CKHS Case Manager Training (Public Benefits & Domestic Violence)
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CKHS Case Manager Training (Public Benefits & Domestic Violence)

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CKHS Case Manager Training (Public Benefits & Domestic Violence) CKHS Case Manager Training (Public Benefits & Domestic Violence) Presentation Transcript

  • HELP MLP and CKHS: Partners in Advocacy Training #7 Accessing Public Benefits and Services for Victims of Domestic Violence: Spotlight on Cash Assistance
  • Accessing Public Benefits and Services for Victims of Domestic Violence   The Family Violence Option (FVO) Cash Assistance  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)  General Assistance (GA)
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO)  What the Family Violence Option (FVO) is: the FVO is legislation that was adopted as part of the federal welfare law as a response to the unique problems faced by welfare recipients who are victims of domestic violence.    Many women who are in need of public assistance (welfare) are former or current victims of domestic violence. The FVO was the law’s response to research demonstrating that over half of adult women on welfare are past or current victims of domestic violence. Many of the normal welfare requirements can create particular dangers or barriers for these individuals. While going to work, attending school, or pursuing child support may provide advantages for victims of domestic violence, these activities may not be appropriate for all battered women and, in some cases, may put them in more immediate danger from their abusers.
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO) and public benefits  For purposes of FVO protection, Pennsylvania has defined “domestic violence” as including but not limited to one or more of the following:         threatened or attempted physical or sexual abuse physical acts that threaten to result in injury physical acts that actually result in injury sexual abuse sexual activity involving a dependent child being forced, as the caretaker relative of a dependent child, to engage in non-consensual sexual activities neglect or deprivation of medical care mental abuse, which includes but is not limited to:     threats to kill or otherwise harm people or property, threats to kidnap, threats to commit suicide, stalking, repeated use of degrading or coercive language, controlling access to food and sleep, and controlling or withholding access to economic and social resources
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO) and public benefits  Public benefits most commonly sought by victims of domestic violence:      Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)  A cash assistance program for pregnant women and families, is a federally-funded program. General Assistance (GA)  Provides cash to certain categories of people, including adults with disabilities, children living with non-relatives, certain people in drug and alcohol treatment programs, some survivors of domestic violence, and others. Child Care Information Services (CCIS)  Subsidized child care program for low-income working families and former TANF families. Medical Assistance (MA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)  aka, Food Stamps
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO) and Cash Assistance Benefits  In Pennsylvania, The Department of Public Welfare’s (DPW) local offices – also called County Assistance Offices (CAOs) – run two programs that provide Cash Assistance to low-income people:   Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) General Assistance (GA)
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO) and public benefits    The FVO adds flexibility to the TANF, GA and CCIS programs so that victims of abuse can receive waivers from certain program requirements, if compliance would place them in jeopardy. When someone is excused from welfare requirements because of domestic violence, the DPW calls it granting a waiver or granting “good cause.” As a rule under the FVO, domestic violence victims can be excused from welfare program requirements:    If the requirements place them or their families at risk of further domestic violence, or If the requirements would make it more difficult for them to escape domestic violence or penalize them for past abuse, or If the applicant would have difficulty meeting any requirements because of the effects of domestic violence.   Meaning that, a victim may be excused from program requirements not only in situations where she is currently being abused, but also in instances where the effects of abuse – either physical or psychological – interfere with her ability to meet TANF, GA or CCIS requirements. Victims of abuse often suffer poor health, substance abuse, post traumatic stress and other anxiety and depressive disorders.
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO) and TANF How the FVO works:  A state that elects the FVO (like Pennsylvania) makes a commitment to:    Screen for domestic violence among TANF participants Make referrals to counseling and supportive services Waive TANF program requirements, pursuant to a determination of “good cause,” if those requirements:  Would make it more difficult for someone to escape domestic violence,  Would put someone at risk of further domestic violence, or  Would unfairly penalize someone for being abused  Would undermine the protection of victims’ confidentiality
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO) and public benefits  It is important to remember the following:  When requesting a waiver, past abuse need not have been directed against the applicant seeking a waiver of a problematic requirement of any of these public benefit programs!  An applicant’s knowledge of past abuse directed against another person could legitimately place her in fear of further violence by the same perpetrator, and if so, could constitute “good cause.” The belief must be bona fide, of course, but the honest belief in a serious threat to self or loved ones can qualify as good cause.  An applicant is eligible for a waiver of work requirements if she cannot work because she needs to:  spend time attending counseling to overcome the effects of abuse, or  focus on making a stable home for herself and her children after escaping an abusive situation.  Domestic violence is understood as typically occurring between sexual or intimate partners, family members, and household members, regardless of whether the victim and abuser live in the same household.  The FVO also applies to victims of other types of violence affecting families.  A victim of violence does not have to have a prior relationship with the perpetrator in order to be eligible for the FVO.
  • TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE FOR NEEDY FAMILIES (TANF)
  • TANF Basics - Eligibility  Who is eligible for TANF assistance?     Pregnant women Families with children, including many two parent families Children who are living with relatives People who do not fit into one of these three categories are not eligible for TANF, but they may be eligible for General Assistance (GA). For example:   A battered woman whose children are adults, or who does not have children, or whose children are not living with her, and who is not pregnant, will not be eligible for TANF, although she might be eligible for GA (9 month lifetime maximum if DV is the only basis of eligibility). Similarly, a teenager who moves away from her parents because of abuse and is living alone, or with people she is not related to, and who is not pregnant and does not have children herself, would not be eligible for TANF, although she might be eligible for GA.
  • TANF Basics: Eligibility  To be eligible for TANF, an applicant must generally meet certain requirements:  Must be a United States citizen and a resident of Pennsylvania. (Certain non-citizens lawfully admitted for permanent residence may be eligible.)  All family members must provide Social Security Numbers or apply for them.  Applicant is required to look for a job or participate in an employment and training program. (Some people may be excused from the work requirements, for example, a person with a disability.)  Required to enter into an Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR) with welfare caseworker, which is a plan for what she will do so she will no longer need cash assistance. The plan may include looking for work, attending a training program, or applying for Social Security benefits. Applicant must sign the AMR and follow through with the plan.  If applicant wants cash assistance for a dependent child, she must cooperate with paternity and child support requirements.
  • TANF Basics: Eligibility      Applicant’s child must be under age 18 or age 18 and a full-time student. The child or children must live with applicant and she must care for the child/children. Applicant must need support and care for the child as a result of at least one of these things:  Death of the child's parent;  Incapacity of the child's parent (such as a long illness);  Continued absence of a parent from your home; or  One or both parents with no income or low income from employment. Applicant’s resources (things with cash value such as bank accounts, bonds or property that is not your primary/main residence) must have a value of $1,000 or less. Applicant must report all income from employment or from other sources including, but not limited to, child support, unemployment compensation, interest, Social Security benefits, or lottery winnings.
  • TANF Basics: Eligibility  While the income limits for TANF vary depending on size of family and other factors, the resource limit for TANF is $1,000 regardless of the size of the family.  The following do not count as resources:      a house that the family is living in (a residence) clothing and household furnishings one car per household the cash value of life an un-cashed life insurance policy TANF recipients can also set up a special Educational Savings Account with money from earnings, and that account will not count as a resource. It can be used only for tuition, books, and other expenses for college or vocational school.
  • TANF Basics: Eligibility  TANF also includes strict work requirements and child/spousal support cooperation requirements.     Remember: TANF is the “welfare-to-work” benefit program. The goal of the program is to provide temporary assistance to help families become self-sufficient. Therefore, as a general rule, refusal or failure to comply with TANF work and support requirements may lead to denial of benefits or sanctions. Sanctions will result in loss of part or all of the cash benefit. The Family Violence Option (FVO), however, can help victims of domestic violence avoid some of the problems where compliance with time limits, work or support requirements, or other TANF requirements might jeopardize a domestic violence victim’s safety.
  • The FVO and TANF: Common Waivers  Some examples of requirements that can be waived under the FVO:  Support Cooperation Requirements: If establishing paternity or pursuing child or spousal support would put a woman or her children in danger of abuse, she may be excused from these requirements. Asking to have the support cooperation requirements waived is known as claiming “good cause.”  Work (RESET) Requirements: If looking for work, going to school or job training, or working may put a woman or her children in danger of abuse or penalize her for past abuse, she may be excused from these activities.  To get a waiver from work requirements, a TANF participant must inform her caseworker that she needs to have the requirements waived and submit a Domestic Violence Verification Form (PA1747).
  • The FVO and TANF: Common Waivers   Time Limits: In addition to being able to waive particular program requirements, victims of domestic violence may also be eligible for certain types of exemptions from TANF time limits, including Time-Out from the TANF clock and Extended TANF (more on this in a moment). Teen Parent Live-at-Home Requirement Pennsylvania also has regulations that predate the FVO which enable teen parents to seek waivers from live-at home requirements where they are at risk for domestic violence. Teen parents under 18years-old who are not married have to live with a parent or another adult to receive TANF, unless they meet one of a list of exceptions. One of the exceptions is for domestic violence. If living at home would be dangerous for the teen parent or her child because of domestic violence, she can be excused from this requirement. In most cases, in order to be excused from this requirement, a teen parent on TANF must provide some evidence of her situation. The following types of evidence are acceptable:  Medical records  Statements (not necessarily written) from school counselors, health professionals, social services providers, police officers, a court, or others who know about the teen parent’s situation  If domestic violence is the reason she cannot live with her parents, the Domestic Violence Verification Form (PA-1747) can be used to verify the situation and request a waiver.
  • The FVO and TANF: Common Waivers  Other Requirements: The MLP attorney and/or HS case managers can assist their HS participants in seeking a good cause waiver of any TANF (or GA, or CCIS) program requirement that jeopardizes a victim’s safety or penalizes her because of the abuse. For example:  A victim may need to have certain routine verification requirements waived if returning to her prior work site or residence or contacting a particular third party to obtain documents or resource verification could compromise her safety.   For example, a victim should not be required to return to the site of a job to obtain employment verification, or a house where she left copies of birth certificates, if her abuser could find her in these locations. The DPW should accept alternative forms of verification and not withhold benefits in these circumstances. A victim may have difficulty keeping certain appointments in compliance with her Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR) because of the violence.  This is especially true where the violence or threat of violence is not merely in the past, but an ongoing circumstance in the victim’s life.
  • TANF: Child and Spousal Support Cooperation Requirements  Child and Spousal Support   General rule: a TANF applicant is expected to provide DPW with any information that she has or can reasonably obtain that the Domestic Relations Section (DRS) needs to identify and locate the father of the child, establish that he owes child support, and collect the child support. She must do the following:  provide DPW with any information she has about the non-custodial parent, such as the name, address, phone number, Social Security number, date of birth, place of employment when necessary  help determine who the father of the child is by submitting to genetic testing  pay to the State any support payments given directly to her by the non-custodial parent  attend appointments, meetings, hearings or conferences at the welfare office, DRS, or Family Court
  • TANF: Child and Spousal Support Cooperation Requirements  Child and Spousal Support Cooperation, cont: sign and return relevant forms  appear as a witness to give testimony in court  Caseworkers and DRS/Family Court staff will ask the applicant for documents to verify information, including: birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce papers, drivers’ licenses, papers documenting receipt of benefits, military discharge papers, wage statements or pay stubs, rent or mortgage payment book, and court documents of any kind which relate to the applicant’s relationship to the father of her child(ren). Welfare office, DRS and Family Court staff often do not recognize that a woman may be trying to cooperate but may simply not have, and not be able to obtain, the information they want.  
  • TANF: Child and Spousal Support Cooperation Requirements  Cooperation with support requirements may endanger victims of abuse and/or their children. Some common problems:     When DPW files for support against a father who is a batterer, the father will receive notice of a legal action initiated by the mother and be required to participate in court proceedings. The mere act of filing for child support alone, or enforcement actions which include wage attachment and driver’s or hunting license suspensions, may provoke a violent response. Court notices include the name and address of the person filing for support, thus the child support action has the potential to alert a batterer about the location of a woman whose safety depends upon keeping her whereabouts secret. Support enforcement actions will bring a woman into contact with her batterer when both are required to attend court hearings and other appointments. Filing for support may motivate the batterer to file for custody and visitation, which could lead to regular and dangerous contact.
  • TANF: Child and Spousal Support Cooperation Requirements  How the Family Violence Option (FVO) can help:    TANF applicants should clearly understand what will happen when they cooperate with child support efforts so that they can evaluate the threat to their own and their children’s safety. If an applicant/recipient does not cooperate and does not have “good cause,” she will be “sanctioned,” meaning, the amount of her family’s grant will be reduced. The support cooperation sanction then continues indefinitely until she either cooperates or is found to have “good cause.” It is therefore very important that women understand the option of asserting “good cause” to protect themselves and their children; the FVO provides the option of requesting a waiver of problematic TANF program requirements based on domestic violence to avoid penalties.
  • TANF: Child and Spousal Support Cooperation Requirements  How the Family Violence Option (FVO) can help:  In addition to “good cause” waiver requests based on domestic violence, the following circumstances may also qualify as “good cause” for women who need a waiver from support enforcement requirements:  The woman’s child was conceived as a result of incest or rape  Legal proceedings for the adoption of the child in question are pending before a court  The applicant/recipient is currently being assisted by a public or licensed private social agency to resolve the issue of whether to keep or relinquish the child for adoption, and the discussions have not gone on for more than three months
  • TANF: Time Limits   There is a 60-month lifetime limit on TANF benefits, but there are certain exceptions to this rule that can be helpful to victims of DV. How time is generally calculated for children and adults:   If any adult on a TANF grant (“budget group” member) has received a total of 60 months of TANF benefits, then everyone on that adult’s grant (the entire “budget group”) is ineligible, including the children. Those children, however, will be eligible for another 60 months of federally-funded TANF benefits when they become adults.
  • TANF: Time Limits Exceptions to general rules  Child-Only Grants  In certain situations, a household will be eligible for “child-only” TANF grants. Common examples:    Situations where non-parental caretakers are raising children in their homes A parent is a recipient of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for themselves, but has no income available for the children Child-only grants do not count toward the 60-month total for the children or for their caretakers; these are NOT subject to the usual time limits - they can continue for as long as the recipients remain eligible/in need.
  • TANF: Time Limits Exceptions to general rules  Q: Is there any way a recipient can receive more than 60 months of benefits?  A: Yes! Pennsylvania has developed two initiatives to provide recipients with necessary additional time on TANF:   “Time-Out” from TANF during the 60 months of TANF eligibility, and Extended TANF after the expiration of 60 months of receiving TANF.
  • TANF: Time Limits Exceptions to general rules  “Time Out” from TANF:  Provides recipients with a period of time off the TANF clock. During Time-Out, recipients receive the same benefits and are subject to the same rules and requirements as on TANF.  To be eligible for Time-Out, a recipient must meet the requirements of one of the following five categories of eligibility:      Victim of Domestic Violence Working Recipient Early Engager Exempt Maximizing Participation Project (MPP) Volunteer Kinship Caregiver
  • TANF: Time Limits Exceptions to general rules  “Time Out” from TANF:  Welfare office case workers are generally responsible for determining eligibility and processing Time-Out. Case workers have also been instructed to automatically provide Time-Out for those recipients whose eligibility is easily identified from DPW’s own records about Time-Out.   This includes those who are victims of domestic violence who already have a good cause waiver for some work or support requirements based on domestic violence or are known to the CAO to be a present or past victim of domestic violence or at risk of further domestic violence. If a recipient believes she is eligible for Time-Out based on domestic violence that the CAO may otherwise be unaware of, she should submit a completed Domestic Violence Verification Form (PA-1747).
  • TANF: Time Limits Exceptions to general rules  “Time Out” from TANF:  A victim of domestic violence is eligible for a “time out” of up to 12 months if she:  Has a past or current waiver of support cooperation, work (RESET) or other TANF requirements based on domestic violence, or  Completes Domestic Violence Verification Form (PA1747).  The same recipient can be eligible later for an additional Time-Out in another category if she meets the requirements of that category.
  • TANF: Time Limits Exceptions to general rules  Extended TANF:     Extended TANF (E-TANF) allows families to continue receiving TANF benefits even after they have exhausted their 60-month federally-funded time limit if they comply with certain requirements. There are 7 categories of eligibility for ETANF, including eligibility on the basis of domestic violence. Every family who is approaching the 60-month TANF limit should be automatically reviewed by the CAO for Extended TANF benefits without any interruption of benefits. Families that have already exhausted TANF also may apply for Extended TANF, and may do so at any time. A family receiving Extended TANF based on domestic violence must comply with a “Domestic Violence Services Plan.” This simply means that the recipient must sign and comply with a new Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR).
  • TANF: Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR)  The Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR)  The AMR is a contract between the TANF recipient and the DPW. It serves as an outline of such things as the TANF recipient’s employment, education, or other goals and sets out the things that she will do in exchange for the receipt of TANF benefits, such as:      A TANF recipient should be sure to ask her caseworker to include things that DPW will do to help her meet her goals (called “special allowances” – we’ll talk about these in a moment).   participating in work activities drug treatment keeping her children in school and much more Many TANF recipients do not realize this, and case workers often neglect to fully explain these options to them. But be certain: the AMR is a TWO-WAY street - it is an exchange of promises between the DPW and the recipient! She should also be sure that the AMR includes education, training, and work activities that she believes will help her get off welfare.
  • TANF: Special Allowances • • Special allowances for supportive services are provided by the DPW to enable TANF recipients to work or to participate in work-related activities, education, or training programs. A TANF recipient may request a special allowance at any time the need arises. She may request the allowance from: • • • • her CAO worker her case manager (if she is in a contracted employment and training program), or her student facilitator (if she is in the KEYS program). No application is required, but the activity for which the TANF recipient needs a supportive service must be approved on her AMR.
  • TANF: Special Allowances • • To repeat: CAO case workers will not offer these allowances unless asked. If a TANF recipient asks and is denied, she should ask to speak to a supervisor, appeal the denial, or contact the MLP attorney, who may be able to help overturn the denial decision. The following allowances should be available, albeit, on a limited basis for each TANF recipient (i.e., a maximum benefit frequency and maximum dollar amounts apply to each); note also that these are available only insofar as they are required for, or help to enable participation in, approved work or educational activities: • Child care (for children under 13) or care for a disabled child or adult of any age. • Public transportation (SEPTA) • Private transportation • Car Purchase (limited grant available) • Car Repair • Driving expenses (drivers license, inspection and emission control fees, license plates, registration fees) • Moving costs • Hotels or food • Clothing, Tools and Equipment • Books and Supplies; Fees; Union dues
  • TANF: Special Allowances • Q: How often can a TANF recipient get a special allowance? • • A: Special allowances that meet ongoing needs, like child care or transportation allowances, continue for as long as the client needs them in order to participate in her approved activity. The general rule for non-recurring special allowances, like car repair or clothing allowances, is that they are provided once per job or as needed for education or training.
  • TANF: Special Allowances • Q: Are special allowances for supportive services available only to TANF recipients, or can recipients of General Assistance (GA) or Food Stamps receive them as well? • • • Yes. GA recipients can receive supportive services for all the same activities as TANF recipients! Families that receive Food Stamps, but neither TANF nor GA, can receive supportive services for education and training activities, but not for work. Working Food Stamp families that need help with such expenses as car repair or car purchase can volunteer for activities like a job search in order to qualify for supportive services.
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO) and TANF Confidentiality:  DPW is supposed to maintain the confidentiality of every domestic violence victim who reveals that she has been abused. However, there are gaps in the confidentiality protection provided by the department and its CAOs. Several steps can be taken to help preserve your HS participant’s privacy and protect her safety, including:  Asking for a private meeting room for welfare appointments  Providing an alternate address and phone number for her welfare file  Asking that support court documents not list her address  Requesting that her address and phone number not be released to anyone outside the welfare department without her permission
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO) and TANF   Emphasizing that the abuser is not to be contacted for verification or any other purposes. Ensuring that her Agreement of Mutual Responsibility does not reference domestic violence or list activities for her to pursue because of domestic violence. It should instead say “referred for services” and/or “waiver granted.” Using the Address Confidentiality Program of the Office of Victim Advocate  The Office of Victims Advocate’s Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) functions as a mail forwarding system for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, providing victims with a legal substitute P.O. Box address in Harrisburg, which is used in place of their actual address. The substitute address must be accepted as the HS participant/victim’s legal address by all state and local agencies. Applicants for programs at the CAO or a CCIS (child care agency), including TANF, Food Stamps, Medical Assistance, subsidized child care, LIHEAP, and other programs, may use this legal substitute address on their application for benefits instead of using their actual address.   NOTE: An important exception to the confidentiality of information provided to caseworkers is their Legal obligation to report any incidents of child abuse.
  • Public benefit waiver requests The CAO may waive any TANF/GA program requirement except for the following:            Income Resources Citizenship Deprivation Specified Relative Enumeration Identity Criminal Status Residency (applicant must be a resident of the state of Pennsylvania) GA categorical eligibility requirement Signing required forms (such as the PA 4 and Common Application Form (PA 600)) *** Requests for waivers of any of the above requirements shall be determined by DPW’s Bureau of Policy on a case-by-case basis. ***
  • Public benefit waiver requests    The CAO should provide written notice to the HS participant of the determination on the waiver request. If the waiver request is granted, the written notice will state what requirements are waived and explain that the waiver will remain in effect for as long as necessary and be reviewed every 6 months. If the request is denied, the notice will state:       what requirements are not being waived the basis for the determination the right to appeal what additional evidence or information is needed to substantiate the “good cause” claim and the time frames in which the information must be provided the option to comply with whatever requirement is involved If a written notice has not been received, the HS participant, or you as her advocate, should contact the CAO to ask about the status of her waiver request. She can appeal the failure to act on a waiver request as well if a request is denied.
  • The Family Violence Option (FVO) and TANF  Q: What happens if my HS participant has already applied for, or is already receiving TANF, but did not know to reveal that she is a victim of domestic violence during the TANF application process?    Important: many women do not reveal that they are victims of abuse at the beginning of the application process – even if they have been notified of the existence of the Family Violence Option (FVO). When first informed about the FVO, women may not even realize that abuse will interfere with their ability to complete TANF or GA eligibility requirements, and so may choose to keep the abuse to themselves. The good news: good cause waivers on the basis of domestic violence can be requested at any time! A woman who had not previously disclosed abuse may do so when it becomes clear to her that she will be sanctioned for non-cooperation or noncompliance. In some situations the woman may not feel able to disclose abuse until after a sanction or other penalty has already been imposed. Some possible situations where a victim of domestic violence may need to have sanctions lifted include the following:     missed appointments at Family Court or for a work program tardiness or absence from job search classes, school, or work activities reducing work hours quitting a job
  • The FVO and TANF Diversion Grants  Q: What if my HS participant has an immediate need for financial help, but does not feel that she needs on-going cash assistance?  A: HS participants who meet TANF eligibility requirements have the option of receiving a “diversion grant” instead of on-going TANF benefits. The diversion program provides a lumpsum payment equal to one-month, two-months, or a maximum of three-months worth of TANF in lieu of receiving on-going TANF.
  • The FVO and TANF Diversion Grants  Diversion Grants are designed for families with an immediate financial need that occurred due to the recent loss of a job or reduction in earnings.  Examples of needs that might be met with a diversion payment include:        transportation expenses (e.g., car repairs, car payment, car insurance); child care costs; housing expenses (e.g., mortgage payments, rent, home repairs, utilities); cost to relocate to secure employment. A diversion grant may be received only once in a 12-month period. There are no work or support cooperation requirements for the diversion program. This can be very helpful especially to victims transitioning out of a violent situation with only short-term needs who do not anticipate long-term inability to support themselves; think of it as a “safe harbor” for these families, who otherwise do not fit the TANF recipient profile.
  • The FVO and TANF Diversion Grants  To get a diversion payment, your HS participant must:     Meet TANF eligibility requirements. Be currently employed or have been employed within 90 days of application. Have a verified financial need that if met would prevent the family from having to apply for on-going TANF. Verify expected income from another source that will make it unnecessary for the family to apply for on-going TANF.  This could be income from employment, child support, social security, etc.
  • General Assistance (GA)  This program provides Cash Assistance for some people who are not eligible for TANF, including, but not limited to:  people with temporary or permanent disabilities  victims of domestic violence  teens who are married or between the ages of 16 and 18 and do not live with relatives  are caring for a child not related to them, or an ill or disabled adult  people who are in drug or alcohol treatment that prevents them from working.
  • General Assistance (GA)  To qualify for GA on the basis of domestic violence, an applicant must be pursuing or receiving some kind of protective services, which can be from any agency or branch of government (including the courts or the police) or from a social services agency, including (but are not limited to) the following services:      living in an emergency shelter or emergency housing for abuse victims receiving supportive counseling from an abuse program receiving services to prevent further potential abuse receiving services necessary to remain at home filing assault or battery charges against the abuser at the police department obtaining a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order, restraining order or a peace bond against the abuser.
  • General Assistance (GA)     The same rules for TANF about cooperation on spousal and child support and about claiming good cause for non-cooperation apply to GA recipients as well. Applicants for and recipients of GA have the same appeal rights as for TANF. An applicant/recipient should be sure to appeal anytime a she is denied GA, or is notified that her GA benefits will be reduced or terminated. Clients who are getting GA can get Special Allowances to go to school or to vocational training programs just like clients who are getting TANF, and clients who are exempt from the work requirements (because of disability or a child under one year of age) or who have a domestic violence waiver can be “volunteers.”
  • Other Frequently Asked Questions  Q: If an applicant is pregnant but has no other children, when can she get benefits for the child?   A: A pregnant woman can get cash benefits for herself as soon as her pregnancy is verified by a medical provider. A welfare caseworker must then add the newborn baby to the case immediately when they are notified of the birth, even if they have no written proof. Within 30 days after the baby is born, the caseworker will schedule an appointment for the mother to bring in any necessary paperwork.
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: If a TANF applicant has left her husband and is living in a separate household but is not divorced from him, does his income count towards her eligibility?   A: If she is separated (i.e., living separate and apart from her husband) and she and her children are living in a separate household, his income does not count in determining whether she is eligible for TANF. The separation does not need to be legal (remember: there is no legal separation in PA!). But note: any cash contributions that he makes towards support of the family do count.
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: What about property owned jointly by my participant and her abuser?   A: If a victim of abuse is still living with her abuser who is her spouse and/or the parent of her child(ren), the abuser’s income and resources will be considered when determining eligibility for benefits. However, a victim of abuse may no longer be living with her abuser but may continue to own property jointly with the abuser. If these resources are not accessible to the victim, they should not be considered when determining her eligibility for benefits. Healthy Start case managers should contact the MLP attorney to assist our program participants in supplying a statement attesting to the inaccessibility of these financial resources.
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: Can family or friends help my participant with expenses if she gets Cash Assistance?      A: Yes, but it is important that they follow certain rules in doing it. First, if they give her money, the amount of that money will be deducted from her grant. But if they pay bills for her or buy her things, it does not count against her grant! This is perfectly legal and very important, since welfare grants are not actually enough for people to live on. If the participant’s friends or family pay a bill directly to someone to whom she owes money (like her landlord, or a utility company) that is called a vendor payment and it does not reduce her Cash Assistance or Food Stamps. Buying groceries, clothing or furniture for the program participant is also okay; this is called in-kind support, and will not reduce the amount of her benefits. Also, any loans she gets from friends, family or a bank do not count as income as long as she intends to repay the loan.
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: Does a HS participant need a custody order to get welfare benefits for a child she is caring for?   A: No! If the child is living with the HS participant and is under her care and control, the HS participant can get benefits for the child regardless of who has legal custody. Legal tip for Healthy Start case managers: people in the welfare department sometimes tell grandparents and other relatives taking care of children that they have to get a custody order to receive benefits. This is false: having a legal custody order is not necessary to receive welfare.
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: Can a HS participant get welfare benefits if she is living with a friend or relative or in a shelter?  A: Yes. However, because the welfare office (CAO) will expect that she will receive mail at the address she supplies, applicants should be informed that the address they provide when applying for benefits may be used to mail them information and may be used on future court documents (like for child support enforcement). This can be a problem for domestic violence victims.  An applicant/recipient is permitted to use a mailing address other than residence, such as a P.O. box or a friend’s house. The applicant should tell the CAO that it is only a mailing address. She will be responsible for checking for mail from the welfare office at that address.  NOTE: People often lose their welfare benefits because of a missed appointment or a notice they did not receive. Applicants/recipients in temporary living situations should be reminded that they have a duty to notify the CAO of any address changes. This is very important, because the welfare department will cut off the family’s benefits without advance notice if any mail is returned to the CAO!
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: What if my HS participant is unable to comply with a Cash Assistance requirement because of domestic violence?  A: Again, TANF or GA requirements can be waived at any time if compliance with the program requirement would:      make it more difficult for a family member or household member to escape domestic violence; or place a family/household member at risk of further domestic violence; or unfairly penalize a family or household member because of domestic violence. Any TANF or GA requirement can be waived if necessary, using the Domestic Violence Verification Form (PA 1747). The most common types of waivers (support cooperation, work requirements, Time-Out, Extended TANF, and teen parents) are listed on the form, but other program requirements can also be waived if needed.
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: How is domestic violence treated on the Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR)?  A: Caseworkers have been instructed that information about domestic violence is NOT to be placed on the HS participant’s AMR. The reason for this policy is that AMRs are sometimes shared with people outside the CAO.  For example, AMRs may be available to training programs or employment contractors.
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: What will happen if a TANF applicant/recipient refuses to sign an AMR?   A: If your HS participant does not sign her AMR, she will not be eligible for cash benefits for herself. Therefore, if there is something written on the AMR with which she doesn’t agree, she should sign her name, write “UNDER PROTEST” above her name, and appeal. AMRs can be changed, but it is important that your HS participant only put activities on the AMR that she will realistically be able to accomplish. Remember: AMRs are supposed to be mutual. If a HS participant feels that an AMR does not reflect her stated goals or does not contain the activities or services she requested, she should talk to a supervisor. If that does not work, she should appeal right away.
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: Can DPW require an applicant/recipient to get counseling or to seek a Protection from Abuse order (PFA)?   A: Absolutely not! HS participants may not be forced to seek legal protection or receive counseling. Caseworkers may and should make referrals to community or legal services, but receiving benefits cannot be made contingent upon utilizing these services; it is ultimately up to the applicant to determine what courses of action are safest and healthiest for herself, and those choices must be respected If a caseworker tells a victim of DV that such services are mandatory, or lists them as mandatory on the AMR, she should ask to speak to a supervisor and appeal her AMR.
  • Frequently Asked Questions  Q: What if my HS participant’s application (for TANF or most any other public benefit program) is denied?  A: If her application is denied, she should appeal right away. She has the right to appeal within 30 days of the date of the notice. An appeal can always be withdrawn if it turns out the welfare department was right, but if she does not appeal, or if she waits too long, she will lose her rights.   Deadlines always loom in the world of public benefits and can hurt those who do not meet them. An advocate’s rule of thumb: APPEAL denials or terminations NOW, and sort out the details later! If she is applying for benefits and DPW denies her application and she wins her appeal, she will get benefits for the period of time that has passed since the date of her original application.
  • HELP: MLP/CKHS Reminder: the information in this presentation is general legal information and may not apply to a particular case. If your Healthy Start program participant needs legal advice about a specific situation:   Call Laura Handel, the HELP MLP-CKHS attorney at Ext. 7355 for a consultation, or Fill out a Legal referral form and place in Laura’s mail bin. 