When you are applying for or receiving public assistance, either Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, (TANF), or Safety Net, (SN), you are required to participate in public assistance employment programs. The goals of employment programs are to help you find a job so you no longer need public assistance. You may be required to participate in a number of different activities, including
– developing an employability plan;
– attending medical exams as directed by DSS;
– accepting referrals for employment;
– contacting a minimum of number of new employers each week;
– attending training or educational services.
If you fail to comply with the requirements of the public assistance employment program you can be sanctioned. Sanctions result in termination of public assistance for up to 180 days and until you comply with the work requirements. The length of time depends upon whether you have previously been sanctioned and, if so, how many times.
How can you contest an employment program sanction?
The first thing you may do is request a conciliation conference. If you are receiving Safety Net you have seven (7) days to request conciliation. If you are receiving Temporary Assistance For Needy Families you have ten (10) days to request conciliation. If you fail to request a conciliation conference you will receive a 10 day notice advising you that DSS plans to discontinue or reduce your public assistance. If you request a conciliation conference in time no sanction will be imposed until after the conciliation process has been resolved.
If the dispute is not resolved at the conciliation conference, you have the right to request a Fair Hearing.
What are examples of actions of non-compliance with the public assistance employment program?
- Failure to apply for work
If you are unemployed you are generally required to apply for a specified number of jobs each week. You will be required to submit proof of your job searches, including the names, addresses and phone numbers of all potential employers contacted. DSS may require you to contact only employers who accept written applications and are currently hiring.
If you are threatened with a sanction for failure to apply for the specified number of jobs you should be prepared to submit proof of your job searches or provide good cause for failing to do the required job searches.
- Voluntary termination or reduction of employment
If you are employed and working more than the minimum required amount of hours per week you may be exempt from public assistance employment programs. However, if you voluntarily quit your job or reduce your work hours without good cause you will be considered to have failed to comply with work requirements.
You should be prepared to demonstrate that you had a good reason for quitting your job or reducing the hours you work. Reasons might include loss of child care, loss of transportation, a medical emergency, acceptance of a better job that did not work out, or employer cut backs.
- Failure to attend an interview with a case worker or to attend a work assignment or job interview.
If you fail to attend interviews or participate in a work assignments without good cause the Department of Social Services will consider you to be non-compliant with the public assistance work programs.
You should be prepared to demonstrate that you had good cause for failing meet with your caseworker, attend a job interview or a work assignment. Reasons might include loss of child care, loss of transportation, or a medical emergency.
Can you be excused from participation in the public assistance work program?
Yes, if you are not considered to be employable you may be excused from participation in public assistance work program. You are unemployable if:
– you are ill or incapacitated
– you are 60 years of age or older
– you are a child under 16 years of age
– you are under the age of 19 and are a full-time student
– you are needed in the home to care for an ill or incapacitated household member
– you are a parent or other relative caring for a child under one year of age
– you are employed and work the required minimum amount of hours per week
– you are a pregnant woman with 30 days or fewer to your delivery date
If you are threatened with a sanction and you believe you should be exempt from participation in the public assistance work program you should request a conciliation conference or fair hearing. You should be prepared to present proof of your exemption from participation in the program. For instance, if you are ill or incapacitated you should have supporting letters from a doctor. If you are needed in the home to care for a relative, bring a letter from a doctor verifying that the relative is ill and needs your assistance.