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NO. 147. AN ACT RELATING TO ASSISTING FAMILIES TO ATTAIN SELF-SUFFICIENCY.

(H.843)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. 33 V.S.A. chapter 11 is amended to read:

CHAPTER 11. *[AID AND SERVICES TO NEEDY FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN]* REACH UP

Subchapter 1. General Provisions; Eligibility, Aid and Services

§ 1101. DEFINITIONS

*[Unless otherwise expressly provided, the words and phrases in this chapter mean:]* *[(1) Dependent child: a needy child who:]* *[(A) Is a resident of the state at the time of application for assistance; and]* *[(B) Is under the age of eighteen years, or, if the commissioner determines that appropriated funds permit, is under the age of twenty-one years and, as determined under standards prescribed by the commissioner, is a student regularly attending a secondary school, or is regularly attending a course of vocational or technical training designed to fit him for gainful employment; and]* *[(C) Has been deprived of parental support or care by reason of:]* *[(i) the death or continued absence from home, or physical or mental incapacity of a parent, and is living with a relative; or]* *[(ii) being placed in a foster home as a result of a judicial determination to the effect that the continuation of living with a relative would be contrary to the welfare of the child, and that placement and care of the child are the responsibility of the department of social and rehabilitation services and who meets the eligibility requirements for such aid prescribed under federal laws and regulations; or]* *[(iii) the unemployment of a parent, and is living with a relative. However, this subparagraph (iii) shall be effective only so long as federal grants for aid and services to needy families with children are available to the department for the purposes of this subparagraph.]* *[(2) Foster care: care provided a dependent child in a foster home.]* *[(4) Living with a relative: living with a person related by blood or marriage in a residence maintained by one or more relatives as his or their home.]* *[(5) Relative: a person related to a dependent child, as defined by the department in conformity with the social security act.]* *[(6) Resources: income and property available from whatever source.]* *[(7) Commissioner: the commissioner of social welfare.]* *[(8) Department: the department of social welfare. ]*

As used in this chapter:

(1) “Able-to-work” means to be free of any physical, emotional, or mental condition that would prevent the individual from engaging in any combination of the work activities, identified in subdivisions 1101(27)(A) through (E) of this title, for at least 35 hours per week.

(2) “Able-to-work-part-time” means having a physical, emotional, or mental condition that would allow the individual to engage in any combination of the work activities, identified in subdivisions 1101(27)(A) through (E) of this title, for at least 10 hours per week but would prevent the individual from engaging in such activities for 35 or more hours per week.

(3) “Adult” means an individual who:

(A) is 18 years of age or older, and not a dependent child; or

(B) is under 18 years of age and:

(i) is pregnant; or

(ii) is a parent who is the caretaker for a dependent child.

(4) “Assessment” means the information-gathering process, carried out by the department’s established protocol, that identifies an individual’s skills, aptitudes, interests, life and work experience, and barriers, and the determination of how these factors relate to the individual’s current or potential participation in the labor force and his or her family responsibilities. Where appropriate, this process includes the use of tests, other standardized measurement tools, and referrals to relevant professionals for evaluation or diagnosis. The department shall use the information gathered as part of this process in developing the individual’s family development plan, as well as, where applicable, assessing the appropriateness and feasibility of the individual’s education, training, and employment goals and determining the individual’s ability to work.

(5) “Barrier” means any physical, emotional, or mental condition, any lack of an educational, vocational, or other skill or ability, and any lack of transportation, child care, housing, medical assistance or other services or resources, domestic violence circumstances, caretaker responsibilities, or other conditions or circumstances that prevent an individual from engaging in employment or other work activity.

(6) “Caretaker” means an individual age 18 or older who is fulfilling a parental role in caring for a dependent child by providing physical care, guidance, and decision-making related to the child’s health, school, medical care, and discipline.

(7) “Case management” means the services provided by or through the department to participating families, including assessment, information, referrals, and assistance in the preparation and implementation of a family development plan under section 1107 of this title.

(8) “Commissioner” means the commissioner of the department of social welfare, or his or her designee.

(9) “Department” means the department of social welfare.

(10) “Dependent child” means a child who:

(A) is a resident of this state; and

(B)(i) is under the age of 18 years; or

(ii) is 18 years of age or older who is a full-time student in a secondary school, or attending an equivalent level of vocational or technical training, and is reasonably expected to complete the educational program before reaching the age of 19 or is not expected to complete the educational program before reaching age 19 solely due to a documented disability.

(11) “Eligible family” means a family that is determined to be financially eligible for the programs authorized by this title, in accordance with rules adopted by the commissioner.

(12) “Family” means:

(A) one or more dependent children living with one or both parents or a relative or caretaker of such children; or

(B) a pregnant individual.

(13) “Financial assistance” means cash, payments, vendor payments, and other forms of benefits designed to meet a family’s ongoing basic needs that are available through the Reach Up program. A family’s ongoing basic needs include food, clothing, shelter, utilities, household goods, personal care items, and general incidental expenses.

(14) “Job-ready” means possessing the education or skills demanded by the local job market, and not being subject to any barrier.

(15) “Living with a relative or caretaker” means living with a caretaker or relative in a residence maintained by the caretaker or one or more relatives as his or her or their home.

(16) “Parent” means a biological parent, stepparent, adoptive parent, or pregnant individual.

(17) “Participant” or “participating adult” means an adult member of a participating family.

(18) “Participating family” means an eligible family that participates in the Reach Up program.

(19) “Reach Up program” means the program administered by the department that assists and enables eligible families to become self-sufficient by providing financial assistance and Reach Up services.

(20) “Reach Up services” means the service component of the Reach Up program consisting of case management services, support services, and referrals provided to eligible families to assist them in becoming self-sufficient.

(21) “Relative” means a person related to a dependent child, as defined by the department by rule.

(22) “Resources” means any income and property available from whatever source.

(23) “Secretary” means the secretary of the agency of human services, or his or her designee.

(24) “Subsidized job” means a job with an employer for which at least 25 percent of the wages are provided by diversion of TANF funds.

(25) “Temporary Assistance to Needy Families” or “TANF” means the block grant provided to this state and established in accordance with Part A of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act, as amended, and the regulations promulgated pursuant thereto by the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.

(26) “Unable-to-work” means not able-to-work and not

able-to-work-part-time.

(27) “Work activities” means the following activities limited to the extent and degree that they are allowed and countable in accordance with Part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act:

(A) unsubsidized employment;

(B) subsidized private sector employment;

(C) subsidized public sector employment;

(D) work experience (including work associated with the refurbishing of publicly assisted housing) if sufficient private sector employment is not available;

(E) on-the-job training;

(F) job search and job readiness assistance;

(G) community service programs;

(H) vocational educational training (not to exceed 12 months with respect to any individual);

(I) job skills training directly related to employment;

(J) education directly related to employment, in the case of a recipient who has not received a high school diploma or a certificate of high school equivalency;

(K) satisfactory attendance at secondary school or in a course of study leading to a certificate of general equivalence, in the case of a recipient who has not completed secondary school or received such a certificate;

(L) the provision, consistent with the department’s rules applicable to self-employment, of child care services to an individual who is participating in a community service program; and

(M) any other work activity recognized in accordance with Part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act as amended.

(28) “Work-ready” means the earlier of:

(A) not subject to a barrier and capable of participating in a single work activity or any combination of work activities determined by the commissioner by rule as acceptable to meet the work requirements of section 1113 of this title; or

(B)(i) having received 12 cumulative months of financial assistance; or

(ii) having received at least 13 but no more than 18 cumulative months of financial assistance and having been granted an extension of the 12-month work readiness rule in accordance with subsection 1113(b) of this title.

§ *[1105]* 1102. PURPOSE OF AID

*[(a) The system of aid and services to needy families with children shall recognize clearly defined reciprocal responsibilities and obligations on the part of both parents and government.]* *[(b)]*(a) The *[goals]* purpose of *[aid on behalf of dependent children]* the Reach Up program *[are]* is:

(1) To assist families, recognizing individual and unique characteristics, to obtain the opportunities and skills necessary for self-sufficiency.

(2) To encourage economic independence by removing barriers and disincentives to work and providing positive incentives to work.

(3) To support parental nurturing.

(4) To support parental responsibility and positive parental role models, both custodial and noncustodial.

*[(5) To encourage and assist individuals and families to contribute materially to their own self-sufficiency whenever practicable.]* *[(6) To recognize that families have differing personal characteristics and experiences by providing services that address their individual needs.]*

(5) To measure the success of the system by what is best for children.

(6) To protect children by providing for their immediate basic needs, including food, housing and clothing.

(7) To respect the dignity of individuals and families receiving assistance by providing employment, education, and other services through social service delivery systems available to all Vermont citizens and by encouraging the private sector to integrate families receiving assistance into the mainstream of the employment market.

(8) To recognize the challenges facing many families receiving assistance by minimizing structural financial disincentives to increased earnings and the abrupt termination of assistance before parents are fully integrated into the employment market.

(9) To conserve state public financial resources by operating the system of aid in a manner that is efficient and avoids federal fiscal sanctions.

(10) To conform to the federal TANF law.

(b) The critical elements of developing a program that assists families to attain self-sufficiency are:

(1) the opportunity and obligation to work for those parents who are physically, emotionally, and otherwise able to do so;

(2) cooperative and realistic goal-setting, coupled with individualized case management that addresses each individual’s situation and barriers to self-sufficiency;

(3) rigorous child support collection from noncustodial parents; and

(4) a full range of supportive modalities, including appropriate training, education, financial assistance, child care, counseling, and transportation.

*[§ 1102. QUALIFICATION FOR AID]* *[(a) If, upon investigation, the commissioner finds that it would be for the benefit of a dependent child to remain with a relative, the department may grant aid to the relative in accordance with this chapter.]* *[(b) If, upon investigation, the commissioner finds that a dependent child is receiving care in a foster home under conditions prescribed in the regulations of the department, the department may pay an allowance to the foster home in accordance with this chapter.]*

§ 1103. AID; ELIGIBILITY AND BENEFIT LEVELS

(a) Aid shall be given for the benefit of a dependent child to the relative or caretaker with whom the child is living unless otherwise provided. The amount of aid to which an eligible person is entitled shall be determined with due regard to the income, resources and maintenance available to *[him]* that person and, as far as funds are available, shall provide *[him]* that person a reasonable subsistence compatible with decency and health. The commissioner may fix by regulation maximum amounts of aid, and act to insure that the expenditures for the programs shall not exceed appropriations for them. In no case may the department expend state funds in excess of the appropriations for the programs under this chapter.

(b) Aid may include the maintenance of one or both parents, if in need and in the dependent child's home, or a relative or caretaker with whom a dependent child is living, if the relative or caretaker is without sufficient means of support.

*[(c) The maximum amount of aid furnished on behalf of a dependent child maintained in a foster home shall not exceed the amount provided in a similar circumstance for a child in foster care under regulations of the department of social and rehabilitation services pertaining to the child welfare services program.]*

(c) The commissioner shall adopt rules for the determination of eligibility for the Reach Up program and benefit levels for all participating families that include the following provisions:

(1) No less than the first $150.00 per month of earnings from an unsubsidized job and 25 percent of the remaining unsubsidized earnings shall be disregarded in determining the amount of the family's financial assistance grant. The family shall receive the difference between countable income and the Reach Up payment standard in a partial financial assistance grant.

(2) No less than the first $90.00 per month of earnings from a subsidized job shall be disregarded in determining the amount of the family's financial assistance grant. The family shall receive the difference between countable income and the Reach Up payment standard in a partial financial assistance grant. Earnings from subsidized jobs shall qualify for federal and state earned income credit if the family is otherwise eligible for such credit.

(3) Incentive payments shall be provided to participating families for completing parenting education programs or related volunteer work required under a family development plan.

(4) Education stipends, employment stipends, job training stipends, and incentive payments, as determined by the commissioner, shall be excluded in calculating the financial assistance grant.

(5) The value of assets accumulated from the earnings of adults and children in participating families shall be excluded for purposes of determining continuing eligibility for the Reach Up program.

(6) Transitional medical assistance of up to 36 months shall be provided to families with a working adult who becomes ineligible for financial assistance due to increased earnings, unless family income exceeds 185 percent of the federal poverty level, and provided that federal financial participation is available for such transitional medical assistance.

(7) The equity value of one operable motor vehicle in a family with a single parent or caretaker and of two operable motor vehicles in a two-parent family shall be excluded for purposes of determining eligibility for the Reach Up program. The commissioner shall take all steps necessary to retain current resource protections under the Food Stamps program so that the rules under the Food Stamps program and the Reach Up program are compatible.

(d) In determining eligibility and benefit levels for two-parent participating families, the commissioner shall:

(1) Allow two-parent families with earned income who would otherwise qualify for assistance to receive financial assistance, regardless of the number of hours worked, and supplement their earnings with partial financial assistance and medical assistance; and

(2) Eliminate the requirements for two-parent families that the primary worker must have worked at least six quarters and be unemployed for at least 30 days. It is the intent of this subdivision that two-parent and one-parent families receive financial assistance under more similar rules.

(e) In determining eligibility and benefit levels for parents who are under 18 in participating families, the commissioner shall:

(1) Require parents who are under 18 to attend school or an appropriate alternative education or training activity.

(2) Ensure that the family development plan of a parent who is under 18 includes a requirement to take part in a case-managed support, education, and training program.

(3) Adopt rules, which shall include appropriate exemptions, requiring parents who are under 18 and who are not emancipated minors in accordance with section 7151 of Title 12 to live with a parent or in an approved supervised living arrangement. The sanctions provided for noncompliance with a Reach Up family development plan requirement under section 1116 of this title shall apply to noncompliance with the rules adopted under this subdivision.

(4) Allow parents who are under 18 and who live with their parents to have their eligibility for the Reach Up program and the amount of their financial assistance grant determined without consideration of their parents' income.

(f) The commissioner shall disregard no less than $50.00 per month of child support payments in determining eligibility and benefit levels for participating families.

(g) The commissioner shall use the family composition rules applicable to the welfare demonstration project established pursuant to Act No. 106 of 1994 in eligibility and benefit levels for a financial assistance grant.

§ 1104. ABANDONMENT OR DESERTION; REPORTING

Forthwith upon granting assistance for the benefit of a dependent child who has been abandoned or deserted by a parent, the commissioner shall give notice to the appropriate prosecuting officer charged with the duty of enforcing laws relating to the abandonment or desertion of children or minors.

§ 1105. CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS

(a) A financial assistance case shall not be closed until child support payments, minus the first $50.00 per month in such payments received on behalf of the family, in combination with other countable income, have exceeded the financial assistance payment standard in 12 consecutive calendar months.

(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if aid to a participating family is terminated due to receipt of child support, minus the first $50.00 per month in such payments, that in combination with other countable income is in excess of the financial assistance cash payment standard, and the family again becomes eligible for aid within the following 12 calendar months solely because the family no longer receives excess child support, aid shall be paid as of the date of the family’s reapplication.

§ 1106. REQUIRED SERVICES TO PARTICIPATING FAMILIES

The commissioner shall provide participating families case management services, initial assessment of the full range of services needed by each family, periodic reassessment of service needs and the family development plan, and referral to any agencies or programs that provide the services needed by participating families to improve the family’s prospects for job placement and job retention, including the following:

(1) Appropriate child care, available at times that will enable employment or participation in services indicated by the participating family’s family development plan. As used in this subdivision, “appropriate child care” shall not include:

(A) Child care that the department of social and rehabilitation services’ child care services division classifies as legally exempt child care, and that a parent or caretaker determines to be unacceptable; and

(B) Child care that the department of social and rehabilitation services’ child care services division classifies as either a registered family child care home or a licensed child care center, and that a parent or caretaker determines to be unacceptable when such determination is confirmed by the child care services division.

(2) Transportation which will enable employment or participation in services indicated by the participating family’s family development plan.

(3) Career counseling, education, and training, and job search assistance consistent with the purposes of this title.

(4) Vocational rehabilitation.

(5) Medical assistance.

(6) Homelessness prevention and housing assistance. For homeless families, housing search is a “job-readiness assistance activity” as long as consistent with the department’s rules.

(7) Family planning education and counseling.

(8) Assistance with obtaining documentation of an apparent or claimed physical, emotional, or mental condition that reasonably can be presumed to limit or eliminate the individual’s capacity to engage in employment or other work activity.

(9) Any other services identified in the family development plan and determined by the commissioner to be necessary and appropriate to achieve the purposes of this title.

§ 1107. CASE MANAGEMENT; FAMILY DEVELOPMENT PLANS;

COORDINATED SERVICES

(a) The commissioner shall provide all Reach Up services to participating families through a case management model. Case management may be provided to other eligible families. The case manager, with the full involvement of the family, shall recommend, and the commissioner shall establish and modify as necessary a family development plan for each participating family, with a right of appeal as provided by section 1132 of this title. A case manager shall be assigned to each participating family as soon as the family begins to receive financial assistance. The applicant for or recipient of aid, under this title, shall have the burden of demonstrating the existence of his or her condition.

(b) The family development plan shall include:

(1) each parent or caretaker’s employment goal;

(2) an assessment of each parent or caretaker’s strengths and barriers. The initial assessment shall include a literacy evaluation followed by referral to an appropriate resource or program;

(3) an identification of the services, supports and accommodations needed to overcome any barriers, to enable the family to achieve self-sufficiency, and to fulfill each parent or caretaker’s personal and family responsibilities;

(4) an assignment of responsibilities, family development plan requirements, and activities among the case manager and family members, together with a time schedule for such responsibilities, requirements, and activities.

(c) The initial family development plan shall be completed within 30 days of the first meeting with the case manager. The case manager shall establish a schedule for periodic review of the family development plan that includes personal contact with the participant at least once per month. In addition, the case manager shall review, and modify if necessary, the plan in the following circumstances:

(1) There is a lack of satisfactory progress in achieving the goals of the plan;

(2) The parent or caretaker has lost unsubsidized or subsidized employment;

(3) A family member has failed to comply with a family development plan requirement or a work requirement;

(4) Services required by the plan are unavailable;

(5) At least 30 days prior to when the parent or caretaker would otherwise be deemed work-ready on the basis of 12-cumulative-month receipt of financial assistance;

(6) A deferment or modification of the work requirements imposed by section 1113 of this title has been requested;

(7) Within 30 days of when the parent or caretaker has started an unsubsidized or subsidized job; or

(8) Changes to the plan are needed to protect the well-being of the children.

(d) The commissioner shall adopt rules, consistent with research on best practices, establishing maximum caseloads for case managers.

(e) The commissioner of education, with the assistance and support of the commissioner of social welfare, the commissioner of aging and disabilities, and the commissioner of employment and training, shall develop and implement comparable and reciprocally recognized literacy assessment protocols that will be used for all clients seeking adult basic education services, related services of the department of education, or the services of the department of aging and disabilities, the department of employment and training, or the department of social welfare, when such services are being sought for the purpose of developing or strengthening competencies or skills related to the clients’ current or future employment. Such protocols shall, to the extent practicable, utilize the same terminology and apply comparable criteria, consistent with individual program purposes and authorization, in determining when testing, other standardized measurement tools, or referrals to relevant professionals for evaluation or diagnosis are appropriate.

(f) The secretary shall work cooperatively with public and private, local, and regional entities:

(1) to develop subsidized jobs with employers, using the same health and safety standards in effect for unsubsidized jobs;

(2) to develop work placements that incorporate an adult basic education component into the hours of work for participants who need to continue to work on their secondary education while fulfilling their work requirement;

(3) to adopt rules which set priorities for services of benefit to the people of Vermont, and which prevent displacement of previous unsubsidized workers by subsidized Reach Up program participants; and

(4) to ensure that necessary support services are available, appropriate, and within a reasonable distance, including child care, health care, and transportation.

(g) The secretary shall:

(1) work with community providers to develop and maintain an adequate number and variety of supervised living alternatives designed to meet the individual needs of parents who are under 18;

(2) work with community providers to develop and maintain parenting, training, and education options for parents who are under 18;

(3) establish and maintain an information program to enable parents to learn about and take advantage of benefits and services that are available to parents who work outside the home;

(4) increase public awareness of the federal and state earned income tax credits, and encourage families who may be eligible to apply for such tax credits; and

(5) in partnership with the human resources investment council, develop and maintain one or more job training and employment programs for noncustodial parents to encourage long-term economic self-sufficiency and, by extension, their ability to pay child support.

§ 1108. OBLIGATION TO ASSIST ELIGIBLE FAMILIES WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN

Except as specifically authorized herein, the commissioner shall not adopt any rule that would result in the termination of aid to a participating family, including a dependent child, on the basis of an adult family member’s having received TANF-funded aid, as an adult, for 60 or more months in his or her lifetime. This provision shall not prevent the commissioner from adopting rules that impose limitations on how many months that families, including a parent who has received an associate or bachelor’s degree while receiving support from the postsecondary education program authorized by section 1121 of this title, may receive aid authorized by this title in the five-year period immediately following the receipt of such associate or bachelor’s degree.

Subchapter 2. Reach Up Program Family Development Plan and Work Requirements

§ 1112. FAMILY DEVELOPMENT PLAN REQUIREMENTS

(a) Each participating adult in a family applying for or receiving financial assistance shall comply with each Reach Up family development plan requirement provided for in the family development plan, unless good cause exists for such noncompliance as defined by the commissioner by rule.

(b) The family’s receipt of the full financial assistance amount allowable and avoidance of fiscal sanctions are contingent on compliance with the following family development plan requirements:

(1) The single parent or caretaker in a family who has no barriers to obtaining and maintaining a job and a recent and stable work history, including receiving wages for his or her most recent job that, when annualized, equal or exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level applicable to the family, shall report to the department of employment and training for immediate job search within two working days of having filed an application for financial assistance.

(2) The able-to-work adult in a two-parent family (when the other parent is able-to-work-part-time or unable-to-work) who has no barriers to obtaining and maintaining a job and a recent and stable work history, including receiving wages for his or her most recent job that, when annualized, equal or exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level applicable to the family, shall report to the department of employment and training for immediate job search within two working days of having filed an application for financial assistance.

(3) The adult in a two-parent family (when both parents are able-to-work) who is not the primary caretaker of the children shall report to the department of employment and training for immediate job search within two working days of having filed an application for financial assistance.

(4) Any adult who is referred to the department of employment and training pursuant to this subdivision and who without good cause fails to report shall be denied financial assistance for his or her family.

(5) An adult who accepts employment after reporting as directed under this subdivision may receive Reach Up services, provided that the family is eligible for such services in accordance with department rules.

(6) Each participating adult shall participate in the development of his or her family development plan.

(7) Each participating adult who is not referred to the department of employment and training pursuant to subdivisions (1), (2) or (3) of this subsection shall report as directed by the department for assessment and evaluation activities.

(8) Each participating adult shall begin to comply with his or her family development plan requirements as soon as possible, and no later than 10 days following identification of initial requirements at the initial family development plan meeting. Each participating adult shall continue to comply with such family development plan requirements until such time as the adult is complying with the work requirement provided for under section 1113 of this title, or the family is determined to be ineligible for or is no longer receiving financial assistance.

(9) Participants shall engage in their family development plan activities for the number of hours per week that the activities are scheduled and available, unless good cause exists for not doing so as defined by the commissioner by rule.

§ 1113. WORK REQUIREMENTS

(a) Each participating adult in a family receiving a financial assistance grant shall fulfill a work requirement in accordance with this section. Subject to the provisions of this title, and provided that all services required by this title are offered when appropriate and are available when needed to support fulfillment of the work requirement, an adult having a work requirement shall obtain employment, and shall work in accordance with the requirements of this section, in order to maintain continued eligibility for financial assistance and to avoid fiscal sanctions.

(b) The work requirement shall become effective as soon as the participating adult is job- or work-ready, or upon the family’s receipt of 12 cumulative months of financial assistance, whichever is sooner, unless at the end of the 12-cumulative-month period the participant’s case manager concludes that the participant is unable to meet the hours of the applicable unmodified work requirement, as established in subsection (c) of this section. In such cases, the case manager shall prepare a written request on behalf of the participant for an extension of up to six months. The request shall identify the particular reasons why the participant is unable to meet the work requirement and the remedial actions and services to be provided to the recipient to enable fulfillment of the requirement. The request shall be submitted to the district director and the family services director for approval. The request shall be approved unless the participant is able to meet the work requirement or a modified work requirement established in accordance with section 1114 of this title.

(c) The hours of the work requirement shall be as follows:

(1) In two-parent families in which both parents are able-to-work:

(A) The parent who is not the primary caretaker of a dependent child, referred to in this subsection as the “principal-earner parent”, shall work no less than full-time in unsubsidized employment and accept unsubsidized employment with scheduled hours up to 45 hours per week;

(B) As used in this subdivision, “full-time” means 40 hours per week. A position requiring no fewer than 35 hours per week that the employer defines as full-time shall be deemed full-time employment.

(C) The requirements of this subdivision may be satisfied if both parents secure employment with combined hours equal to or exceeding 40 hours per week, if such shared fulfillment of the work requirement commences within 30 days of application for financial assistance or within 30 days of the onset of the unemployment of the principal-earner parent. Parents who have successfully established a shared work requirement shall have 30 days to re-establish the arrangement in the event one of the parents becomes unemployed.

(2) The primary caretaker of a dependent child in a two-parent family in which both parents are able-to-work shall have no work requirement, provided that the principal-earner parent complies with the work requirement and is not sanctioned in accordance with section 1115 of this title. In the event that the principal-earner parent in a two-parent family is sanctioned for failing to meet the work requirement, the primary caretaker shall be deemed work-ready and subject to subdivision (1) of this subsection. Within 30 days of the effective date of the principal-earner parent’s sanction the primary caretaker shall report to the family’s case manager, complete an assessment, modify the family’s family development plan, and comply with the requirements of subdivision (1) of this subsection.

(3) All other able-to-work participants and able-to-work-part-time participants who are not subject to the work requirement established by subdivision (1) of this subsection, or exempted from the work requirement in accordance with subdivision (2) of this subsection, shall comply with the following requirements:

(A) If the family includes two parents, and one parent is able-to-work and the other parent is able-to-work-part-time or unable-to-work, the

able-to-work parent shall work in unsubsidized employment for no fewer than 30 hours per week, and shall accept unsubsidized employment with scheduled hours up to 35 hours per week; and

(B) If the family includes two parents and both parents are

able-to-work-part-time:

(i) if one participating parent has been determined

able-to-work-part-time at least 30 hours per week, that parent shall work in unsubsidized employment for no fewer than 30 hours per week and shall accept unsubsidized employment with scheduled hours up to 34 hours per week, provided that the scheduled hours do not exceed the number of hours the parent has been determined able-to-work-part-time;

(ii) if neither participating parent has been determined

able-to-work-part-time at least 30 hours per week but the parents, in combination, have been determined able-to-work-part-time 30 hours per week, both parents shall work in unsubsidized employment for which the sum of the hours is at least 30 hours per week and shall accept unsubsidized employment with scheduled hours up to 34 hours per week, provided that the scheduled hours do not exceed the number of hours the parents, in combination, have been determined able-to-work-part-time; or

(iii) if the participating parents, in combination, have been determined able-to-work-part-time fewer than 30 hours per week, the parents shall work in unsubsidized employment for the number of hours that the two parents, in combination, have been determined able-to-work-part-time.

(C) If the family includes two parents and one parent is

able-to-work-part-time and the other parent is unable-to-work:

(i) if one participating parent has been determined

able-to-work-part-time at least 30 hours per week, that parent shall work in unsubsidized employment for no fewer than 30 hours per week and shall accept unsubsidized employment with scheduled hours up to 34 hours per week, provided that the scheduled hours do not exceed the number of hours that the parent has been determined able-to-work-part-time; or

(ii) if one participating parent has been determined

able-to-work-part-time fewer than 30 hours per week, that parent shall work in unsubsidized work for the number of hours that the parent has been determined able-to-work-part-time.

(D) If the family includes only one adult (parent, relative, or caretaker) who is able-to-work and no child is under the age of six years, the participant shall work in unsubsidized employment for no fewer than 30 hours per week, and shall accept unsubsidized employment with scheduled hours up to 35 hours per week.

(E) If the family includes only one adult (parent, relative, or caretaker) who is able-to-work-part-time and no child is under the age of six years:

(i) if the participant has been determined able-to-work-part-time at least 30 hours per week, the participant shall work in unsubsidized employment for no fewer than 30 hours per week and shall accept unsubsidized employment with scheduled hours up to 34 hours per week, provided that the scheduled hours do not exceed the number of hours that the participant has been determined able-to-work-part-time; or

(ii) if the participant has been determined able-to-work-part-time fewer than 30 hours per week, the participant shall work in unsubsidized work fewer than 30 hours per week for the number of hours that the participant has been determined able-to-work-part-time.

(F) If the family includes only one adult (parent, relative, or caretaker) who is able-to-work and a child under the age of six years, the participant shall work in unsubsidized employment for no fewer than 20 hours per week and shall accept unsubsidized employment with scheduled hours up to 24 hours per week.

(G) If the family includes only one adult (parent, relative, or caretaker) who is able-to-work-part-time and a child under the age of six years:

(i) if the participant has been determined able-to-work-part-time at least 20 hours per week, the participant shall work in unsubsidized employment for no fewer than 20 hours per week, and shall accept unsubsidized employment with scheduled hours up to 24 hours per week, provided that the scheduled hours do not exceed the number of hours that the participant has been determined able-to-work-part-time; or

(ii) if the participant has been determined able-to-work-part-time fewer than 20 hours per week, the participant shall work in unsubsidized work fewer than 20 hours per week for the number of hours that the participant has been determined able-to-work-part-time.

(4) Except as provided in section 1133 of this title, in computing the cumulative 12-month period of financial assistance for determining the effective date of a participating adult’s work requirement under subsection (b) of this section, the calculation shall not extend to times prior to the effective date of this section.

(5) A pregnant individual who is employed shall continue such employment unless there has been a medical determination that the individual is unable-to-work, or the individual is exempt from the work requirement based on other criteria established by the commissioner by rule. A pregnant individual shall not be required to begin new employment.

(d)(1) A participant required to fulfill a work requirement shall accept any unsubsidized job he or she is capable of performing, even if it pays wages that are less than the financial assistance grant. In cases in which monthly wages are less than the financial assistance grant and the family is otherwise eligible, the wages shall be supplemented with a partial financial assistance grant. The commissioner shall establish by rule criteria for jobs that must be accepted if offered, including the criterion that each job must pay at least minimum wage.

(2) A participating adult who had wages in the three months prior to his or her application for financial assistance that when annualized equal or exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level applicable to the participating adult’s family shall not be required to accept employment with annualized earnings of less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level applicable to the participating adult’s family, for the three-month period after being deemed eligible for financial assistance, provided that the participant:

(A) has not been disqualified within the prior six months from receiving unemployment compensation benefits for failing, without good cause, either to apply for available, suitable work when so directed by the employment office or the commissioner of employment and training, or to accept suitable work when offered;

(B) is not sanctioned within the three-month period immediately following being deemed eligible for financial assistance;

(C) does not leave an unsubsidized job without good cause within the three-month period immediately following being deemed eligible for financial assistance;

(D) follows through in a satisfactory manner on all referrals to employment opportunities;

(E) is engaged in acceptable work activities in accordance with this section; and

(F) agrees to accept any unsubsidized job if still unemployed after completion of the three-month period immediately following the determination of eligibility to receive financial assistance.

(3) A postsecondary education program participant who has received a degree and any Reach Up participant who has recently completed specialized vocational training shall not be required to accept an unsubsidized job that is unrelated to his or her training or degree for the three-month period immediately following completion of such education or training, provided that the participant:

(A) is not sanctioned within that three-month period;

(B) does not leave an unsubsidized job related to his or her training or degree without good cause within that three-month period;

(C) follows through in a satisfactory manner on all referrals to employment opportunities related to his or her training or degree;

(D) is engaged in acceptable work activities in accordance with this section; and

(E) agrees to accept any unsubsidized job if still unemployed after such three-month period.

(e) The commissioner may require a participant to participate in job search, coordinated by the commissioner, for the number of hours per week that corresponds to the participant’s work requirement hours under subsection (c) of this section, or a lesser amount that in combination with the participant’s unsubsidized paid employment equals the participant’s work requirement hours under subsection (c) of this section, and during the following periods:

(1) For a two-week period immediately following the family’s application for benefits, or reapplication for benefits following a period of non-receipt lasting at least 30 days, or during the period a decision on application or reapplication is pending, whichever period ends later, and as long as consistent with subdivisions 1112(b)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;

(2) For a period of two weeks at any time when the participant is deemed to be job-ready by the commissioner;

(3) For the first two weeks of the 13th calendar month for which financial assistance is received; and

(4) For a period of two weeks following the loss of paid employment.

(f) If a participant is job-ready and no unsubsidized job is available, or if the participant is work-ready but not job-ready, the participant shall accept a subsidized job, community work experience, job search, other work activities, or any combination of these activities, as deemed appropriate by the commissioner that equals the number of hours of the participant’s work requirement per week, or a lesser amount that, in combination with the parent’s unsubsidized paid employment, equals the number of hours of the participant’s work requirement.

(g) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, a participant’s hours of unpaid work activities that are not primarily education, job search, job readiness activities, or training shall not exceed the levels established by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Adjustments required to conform with the Fair Labor Standards Act shall be made pursuant to calculation standards established by the commissioner by rule.

§ 1114. DEFERMENTS AND MODIFICATIONS

(a) The commissioner shall establish by rule criteria, standards, and procedures for granting deferments from or modifications to the work requirements established in section 1113 of this title, in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(b) The work requirements shall be either modified or deferred for:

(1) A participant for whom no unsubsidized or subsidized job or other equivalent supervised work activity recognized by the commissioner by rule is available.

(2) A participant for whom support services that are essential to employment and other work activities and identified in the family development plan cannot be arranged. Such services shall include case management, education and job training, child care, and transportation.

(3) A participant who is able-to-work-part-time or is unable-to-work. Such participants shall be referred for assessment and vocational and other services in accordance with the provisions of his or her family development plan. Participants with disabilities that do not meet the standards used to determine disability under Title XVI of the Social Security Act shall participate in appropriate rehabilitation, education, or training programs.

(4) A primary caretaker parent in a two-parent family in which one parent is able-to-work-part-time or unable-to-work, a single parent, or a caretaker who is caring for a child who has not attained 24 months of age for no more than 24 months of the parent’s or caretaker’s lifetime receipt of financial assistance. To qualify for such deferment, a parent or caretaker of a child older than the age of six months but younger than 24 months shall cooperate in the development of and participate in a family development plan.

(5) An individual who has exhausted the 24 months of deferment provided for in subdivision (4) of this subsection and who is caring for a child who is not yet 13 weeks of age or a primary caretaker parent in a family with two parents who are able-to-work if the primary caretaker is caring for a child under 13 weeks of age and is otherwise subject to a work requirement because the other parent in the family is being sanctioned in accordance with section 1116 of this title.

(6) A participant who is needed in the home on a full or part-time basis in order to care for an ill or disabled parent, spouse, or child.

(7) A participant who is under 20 years of age, who is a single head of household or married, and who maintains satisfactory attendance at secondary school or the equivalent during the month, or participates in education directly related to employment for an average of 20 or more hours per week during the month.

(8) A participant who has attained 20 years of age and who is engaged in at least 25 hours per week of classes and related learning activities for the purpose of attaining a high school diploma or general educational development (GED) certificate; provided that the participant is making satisfactory progress toward the attainment of such diploma or certificate; and provided further that a deferment or modification granted for this purpose does not exceed six months.

(9) A participant who is enrolled in, attending, and making satisfactory progress toward the completion of a full-time vocational training program that has a normal duration of no more than two years and who is within 12 months of expected completion of such program. Such deferment or modification shall continue until he or she has completed the program, he or she is no longer attending the program, or the 12-month expected completion period has ended, whichever occurs first.

(10) A participant for whom, due to the effects of domestic violence, fulfillment of the work requirement can be reasonably anticipated to result in serious physical or emotional harm to the participant that significantly impairs his or her capacity either to fulfill the work requirement or to care for his or her child adequately, or can be reasonably anticipated to result in serious physical or emotional harm to the child.

(11) Any other participant designated by the commissioner in accordance with criteria established by rule.

(c) Absent an apparent condition or claimed physical, emotional or mental condition, participants are presumed to be able-to-work. A participant shall have the burden of demonstrating the existence of the circumstances or condition asserted as the basis for a deferral or modification of the work requirement.

(d) A participant who qualifies for a deferment or modification under subsection (b) of this section and who is able-to-work-part-time shall have his or her work requirement hours modified instead of deferred.

(e) Deferments and modifications granted pursuant to this section shall continue for as long as the grounds for the deferment or modification exist or until expiration of a related time period specified in subsection (b) of this section, whichever occurs first.

§ 1115. OBLIGATION TO FUND SERVICES; GOOD CAUSE

(a) A participant’s family development plan requirement under section 1112 of this title and work requirement under section 1113 of this title shall be deferred when the case management services, training and educational services, and the family support services identified in the participant’s family development plan are unavailable for reasons beyond the control of the participant, including when monies appropriated are not sufficient to provide such services.

(b) No family who has been determined to be eligible for child care services pursuant to section 3512 of this title shall be displaced from or denied receipt of such services because the requirements of this title result in additional participating families applying for and receiving financial assistance for such child care services.

(c) Services related to child care that are provided to two-parent families in which both parents are able-bodied and who are determined to be eligible for services pursuant to section 3512 of this title shall be paid from nonfederal funds.

(d) The commissioner shall design the Reach Up program so that it provides access to a full array of services to participating families identified by their family development plans within the funds appropriated by the general assembly.

(e) The commissioner shall establish good cause rules for temporary or unexpected conditions or circumstances beyond the control of the participating parent which result in a parent’s inability to participate in a Reach Up family development plan requirement, to participate in a work requirement, or to accept or retain employment.

§ 1116. SANCTIONS

(a) The financial assistance grant of a participating family shall be reduced, in accordance with the provisions of this section, if a participating adult fails without good cause to fully comply or continue to comply in full with the family development plan or work requirements in sections 1112 and 1113 of this title.

(b) Prior to the reduction in a family’s financial assistance grant resulting from a sanction imposed under this section, the department shall provide an independent review of the participant’s circumstances and the basis for his or her noncompliance. The district director or the district director’s designee shall perform the review.

(c)(1) For a first, second and third month in which a participating adult is not in compliance with a family development plan or work requirement and has not demonstrated good cause for such noncompliance, the family’s financial assistance grant shall be reduced by the amount of $75.00 for each adult sanctioned.

(2) For the fourth and any subsequent month not subject to the reduction required by subsection (e) of this section in which a participating adult is not in compliance with a family development plan or work requirement and has not demonstrated good cause for such noncompliance, the family’s financial assistance grant shall be reduced by the amount of $150.00 for each adult sanctioned.

(d) A participant may cure a sanction by coming into compliance in accordance with the department’s rules. During the first 60 months of the family’s receipt of financial assistance, a participating adult may have all previous sanctions forgiven by demonstrating 12 consecutive months of compliance with family development plan requirements or work requirements or any combination of the two. Subsequent acts of noncompliance after a sanctioned adult has completed a successful 12-month sanction forgiveness period will be treated in accordance with subdivisions (c)(1) through (5) of this section without consideration of the sanctions that have been forgiven.

(e) Any family that has received 60 or more cumulative months of financial assistance that also has one or more adult participants who have been sanctioned for 12 or more cumulative months, and who are currently being sanctioned shall have their grant reduced by $225.00 per month for each adult sanctioned under this subsection.

(f)(1) Under no circumstances during the first six months that a family’s grant is reduced due to fiscal sanctions imposed pursuant to subsection (c) of this section shall the grant be reduced to less than an amount which in combination with the family’s other countable income is less than the family’s actual incurred housing costs up to the applicable maximum housing allowance.

(2) The commissioner shall provide the housing costs by vendor payment directly to the vendor. Any balance of financial assistance remaining after the vendor payment has been deducted shall be paid in two payments, the first to be paid within the first half of the calendar month and the second to be paid within the second half of the calendar month.

(g) The financial assistance grant of a family that has been subject to a fiscal sanction for more than six cumulative months shall be reduced in accordance with the full sanction amounts and without any consideration of the housing costs protection established in subsection (f) of this section. This section shall not apply if the family, after the fiscal sanction period of more than six months, has an intervening period of no less than 36 months before another fiscal sanction and spends those months in a state of program compliance, grant closure, or any combination of the two.

(h) To receive payments during the fiscal sanction period, an adult who is the subject of the sanction shall meet no less than once each month to report his or her circumstances to the case manager. In addition, this meeting shall be for initial assessment and development of the family development plan when such tasks have not been completed; reassessment or review and revision of the family development plan, if appropriate; and to encourage the participant to fulfill the work requirement. The commissioner may waive any meeting when extraordinary circumstances prevent a participant from attending. The commissioner shall adopt rules to implement this subsection.

(i) A family sanctioned under this section for failure to meet work or family development plan requirements shall remain eligible for Food Stamps and shall not, because of such failure, be sanctioned under the Food Stamp program for reasons of "failure to comply without good cause" and "voluntary quit without good cause", provided that such eligibility and waivers of such sanctions are consistent with federal law and regulations governing the Food Stamp program.

Subchapter 3. Separate State Programs

§ 1121. AUTHORIZATION TO SEGREGATE STATE FUNDS AND

CREATE SEPARATE STATE PROGRAMS

(a) Consistent with the purposes of this title, the commissioner shall structure payment of appropriated TANF funds and state “maintenance of effort” funds to create separate state and segregated fund programs to aid families eligible for the financial assistance.

(b) The commissioner shall establish by rule standards, requirements, and criteria for the administration of any program established pursuant to this section that requires rules different from the financial assistance program.

(c) Programs and payment structures created pursuant to this section shall accomplish one or more of the following purposes:

(1) To provide work supports and assistance to working families while preserving their ability to receive financial assistance beyond the federal TANF 60-month lifetime limit.

(2) To foster parental nurturing of children in their own homes.

(3) To stabilize families in crisis.

(4) To preserve financial assistance options beyond the federal TANF 60-month lifetime limit for families addressing multiple issues relating to self-sufficiency.

(5) To preserve eligibility for financial assistance for certain parents who are under 18 and legal aliens whom federal law makes ineligible for TANF-funded assistance.

(6) To provide for the transition of families in the welfare restructuring project to the Reach Up program.

(7) To ensure that the state complies with the federal TANF program requirements.

(d) The following separate state programs shall be established, in accordance with rules adopted by the commissioner:

(1) The separate state postsecondary education program established under section 1122 of this title.

(2) A program for families in which the adult (parent or caretaker) or adults (parents) are not involved in work activities at a TANF-countable level, limited to the number of families necessary to meet federal TANF participation rate requirements.

(3) A program for families with a single parent, a caretaker, or two parents with one parent who is able-to-work-part-time or unable-to-work that have a primary caretaker of a child under 24 months of age who chooses pursuant to subdivision 1114(b)(4) of this title to defer the work requirement and to remain at home caring for the child, provided that the deferment is limited to any 24 months over the primary caretaker’s lifetime, and the elimination of such work requirement is not a state option under TANF.

(e) The Reach Up program shall include a segregated funds program structured to pay appropriated state maintenance of effort funds to families in which the parent or caretaker is engaged in unsubsidized employment for the number of hours that meets the applicable TANF participation rate requirement and provided there are sufficient general funds to fund the separate state programs established in subdivisions (d)(1) through (3) of this section. If there are insufficient general funds to pay these families, then they shall be paid from TANF funds. For self-employment to be considered unsubsidized employment under this subdivision, average net weekly earnings shall equal or exceed the minimum wage multiplied by the applicable number of TANF-countable hours.

§ 1122. POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION PROGRAM

(a) The commissioner shall establish by rule a separate state program to provide living expense stipends and support services to enable parents in eligible families to pursue undergraduate postsecondary degrees in fields directly related to employment.

(b) The program authorized by this section shall be administered by the commissioner or by a contractor designated by the commissioner, and shall be supported with funds other than federal TANF block grant funds provided under Title IV-A of the Social Security Act.

(c) The amount of the program’s living expense stipend shall be determined using financial assistance rules with the following modifications:

(1) The amount of the living expense stipend shall be determined at the time of the financial eligibility determination for admission into the program, and annually thereafter within 90 days before the beginning of the participant’s academic year.

(2) The maximum living expense stipend for a family with three or fewer members shall be the amount that is equal to the ratably reduced sum of the Reach Up basic needs allowance for a household of three, plus the maximum monthly housing allowance for the county in which they reside.

(3) The maximum living expense stipend allowed for a family with more than three members shall be the amount that is equal to the ratably reduced sum of the Reach Up basic needs allowance for a household of four, plus the maximum housing allowance for the county in which they reside.

(d) To be financially eligible to participate in the postsecondary education program the family must meet the following applicable income test:

(1) In two-parent families, the family’s gross income minus the participating parent’s earnings shall not exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four or fewer members as established by the commissioner by rule, or 150 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of five, provided the family included five or more members as established by the commissioner by rule.

(2) In single-parent families, the gross income of the family shall not exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of three, provided the family includes three or fewer members as established by the commissioner by rule, or 150 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four, provided the family includes four or more members as established by the commissioner by rule.

(3) All program participants shall demonstrate financial eligibility at the time of application, for the calendar year preceding application, and within the 90-day period prior to the beginning of each academic year of the institution in which the participant is enrolled.

(4) Verification of all income amounts required by this subsection shall be provided in accordance with Reach Up program rules.

(e) All financially eligible families who apply to participate in the postsecondary education program will be considered for admission provided that they meet all of the following criteria:

(1) No more than one parent per family may participate at the same time.

(2) If the participating parent is in a two-parent family, the nonparticipating parent shall, if able-to-work, be working full-time; if able-to-work-part-time shall be working at least the number of hours per week that he or she has been determined able-to-work-part-time; or, if unable-to-work, may be unemployed.

(3)(A) The participating parent has not already received a postsecondary undergraduate degree;

(B) The participating parent has already received a postsecondary undergraduate degree and the occupations for which it prepared the participating parent are obsolete;

(C) The participating parent, due to a disability, is no longer able to perform the occupations for which the degree prepared him or her; or

(D) The preparation for occupations that the participating parent received through the postsecondary undergraduate degree is outdated and not marketable in the current labor market.

(4) The participating parent shall be a matriculating student in a two-year or four-year degree program as provided for in the postsecondary education plan.

(5) The participating parent has been determined to be eligible for financial assistance from the Vermont student assistance corporation, and can demonstrate that he or she has the ability to cover tuition costs.

(6) The participating parent agrees to limit employment to no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session.

(7) Participating families who are eligible for Reach Up financial assistance shall agree to accept the program living expense stipend in lieu of a Reach Up financial assistance grant.

(8)(A) For a period of five years beginning with the date of a parent’s receipt of a postsecondary education degree due to successful completion of this program, the parent and the parent’s family, if financially eligible, shall receive no more than 12 cumulative months of Reach Up financial assistance, and the participating parent shall comply with the following conditions:

(i) The parent shall engage in job search at a TANF-countable level for the first four weeks of the family’s receipt of a financial assistance grant;

(ii) Unless employed full time, the parent shall engage in approved work activities at a TANF-countable level during all months following the initial job search that the family receives financial assistance; and

(iii) Parents who have not been sanctioned since receiving their postsecondary education degree, have not left an unsubsidized degree-related job without good cause since receiving their postsecondary education degree, and have followed through, satisfactorily, on all referrals to degree-related jobs since receiving their postsecondary education degree shall only have to accept unsubsidized jobs related to their degree during the first three months following receipt of their degree. Parents who have been sanctioned since receiving their postsecondary education degree, have left an unsubsidized degree-related job without good cause since receiving their postsecondary education degree, have not followed through, satisfactorily, on all referrals to degree-related jobs since receiving their postsecondary education degree, or have not, after receipt of three cumulative months of financial assistance, obtained a job in a field related to their postsecondary degree, shall accept any unsubsidized job that is offered.

(B) The limitation on receiving no more than 12 cumulative months of Reach Up cash assistance established under subdivision (A) of this subdivision (8) shall not apply if:

(i) the parent who received the postsecondary education degree has not been offered a full-time, unsubsidized job;

(ii) all parents in the family have become so severely disabled that they are precluded from being employed;

(iii) in the case of a single-parent family, a child in the family has become so severely disabled that the parent is precluded from being employed; or

(iv) a catastrophic family event precludes the parent’s employment, as determined by the commissioner.

(9) The participating parent establishes and follows a postsecondary education plan that has been approved by the commissioner or his or her designee. Each postsecondary education plan shall include the following:

(A) the occupation that the parent proposes to pursue;

(B) a schedule that assures the participating parent will complete the coursework necessary for a two-year degree within three years and for a four-year degree within five years. The commissioner shall establish by rule criteria for exceptions to such time limits. Such criteria shall be based on circumstances beyond the parent’s control;

(C) a schedule reflecting that, when an applicant has at least 15 credit hours of course credits that can be applied to the degree being pursued, four months for every 15 credit hours of coursework that can be applied to the degree has been deducted from the three-year time period allowed for a two-year degree or the five-year time period allowed for a four-year degree; and

(D) a schedule reflecting that, when a parent who has already obtained a two-year degree through participation in the program authorized by this section is pursuing a four-year degree, the time period that was used to obtain the two-year degree has been subtracted from the five-year time period allowed for a four-year degree.

(10) The family and the participating adult maintain uninterrupted residency in Vermont for the duration of participation in the postsecondary education program.

(11) The participating parent maintains good academic standing at the college.

(f) Participation in the program authorized by this section may be denied to parents meeting the eligibility criteria if program funds are insufficient to allow all eligible applicants to participate. When funds are insufficient to allow all eligible applicants to participate, priority shall be given to those individuals with no postsecondary education.

(g) Continued participation in the postsecondary education program is contingent on the participating parent:

(1) maintaining compliance with all program criteria in subsections (d) and (e) of this section; and

(2) remaining a member in good standing of the college and making progress toward a degree.

(h) For the purposes of this section:

(1) “Full-time” means 40 hours per week or a position requiring no fewer than 35 hours of work per week that the employer defines as full-time.

(2) “Parent” means either a biological parent, stepparent, or adoptive parent who has custody of and resides with a dependent minor child.

§ 1123. INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT SAVINGS PROGRAM

(a) For the purposes of this section:

(1) “Account” means a savings account that is held in an insured financial institution that is maintained by the saver as part of an approved account program and an approved savings plan.

(2) “Agency” means the agency of human services.

(3) “Approved account program” means a program approved by the agency and administered by a service provider.

(4) “Approved savings plan” means a plan, approved by the service provider and agreed to by the saver, that defines savings goals, program requirements, and anticipated uses of the savings and matching funds. The plan shall be a contract between the saver and the service provider. The plan shall limit the maximum amount of savings that is the basis for receipt of matching funds to no more than $500.00 per saver per calendar year and $1,000.00 per family per calendar year, and to no more than $2,000.00 per lifetime of the saver and $4,000.00 per lifetime of members of a family.

(5) “Education” means a postsecondary program of instruction approved by the service provider and provided by a college, university, community college, area vocational technical school, professional institution, or specialized college or school legally authorized to grant degrees. The term also means any job training or related educational program approved by the service provider.

(6) “Eligible uses” means education, the purchase or improvement of a home, or participation in or development of an entrepreneurial activity.

(7) “Entrepreneurial activity” means the purchase of or investment in a for-profit venture in which the saver will be a principal.

(8) “Financial institution” means any insured federal or state chartered bank, bank and trust company, savings bank, savings and loan association, trust company, or credit union, approved by the service provider for the establishment of an individual development savings account.

(9) “Fund” means the individual development matching grant special fund established by this section.

(10) “Minimum savings amount” means the minimum amount of the saver’s earnings established in the approved savings plan that the saver must deposit in order to be eligible for matching funds.

(11) “Program” means the individual development savings program established by this section.

(12) “Public assistance” means financial assistance provided by the Reach Up program or a separate state program established under the authority of section 1121 of this title.

(13) “Saver” means an individual who is 18 years of age or older, or who is under 18 years of age if the account is held in the name of a parent or caretaker of the saver, or a family group:

(A) who resides in this state;

(B) who has applied for and been enrolled in the individual development savings program;

(C) whose household income at the time of application is within the applicable financial eligible standards:

(i) to receive public assistance;

(ii) to claim the federal earned income credit, without regard to any age limitation; or

(iii) to participate in a federal savings program administered pursuant to this section; and

(D) whose net worth as of the calendar year preceding the determination of eligibility does not exceed $10,000.00, excluding the primary dwelling unit, one motor vehicle owned by members of the saver’s family in a one-parent family or two motor vehicles owned by members of the saver’s family in a two-parent family, and the tools of saver’s trade that do not exceed $10,000.00 in value and that are necessary to continue or seek employment.

(14) “Service provider” means a nonprofit organization approved by the agency that encourages and assists local community-based human service development, and that is an organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States which is exempt from taxation under Section 501(a) of such Code.

(b) The agency shall establish by rule standards and procedures to implement and administer the individual development savings program. The program may include a program with eligibility criteria that satisfy federal funding requirements or the requirements of other funding sources that are more restrictive than those established in subsection (a) of this section, and a program funded by state appropriations and other revenue. Such standards and procedures shall include the following:

(1) An applicant shall apply to a service provider for a determination of eligibility for enrollment in the program. The service provider shall develop an approved savings plan with each saver who has been determined eligible and enrolled in the program. The approved savings plan shall specify a minimum savings amount to be saved and the frequency of deposits to be made by the saver to the savings account during the duration of the plan. The application and plan shall be prepared on forms provided and approved by the service provider.

(2) The enrolled saver shall complete a financial management training program approved by the agency and provided by or through the service provider.

(3) An enrolled saver shall open an account in a financial institution that has been approved by the service provider as a depository for the saver’s contributions. The saver and the service provider shall jointly own the account, including interest earned, jointly, with the saver as primary owner.

(4) An enrolled saver with an approved plan and account monitored by a service provider shall comply with the requirements of the plan for at least one year, but no more than five years, in order to be eligible for matching fund grants.

(5) In order to obtain matching funds, the saver shall present evidence satisfactory to the service provider that the amount to be withdrawn will be expended only for an eligible use. A withdrawal from an account for an eligible use shall be made payable to the person who provides the eligible use. The agency, or the Vermont student assistance corporation pursuant to section 2878a of Title 16, shall pay matching funds to the person that provides the eligible use. Matching funds shall not be paid to the saver.

(6) The service provider may terminate an approved savings plan for a saver who fails to meet the savings goals set out in the approved plan or who withdraws from the program, in accordance with standards and procedures established by rule by the agency. Any funds contributed by the saver shall revert to the sole ownership of the saver, to be used by the saver for any purpose. Funds in accounts created pursuant to a Vermont higher education savings plan shall be subject to the provisions of the plan’s participation agreement.

(7) The agency shall monitor program participation, and shall limit additional program participation when the funds appropriated to carry out the purposes of this section are not sufficient to support additional approved savings plans.

(8) The agency shall establish by rule any other standards and procedures necessary or desirable to implement the individual development savings program, including minimum requirements for approval of savings plans, criteria for training and counseling, reporting requirements for participating financial institutions, and matching fund allocation standards.

(c)(1) The individual development matching grant special fund is established in the state treasury and shall be administered in accordance with the provisions of subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32, except that interest earned on the fund shall be retained in the fund. Into the fund shall be deposited proceeds from grants, donations, contributions, appropriations, and any other revenue authorized by law. The fund shall be used only for the purpose of providing matching funds for the individual development savings program as established in this section, and to provide grants to service providers for administrative expenses of administering the program.

(2) The agency may make grants from the individual development matching grant special fund to service providers to provide the match for approved savings plans with enrolled savers. The amount and number of grants shall be calculated quarterly by the agency based on the number of savers and the amounts included in their approved plans administered by each service provider so that payment of the maximum match is ensured for all savers for the period for the approved savings plans without exceeding the balance in the fund. The agency may award grants from the fund to service providers to cover their expenses of training and counseling savers, and to implement and administer the individual development savings program. The agency may approve the use of interest earnings on grant funds as a portion of approved administrative costs.

(3) The agency and service providers, separately or cooperatively, may solicit grants and private contributions for the individual development matching grant special fund.

Subchapter 4. Administrative Provisions

§ 1131. ADMINISTRATIVE IMPROVEMENTS

For the purpose of improving the family development programs administered by the departments within the agency of human services, including the Reach Up program, the secretary shall:

(1) Design and implement a quality assurance function for the case management component of the Reach Up program to ensure that appropriate services are being provided to families enrolled in the program.

(2) Continue to improve caseload and expenditure forecasting for all social welfare programs.

(3) Develop standards and procedures for the training, including diversity education, of qualified case managers in the Reach Up program.

§ 1132. NOTICE AND APPEAL

(a) A participant may appeal the provisions of a family development plan in accordance with section 3091 of Title 3. The commissioner shall provide notice to each participant of the standards and procedures applicable to such appeals. All federal and agency of human services rules regarding conciliation, notice, hearing, and appeal shall be followed in connection with such appeals.

(b) A participant shall receive notice and an opportunity for conciliation, hearing, and appeal in accordance with all applicable federal and agency of human services rules before Reach Up sanctions are applied to the participant.

(c) A participant shall continue to receive financial assistance payments pending appeal to the human services board of Reach Up sanctions if the appeal is received prior to the effective date of the proposed sanctions.

§ 1133. TRANSITION FROM WELFARE RESTRUCTURING PROJECT

TO REACH UP PROGRAM

(a) The commissioner shall restructure the system of Aid to Needy Families with Children in accordance with the provisions of this title. The restructuring shall be carried out on a statewide basis. The restructured program shall be reconstituted as the Reach Up program.

(b) The commissioner shall ensure that representatives of participating families, representatives of community agencies, and representatives of the department staff play an active role in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the restructuring required by this title.

(c) The commissioner shall develop a plan and adopt rules to phase current members of the existing ANFC caseload into the new Reach Up program.

(d) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, able-bodied single parents and able-bodied parents in two-parent families in which one parent is incapacitated who are receiving Aid to Needy Families with Children (“ANFC”) and have their families’ eligibility for and amount of ANFC benefits determined in accordance with welfare restructuring project rules that include a work requirement, in accordance with Sec. 10(a) of Act No. 106 of 1994 shall be deemed work- ready as follows:

(1) Parents in families who have received 28 or more cumulative months of ANFC benefits before November 1, 2000, shall be deemed work-ready as of January 1, 2001.

(2) Parents in families who have received their 28th cumulative month of ANFC benefits during the period beginning November 1, 2000, and ending on April 30, 2001, shall be deemed work-ready as of the first day of the 30th cumulative month of having received ANFC benefits.

(3) Two months prior to being deemed work-ready in accordance with subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection, parents shall work with their case manager, if necessary, to prepare or include in their family development plan their participation in TANF-countable work activities, as specified by rule, that are sufficient to meet their weekly hours of work requirement.

(4) During the period from November 1, 2000, through June 30, 2001, the parents subject to this subsection shall also be subject to the exemption policies defined in Sec. 11 and the sanction policies defined in Sec. 12 of Act No. 106 of 1994.

(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, able-to-work and able-to-work-part-time parents and caretakers in families in which one or both of the ANFC children’s parents are absent and able-to-work and able-to-work-part-time parents in two-parent families in which one parent is unable-to-work shall be deemed job- or work-ready as follows:

(1) Parents and caretakers in families who, subsequent to June 30, 1994, have received at least 22 cumulative months of ANFC benefits by July 1, 2001, shall be deemed job- or work-ready no later than September 1, 2001.

(2) Parents and caretakers in families who, subsequent to June 30, 1994, have received at least 16 cumulative months of ANFC benefits by September 1, 2001, shall be deemed job- or work-ready no later than November 1, 2001.

(3) Parents and caretakers in families who, subsequent to June 30, 1994, have received at least 10 cumulative months of ANFC benefits by November 1, 2001, shall be deemed job- or work-ready no later than January 1, 2002.

(4) Parents and caretakers in families who, subsequent to June 30, 1994, have received at least 10 cumulative months of ANFC benefits by January 1, 2002, shall be deemed job- or work-ready no later than March 1, 2002.

(5) Parents and caretakers in families who, subsequent to June 30, 1994, have received at least 10 cumulative months of ANFC benefits by March 1, 2002, shall be deemed job- or work-ready no later than May 1, 2002.

(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of law and effective May 1, 2001, able-bodied parents who are not the primary caretaker in two-parent families that have received ANFC benefits for at least 10 cumulative months shall be deemed job- or work-ready as of July 1, 2001.

(g) All parents and caretakers deemed job- or work-ready, as provided in subsections (e) and (f) of this section:

(1) Shall work with their case manager during the two months prior to being deemed job- or work-ready to complete their assessment and prepare a family development plan that requires their participation in TANF-countable work activities, as specified by rule, that are sufficient to meet the parent’s or caretaker’s work requirement as specified in section 1113 of this title; and

(2) Shall be subject to the deferments and modifications provisions of section 1114 of this title, and the work incentive and sanctions provisions of section 1116 of this title.

§ 1134. PROGRAM EVALUATION

(a) On or before January 31 of each year, the commissioner shall design and implement procedures to evaluate, measure and report to the governor and the general assembly the department’s progress in implementing the Reach Up program and achieving the goals of the program provided for in section 1102 of this title. The report shall include:

(1) The types of barriers facing Reach Up families seeking economic self-sufficiency, the number of families with each type of barrier, and the frequency of occurrence of each type of barrier.

(2) Documentation of participant outcomes, including specific information relating to the number of persons employed, by occupation, industry and wage; the types of subsidized and unsubsidized jobs secured by participants; any available information about outcomes for children who have participated in the Reach Up program, including objective indicators of improved conditions; and the number of participating families involved in training programs.

(3) A description of the case management system and the training of case managers.

(4) Data about the food stamp participation of households who have left Reach Up during the last fiscal year, including the number of households, adults and children participating in the food stamp program three months after termination of their Reach Up benefits, broken down by reason for Reach Up termination, and the department’s plan to identify and assist eligible households to apply for food stamps.

(5) Data about the enrollment of individuals who have left Reach Up during the last fiscal year in a health care assistance program, including the number of adults and children enrolled in a health care assistance program three months after termination of their Reach Up benefits, broken down by reason for Reach Up termination, and the department’s plan to identify and assist eligible households to apply for health care assistance.

(6) A summary of all interim and final reports submitted by independent evaluation contractors to the agency or the department relating to the Reach Up program.

(b) On or before January 15, 2001, the commissioner of education, with the assistance of the commissioner, the commissioner of aging and disabilities, and the commissioner of employment and training shall report to the committees on health and welfare and education of the house of representatives and senate the progress they have achieved in developing and implementing the comparable and reciprocally recognized literacy assessment protocols as described in section 1107(e) of this title.

(c) On or before January 1, 2002, and every three years thereafter, the secretary shall contract for an independent three-year evaluation of the Reach Up program and shall provide interim annual reports on the progress of the evaluation. This evaluation shall address outcomes for children who have participated in the Reach Up program, including objective indicators of improved conditions; the effectiveness of the case management system in addressing the barriers of participating families and meeting the other goals of the Reach Up program; and perceptions of the Reach Up program by participating families. The contractor shall also conduct a survey of a sample of families who have left Reach Up to determine outcomes for them.

(d) On or before January 15, 2005, January 15, 2006, and January 15, 2007, the commissioner shall report to the house and senate committees on health and welfare and appropriations on families’ receipt of aid authorized by this title. Such reports shall include:

(1) For the report due on or before January 15, 2005, from among all families receiving TANF-funded aid during the period from July 1, 2001, through September 30, 2004, the number of families that received such aid for no more than six cumulative months, more than six but no more than 12 cumulative months, more than 12 but no more than 18 cumulative months, more than 18 but no more than 24 cumulative months, more than 24 but no more than 30 cumulative months, and more than 30 cumulative months.

(2) For the report due on or before January 15, 2006, from among all families receiving TANF-funded aid during the period from July 1, 2001, through September 30, 2005, the number of families that received such aid for no more than six cumulative months, more than six but no more than 12 cumulative months, more than 12 but no more than 18 cumulative months, more than 18 but no more than 24 cumulative months, more than 24 but no more than 30 cumulative months, more than 30 but no more than 36 cumulative months, more than 36 but no more than 42 cumulative months, and more than 42 cumulative months.

(3) For the report due on or before January 15, 2007, from among all families receiving TANF-funded aid during the period from July 1, 2001, through September 30, 2006, the number of families that received such aid for no more than six cumulative months, more than six but no more than 12 cumulative months, more than 12 but no more than 18 cumulative months, more than 18 but no more than 24 cumulative months, more than 24 but no more than 30 cumulative months, more than 30 but no more than 36 cumulative months, more than 36 but no more than 42 cumulative months, more than 42 but no more than 48 cumulative months, more than 48 but no more than 54 cumulative months, and more than 54 cumulative months.

(4) For each report, an estimate, for federal fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010, of the average proportion of the monthly TANF-funded caseload that will include an adult family member who has received TANF-funded aid, as an adult, 60 or more months in his or her lifetime.

(5) When such proportion exceeds 20 percent, an assessment, based on an assumption of level funding in future years, of whether general funds will be sufficient in federal fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010, to support aid authorized by this title to fund aid for those families in excess of 20 percent while, at the same time, providing aid and services, supported solely by general funds, to other families as authorized by this act.

(6) When such assessment is that general funds will be insufficient to fund aid for all such families, the modifications in policy, appropriated general funds, or combination thereof that the commissioner recommends to support families receiving aid under this title in their achievement of self-sufficiency and to protect the children in these families.

(e) Beginning on or before January 15, 2008, and annually thereafter, the commissioner shall report to the house and senate committees on health and welfare and appropriations on families’ long-term receipt of aid authorized by this title. Such reports shall include:

(1) the number of families receiving aid in the most recent federal fiscal year that included an adult family member who has received TANF-funded aid, as an adult, 60 or more months in his or her lifetime;

(2) the average proportion of the monthly TANF-funded caseload during the same fiscal year that such families represent;

(3) when such proportion exceeds 20 percent, the sufficiency of general funds appropriated to support aid authorized by this title to fund aid for those families in excess of 20 percent while, at the same time, providing aid and services, supported solely by general funds, to other families as authorized by this act; and

(4) when appropriated general funds are insufficient to fund aid for all such families, the modifications in policy, appropriated general funds, or combination thereof that the commissioner recommends to support families receiving aid under this title in their achievement of self-sufficiency and to protect the children in these families.

Sec. 1a. 16 V.S.A. § 2878a is added to read:

§ 2878a. PARTICIPATION AGREEMENTS FOR SAVINGS PLAN;

INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT SAVINGS ACCOUNTS

The corporation may participate in the individual development savings program established under section 1123 of Title 33, in accordance with the rules of the agency of human services adopted thereunder, in connection with an individual or family who, at the time of depositing funds into an account created pursuant to a Vermont higher education savings plan, receives public assistance or is otherwise an eligible saver under section 1123 of Title 33.

Sec. 2. CAPACITY AND DEMAND FOR CHILD CARE AND ADULT EDUCATION SERVICES; AN ADULT EDUCATION SYSTEM

(a) The joint fiscal office and the legislative council shall gather existing data regarding capacity and demand for child care, adult technical education, adult basic education, and Vermont student assistance corporation non-degree grants in order to determine:

(1) their capacity to provide services;

(2) the demand for these services, including the need that will result from implementation of this act;

(3) the differences between how these services are normally delivered and service-delivery modalities that respond to the needs of families receiving Reach Up financial assistance and their requirements under TANF;

(4) the gap between capacity and potential demand;

(5) potential costs of increasing capacity to fill the gap by January 2002.

(b) The commissioner of education shall work with providers of adult education services, including the commissioner of employment and training, the higher education community, the human resources investment council, and providers of adult basic education and technical education to:

(1) evaluate the capacity, cost effectiveness and success of workforce training programs in preparing adults for jobs that provide income at least sufficient to meet a “basic needs budget”;

(2) make recommendations concerning a governance and service delivery mechanism or mechanisms, including linkages among programs and providers, that will establish a coherent, statewide system of workforce training programs ready to meet the needs of Vermont adult citizens.

(c) On or before January 31, 2001, the legislative council and joint fiscal office, and the commissioner of education shall report their data, findings and recommendations to the general assembly.

Sec. 3. STUDY OF THE INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT SAVINGS PROGRAM

(a) The commissioner of the department of social welfare shall report to the secretary of administration and the joint fiscal committee on or before November 15, 2000 with an analysis and estimate of the annual cost of the individual development savings program established in 33 V.S.A. § 1123. The report shall include separate estimates for the costs of the education, housing, and entrepreneurial features of the program, and any budget management recommendations for the program.

(b) The governor shall include in his or her fiscal year 2002 budget request a recommendation for appropriations to support the individual development savings program, consistent with the program cost estimate in the report submitted in accordance with subsection (a) of this section.

(c) The appropriation to the Vermont student assistance corporation in the FY 2000 surplus one-time appropriations as provided in Sec. 252 of H.842 of the 2000 Session of the General Assembly may be used to carry out any individual development savings program in accordance with the legislative intent expressed in 33 V.S.A. § 1123 of this act, including matching grants and program administration expenses.

Sec. 4. REDESIGNATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AS THE DEPARTMENT OF PREVENTION, ASSISTANCE, TRANSITION, AND HEALTH ACCESS

Notwithstanding any other provision of this act, and any other provision of law, the term “department of social welfare” is amended to read “department of prevention, assistance, transition, and health access” wherever such term appears in this act or in the Vermont Statutes Annotated. The term “commissioner of social welfare” is amended to read “commissioner of prevention, assistance, transition, and health access” wherever such term appears in this act or in the Vermont Statutes Annotated. In implementing the name change authorized by this section, the commissioner of prevention, assistance, transition, and health access shall define and carry out a plan whose purpose is to ensure that all related modifications to equipment, documents, and supplies bearing the name of the department shall be done in a manner that minimizes cost and maximizes use of current inventories of consumable supplies. The plan shall include the incremental schedule that the commissioner of prevention, assistance, transition, and health access shall use to effect the name change.

Sec. 5. EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on July 1, 2001, except that:

(1) This section and Sec. 3 shall take effect upon passage.

(2) Secs. 1a, 2, 4 and 33 V.S.A. § 1123 (individual development savings program) shall take effect on July 1, 2000.

(3) The provisions of 33 V.S.A. §§ 1107(e) and 1134(b) (development and implementation of literacy assessment protocols) shall take effect upon passage.

(4) The provisions of 33 V.S.A. § 1133 (transition from welfare restructuring project to Reach Up program) shall take effect on November 1, 2000.

(5) The secretary of human services, the commissioner of social welfare, the board of education, the commissioner of aging and disabilities, and the commissioner of employment and training shall have the power to adopt rules necessary to carry out the purposes of this act upon passage.

Became Law Without Governor’s Signature