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ACT NO. 147

(H.843)

Assisting Families to Attain Self-Sufficiency

This act addresses changes necessary to bring the welfare restructuring project into compliance with federal welfare reform laws.

This act renames the Department of Social Welfare to be the Department of Prevention, Assistance, Transition, and Health Access (PATH) and replaces “ANFC” with “Reach Up”. This act expands the Reach Up program goals and specifies the critical elements necessary to fulfill the purposes of the program.

The Reach Up work requirements that each participant must fulfill to receive the full grant are established. Within six months, this act requires that participants who have recently completed specialized education or training accept employment, whether or not the offered employment is within their field of specialization.

This act provides that the commissioner shall provide a full range of services to families participating in the Reach Up program.

This act directs the commissioner of PATH to adopt rules for determining eligibility and benefit levels and establish maximum case manager caseloads. This act restricts the commissioner’s authority to adopt any rule that would terminate a family’s assistance on the basis of an adult member’s receipt of financial assistance for 60 or more months.

This act retains provisions that prevent closure of a financial assistance case until a family receiving child support exceeds the financial assistance payment standard in 12 consecutive calendar months. Provisions for reapplication and eligibility resulting from failure to receive child support payments are included.

This act directs that a family development plan (FDP) be developed within 30 days of the first meeting between the family and case manager. A case manager must establish personal contact with a participant at least once per month, must periodically review the FDP, and must review the FDP in specified situations. This act gives participants the ability to appeal provisions of the FDP and requires that the commissioner provide notice of the appeals process. Participants appealing to the Human Services Board regarding sanctions shall continue to receive financial assistance if the appeal is filed before the sanction becomes effective.

This act establishes the circumstances that may justify deferral or modification of the work requirements and requires the commissioner to adopt rules establishing the criteria, standards, and procedures for granting deferments and modifications.

This act establishes sanctions that are imposed upon participants who fail, without good cause, to comply with program requirements. The first month of noncompliance is sanctioned by requiring that the family’s financial assistance grant be provided by vendor payment directly to the vendor to the greatest extent practicable. Subsequent months are sanctioned by reducing the family financial assistance grant in the amount of $50.00 for the second month, $100.00 for the third month, $150.00 for the fourth month, and $225.00 for subsequent months until the participant comes into compliance in accordance with the department's rules.

This act authorizes the commissioner to structure payment of state and federal funds for purposes of creating separate state and segregated fund programs to aid families that are eligible for financial assistance.

This act establishes a program of approved savings plans and accounts available for financially eligible families. The program provides matching funds for withdrawals for documented uses.

This act requires that the Agency of Human Services design and implement a quality assurance function for the case management component of the Reach Up program, continue to improve caseload and expenditure forecasting, and develop standards and procedures for case manager training.

This act establishes a study of the individual development savings program and a study of the capacity and demand for child care and adult education services.

Effective Date: Most sections take effect July 1, 2001.