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3.6 Non-compliance Sanction Policy

Legal References:

The Non-compliance Sanction Policy section is divided in three separate sub-sections:

3.6.1 Entering Sanction

3.6.1.1 What is the Non-compliance Sanction policy?

The non-compliance sanction (NCS) policy  terminates TANF cash assistance when adults refuse to do their part to actively prepare for and seek employment, or otherwise participate, for  two months in a row. We do not require dependent teens to participate and do not sanction them for failure to participate.

The non-compliance sanction policy also terminates TANF cash assistance when mandatory WorkFirst adults fail to attend a non-compliance case staffing and we are not able to make contact with them at the subsequent home/alternative site visit.

The ultimate goal of the NCS policy is to re-engage WorkFirst families currently in sanction status and to encourage them to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the program. Sanction is not a punishment, but instead it is a tool to promote personal accountability and responsibility.

The policy is designed to provide numerous opportunities for the parent(s) to re-engage in appropriate WorkFirst activities and address any barriers to participation. For best results, staff should intervene early and take any opportunity to contact the people who are in non-compliance with their WorkFirst requirements.

3.6.1.2 What are sanctions?

A sanction is a penalty that reduces or terminates the family's  TANF cash assistance. We impose a sanction penalty when a person is able, but refuses without good cause to:

If we discover a person is unable to participate in the activities in the IRP, we may:

There are two types of sanction penalties:

3.6.1.3 How long do sanction reductions last?

We count months of sanction because adults who stay in sanction for two months in a row without good cause may lose their cash assistance. TANF recipients who are in sanction on November 1, 2014 and whose current grant reduction started before that date may stay in sanction for four months in a row before losing their cash assistance.

If a sanctioned person receiving a reduced grant exits  TANF cash assistance for a reason other than NCS termination and then reapplies for TANF and  the case is reopened after November 1, 2014, the sanction count will resume in month two of sanction . For example, a WorkFirst cash assistance case is closed effective October 2013 , while in the second month of a four month sanction. If the person reapplies any time after November 1, 2014, he or she will be in month two  of sanction if the case is reopened, unless they are unable to participate. Please refer to section 3.6.2.4How might changes in circumstances changes a person’s grant, IRP or cure requirements?

3.6.1.4 When do I send a good cause appointment/NCS case staffing letter?

When a person is not participating as required, the WFPS/SSS will receive an immediate notification from the service provider. When this occurs, the WFPS/SSS does a Continuous Activity Planning (CAP) staffing with the provider, and if the parent is referred back to the CSO, determines whether or not the parent had a good reason for not participating. (See 3.9.1.5 How do we treat excused and unexcused absences step-by-step.)

WAC 388-310-1600(2) states parents have 10 days to contact us when they don’t meet WorkFirst requirements so they can talk to us about the situation. Parents can contact us in writing, by phone, by going to the appointment described in their good cause letter, or by asking for a different appointment time. It also states we must always send a good cause letter and give the parent 10 calendar days to provide information about why there may "good cause" for not complying. This ensures:

All of the steps of the good cause process must be followed, even if you are able to reach the person by phone to discuss the situation. You need to complete a thorough review of the case and document that the review has been conducted and that the person had the opportunity to explain the non-participation.

If a person calls or comes in prior to the scheduled good cause appointment and wants to participate – you have two choices:

If the parent does not wish to waive their 10-day notice, attempt to re-engage them at the scheduled good cause/NCS case staffing.

If you give a parent less than 10 calendar days to establish good cause or make the good cause determination over the phone without sending a letter, the case is not procedurally correct and the sanction is invalid.

3.6.1.5 What is the good cause 10-day period?

In counting the 10 days, day 1 begins when the "good cause" letter is mailed or given to the parent. This is the same as how we count the 10-day period for adverse action notices. You must allow for an additional business day when the letter is not mailed out the same day that it is generated (either locally or centrally printed in Olympia). If the 10th day falls on a weekend or holiday, the parent has until the following business day to provide the information requested.

Document in eJAS if you handed the parent the good cause letter or printed it locally and placed it in outgoing CSO mail before the afternoon local mail cutoff.

Examples:
All examples assume that today's date is 8/4/2010:

Day 1 is 8/4/10 and Day 10 is 8/13/10.

Day 1 is 8/4/10 and Day 10 is 8/13/10.

Day 1 is 8/4/10 and Day 10 is 8/16/10.

A WFPS chooses central print to mail the good cause letter to the parent. The letter will be mailed out the next business day. The date on the letter is 8/4/10. Since 8/14/10 falls on a weekend, the parent has until the end of the next business day (8/16/10) to provide good cause.
3.6.1.6 How do I set up the good cause/NCS case staffing?

The first step is to set up a good cause appointment/NCS case staffing with the person to find out if there is a good reason for not participating. Mail a good cause (WorkFirst Non-Participation 085-01) appointment letter to the person. The appointment date must be within the 10-day good cause period. In this letter, you will also include an appointment time for the home visit (or alternative meeting) that will be attempted if the parent does not attend the scheduled office non-compliance case staffing.

The next step is to make arrangements for the good cause/NCS case staffing. As you do this, make sure you comply with any limited-English proficiency (LEP) and Equal Access (EA) plans so you will be able to communicate effectively with the non-participating person.

You will conduct a NCS case staffing during the good cause appointment to decide whether to initiate a sanction for refusal to participate without good cause. Follow the procedures in section 3.5 Case Staffing to set up the staffing. You must also document any information the person gives you about the non-participation (phone calls or documents) before the case staffing occurs.

Include the following people in the case staffing:

Make sure that a minimum of two professionals will attend the case staffing. Remember that the assigned worker (WFPS or WFSSS) counts as one professional. In no case can a case manager be the only one making a decision to sanction.

3.6.1.7 How do I set up the home visit (or alternative meeing)?

The home visit (or alternative meeting) must be scheduled for a time no more than seven days after the noncompliance case staffing, but could be scheduled for the same day. We notify the parent of the date, time and location of the home visit (or alternative meeting) in the good cause (WorkFirst Non-Participation 085-01) appointment letter discussed in 3.6.1.6. We also explain in the 085-01 that the home visit (or alternative meeting) will only be attempted if the parent does not attend the noncompliance case staffing.

The address for the home visit will be the parent’s residential address. In some circumstances, an alternate location (and an alternative meeting) may be advisable.  If a home visit cannot be completed due to a parent's homelessness or an in-home visit would be unsafe for the family or the case manager, the alternative location meeting could be completed at the CSO or at an alternate location. The reason for using an alternative location meeting should be clearly documented in eJAS sanction case notes. Make sure any meeting at an alternative location is easily accessible for the parent.  It should be as close to the parent’s home as possible. Only use the CSO when it is the best or only option for the parent.

3.6.1.8 What if the parent’s mail is returned by the post office?

Returned mail may prevent us from putting parents into sanction status. For example, if a parent’s IRP is returned, they would have good cause for failure to participate because they did not know what was required. We also cannot place a parent into sanction if their good cause interview appointment letter is returned by the post office because they have a right to attend those case staffings.

However, once the sanction decision is made, per WAC 388-458-0025 and 388-310-1600(4), we are only obligated to send out a 10-day change in benefits letter. There are no provisions to lift sanction/reinstate full benefits if the change in benefits letter is returned by the post office.

In these cases, the grant will likely be closed for loss of contact. If the parent reapplies, staff should reissue the adverse action notice and open the case in sanction.

3.6.1.9 What happens at the good cause/NCS case staffing?

There are two stages at the NCS case staffing. First, determine if the parent has good cause for failure to meet WorkFirst requirements. Second, if you determine the parent doesn’t have good cause, use the eJAS Non-Compliance Case Staffing & Review Criteria tool to determine the next appropriate step for the parent.

As you conduct the case staffing, comply with any LEP and EA plans so you can communicate as effectively as possible with the non-participating person. Use the case staffing guidelines established under 3.5.1 What is a Case Staffing?

Once you have made the decision, document issues discussed and the results of the case staffing. Explain why the department determined good cause or decided to sanction, using the NCS Case Staffing Documentation Standard. You must also send the parent a case staffing results letter.

3.6.10 How do I decide if the parent has good cause?

Our goal is to involve people in WorkFirst activities to increase their family's ability to earn a living and provide support for their children, not to place them in sanction status. It is very important to determine and document whether a person is refusing, or unable to comply. If a person is unable to comply and tells us why, then we can work more effectively with that person and his or her family.

We need to be particularly careful not to place people in sanction status who do not comply because they do not have affordable or appropriate child care, and don't know what help is available. There is a special brochure (WorkFirst Opportunities Brochure DSHS 22-1125 ) that you can use to give basic Child Care information to all persons who face sanction.

Anyone who is not fully participating as required has good cause if they are unable to do the required WorkFirst activities, or if there are significant barriers outside of their control that prevent full participation. Problems that may prevent compliance, and that should be reviewed with every individual before being placed in sanction may include having:

Non-participation due to unexcused absences will not be considered good cause unless there is a significant circumstance outside of the person's control, such as family violence or hospitalization that made it impossible for the person to call in to get the absence excused.

If you don’t have enough information to make a good cause decision, give the non-participating person a written request for any needed additional proof. For example, if the person reports a new barrier, it is critical to give/send the person a letter requesting documentation or verification of the barrier. Do not send a recommendation to impose a sanction until a decision has been made based on the verification provided.

If we find the parent had good cause for failure to participate in his or her assigned activities, document the decision in eJAS sanction case notes using the NCS documentation standard. Determination of good cause requires a change in the IRP to reflect the appropriate activities and level of services the person needs to successfully participate in the program and may require:

3.6.11 What if I determine the parent did not have good cause?

If you determine the person did not have good cause for failure to participate, complete the eJAS Non-Compliance Sanction Case Staffing & Review Criteria tool (NCS eJAS tool).

The purpose of the NCS eJAS tool is to document that the sanction process was followed, the person was given every opportunity to participate, and that others have reviewed the case and agree with any sanction decision. It also helps you determine the next appropriate step based on all available information. The person could be placed in sanction reduction, sanction termination, or be re-engaged.

In addition, if the the person attends their NCS case staffing, go over the following as you go through the NCS case staffing & review tool:

3.6.1.12 What if the person fails to attend the good cause appointment/NCS case staffing?

If the person fails to attend the good cause appointment/NCS case staffing:

3.6.1.13 What is the NCS case staffing documentation standard?

In addition to any eJAS Case Staffing documentation, you must include the following information:

3.6.14 What do I do after the NCS case staffing?

After the NCS case staffing, send the case staffing result letter explaining:

If the parent attended the staffing, and good cause was not found, the  WFPS or WFSSS sends a sanction/sanction penalty recommendation to the supervisor or designee for approval. If the sanction/sanction penalty is approved, the WFPS or WFSSS applies the reduced grant sanction and sends an adverse action notice.

If the parent did not attend the staffing, the WFPS or WFSSS will attempt to contact the parent at the previously scheduled home visit (or alternative meeting). If the parent contacts you before the home visit occurs, it is fine to treat this as an alternative meeting and complete the home visit in the office or over the phone.  Document when and where the meeting occurred in the NCS tool.

3.6.1.15 What happens at the home visit (or alternative meeting)?

The WFPS or WFSSS will attempt to contact the parent at the date, time and address specified on the 085-01 for the home visit (or alternative meeting).

If contact is made with the parent at the home visit (or alternative meeting), the case manager will explain to the parent that good cause was not found at the noncompliance case staffing and that the parent will be referred for a reduced grant sanction unless it is determined that they have good cause.

If the parent is willing to discuss the case, the case manager will use the NCS Home Visit Summary form to take the actions below.  If the parent does not have good cause, when the case manager returns to the office, they will enter this information into eJAS and send the NCS Home Visit Summary to DMS stamped “completed”.

If contact is made with the parent at the home visit (or alternative meeting), and there is no reason to change the good cause decision, the WFPS or WFSSS will recommend sanction reduction and termination after two months of sanction. If sanction and subsequent termination is approved, the WFPS or WFSSS applies the reduced grant sanction and sends an adverse action notice.

If good cause is determined at the home visit (or alternative meeting), the case manager will close out the NCS eJAS tool, update the IRP and re-engage the parent in appropriate WorkFirst activities.

3.6.1.16  What if no contact is made with the parent at the home visit (or alternative location meeting)?

The WFPS or WFSSS documents in the NCS eJAS tool the reason that contact was not possible and sends any sanction/sanction penalty recommendation to the supervisor or designee for approval. If the sanction/sanction penalty is approved, the WFPS or WFSSS applies the sanction case closure penalty (without a reduced grant period) and sends an adverse action termination notice.

If the home visit/alternative meeting needs to be rescheduled, the WFPS/WFSSS will send a new 85-01, allowing adequate mailing time.

When a person is referred for sanction, the supervisor/designee will review the NCS eJAS tool to determine whether the sanction policy and process was correctly followed.
The supervisor/designee may deny the sanction/sanction penalty recommendation due to:

The supervisor/designee may also deny the sanction/sanction penalty recommendation when the person:

A denial will send the case back to the case manager to review and correct. The case manager can make necessary corrections and send the case back for a decision or close out the tool when the sanction or case staffing was invalid.

3.6.1.18 When do I send an adverse action notice?

The department cannot sanction parents when an adequate time frame of 10 days was not provided. The earliest date you can make the sanction decision and send out the adverse action notice depends on whether the parent contacts you within the 10-day good cause period. Also, if the person does not show up for his or her NCS case staffing, do not send the notice until after you have attempted the follow up home visit/alternative meeting.

WAC 388-310-1600(5) states once we decide that a parent did not have a good reason for failing to meet WorkFirst requirements, we must tell the parent what he or she failed to do. This must be added to the parent's adverse action notice. We must tell the parent how to cure their sanction.

The parent needs to know what in the Individual Responsibility Plan was not complied with. This is particularly important when there is more than one activity. We must state who did not do the activity as there may be more than one mandatory participant in the family.

To summarize, include the following information in the adverse action letter:

Please note that staff only need to enter the information corresponding to the first three bullets. The rest of the information is automatically printed on the letter.

If these points are not met in the notice of adverse action, then the requirements have not been met and the family cannot be placed in sanction status.

3.6.1.19 eJAS/ACES codes

When someone is sanctioned, use the following ACES and eJAS codes:

3.6.1.20 Sanctions - Step-by-step guide

Note: The NCS process and automated supports track each specific incidence of non-participation. If you consider sanction again based on another incidence of non-participation, you must conduct new appointments and create a separate NCS eJAS tool.

A. Setting up the good cause/NCS case staffing appointment

The WFPS or WFSSS identifies persons who are not complying with program requirements and:

  1. Sends the person the WorkFirst Non-Participation Appointment letter (085-01) scheduling a good cause/NCS Case Staffing appointment within 10 calendar days to find out if there is good cause for noncompliance:
    1. Addresses the letter to the non-participating parent..
    2. Specifies in the body of the letter who is in noncompliance.
    3. Adds the required text explaining what the person failed to do.
    4. Tells them they can choose to bring anyone they want to the appointment.
    5. Adds the following text to the letter regarding the case staffing and who has been invited to attend. “At this appointment, we will also be reviewing your participation in the WorkFirst program with other involved agency staff. I have invited (list agency staff) to this appointment.”
    6. Adds the date, time and location of the home visit (or alternative meeting) that will be attempted if the parent does not attend the good cause/NCS Case Staffing appointment.
  2. Closes affected component code(s) with IC and contractor code(s) with actual ending date.
  3. Enters PR component code in eJAS with a scheduled end date that coincides with the good cause appointment date, not to exceed 14 calendar days.
  4. Invites at least two other relevant professionals, such as a social service specialist or someone from another agency who is working with the person, to the good cause/NCS case staffing appointment. A minimum of two professionals is required with the assigned worker (WFPS or WFSSS) counting as one professional.
  5. Documents that we determined whether Children’s Administration (CA) was involved with the family, and if so, that CA was invited to the good cause/NCS case staffing appointment.

B. Conducting the good cause/NCS case staffing interview

At the good cause/NCS case staffing appointment, with appropriate professionals, the WFPS/SSS:

  1. Determines whether good cause exists by:
    1. Reviewing available information and determining if activities were appropriate.
    2. Discussing program requirements with the individual and what they failed to do.
    3. Discussing strengths and barriers with the individual.
  2. If the person doesn’t have good cause:
    1. Ensures the person was given 10 days to contact the office and establish good cause.
    2. Explains why the department is recommending sanction.
    3. Explains that the person can be permanently disqualified from receiving TANF/SFA once they have been closed for NCS three times, going back to March 1, 2007.
    4. Ensures the person knows how many NCS closures they have had.
    5. Offers re-engagement.
    6. Completes or schedules the Sanction Reengagement CE interview and modifies the IRP, as srequired, based on the CE outcome, the person agrees to participate
    7. Conducts a Child Safety review to help the person plan for case closure, including:
      1. How the person plans to support their family once they lose cash aid.
      2. Explaining the possible continuation of Washington Apple Health and Basic Food Assistance.
      3. Providing a list of community resources (like WIC) that are available to help meet the family’s need.
      4. Explaining they may be able to apply for CEAP at reapplication if the case is closed for non-compliance sanction.
  3. If the person doesn’t attend, bases the decision on all available information, such as case notes or medical records.
  4. Closes the PR component code.

C. Processing good cause determinations

  1. When it is determined the person has good cause, the WFPS/SSS:
    1. Enters the appropriate codes for the required activities.
    2. Adjusts the IRP.
    3. Makes appropriate referrals.
    4. Authorizes support services as needed.
    5. Documents the decision in eJAS sanction case notes using the NCS documentation standard.
  2. When it is determined the person doesn’t have good cause, the WFPS/SSS:
    1. Completes the NCS eJAS tool questions 1 through 15, using the NCS documentation standard, and refers to the supervisor or designee for approval.
    2. Sends the case staffing results letter including:
      1. Who attended the good cause/NCS case staffing,
      2. What the person failed to comply with originally,
      3. The results of the NCS staffing,
      4. A reminder of the scheduled home visit (or alternative meeting) if they parent did not show up for the noncompliance case staffing, and
      5. Any recommendation to impose sanction.
    3. Mails a local resource list if the individual does not show up for the case staffing (which counts as a Child Safety Review).
    4. Completes question 15 on the NCS eJAS tool if the parent does show up for the noncompliance case staffing, and refers to the supervisor or designee for approval of a sanction/sanction penalty.
    5. Monitors the NCS Review Pathway report in the Caseload Management Report (CLMR) for supervisor/designee decision if a referral to supervisor was done.
    6. Enters PR component code in eJAS with a scheduled end date that coincides with the hom visit/alternative meeting appointment date.

D.   Conducting the home visit (or alternative meeting)
When the parent no shows for the noncompliance case staffing and no good cause was found, the WFPS/SSS will attempt to make contact with the parent at the date, time and address specified on the 085-01 for the home visit (or alternative meeting).

  1. If contact is made with the parent at the home visit (or alternative meeting), the WFPS/SSS will:
    1. Review the good cause decision.
    2. Use the NCS Home Visit Summary form to cover the other topics we cover at good cause case staffings and offer to start a sanction cure. You can access this form on the CSD WF SharePoint Sanction Documents page. Document this discussion and send a copy of the completed form to be scanned into the client’s Electronic Case Record (ECR) in Barcode as ‘completed’ after transferring the information to eJAS and sending the client the new IRP (if a new plan was agreed upon).
    3. Complete questions 15 and 16 on the NCS eJAS tool, and refer to the supervisor or designee for sanction/sanction penalty approval.
    4. Monitor the NCS Review Pathway report in the Caseload Management Report (CLMR) for supervisor/designee decision.
  2. If contact is not made with the parent, the WFPS/SSS will:
    1. Document why contact was not possible in the NCS eJAS tool.
    2. Complete question 15 and 16 on the NCS eJAS tool, and refer to the supervisor or designee for sanction/sanction penalty approval. If approved, the case will close without a grant reduction.

E. Processing Sanction Decisions

  1. The CSO Supervisor/designee routinely monitors the Clients Awaiting Sanction/Term Approval report in eJAS for individuals newly referred for sanction. When a person is referred for sanction, the supervisor/designee will:
    1. Review the NCS eJAS tool questions 1 through 15 (and 16 on home visit cases) to ensure:
      1. Policy was followed.
      2. Entries are accurate.
      3. Documentation is complete.
      4. There is no issue with returned mail, such as the IRP, eJAS appointment letters, or the good cause appointment letter (85-01).
    2. Complete question 16 (or 17 for home visit cases) of the NCS eJAS tool to document the sanction/sanction penalty decision.
      1. A denial returns the document (monitored through the NCS Review Pathway report) to the WFPS/SSS for further action. The WFPS/SSS can either modify the NCS Review Criteria and resend it to the supervisor/designee for review, or complete the review by clicking the ‘Complete’ button.
      2. An approval approves sanction and the penalty.
      3. Entry of brief additional comments is optional.
  2. The WFPS/SSS can monitor the decision of the supervisor/designee on the NCS Review Pathway report. Once a decision has been made, the WFPS/SSS will:
    1. If the case is returned for rework, make the necessary corrections and resubmit to the supervisor/designee.
    2. If the sanction/sanction penalty is denied:
      1. Complete the NCS eJAS tool, and
      2. Schedule/contact the person for IRP development.
    3. If the sanction/sanction penalty is approved:
      1. Process the sanction in ACES and eJAS,
      2. Notify Working Connections Child Care to terminate child care assistance (except for employment purposes),
      3. Actively attempt monthly follow-up and re-engagement contacts with the sanctioned person until their case is closed, to discuss the benefits of participation and explain how to cure sanction.

F. ACES/3G Processing for Approved Sanctions

If the supervisor or designee approves sanction, the WFPS/SW will:

  1. Change the Participation Status to Refused – Mandatory Participant (RE) on the sanctioned individuals Work Registration screen. The effective date will auto populate to the first of the following month, allowing for advance notice.
  2. If the penalty is a sanction case closure, the WFPS/WFSSS will not code RE but will check the box for “Closed while in Non-Compliance Sanction”.
  3. Send the adverse action notice, Change in Benefits (08-01) allowing for 10 day advanced notice and adding required text:
    1. Who is being placed in sanction (specific person).
    2. What they failed to do (specific activity in IRP).
    3. That the specific person is in sanction status.
    4. The penalties that will be applied to the grant.
    5. When the penalties will be applied.
    6. Administrative hearing rights.
    7. How to end the penalties and get out of sanction status.

Please note that staff only needs to enter the information corresponding to the first three bullets. The rest of the information is automatically printed on the letter.

G.   eJAS Processing for Approved Sanction/Sanction Penalties

The WFPS/SSS will:

  1. Terminate or deny any support services being received until the person starts curing the sanction.
  2. Depending on how long the person has been on WorkFirst cash assistance, enter the SA or SN component through the end of month 1 of the sanction reduction penalty or through the end of the month after the paid through date of the sanction case closure penalty and update the codes in monthly increments for the sanction reduction penalty.
  3. Complete NCS eJAS tool question about the adverse action letter:
    1. Enter the Change in Benefits letter (08-01) date.
    2. Enter the sanction effective date.
    3. Select one sanction reason.

Resources

Related WorkFirst Handbook Chapters
Forms & Other Resources