Engaging Parents in WorkFirst
1.5 Application Screening
The Application Screening section includes:
- 1.5.1 What is WorkFirst application screening?
- 1.5.2 Is the parent eligible for other sources of income or benefits?
- 1.5.3 Can the parent apply or access unemployment insurance?
- 1.5.4 Is Diversion Cash Assistance an option?
- 1.5.5 Is child support a potential source of income?
- 1.5.6 Who needs a Comprehensive Evaluation?
1.5.1 What is WorkFirst Application Screening?
A WorkFirst application screening is part of the process we go through when an individual or family applies for WorkFirst or SFA cash assistance. When an application for benefits is submitted to the Community Services Office (CSO), a DSHS worker will conduct a screening of the application before the eligibility interview. However, this screening must not delay the screening for expedited Basic Food assistance nor take the place of required application processing for WorkFirst or other programs. The process from application until determination of eligibility will take an average of 11 calendar days
The purpose of the screening is to provide information and review a family's situation in order for a family to decide whether WorkFirst/SFA is the best choice or whether financial needs can be met with other programs or income. This is called "positive prevention." The goal is to:
- Determine if the parent or family has other income.
- Identify possible sources of income or other types of benefits for the family.
- Assist parents and their families in making a decision that will best serve their needs.
- Reduce or eliminate the ongoing need for WorkFirst/SFA.
All CSOs must offer positive prevention services as a minimum standard to include:
- Child Care
- Unemployment Insurance
- Child Support
- Community Resources
- Other Income (Social Security, Veterans Benefits, Labor and Industry, etc)
- Diversion Cash Assistance
- Health Benefit Exchange referral
- Basic Food Assistance
1.5.2 Is the parent eligible for other income or benefits?
The DSHS worker must review available resources to help individuals and families avoid ongoing cash assistance if other services will meet their needs. The DSHS worker:
- Determines if the person has received WorkFirst in the past and whether he or she still qualifies for support services;
- Determines if the person is receiving or could receive child support
- Determines if the person is receiving or could receive unemployment insurance;
- Offers Medical and Basic Food assistance as a way of decreasing the need for WorkFirst/SFA;
- Completes an Equal Access (EA) Screening. If an EA screening was previously conducted, then reviews and updates the accommodation plan (See EA-Z Manual: Necessary Supplementary Accommodation for more details).
1.5.3 Can the parent apply or access Unemployment Insurance (UI)?
During the WorkFirst application process, DSHS workers will:
- Review GUIDE to see if there is already a valid unemployment insurance (UI) claim. (GUIDE identifies available income and resources and helps meet and maintain Basic Food accuracy.)
- Require parents who report working at least three of the past 18 months in the USA (and who have no UI claim) to file a UI claim and bring the resulting determination back to the DSHS worker.
A person can apply for and access UI benefits by telephone, computer, or kiosk. The Community Services Offices (CSOs) must provide resources for parents to access UI and will have phones that parents can use to apply for UI. DSHS worker should direct the parents to file a UI claim from home or by using the phone in the CSO designated for this purpose. It is preferable to have the parent apply for UI by telephone.
For parents who worked in other states, the UI worker can either file the claim or direct them to a phone number for the state they are filing against. Also, the UI worker can help parents find missing ("lost") wages, and explain other options to maximize benefits and eligibility for benefits. The UI determination will be mailed to the claimant the same day the UI claim is filed.
For those parents who quit their last job, who were fired, or who have other issues that need to be assessed, a final determination on UI eligibility will take longer. In this case, WorkFirst approval should take place as the customer has met the requirement to provide proof they attempted to make the resource available. However, they must be informed of reporting requirements if UI income is approved at a later date.
WorkFirst applicants who are approved for UI and found ineligible for WorkFirst due to UI income, or who choose not to receive WorkFirst because they can support themselves with UI and other available resources, will be connected with job search and job matching services available in the WorkSource Centers by the UI worker.
1.5.4 Is Diversion Cash Assistance (DCA) an option?
The best outcome for parents is to eliminate the need for WorkFirst/SFA cash assistance when possible. DCA is designed for this purpose. One of the first items to discuss with the person is whether DCA is an option ( See EA-Z Manual - DCA ).
If DCA is not appropriate and other benefits alone will not allow the family to support themselves without WorkFirst cash assistance, continue with the application process for monthly WorkFirst benefits.
The goal is to help the person and their family through their time of need as quickly as possible. If a family's situation cannot be resolved without the aid of the WorkFirst program, then try to ensure that the time spent receiving monthly WorkFirst case assistance will be as brief as possible. This will help applicants save their WorkFirst months.
1.5.5 Is child support a potential source of income?
When families receive other income (such as child support), they will have a better chance of exiting WorkFirst sooner.
During the screening process:
- Determine if Child Support is a potential source of income by discussing this with the person and reviewing information from the Division of Child Support (DCS) using the SEMS Quick Cash screen.
- Discuss the WorkFirst requirement of assigning child support rights to the state. In some situations, the difference between available child support and the amount of a WorkFirst grant is enough for a family to choose current child support rather than WorkFirst.
- Inform families of their right to request good cause to not cooperate with child support collection and explain how the process works. It is important to ensure that families do not withdraw their request for WorkFirst cash assistance because they are afraid of an absent parent.
For individuals who are deferred from receiving WorkFirst/SFA, a referral to DCS can be made and/or the family should be given information about DCS services and how to contact the appropriate office.
For families who need to continue with the WorkFirst application process: Refer to the EA-Z Manual for further details on child support, good cause for non-cooperation and the DCS referral process.
1.5.6 Who needs a Comprehensive Evaluation?
The Comprehensive Evaluation (CE) is for parents who are approved or likely to be approved, for WorkFirst/SFA. Likely to be approved applicants are referred to the CE to save time and quickly engage the parent quicker.
The WFPS will:
- Schedule a CE appointment for the parent. Place the parent in the Appointment Pending (AP) component through the date of the scheduled CE appointment.
- Make sure transportation and child care are in place.
- Ensure that the parent completes or is scheduled for the WorkFirst Engagement (Orientation) interview and provide the engagement publication " WorkFirst - Helping you help yourself and your family" (publication 11-125) ;
- Complete the C E.
- Write an IRP with the parent based on the CE, input from the parent, and the stacking strategy(See Section 3.3.2 Individual Responsibility Plan and Stacking Activities for stacking activities information ).
- If the CE results do not identify an appropriate pathway(s), a CAP may be conducted immediately.
- Refer the parent to the appropriate employment pathway(s) identified by the CE using the appropriate code(s).
- Refer for crisis intervention services, as needed, if issues are identified.