one-month period for the first disqualification. For a month of non-cooperation following the first disqualification, the assistance unit is immediately disqualified for a six-month period. For a month of non-cooperation following the second and subsequent disqualifications, the assistance unit is immediately disqualified for a twelve-month period. Attachment D
GOOD CAUSE FOR NONCOOPERATION IN CHILD SUPPORT ACTIVITIES
An applicant/recipient for assistance under the Family Assistance Program must cooperate with the agency in child support enforcement activities unless it is determined that cooperation in such activities is not in the child’s best interest. Circumstances under which cooperation may not be in the child’s best interest include:
1. Physical or emotional harm of a serious nature is reasonably expected to occur to the child or to the parent or relative with whom the child is living.
2. The child was conceived as a result of incest or forcible rape.
3. Legal proceedings for adoption of the child are pending before a court of competent jurisdiction.
4. The applicant/recipient is currently being assisted by a public or licensed private social agency to resolve the issue of whether to keep the child or relinquish for adoption and the discussions have not gone on for more than three months.
Certain individuals applying for and/or receiving assistance must cooperate in activities needed to determine if reasonable suspicion exists that the individual uses or is under the influence of a drug and by taking a drug screening if reasonable suspicions exists. This provision is applicable to individuals applying for cash assistance on or after October 1, 2015 and to individuals awarded as a result of such application. The penalties for failure/refusal to cooperate are as follows:
Failure/refusal of an applicant to cooperate results in denial of the application for the assistance unit and loss of benefits for that application period, i.e., month of application through the month of disposition of the application. Failure/refusal of an applicant being added back to an open case results in denial of the application for the individual for that application period and case closure.
Failure/refusal of a recipient to cooperate results in case closure.
The penalties for a positive screening result without a valid prescription for the identified drug are as follows:
- For the first positive drug screening, a warning shall be issued that subsequent positive tests will result in loss of benefits and that other random drug screenings will be required.
- For the second positive drug screening, the adult will be ineligible for benefits for one year.
- For the third positive drug screening, the adult will be permanently ineligible to receive assistance and payment to the otherwise eligible assistance unit will be made to another relative living in the home or other protective payee pursuant to Department operating guidelines. The ineligible grantee relative may continue to receive benefits for other eligible assistance unit members for a temporary period while appointment of another grantee relative/protective payee is being processed.
Client Opportunity for Review of Action Taken
Procedures for client review of case action taken provide for three options for review (1) a conference with the County Department of Human Resources, (2) a State Department of Human Resources case record review and (3) a fair hearing conducted by the State Department of Human Resources. A request for options 2 and 3 must be in writing and submitted to either the County or State Department. Information about these opportunities as well as instructions regarding how to request and where to send the request is provided to clients as general information on all automated system notices generated and mailed to clients at award, termination or change in circumstances. If a system notice is not sufficient to explain case action a manually prepared case action form is completed and mailed which also contains the general information in regard to a review of case action described above. The summarized eligibility requirements pamphlet for the Family Assistance Program contains similar language and is required to be given and explained to all applicants and as needed to recipients during the interview process. Rules of review for special projects may vary dependent on the project and would be included in informational materials as appropriate.
Applications will be acted on in a timely manner. Department rules provide that not more than 30 days shall elapse between the date of application and the date the first benefits are made available or the notice of denial is mailed. The number of applications that exceed such standard is kept to a minimum. The standard of promptness is monitored and reported to County Directors of Human Resources monthly.
Applicants and recipients are notified in writing of actions taken in their case.
PAYMENT ACCURACY AND PROGRAM INTEGRITY
The program is supported by an automated system known as the Family Assistance Certification, Employment and Training System (FACETS) operational in all counties of the State. An Income and Eligibility Verification System (IEVS) as required by Section 1137 of the Social Security Act for persons receiving assistance is operational in all counties of the State.
Methods are in place to ensure payment accuracy to eligible families which includes mandatory case record reviews by county office supervisory staff with a re-review of a sample of those records by state office field supervisors. Identified deficiencies require corrective action. State statistics about payment accuracy are published to the Directors, County Departments of Human Resources monthly. Payment accuracy is a component of County Director evaluations. The state is subject to Federal and State Audits.
Program operating guidelines contain provisions to strengthen and maintain program integrity from fraud prevention actions to recovery of erroneously paid benefits. Benefit recovery activities are supported through the Comprehensive Claims System (CCS) which interfaces with the program certification system, FACETS. As part of our Fraud Control Program individuals found guilty of committing an intentional program violation by a court of competent jurisdiction in Alabama will be disqualified from participation in the cash assistance component of the Family Assistance Program as follows: for a period of 6 months upon the first occasion of any such offense; or a period of 12 months upon the second occasion of any such offense and permanently upon the third or subsequent occasion of such offense. This disqualification penalty relates to an applicant or recipient of FA who is found on the basis of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or otherwise to have intentionally made a false or misleading statement or misrepresented , concealed or withheld facts or committed any act intended to mislead , misrepresent, conceal or withhold facts or profound falsity for the purpose of establishing or maintaining eligibility or increasing the amount of the grant. This penalty is in addition to our adherence to the statutory prohibitions and requirements of Title IV-A, Social Security Act,Section 408 as stated earlier in this section.
CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLIANCE
The Family Assistance Program, like all programs and services of the Department of Human Resources, is administered in full compliance with Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and all other Federal and State civil rights laws.
Language assistance so as to ensure meaningful access to all Department programs, services and benefits is provided to individuals needing such services consistent with the Department’s Language Assistance Plan first issued on August 24, 2005 and revised January 2012.
Reasonable accommodations are provided to enable full use of existing programs and services to those individuals who tell us (or for whom we determine) they have a physical, mental or learning disability that limits a major life activity. Client case action notices provide information about the availability of reasonable accommodations. Departmental program operating manuals for the TANF Program contain guidelines for county staff in this regard as well as information about language assistance.
SCREENING AND IDENTIFICATION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Procedures are in place through the statewide Special Assessment, Intervention and Liaison Project (SAIL) for eligibility workers to routinely screen and identify domestic violence for individuals applying for or receiving cash assistance. JOBS case managers include questions on domestic violence as part of the JOBS assessment as well. For those identified as victims of domestic violence, referrals are made to the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence for a variety of services including development of a safety plan, information and referral, supportive services, counseling and case management, etc. Certain program rules are waived for those individuals identified as in imminent danger and include child support enforcement activities, time limits and work participation requirements (although the client may volunteer to participate).
Pursuant to Title IV-A, Section 402, Alabama’s TANF State Plan is published and maintained on the Department of Human Resources website. Written comments on this plan were solicited and a period of 45 days was provided for such comments. Further Alabama law at Section 41, Chapter 22 Administrative Procedure, provides for the promulgation of program rules on requirements to receive assistance. Two of the stated purposes of that Act are to increase public access to governmental information as well as to increase public participation in the formulation of administrative rules. The law requires publication of the referenced program rules for public comment in the Alabama Administrative Monthly for a period of 35 to 90 days. This rule affords all interested parties reasonable opportunity to submit data, or arguments, orally or in writing. The publication of the plan on the website and the proposed program rules process provide for input from other state agencies, public and private organizations, the general public and other pertinent entities during development and implementation.
FINANCIAL CRITERIA - Attachment E
1. Cash Assistance
A. Monthly Maximum Payment Standards
STANDARDS FOR FAMILY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Assistance Unit Size Payment Standard
B. Resource Standards
Not applicable effective October 1, 2009.
C. Work Program Supportive Services (Former Recipients and Needy Applicants)
Family’s gross income is less than 200% of the HHS federal poverty guidelines by family size.
Attachment E cont’d.
2. TANF Emergency Assistance (Formerly EA)
Annual family income is lower than two times the state’s estimated median income level for a family of three,i.e $57,376 (1990).
3. TANF Direct Child Welfare Assistance
Child’s or family’s gross income is equal to or less than 200% of the HHS poverty guidelines by family size.
4. Special Projects
Eligible Families: Child’s, individual’s (including pregnant women), or family’s gross income can be up to 300% of the HHS poverty guidelines by family size. Additionally, the family’s receipt of other means tested benefits/services is sufficient to convey categorical financial eligibility as well as receipt of benefits/services from an entity (organization, state agency, etc.) or program whose client population is largely low income.