Working to transform the child welfare system.

SB 5684: Revising economic assistance programs by updating standards of need, revising outcome measures and data collected, and reducing barriers to participation

This act requires, rather than allows, that the Department of Social and Health Services exempt Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients from the 5 year time limit due to hardship or family violence. Furthermore, a number of changes are made to a recipient’s eligibility for TANF, benefit level, and other conditions.

RCW 74.04.770 is amended to establish consolidated standards of need for the Pregnant Women Assistance Program and State Family Assistance based on studies of actual living costs and include reasonable allowances for household budget items and out-of-pocket costs that may be incurred for child and health care. DSHS must submit a revised comprehensive study of living costs which includes recommendations for TANF grant standards as a percentage of need by September 1st, 2019. Moreover, DSHS must adjust the estimated base costs by September 1st, 2022, and every 4 years thereafter. Additionally, the department must submit a redesigned and comprehensive study while adjusting study parameters by September 1st, 2029.

RCW 74.08A.010 is amended to include that DSHS shall add to adopted rules related to TANF time limit extensions for recipients, which include if they:

§  Are participating satisfactorily in the program;

§  Are temporarily prevented from working or looking for a job;

§  Are in need of mental health or substance use disorder treatment;

§  Are homeless or at substantial risk of losing stable housing or housing support services;

§  Demonstrate another basis by which the time limit would cause undue hardship; or

§  Meet the family violence options.

 This bill also removes a provision in RCW 74.08.025 which allowed DSHS to limit benefits for new state residents to the benefit level the recipient received in their former state of residence if that rate was lower and removes the authority for DSHS to permanently disqualify households for noncompliance with WorkFirst requirements.  [Note: This provision had been in statute for a number of years; however, had never been implemented.

Moreover, a new section is added to RCW 74.08A to read that TANF applicants cannot be required to attend an orientation as a condition of eligibility. DSHS may incorporate orientation information into the recipient assessment.

Finally, the bill modifies the sanction policy by requiring DSHS to review the recipient’s case to ensure that they had taking into consideration any barriers to work activities and made any necessary revisions to the recipient’s individual responsibility plan.  The dept. would also be required to take into consideration, prior to imposing a sanction, whether the recipient was provided with adequate notices and opportunity to remedy their noncompliance; and if good cause reasons were considered for failure to participate.

After 4 months of continuous noncompliance the families grant may be reduced (not shall) by the recipient’s share or by 40%, whichever is greater.

All sections of this act, except for 1 and 8, take effect on May 1st, 2020.