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ACT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2007-2008

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NO. 30.  AN ACT RELATING TO MOVING FAMILIES OUT OF POVERTY.

(H.523)

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

* * * Reach First * * *

Sec. 1.  33 V.S.A. Part 2, chapter 10 is added to read:

Chapter 10.  Reach First

Subchapter 1.  Eligibility and Assistance

§ 1001.  Definitions

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 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 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.  The department shall include a process to determine the development and well‑being of the children in the family.

(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 1007 of this title.

(8)  “Commissioner” means the commissioner of the department for children and families, or his or her designee.

(9)  “Department” means the department for children and families.

(10)  “Dependent child” means a child who is a resident of this state and:

(A)  is under the age of 18 years; or

(B)  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 chapter, 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)  “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 at his or her or their home.

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

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

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

(17)  “Reach Ahead” means the program established under chapter 12 of this title.

(18)  “Reach First payment” means a one-time payment of cash as determined in section 1004 of this title.

(19)  “Reach First services” means the service component of the Reach First program consisting of case management services, support services, and referrals provided to eligible families to assist them in becoming

self‑sufficient.

(20)  “Reach Up” means the program established under chapter 11 of this title.

(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)  “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 adopted pursuant thereto by the U. S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

(25)  “Unable‑to‑work” means not able‑to‑work and not

able‑to‑work‑part‑time.

(26)  “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;

(M)  attendance at a financial literacy class; and

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

(27)  “Work‑ready” means the participant possesses the education or skills demanded by the local job market or is capable of participating in one or more work activities at the level required by the participant’s work requirement, and is not subject to any barrier.

§ 1002.  Purpose

(a)  The purpose of the Reach First program is:

(1)  To stabilize families in crisis, assess the family’s strengths and needs, and orient families to the programs, services, assistance, and participant responsibilities available to improve self‑sufficiency, attain economic independence, and ensure the well‑being of children.

(2)  To refer families without recent work histories, recognizing individual and unique characteristics, to an appropriate program available to assist the family in obtaining the opportunities and skills necessary for self‑sufficiency and economic independence.

(3)  To assist families with recent work histories by providing short‑term financial support and support services to stabilize the family while the family transitions back to employment. 

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

(5)  To improve the well‑being of children by providing short‑term supports to their families and referrals to appropriate programs and services.

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

(7)  To conform to the federal TANF law.

(b)  The critical elements of developing a short‑term stabilization, assessment, and orientation program that assists families to maintain or attain self‑sufficiency are:

(1)  cooperative and realistic goal‑setting, coupled with individualized case management that addresses each individual’s situation and barriers to

self‑sufficiency;

(2)  a short‑term monetary payment and support services of a limited duration to provide for immediate, short‑term needs of the family until the family attains employment quickly, or transitions to an appropriate program to assist the family in order to ensure the family’s well‑being and success to reaching self‑sufficiency; and

(3)  clear and comprehensive information on available options and appropriate services communicated to families in a simple fashion and easy transition to programs, such as Reach Ahead, Reach Up, the postsecondary education program, and any other solely state-funded or separate

state-funded programs.

§ 1003.  Eligibility

(a)  A family shall be eligible for the Reach First program if the family’s income and resources are below the limits established for the Reach Up program, and the family resides in Vermont.  All applicants for programs under this chapter or chapter 11 or 12 of this title shall be provided an orientation, initial assessments, the Reach First payment, and, if appropriate for the family, in‑depth assessment, a family development plan, and services through Reach First.

(b)  Reach First payments and services shall be available only once every 12 months for a family, except as provided for by rule.  Families who have received Reach First within the past 12 months shall be provided financial assistance and services through Reach Up, the postsecondary education program, or other program appropriate for the family.  Families applying for or participating in other programs may also receive Reach First assessments, payments, or services as provided for by rule.

(c)  The commissioner may use the eligibility rules for Reach Up instead of adopting new eligibility rules for this program.

(d)  An adult who accepts employment after reporting as directed under section 1007 of this title may receive Reach First or Reach Up, provided that the family remains financially eligible for the program in accordance with department rules.


§ 1004.  Reach First Payment

(a)  An eligible family shall receive a short‑term cash payment, which is the equivalent of up to 120 days of Reach Up financial assistance for the relevant family size with the same income.  The family may receive the payment in installments or a lump sum, if needed to avert a crisis as determined in the initial assessment or the family development plan, during the period in which the family seeks immediate employment or participates in assessment and creating a family development plan.  The commissioner may establish by rule exceptions to the limit on the amount of the payment, as long as the exceptions are budget-neutral to the program.

(b)  The department shall offer every eligible family the option of electronic or direct payment of the family’s housing or other expenses to the person providing the lodging, utilities, or other service as provided for by rule.

(c)  For the purposes of calculating the payment, child support shall be treated as income, except that the first $50.00 amount of child support shall be disregarded from income.

§ 1005.  Required services to participating families

(a)  The commissioner shall provide to all eligible families an orientation and an initial, up‑front assessment to determine which programs, referrals, or services are appropriate.  The orientation shall provide the family with information about services and referrals available to the family, and the programs established under chapters 11 and 12 of this title, including program requirements, participant responsibilities, and incentives for participation and obtaining employment.

(b)  If needed by the family to improve the family’s prospects for job placement and job retention, the commissioner shall provide participating families in‑depth assessments of the full range of services needed by each family, intensive case management or case consultation services, referral to any agencies or programs that provide the services needed by participating families, and transition to other programs establishes under chapters 11 and 12 of this title.  Services or referrals for services shall include:

(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 classifies as legally exempt child care, and that a parent or caretaker determines to be unacceptable; and

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

(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 chapter.

(4)  Vocational rehabilitation.

(5)  Medical and dental assistance.

(6)  Homelessness prevention and housing assistance.

(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)  Transfer to a state‑funded program under subchapter 3 of this chapter, the Reach Up program, or the Reach Ahead program.

(10)  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 chapter or chapter 11 of this title.

§ 1006.  Case management; family development plans;

               coordinated services

(a)  If a family needs or requests in‑depth assessment and ongoing services, the commissioner shall provide all Reach First services to these participating families through a case management model.  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 in need of ongoing services, 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 is determined to be eligible for this program and in need of services.

(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 a 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.

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

§ 1007.  REQUIRED PARTICIPATION

(a)  Each participating adult in a family receiving Reach First services shall participate in necessary assessments and developing a family development plan, if applicable, unless good cause exists for such noncompliance as defined by the commissioner by rule.  The commissioner may use the same rules applicable to good cause as established in the Reach Up program.

(b)(1)  If an adult does not comply with the following requirements without good cause, the department shall initiate the conciliation process to determine the reason that the adult has not complied with the requirements and shall modify the requirements, if necessary, or provide the adult with a second opportunity to comply:

(A)  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 labor for an immediate job search within two working days of having filed an application.

(B)  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 labor for an immediate job search within two working days of having filed an application.

(C)  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 labor for an immediate job search within two working days of having filed an application.

(2)  The Reach First payment may be withheld during the conciliation process and until the adult complies.

(3)  If the adult does not report without good cause to the department of labor after the second opportunity, the adult shall be denied Reach First and Reach Up. 

(c)(1)  If an adult does not comply with the following requirements without good cause, the department shall initiate the conciliation process to determine the reason that the adult has not complied with the requirements and shall modify the requirements, if necessary:

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

(B)  Each participating adult who is not referred to the department of labor pursuant to this subsection shall report as directed by the department for assessment and evaluation activities.

(C)  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 family is ineligible or transferred to Reach Up or Reach Ahead.  If a family is transferred to another program, the rules of that program apply.

(2)  If conciliation is unsuccessful, the department may apply the Reach Up sanctions and transfer the family to the Reach Up program for further case management and other services.

Subchapter 2.  Administrative Provisions

§ 1011.  Transition to other programs

(a)  The department shall transfer the family to Reach Up, a separate state program, or a solely state‑funded program established under chapter 11 if, after four months of receiving support in Reach First or sooner at the department’s discretion, a family is assessed to need ongoing financial assistance and the family is financially eligible for Reach Up, a separate state program, or a solely state‑funded program established under chapter 11 of this title, unless the family chooses not to participate.

(b)  If a family finds unsubsidized employment meeting or exceeding the work requirements for Reach Up for the family’s size and composition, but is financially eligible for Reach Up, the department shall transfer the family to Reach Up, unless the family chooses not to participate.  A family transferring from Reach First to Reach Up shall be treated as a recipient for the purposes of income calculation.

(c)  If a family finds unsubsidized employment meeting or exceeding the work requirements for Reach Up for the family’s size and composition, is not financially eligible for Reach Up, and is eligible for the Reach Ahead program, the department shall transfer the family to Reach Ahead, unless the family chooses not to participate.  A family transferring from Reach First to Reach Ahead shall be treated as a recipient for the purposes of income calculation.

(d)  A family transferring to another program under subsections (a) through (c) of this section shall not be required to complete a new application.  Verification of income or other documentation may be required as provided for by rule.

(e)  Transitional medical assistance of up to 36 months shall be provided to families with a working adult who leaves Reach First and is not eligible for Reach Up, as provided for in the Vermont Medicaid rule M302.21 in effect on May 1, 2007,  provided that federal financial participation is available for such transitional medical assistance.

§ 1012.  Notice and Appeal

A participant may appeal decisions 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.

* * * Reach Up * * *

Sec. 2.  33 V.S.A. § 1101 is amended to read:

§ 1101.  DEFINITIONS

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.  The department shall include a process to determine the development and well‑being of the children in the family.

(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 for children and families, or his or her designee.

(9)  “Department” means the department for children and families.

(10)  “Dependent child” means a child who: is a resident of this state;: and

(A)  is under the age of 18 years; or

(B)  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 chapter, 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 electronic or direct payments for a family’s housing or other expenses, 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)(14)  “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)(15)  “Parent” means a biological parent, stepparent, adoptive parent, or pregnant individual.

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

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

(18)  “Reach Ahead” means the program established in chapter 12 of this title.

(19)  “Reach First” means the program established in chapter 10 of this title.

(19)(20)  “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)(21)  “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)(22)  “Relative” means a person related to a dependent child, as defined by the department by rule.

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

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

(24)(25)  “Subsidized job” means a job with an employer for which at least 25 percent of the wages are provided by diversion of TANF funds employment for which the employer receives a subsidy from TANF funds or other public funds to offset some or all of the wages and costs of employing a participant.

(25)(26)  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)(27)  “Unable‑to‑work” means not able‑to‑work and not able to work part time able‑to‑work‑part‑time.

(27)(28)  “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;

(M)  attendance at a financial literacy class; and

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

(28)(29)  “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 the participant possesses the education or skills demanded by the local job market or is capable of participating in one or more work activities at the level required by the participant’s work requirement, and is not subject to any barrier.

Sec. 3.  33 V.S.A. § 1102 is amended to read:

§ 1102.  PURPOSE OF AID

(a)  The purpose of the Reach Up program 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 measure the success of the system by what is best for children.

(6)  to protect improve the well‑being of 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 residents 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.

* * *

Sec. 4.  33 V.S.A. § 1103 is amended to read:

§ 1103.  AID; ELIGIBILITY AND BENEFIT LEVELS

(a)  Aid Financial assistance 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 financial assistance to which an eligible person is entitled shall be determined with due regard to the income, resources and maintenance available to that person and, as far as funds are available, shall provide that person a reasonable subsistence compatible with decency and health.  The commissioner may fix by regulation maximum amounts of aid financial assistance, and act to insure that the expenditures for the programs shall not exceed appropriations for them consistent with section 101 of this title.  In no case may the department expend state funds in excess of the appropriations for the programs under this chapter.

(b)  Aid Financial assistance 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 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 $200.00 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  Each family development plan shall provide for an incentive payment to be paid to the participating family for completing a required activity or task.

* * *

(5)  The value of assets accumulated from the earnings of adults and children in participating families and from any federal or Vermont earned income tax credit shall be excluded for purposes of determining continuing eligibility for the Reach Up program.  The asset limitation shall be increased from $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 for participating families for the purposes of determining continuing eligibility for the Reach Up program.

* * *

(h)  The department shall offer every eligible family the option of electronic or direct payment of financial assistance for the family’s housing or other expenses to the person providing the lodging, utilities, or other service as provided for by rule.

Sec. 5.  33 V.S.A. § 1105(b) is amended to read:

§ 1105.  CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS

* * *

(b)  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if aid financial assistance 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 financial assistance within the following 12 calendar months solely because the family no longer receives excess child support, aid financial assistance shall be paid as of the date of the family’s reapplication.

Sec. 6.  33 V.S.A. § 1106 is amended to read:

§ 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 facility, and that a parent or caretaker determines to be unacceptable when such determination is confirmed by the child care services division department.

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(9)  Services for teen parents through the teen parent education program established in cooperation with the department of education.

(9)(10)  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 chapter.

Sec. 7.  33 V.S.A. § 1107 is amended to read:

§ 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 informed by knowledge of the family’s home, community, employment, and available resources.  Services may be delivered in the district office, the family’s home, or community in a way that facilitates progress toward accomplishment of the family development plan.  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 established under the Reach First or Reach Up program 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.  If administratively feasible and appropriate, the case manager shall be the same case manager the family was assigned in the Reach First program.  The applicant for or recipient of aid financial assistance, under this chapter, 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)(b)  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 become work‑ready or 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 or is due for review;

(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.

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Sec. 8.  33 V.S.A. § 1108 is amended to read:

§ 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 financial assistance to a participating family, including a dependent child, on the basis of an adult family member’s having received TANF‑funded aid financial assistance, 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 chapter, may receive aid financial assistance authorized by this chapter in the five‑year period immediately following the receipt of such associate or bachelor’s degree.

Sec. 9.  33 V.S.A. § 1112 is amended to read:

§ 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: the participating adult assisting in the development of his or her family development plan and engaging in the 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.

(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 labor 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 labor 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 labor 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 labor 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 labor 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.

Sec. 10.  33 V.S.A. § 1113 is amended to read:

§ 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 chapter, and provided that all services required by this chapter 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 or participate in one or more work activities, 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)(1)  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 commissioner 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.

(2)  A participant may meet the work requirement through a combination of work activities until the participant has received 24 months of financial assistance.  After that time, the participant shall meet the work requirement through employment.

 (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 or in one or more work activities 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 or work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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 or participate in one or more work activities 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)(4)  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.

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(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)(f)  Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, 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.

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Sec. 11.  33 V.S.A. § 1114 is amended to read:

§ 1114.  DEFERMENTS AND, MODIFICATIONS, AND REFERRAL

(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 and for referring individuals with disabilities to the office of vocational rehabilitation.

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

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(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)(3)  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)(4)  An individual who has exhausted the 24 months of deferment provided for in subdivision (4)(3) 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)(5)  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.  In granting deferments, the department shall fully consider the participant’s preference as to the number of hours the participant is able to leave home to participate in work activities.

(7)(6)  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)(7)  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)(8)  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)(9)  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)(10)  Any other participant designated by the commissioner in accordance with criteria established by rule.

(c)  A participant who is able‑to‑work‑part‑time or is unable‑to‑work shall be referred for assessment of the individual’s skills and strengths, accommodations and support services, and vocational and other services in accordance with the provisions of his or her family development plan.  The work requirement hours shall reflect the individual’s ability to work. Participants with disabilities that do not meet the standards used to determine disability under Title XVI of the Social Security Act shall participate in rehabilitation, education, or training programs as appropriate.  A participant who qualifies for a deferment or modification and who is able‑to‑work‑part‑time shall have his or her work requirement hours modified or deferred.  In granting deferments, the department shall fully consider the participant’s estimation of the number of hours the participant is able‑to‑work.

(c)(d)  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.

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Sec. 12.  33 V.S.A. § 1116(f)(2) is amended to read:

(2)  The commissioner shall provide the housing costs by vendor electronic or direct payment directly to the vendor person to whom housing costs are owed.  Any balance of financial assistance remaining after the vendor electronic or direct 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.

Sec. 13.  33 V.S.A. § 1116(h) is amended to read:

(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 or to participate in assessments as directed by 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.  Meetings required under this section may take place in the district office, a community location, or in the participant’s home.  Facilitation of meeting the participant’s family development plan goals shall be a primary consideration in determining the location of the meeting.  The commissioner may waive any meeting when extraordinary circumstances prevent a participant from attending.  The commissioner shall adopt rules to implement this subsection.

Sec. 14.  33 V.S.A. § 1121 is amended to read:

§ 1121.  AUTHORIZATION TO SEGREGATE STATE FUNDS AND

               CREATE SEPARATE STATE AND SOLELY STATE-FUNDED

               PROGRAMS

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

(1)  “Separate state program” means a program in which state funds are used to fund the program, and these funds are counted toward the state’s maintenance‑of‑effort requirement under TANF.

(2)  “Solely state‑funded program” means a program in which state funds are used to fund the program and are not counted toward the state’s maintenance‑of‑effort requirement in order to maintain flexibility.

(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)(6)  To ensure that the state complies with the federal TANF program requirements and is able to avoid federal fiscal sanctions.

(d)(1)  The following separate state solely state‑funded programs shall be established, in accordance with rules adopted by the commissioner:

(1)(A)  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)(B)  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) subsection 1114(b) 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.

(C)  A program for the following vulnerable families:

(i)  a minor parent who is not meeting the TANF requirements;

(ii)  families who have received TANF‑funded assistance for over 60 months and do not qualify for the hardship exemption as provided for by rule;

(2)  Solely state‑funded programs may be established, in accordance with rules adopted by the commissioner, for the following individuals:

(A)  families in which the parents or caretakers are ineligible immigrants, who are considered work eligible under federal law, but are unable to meet the number of hours in work activities required for the family to be counted as meeting the work requirement under federal law;

(B)  adults who have been in sanction for more than three months;

(C)  families in which the parents have disabilities;

(D)  families in which one or more child has a disability and in which a family member is considered a work‑eligible individual;

(E)  families in which the parents or caretakers have an application pending for Supplemental Security Income; and

(F)  two‑parent households who are unable to meet the number of hours in work activities required for the family to be counted as meeting the work requirement under federal law, unless the federal law allows the state to exclude these families from the work participation rate or provides for an achievable work participation rate as determined by the commissioner.

(e)  The Reach Up Ahead program shall include a segregated funds be a separate state 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.

(f)  The commissioner may establish other separate state and solely state‑funded programs necessary to meet the goals established in this chapter.

(g)  In furtherance of the policy goals of this section and in order to establish an excess of maintenance‑of‑effort state funds, the commissioner shall maximize maintenance‑of‑effort state funds in the reports to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.

Sec. 15.  33 V.S.A. § 1122 is amended to read:

§ 1122.  POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION PROGRAM

(a)  The commissioner shall establish by rule a separate state solely state‑funded program to provide living expense stipends financial assistance equivalent to the Reach Up financial assistance amount the family would receive if it were participating in the Reach Up program 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 Financial eligibility for the program and the amount of the program’s living expense stipend financial assistance shall be determined using Reach Up financial assistance rules with the following modifications:.  The commissioner may use Reach Up rules for the postsecondary education program with the exception of rules inconsistent with this section or related to the work requirements.  

(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 the appropriate family size.

(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)  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)(6)  The participating parent agrees to limit employment to no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session.  The department may establish exceptions by rule to allow the participating parent to work more than 20 hours per week.

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

(11)(8)  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 who:

(1)  have demonstrated the ability to be successful in college, have already accumulated credits that can be applied to a college degree, and qualify for financial assistance;

(2)  have no postsecondary education and qualify for financial assistance;

(3)  have demonstrated the ability to be successful in college, have already accumulated credits that can be applied to a college degree, and qualify for services but not financial assistance;

(4)  have no postsecondary education and qualify for services but not financial assistance.

(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.

Sec. 16.  33 V.S.A. § 1133 is amended to read:

§ 1133.  TRANSITION FROM WELFARE RESTRUCTURING PROJECT

               TO REACH UP PROGRAM OTHER PROGRAMS

(a)  The commissioner shall restructure the system of Aid to Needy Families with Children in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.  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 chapter.

(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.

(a)  The department shall transfer the family to Reach Up, a separate state program, or a solely state‑funded program established under chapter 11 if, after four months of receiving support in Reach First or sooner at the department’s discretion, a family is assessed as needing ongoing financial assistance and the family is financially eligible for Reach Up, a separate state program, or a solely state‑funded program established under chapter 11 of this title, unless the family chooses not to participate.

(b)  If a family finds unsubsidized employment meeting or exceeding the work requirements for Reach Up for the family’s size and composition, but is financially eligible for Reach Up, the department shall transfer the family to Reach Up, unless the family chooses not to participate.  A family transferring from Reach First to Reach Up shall be treated as a recipient for the purposes of income calculation.

(c)  If a family finds unsubsidized employment meeting or exceeding the work requirements for Reach Up for the family’s size and composition, is not financially eligible for Reach Up, and is eligible for the Reach Ahead program, the department shall transfer the family to Reach Ahead, unless the family chooses not to participate.  A family transferring from Reach Up to Reach Ahead shall be treated as a recipient for the purposes of income calculation.

(d)  A family transferring to another program under subsections (a) through (c) of this section shall not be required to complete a new application. Verification of income or other required documentation may be required as provided for by rule.

Sec. 17.  33 V.S.A. § 1134 is amended to read:

§ 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 First, Reach Up program, and Reach Ahead and achieving the goals of the program programs provided for in section sections 1002, 1102, and 1202 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, and how support services and incentives assist in overcoming barriers.

(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 programs, including objective indicators of improved conditions; and the number of participating families involved in training programs; and whether the support services and incentives assist in keeping families employed.

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

(4)(3)  Data about the food stamp participation of households who have left Reach Up the programs 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 leaving the applicable program, broken down by reason for Reach Up termination or leaving, and the department’s plan to identify and assist eligible households to apply for food stamps.

(5)(4)  Data about the enrollment of individuals who have left Reach Up the programs 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 leaving the applicable program, broken down by reason for Reach Up termination or leaving, and the department’s plan to identify and assist eligible households to apply for health care assistance.

(6)(5)  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 programs.

(6)  A description of the work participation rates, including the method of calculating the caseload reduction credit, for the most recent federal fiscal year.

(7)  A description of the current basic needs budget and housing allowance, the current maximum grant amounts, and the basic needs budget and housing allowance adjusted to reflect an annual cost‑of‑living increase.

(8)  A summary of the analysis done under subsection (b) of this section. 

(b)  On or before January 15, 2001, the commissioner of education, with the assistance of the commissioner, the commissioner of disabilities, aging, and independent living, and the commissioner of labor shall report to the senate and house committees on health and welfare and education the progress they have achieved in developing and implementing the comparable and reciprocally recognized literacy assessment protocols as described in subsection 1107(e) of this title.  On or before January 15, 2010 for the analysis of Reach First and on or before January 15, 2012 for the analysis of all programs, the department shall analyze the effectiveness of the programs and shall consider the following indicators:

(1)  For Reach First, the types of crises presented by applicants; the type and duration of case management necessary to respond to a crisis; and the impact of the services on the family, including the actual and perceived outcomes and material indicators of stability.

(2)  For Reach Up, the type and duration of case management provided; and the impact of the services on the family; the family’s achievement of the goals in the family development plan; the types of employment engaged in by families; the duration of employment; and actual and perceived outcomes and material indicators of stability and well‑being.

(3)  For Reach Ahead, the types of employment engaged in by families; the duration of employment; the type and duration of services necessary to maintain employment; the duration of time the family received food assistance and services in the program; and the impact of the services on the family, including the actual and perceived well‑being of the family and material indicators of well‑being.

(4)  Whether the programs are effectively integrated and transitions between programs are simple, and the number of families who choose not to participate, and why.

(c)  [Repealed.]

(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 chapter.  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 chapter 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 chapter in their achievement of self‑sufficiency and to protect the children in these families.

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

(1)  the number of families receiving aid financial assistance in the most recent federal fiscal year that included an adult family member who has received TANF‑funded aid financial assistance, 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 financial assistance authorized by this chapter to fund aid financial assistance for those families in excess of 20 percent while, at the same time, providing aid financial assistance and services, supported solely by general funds, to other families as authorized by this chapter; and

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

* * * Reach Ahead * * *

Sec. 18.  33 V.S.A. chapter 12 is added to read:

Chapter 12.  Reach Ahead

Subchapter 1.  Eligibility and Assistance

§ 1201.  DEFINITIONS

As used in this chapter:

(1)  “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.

(2)  “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.

(3)  “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.

(4)  “Commissioner” means the commissioner of the department for children and families, or his or her designee.

(5)  “Department” means the department for children and families.

(6)  “Dependent child” means a child who is a resident of this state and:

(A)  is under the age of 18 years; or

(B)  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.

(7)  “Eligible family” means a family that meets the requirements in section 1203 of this chapter.

(8)  “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.

(9)  “Food assistance” means a monthly benefit to supplement the family’s food stamp benefit as determined under section 1204 of this chapter.

(10)  “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 at his or her or their home.

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

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

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

(14)  “Reach Ahead services” means the service component of the Reach Ahead program consisting of case management services, support services, and referrals provided to eligible families to assist them in maintaining

self‑sufficiency.

(15)  “Reach First” means the program established under chapter 10 of this title.

(16)  “Reach Up” means the program established under chapter 11 of this title.

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

(18)  “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 U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

§ 1202.  Purpose

(a)  The purpose of the Reach Ahead program is:

(1)  To assist families who have become recently employed to maintain employment by providing work supports and incentives to maximize the opportunity of the family to remain employed and not return to Reach Up.

(2)  To provide families with information and referrals to workforce development options in order to ensure financial stability for the family.  

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

(4)  To improve the well‑being of children by providing time‑limited work supports and food assistance to their families.

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

(6)  To conform to the federal TANF law.

(b)  The critical elements of developing a work support program that assists families to maintain self‑sufficiency are:

(1)  if necessary, individualized case management that addresses each individual’s situation and barriers to self‑sufficiency and assists that family in maintaining employment;

(2)  food assistance and support services of a limited duration to provide work support for the family;

(3)  easy transition to other programs, such as Reach Up or Reach First, if needed to ensure the families well‑being and success to reaching

self‑sufficiency.


§ 1203.  Eligibility

A family shall be eligible for Reach Ahead if the family resides in Vermont and:

(1)  has left Reach Up or the postsecondary education program within the prior six months for unsubsidized employment that meets the work requirements for the Reach Up program for the family’s size and composition and meets the financial eligibility guidelines for the Vermont Health Access Program;

(2)  is receiving food stamps and has unsubsidized employment that meets the work requirements for Reach Up for the family’s size and composition; or

(3)  is an individual under 21, has a child, is ineligible for food stamps solely because the individual resides with the individual’s parent, and has unsubsidized employment that meets the work requirements for Reach Up for the family’s size and composition.

§ 1204.  Food Assistance

(a)  An eligible family shall receive monthly food assistance equal to $100.00 to be applied to the family’s electronic benefit transfer (EBT) food account for the first six months after the family has become eligible for Reach Ahead.  For the seventh though 12th months, the family shall receive a monthly food assistance of $50.00.

(b)  Food assistance may be used only to purchase eligible food items as defined in the food stamp federal rules and shall be disregarded as income for the purposes of determining food stamp eligibility and the amount of the food stamp benefits.

(c)  An eligible family shall not be required to assign child support to the department, and all child support received by the family shall be disregarded as income.

§ 1205.  Required services to participating families

The commissioner shall provide participating families Reach Ahead services, case management services if necessary, and referral to any agencies or programs, including workforce development, that provide the services needed by participating families to improve the family’s prospects for employment retention.  Reach Ahead services shall be provided for 12 months.

§ 1206.  Case management; family development plans;

               coordinated services

The commissioner may provide Reach Ahead services to participating families through a case management model.  If a family needs case management, the commissioner may develop a family development plan as provided for in chapters 10 and 11 of this title.  If a case manager is assigned to the participating family who has been transferred from Reach First or Reach Up, if practicable, the case manager shall be the same case manager the family was assigned previously.

Subchapter 2.  Administrative Provisions

§ 1211.  Recertification

A family’s income and hours of employment and other countable work activities shall be verified every six months to determine continuing eligibility for the program.  To the extent possible for families receiving food stamps, income verification may be done at the same time as the food stamps recertification.

§ 1212.  Transition to other programs

If a family loses unsubsidized employment meeting or exceeding the work requirements for Reach Up for the family’s size and composition and is financially eligible for Reach Up, the family shall be transferred to Reach First or Reach Up without an additional application process, unless the family chooses not to participate.  Verification of income or other documentation may be required as provided for by rule. 

§ 1213.  Notice and Appeal

A participant may appeal decisions 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.

* * * Financial Assistance Amounts * * *

Sec. 19.  STUDY ON CHILD SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE LEVELS TO

               CERTAIN FAMILIES

(a)  The department for children and families, economic services division and the office of child support shall analyze whether the state should implement the option for increasing the amount of child support disregarded for families receiving Reach First and Reach Up allowed under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.  The analysis shall identify the cost to the state of implementing the option, the amount of additional income that would be provided to families, and the effect the additional income to the family would have on the amount or eligibility for any other public assistance or benefits received by the family.

(b)  The division and office shall report to the house committees on human services and appropriations, and the senate committees on health and welfare and appropriations no later than November 30, 2007.

* * * Asset Building * * *

Sec. 20.  ASSET BUILDING; STUDY

The agency of human services shall study how to unify the asset limitations across public assistance programs, including Reach Up, separate state and solely state‑funded programs under chapter 11 of Title 33, general assistance, emergency assistance, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, low income heating assistance program (LIHEAP), food stamps, and any subsidized housing programs with asset limitations, with the purpose of encouraging low income individuals and families to have a modest savings for emergencies, postsecondary education, the purchase of a home, starting a business, or retirement.  The agency shall report on any waivers of federal law available and necessary to allow individuals to build assets without becoming ineligible for public assistance programs.  The report shall be presented to the house committees on appropriations and human services and the senate committees on appropriations and health and welfare no later than December 15, 2007.    

* * * Child Care * * *

Sec. 21.  LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS; CHILD CARE

The general assembly finds that:

(1)  Today’s young children are tomorrow’s Vermont.  Recent science on early child development shows that there is much we can do today to ensure that all Vermont children grow into solid members of our communities tomorrow.  We now know that early experiences build the architecture of a child’s developing brain, and the quality of those experiences establishes either a sturdy or fragile foundation for all development that follows.  Nurturing, responsive, individualized interactions with caring adults are essential to establishing a sturdy foundation.  Child development is community development as well as economic development, as healthy, capable children are the building blocks of a solid and productive society.

(2)  Vermont’s child care industry plays a significant role in Vermont’s economy.

(A)  The total economic impact of the child care industry in Vermont is approximately $426 million annually.  Every dollar spent on child care in Vermont stays in the Vermont economy.

(B)  It is estimated that the child care industry employs approximately 5,000 people in Vermont and contributes to the creation or support of 2,232 indirect jobs.

(3)  Economic conditions in the United States require that both parents in many families work outside the home.  Nationally, 61 percent of married couples with children under six years of age had both parents in the workforce in 2000.  In 2002, 80 percent of Vermont women with children under the age of six were employed outside the home.

(4)  National studies consistently show a high return on public investment in early childhood development.  For example, every $1.00 spent on quality early childhood services saves in later education, criminal justice, welfare, foster care, and other social services costs.  Estimates of savings range from $2.00 to over $7.00 for each $1.00 spent on quality early childhood services.

(5)  National experts recommend that families spend no more than 10 percent of household income on child care in order to ensure that other basic needs are met.

(6)  For a Vermont family of four with two working parents and two preschool‑age children (ages three and four and one‑half), with a median household income of $62,331.00 the cost of child care, using a registered family child care home, equals $13,000.00 and represents 21 percent of the family’s household budget.

(7)  For a single parent earning $13,500.00 a year, with two preschool age children (ages three and four and one‑half), the same cost of child care ($13,000.00) would represent 96 percent of the household budget if there were no state subsidy.  Child care costs after being reduced by the maximum available child care subsidy would still leave a co‑pay of $3,984.00, which equals 29.5 percent of this single parent’s budget.  Among working families who pay for child care, more than 27 percent of low and middle income families spend more than one‑fifth of their earnings on child care.

(8)  Vermont’s child care subsidy program, administered by the department for children and families, provides financial assistance to low and middle income families for purchasing child care.  The financial assistance is in the form of a subsidy paid to approved child care programs on behalf of eligible families.

(9)  Income eligibility guidelines for the child care subsidy program are based on the 1999 federal poverty guidelines and state median income.  This means that families, who are not currently eligible for the program, would be eligible for financial assistance if the eligibility guidelines were based on current federal poverty and state median income standards.

(10)  According to the department for children and families, there is a significant gap between the current state child care subsidy rates and the prevailing market rates for care for all types of care and all age groups.

(A)  A family earning $28,000.00 with a four‑year‑old child in full‑time child care has a shortfall of $130.00–$200.00 each month, even with a subsidy.

(B)  The monthly maximum income levels for a family to be eligible for subsidy assistance are $2,586.00 for a family of three, $3,115.00 for a family of four, $3,645.00 for a family of five, and $4,176.00 for a family of six or more.  These income levels have not increased since 1999.

(C)  If the eligibility guidelines for the subsidy program were set using current federal poverty guidelines and state median income, the monthly maximum income levels for a family to be eligible for subsidy assistance would be $3,850.00 for a family of three, $4,529.00 for a family of four, $5,208.00 for a family of five, and $5,989.00 for a family of six or more.

(D)  The average weekly state child care subsidy rates are $21.40 a week less than the average statewide weekly market rates for registered family home child care and are $20.77 a week less than the statewide average weekly market rates for care at licensed child care centers.  This discrepancy results in co‑payments for families that are receiving the full subsidy benefit, including families eligible for Reach Up.  These co‑payments are cost prohibitive for many families.

(E)  The federal Child Care Bureau has established a standard for states to consider when setting their child care subsidy rates at the 75th percentile of market rates.  The purpose of the standard is to ensure eligible families access to most of the care in a community without prohibitive co‑payments.  The discrepancy between the state’s current weekly subsidy rates compared to the statewide average market rates at the 75th percentile is even greater.  The average weekly state subsidy rates are $32.66 a week less than the statewide average weekly market rate at the 75th percentile for registered family home child care and $31.07 a week less than the statewide average weekly market rate at the 75th percentile for licensed child care centers.  While there have been small incremental increases in funding for the child care subsidy program to increase rates by one‑two percent a year for the past four years, it has not been sufficient to establish the state subsidy rates at a level that ensures access to care for eligible families.

(11)  Recent increases in the federal temporary aid to needy families (TANF) work requirements without concomitant federal resources are putting additional pressures on the state’s child care subsidy program.

(12)  As a result:

(A)  working families who need help paying for child care are not eligible for assistance or get far less than they would be eligible for if the income guidelines were updated.  As a result, the ability of some parents to enter the workforce or to select quality, state‑regulated care for their children is undermined;

(B)  child care providers are more and more reluctant to accept children on subsidy because the subsidy rates lag so far behind market rates; and

(C)  families who have to make up the difference between what the state pays and what providers charge often fall behind in co‑pays.  This results in providers having to absorb losses until they can no longer afford to do so, at which point children end up with disruptions in care while parents struggle to find lower cost care or are forced to stop working.


Sec. 22.  CHILD CARE REPORT

(a)  No later than November 1, 2007, the department for children and families shall report to the house committees on human services and on appropriations and the senate committees on health and welfare and on appropriations with an estimate of the funding needed to bring income eligibility guidelines to current levels; an estimate of the funding needed to bring Vermont into compliance with federal guidelines, suggesting that subsidies should be at least 75 percent of the market rate; an assessment of the positive and negative outcomes from modifying the current statewide subsidy rate to differential rates based on the market rate for the area; and an analysis of possible inflation factors with a recommendation on which factors to use once target funding levels have been met.

(b)  No later than November 1, 2007, the legislative council and joint fiscal office shall provide a summary of innovative ideas from other states for funding investments in quality child care and of any available cost‑benefit analyses of such investments.

Sec. 23.  33 V.S.A. § 3512(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The subsidy authorized by this section shall be on a sliding scale basis. The scale shall be established by the commissioner, by rule, and shall bear a reasonable relationship to income and family size.  The lower limit of the fee scale shall include families whose gross income is up to and including 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.  The upper income limit of the fee scale shall be neither less than 80 82.5 percent nor more than 100 percent of the state median income, adjusted for the size of the family.  The scale shall be structured so that it encourages employment.

* * * Technical Provisions * * *

Sec. 24.  RULES

The department for children and families are authorized to adopt rules necessary to implement the provisions of this act.

Sec. 25.  IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

(a)  The department for children and families shall develop a three‑year implementation plan with the goal of establishing Reach First on April 1, 2008, establishing Reach Ahead for families who leave Reach Up on October 1, 2008, as provided for in 33 V.S.A. § 1203(1) and establishing Reach Ahead for all other families as provided for in 33 V.S.A. § 1203 no later than April 1, 2009.

(b)  The plan shall include the estimated amount of appropriations necessary to fund the programs established under this act; an assessment of the information technology requirements and modifications necessary to implement the provisions of this act, including the costs; the operational issues and a time frame for the necessary information technology and other solutions; and target dates for adopting rules or rule modifications necessary to implement the changes in this act.  The plan shall make recommendations where applicable for additional resources and describe the consequences of not providing additional funding to enable the successful implementation of the provisions of this act.

(c)  The plan shall be submitted to the house committees on appropriations and human services, the senate committees on appropriations and health and welfare, and the joint fiscal committee no later than September 15, 2007.  

Sec. 26.  EFFECTIVE DATES; IMPLEMENTATION

(a)  This act shall take effect upon passage for the purposes of adopting rules and rule modifications.

(b)  The amendments to 33 V.S.A. chapter 11 contained in Secs. 2‑13 (Reach Up), 14 (solely state‑funded programs), and 16 (Reach Up transitions) of this act shall take effect immediately when the rule changes necessary to implement the sections become final, but no later than April 1, 2008.  Until the time that the rule modifications are final, the Reach Up program shall operate under current law.  Any provisions in these sections relating to Reach Ahead shall take effect on October 1, 2008.

(c)(1)  The modifications to the postsecondary education program in Sec. 15 of this act, shall take effect when the rules become final, but no later than April 1, 2008.  Beginning with the postsecondary education participants for the fall 2007 semester, the department may provide participants with financial assistance in lieu of a stipend, using the rules applicable to calculating financial assistance in the Reach Up program. 

(2)  Participants receiving stipends under the postsecondary education program shall be notified of program changes, including the modified calculation of the financial assistance amount.  The calculation change shall be implemented for that participant after adequate notice and on the anniversary of the date the participant commenced the program.

(3)  Participants receiving a stipend on April 1, 2007 who are continuing in the postsecondary education program shall have the financial assistance amount calculated in the same manner as Reach Up financial assistance, unless there is a reduction in benefits based solely on changing from a stipend to a monthly assistance amount.  Current participants whose financial assistance would be reduced solely due to the change from a stipend to a monthly assistance amount shall be held harmless and shall receive financial assistance at the previous level.  

(d)  Reach First established in Sec. 1 of this act shall be implemented no later than April 1, 2008.  Reach Ahead established in Sec. 18 shall be implemented for families who leave Reach Up as provided for in 33 V.S.A. § 1203(1) no later than October 1, 2008.  Subject to appropriation, Reach Ahead shall be implemented for all other families as provided for in 33 V.S.A. § 1203 no later than April 1, 2009.

(e)  Secs. 19 (child support study), 20 (assets study), 21 and 22 (child care report), 23 (child care technical change), 24 (rules), 25 (implementation plan), and 26 (effective dates) shall take effect upon passage.

Approved:  May 17, 2007



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us