Emergency Assistance Programs - Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs (AREN)
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Emergency Assistance Programs - Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs (AREN)


Revised May 9, 2014



Purpose: This section describes an additional cash benefit available only to persons eligible for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), State Family Assistance (SFA), or Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) programs.

WAC 388-436-0002If my family has an emergency, can I get help from DSHS to get or keep our housing or utilities?

WAC 388-436-0002

WAC 388-436-0002

Effective February 1, 2012

WAC 388-436-0002 If my family has an emergency, can I get help from DSHS to get or keep our housing or utilities?

 DSHS has a program called additional requirements for emergent needs (AREN). If your family has an emergency and you need assistance to get or keep safe housing or utilities, you may be eligible. The special AREN payment is in addition to the regular monthly cash grant your family may already get.

  1. To get AREN, you must:  

    1. Be eligible for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), state family assistance (SFA), or refugee cash assistance (RCA);

    2. Have an emergency housing or utility need;

    3. Have a good reason that you do not have enough money to pay your housing or utility costs; and

    4. Have not previously received the AREN maximum limit of seven hundred fifty dollars in a 12-month period.  We will count all AREN payments received in a 12-month period by any adult in your TANF assistance unit, for any assistance unit, when we calculate your AREN limit.

  2. To get AREN, you must be eligible for TANF, SFA, or RCA. This means you must:

    1. Get benefits through TANF, SFA, or RCA. For RCA you must also be pregnant or have an eligible child; or

    2. Apply for TANF, SFA, and RCA, and meet all eligibility criteria including:

      1. The maximum earned income limit under WAC 388-478-0035;

      2. The requirement that your unearned income not exceed the grant payment standard;

      3. The requirement that your countable income as defined under WAC 388-450-0162 must be below the payment standard in WAC 388-478-0020 when you have both earned income and unearned income;

      4. The resource limits under chapter 388-470 WAC;

      5. The program summary rules for either TANF (WAC 388-400-0005); SFA (WAC 388-400-0010); or RCA (WAC 388-400-0030); and

      6. The requirement that you must be pregnant or have an eligible child.

  3. If you do not get or do not want to get TANF, SFA or RCA, you cannot get AREN to help with housing or utility costs. We will look to see if you are eligible for diversion cash assistance (DCA) under WAC 388-432-0005.

  4. To get AREN, you must have an emergency housing or utility need. You may get AREN to help pay to:

    1. Prevent eviction or foreclosure;

    2. Get housing if you are homeless or need to leave your home because of domestic violence;

    3. Hook up or prevent a shut off of utilities related to your health and safety. We consider the following utilities to be needed for health and safety:

      1. Electricity or fuel for heating, lighting, or cooking;

      2. Water;

      3. Sewer; and

      4. Basic local telephone service if it is necessary for your basic health and safety. If you receive TANF or SFA, the Washington telephone assistance program (WTAP) may be used to help you pay for basic local telephone service.

    4. Repair damage or defect to your home when it causes a risk to your health or safety:

      1. If you own the home, we may approve AREN for the least expensive method of ending the risk to your health or safety;

      2. If you do not own the home, you must ask the landlord in writing to fix the damage according to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act at chapter 59.18 RCW. If the landlord refuses to fix the damage or defect, we may pay for the repair or pay to move you to a different place whichever cost is lower.

    5. If you receive TANF or SFA, WorkFirst support services under WAC 388-310-0800 may be used to help you relocate to new housing to get a job, keep a job, or participate in WorkFirst activities. Nonhousing expenses that are not covered under AREN may be paid under WorkFirst support services. This includes expenses such as car repair, diapers, or clothing.

  5. To get AREN, you must have a good reason for not having enough money to pay for your housing or utility costs. You must prove that you:

    1. Did not have money available that you normally use to pay your rent and utilities due to an emergency situation that reduced your income (such as a long-term illness or injury);

    2. Had to use your money to pay for necessary or emergency expenses. Examples of necessary or emergency expenses include:

      1. Basic health and safety needs for shelter, food and clothing;

      2. Medical care;

      3. Dental care needed to get a job or because of pain;

      4. Emergency child care;

      5. Emergency expenses due to a natural disaster, accident, or injury; and

      6. Other reasonable and necessary expenses.

    3. Are currently homeless; or

    4. Had your family's cash grant reduced or suspended when we budgeted your expected income for the month, but the income will not be available to pay for the need when the payment is due. You must make attempts to negotiate later payments with your landlord or utility company before you can get AREN.

  6. In addition to having a good reason for not having enough money to pay for your costs, you must also explain how you will afford to pay for the on-going need in the future. We may deny AREN if your expenses exceed your income (if you are living beyond your means). We may approve AREN to help you get into housing you can afford.

  7. If you meet the above requirements, we decide the amount we will pay based on the following criteria.

    1. AREN payments may be made up to a maximum of seven hundred fifty dollars in a 12-month period.

    2. The number of AREN payments you can receive is not limited, as long as the total amount received by all adults in the assistance unit for any assistance unit, does not exceed the seven hundred fifty dollar limit in a 12-month period. If you or another adult in your assistance unit have already received the limit, you may not be eligible to receive additional payments.

    3. We will determine if any adult TANF/SFA recipient living in your household has already received the AREN lifetime limit.

    4. We have the discretion to approve an AREN payment above the seven hundred fifty dollar limit when your health and safety are in imminent danger.

    5. The amount of AREN is in addition to the amount of your monthly TANF, SFA, or RCA cash grant.

    6. We will decide the lowest amount we must pay to end your housing or utility emergency. We will contact your landlord, utility company, or other vendor for information to make this decision. We may take any of the following steps when deciding the lowest amount to pay:

      1. We may ask you to arrange a payment plan with your landlord or utility company. This could include us making a partial payment, and you setting up a plan for you to repay the remaining amount you owe over a period of time.

      2. We may have you use some of the money you have available in cash, checking, or savings to help pay for the expense. We will look at the money you have available as well as your bills when we decide how much we will pay.

      3. We may consider income that is excluded or disregarded for cash assistance benefit calculations, such as SSI, as available to meet your emergency housing need.

      4. We may consider money other individuals such as family or friends voluntarily give you. We will not count loans of money that you must repay to friends or family members.

      5. We may consider money from a nonneedy caretaker relative that lives in the home.

      6. We may look at what other community resources you currently have to help you with your need.

    7. The seven hundred fifty dollar limit applies to the following people even if they leave the assistance unit:

      1. Adults; and

      2. Minor parents that get AREN when no adults are in the assistance unit.

  8. We pay AREN directly to the landlord, mortgage company, utility, or other vendor.

  9. We may assign you a protective payee for your monthly grant under WAC 388-460-0020.

This is a reprint of the official rule as published by the Office of the Code Reviser. If there are previous versions of this rule, they can be found using the Legislative Search page.

Clarifying Information

*** As a result of implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this clarifying page may no longer be effective for medical coverage applications received on or after 10/01/2013. Please see the ACA Transition Plan for more information. Clients who need to apply for medical coverage on or after 10/01/2013 should be referred to Washington Healthplanfinder. ***

  1. Application process: 

Clients that need AREN can request assistance as follows:

  1. If a client currently gets TANF, SFA, or RCA, the client can request AREN by:

    1. Completing the Emergency Assistance Request, DSHS 14-337(X), or

    2. Requesting the assistance over the phone and we will complete form DSHS 14-337(X).

  2. If a client does not get TANF, SFA, or RCA, they must complete both an:

    1. Application as required in WAC 388-406-0010, and

    2. Emergency Assistance Request, DSHS 14-337(X).

  3. If a client is requesting assistance with utility bills, the Department must receive confirmation from the local community resources providers that utility assistance is unavailable.

  4. All AREN requests for assistance beyond five hundred dollars and up to the seven hundred fifty dollar program limit require referral to a supervisor or designee for approval of payment.


NOTE:

If the client does not get assistance, does not want on-going TANF, SFA or RCA, and has an on-going means of support, the client must complete an application as required in WAC 388-406-0010. We would then look at the client's eligibility for Diversion Cash Assistance.


  1. AREN for "child only" households:

Households that receive a "child only" grant (e.g., non-needy relative, SSI parent, or someone acting in loco parentis) may receive AREN for emergent needs because the emergent need has an impact on children receiving TANF, SFA, or RCA. When we determine the household's needs, we must consider the income of the entire household, including income that we exclude when determining the household's ongoing assistance.


EXAMPLE

Shelley receives a monthly TANF grant of $305 because she is acting in the place of a parent for John, an unrelated child.

Despite her best efforts to keep up on the bills, John was hospitalized and the unplanned medical expense prevented Shelley from being able to pay the utility bills. She has now received a notice to pay the $380 balance or the heat will be cut off in February.

Because Shelley receives a TANF grant for John's needs, we can consider paying the emergency utility cost under AREN.

When evaluating the request, we do consider Shelly's income and available cash resources even though we did not use this to determine eligibility for the child-only TANF grant.


3.     When a client receives TANF from another state:

A client who has applied for TANF in Washington, but is not eligible until the month after the application because they received TANF in another state, is considered to be receiving TANF for the purposes of this rule.  The client can get AREN if they meet all other eligibility factors.


EXAMPLE

In March, a TANF eligible family moves from California to Washington. The family applies for assistance in Washington on 3/15/07, and is determined TANF eligible. Because the family received March TANF benefits from California, their Washington TANF grant cannot be opened until 4/1/07. They can get AREN in March if they meet all other program requirements.


4. Use of AREN for temporary housing:

The intent of the AREN program is to get clients into housing that they can afford on an ongoing basis. Paying for a hotel or motel stay should be a last resort and for a short term solution.

5. AREN to get or prevent a shut off of basic telephone service:

We only allow AREN to get phone service or prevent a shut off of basic service when the client can show a need for the service to meet the client's health and safety needs. Refer clients who need help with their basic phone service to the local phone company to apply for the Washington Telephone Assistance Program (WTAP).  See chapter 388-273 WAC. Examples of clients that may need a phone for health and safety reasons include:

a.    Elderly or disabled clients.

b.    Clients who need access to emergency services. (e.g., a parent of a child who is on a ventilator would need a phone to contact an ambulance in an emergency).

c.    Domestic violence victims or others who are likely to need police protection.

6.    When a client leaves an AU that received AREN:

The $750 twelve-month limit follows all adults in the same assistance unit and minor parents that were not living with an adult when the AU received AREN.  The limit also applies to non-needy caretakers who receive AREN on behalf of a child.


EXAMPLE

Susan, her minor daughter Cindy, and Cindy's child get TANF. They received AREN for an emergency housing need on August 5, 2006. Cindy later moved out of the TANF AU with the child. Cindy requested AREN on October 5, 2006. The worker decided Cindy had a good reason for not having money to meet their needs. Cindy is a minor child and lived with an adult when her AU received AREN. Cindy could get AREN.


EXAMPLE

A TANF AU of Mom, Dad, and two children received AREN in August. Mom and one of the children moved out of the AU at the end of August. Mom was an adult member of an AU that received AREN. If Mom requested AREN, the amount she received in August would be deducted from the $750 twelve-month limit.


EXAMPLE

Doug, Sally and their child receive AREN of $750 in March of 2010 to prevent eviction from their apartment. Doug and Sally get divorced, and he marries Tiffany in 2012.  He and Tiffany apply for AREN to prevent utility shut off.  Tiffany has never applied for, or received AREN. The assistance unit is eligible for AREN, because neither Doug nor Tiffany has received any AREN funds within the past twelve months.


7. Exception to rule (ETR):

Payments that exceed the $750 twelve-month limit may be requested using the Exception to Rule (ETR) process. ETRs for AREN are authorized through headquarters. Only those relating to health and safety will be approved.


WORKER RESPONSIBILITIES

When a client requests AREN, they must complete the Emergency Assistance Request DSHS 14-337(X). If a client makes the request by phone, complete the form for the client. Do not require a signature on the form. Complete the steps below to decide if the client is eligible for AREN and how much to issue:

  1. Document the client's request for AREN in the ACES Narrative.
  2. Decide if the client is eligible for TANF/SFA or RCA:
    1. If the client is not eligible for TANF/SFA or RCA, the AU is not eligible for AREN. If the client does not get food assistance or medical benefits, ask the client if they want to apply for them.
    2. Deny AREN If the client receives TANF/SFA and has a WorkFirst Sanction or is in Non-Cooperation with the Division of Child Support.
    3. Review the case to determine if an adult or minor parent not residing with an adult has received AREN assistance that should be applied towards the $750 twelve-month limit.

NOTE: Complete all AREN denials in writing. Use ACES letter 0075-02 AREN Status.

c.    If the client is eligible for TANF/SFA or RCA, continue to the next step.


  1. Decide if the client has an emergency housing or utility need and the amount of the need. The client must have an emergency need under WAC 388-436-0002 (3).
    1. If the client does not have an emergency housing or utility need, the AU is not eligible for AREN.

    2. If the client has an emergency housing or utility need, obtain proof of the client's need and the cost it would take to end the emergency.


EXAMPLE

A three-person AU applies for AREN. Mom's gross earned income is $1500 a month. The AU is not eligible for AREN because the AU exceeds the gross earned income limit of $955 for the AU size. Ask the client if they want to apply for medical and food assistance.


EXAMPLE

A two-person AU applies for TANF and AREN. Mom earns $800.00 monthly. The AU has no other income. Both the mother and the 17-year old child are fleeing felons. The AU is not eligible for AREN. The AU is not eligible for food assistance.


EXAMPLE

A four-person AU applies for AREN. The father is the only person with income. He gets $800 a month in unemployment compensation. The AU is not eligible for AREN because the AU's unearned income is greater than the TANF/SFA and RCA payment standard of $562 for the AU size. Ask the client if they want to apply for food assistance.


EXAMPLE

A three-person AU applies for AREN. Mom earns $900.00 monthly. The AU has no other income. They meet all the requirements for TANF eligibility. Continue to the next step below to decide if the client has an emergency housing or utility need.


  1. Decide if the client has an emergency housing or utility need and the amount of the need. The client must have an emergency need under WAC 388-436-0002 (3).
    1. If the client does not have an emergency housing or utility need, the AU is not eligible for AREN.

    2. If the client has an emergency housing or utility need, obtain proof of the client's need and the cost it would take to end the emergency.

    3. Determine if the assistance unit still has AREN funds available to resolve the emergent need.


NOTE: See VERIFICATION for information on how to get verification. If you need to request verification of the amount of the client's emergency need in writing, use ACES letter 0075-02 AREN Status.

NOTE: A statement from the client or their landlord that they are simply behind on their rent does not necessarily meet the emergency requirement. At that point, the landlord may be willing to make arrangements for a payment plan with the client.

  1. Decide if you can use AREN to meet the client's emergency housing or utility need.  We can only use AREN to help a client get or keep housing and utility services.  Use the table below to find out which needs we can pay through AREN.

Emergency Need

AREN payment?

Comments

Back Rent

Yes

 

Car Repair

No

 

Clothing

No

 

Credit Card Bills

No

 

Deposits for rent or utilities

Yes

 

Food

No

  • If client does not get food assistance, ask if they want to apply.
  • We may replace food bought with food assistance benefits and lost in household disaster. See WAC 388-412-0040.

Furniture

No

 

Home repairs

Yes

  • When the damage puts the client's health or safety at risk; and
  • The client owns the home; 
  • Or, the landlord will not fix the damage and it is less expensive to fix the damage than to move.

Licensing, auto fees, automobile insurance

No

 

Relocation

Yes

  • To flee domestic violence.
  • To leave unsafe housing.
  • As a lower cost option to paying back rent to prevent eviction.

Short-term lodging such as motels

Yes

  • Only when there is no other option.
  • Decide how long of a stay to approve based on when you expect the client to get more permanent housing.
  • Not allowed on an ongoing basis.

Utility Bills

Yes

  • The least amount to prevent a utility shut off.
  • For phone service, only the amount to keep local phone service when the client needs the service for their health and safety.

NOTE: If you can meet the client's emergency needs using AREN, continue to the next step. If not, the AU is not eligible for AREN. If the client gets TANF or SFA, look to see if you can meet the need with WorkFirst support services.

EXAMPLE

A four-person AU applied for TANF and requested AREN to pay for new housing and furniture. The AU currently lives in a domestic violence shelter. The AU has no income, but will get $562 in TANF monthly. The rent for the new apartment is $450 a month. We can use AREN to get the new apartment, but not for furniture. Refer the client to resources in the community to see if someone can help with the client's furniture needs.


EXAMPLE

A two-person AU asked for AREN to help pay for their overdue utility bill and current long-distance telephone bill. The family provided proof that their usual monthly income covers these expenses but due to an injury, the client missed 6 weeks of work. The client had a claim for L&I, but after a delay the client ended up receiving benefits for 2 weeks instead of the six weeks of benefits the client expected. We can use AREN for the utility costs.

We do not pay the long distance bill, because the service is not a health or safety factor. If the client does not already get local phone service at a reduced rate, refer them to the local phone company to apply for the Washington Telephone Assistance Program (WTAP).


EXAMPLE

A TANF AU requested AREN to help pay for a leak in the roof. The AU lives in an apartment and the lease agreement states that the landlord is responsible for maintenance and repairs of the apartment. The AU would have to contact the landlord and have them fix the roof. The client can reference the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act to persuade the landlord to make the needed repairs. If the family’s health or safety is endangered and the landlord refuses to make the needed repairs, use AREN for the least expensive option of making the repair or relocating the client. 


EXAMPLE

A three-person TANF AU requested AREN to help prevent eviction.  The AU provided court papers showing the amount they owed.  In order to avoid eviction, the AU needed to pay $600.00 in back rent and $80.00 in court and legal fees.  We can use AREN to pay for the legal and court fees only if it will prevent the AU from being evicted or foreclosed.


  1. Decide if the client has good reason for why the AU does not have enough money to pay for the expense. If the client has good reason, continue to the next step. If not, the AU is not eligible for AREN.  Some questions to look at when you decide if a client has good reason include:

    1. Did the client misuse their money?

    2. Did the client spend their money in a reasonable manner under the circumstances?

    3. Was the client’s choice to spend their funds reasonable at that time?

    4. Did the client spend their money on necessary expenses?

    5. Do the client's circumstances, such as mental or physical disability, explain why they used their money in a way that would not typically be looked at as a reasonable? If so, you should discuss Necessary Supplemental Accommodation (NSA) services available to the client. See NSA.

    6. Will paying the request meet the client's short-term emergency need, or will the client continue to need additional assistance? Will the action just delay what will happen anyway? If the request will just delay the emergency need, you may want to discuss other options with the client.


NOTE: These guidelines do not cover every acceptable reason for a client to not have money to cover their expenses. If you are not sure if a client has good reason for how they spent their funds, you may want to talk to your lead worker or supervisor about the situation.

EXAMPLE

A three-person AU requests AREN to pay for rent that is two months behind. The AU’s only income is their TANF grant of $478. The AU lives in subsidized housing and has a rent cost of $300 a month. To decide if the AU is eligible for AREN, we must look at how the AU spent their grant for the last two months. The AU must show that their TANF grant was used to pay other necessary expenses as listed in WAC 388-436-0002. Make your decision based on information that is readily available to the AU.


EXAMPLE

A family of four applied for assistance and asked for AREN to pay for a utility bill and rent that is three months past due. The mom left her job a week ago when she was diagnosed with cancer. Her overdue utility bill is $400 and her overdue rent is $1800. Her monthly rent is $600. Although the family has an emergency housing need, we must look at how the AU has spent their money for the last three months.

  • Were the AU's earnings used to pay for necessary expenses, such as medical care?

  • Will the AU be able to pay for the ongoing rent of $600 in addition to their other bills?

  • Will the AU's only source of income be the TANF grant of $562 or will they have other forms of income, such as SSI or child support in addition to TANF, that will be available to meet their future needs?

  • If not, it would be more appropriate to look at AREN to help the family get housing they could afford based on the AU's change in income.


EXAMPLE

A three-person AU requested AREN to pay $1600 for rent that is two months overdue. The ongoing rent is still $800 a month, and the AU’s only income is the TANF grant of $478 a month. Even if the AU has good reason for their lack of funds to meet the emergency need, you may not want to issue AREN to prevent the eviction. The AU is living beyond their means and can not show how they will be able to afford this expense in the near future. Instead, consider looking at using AREN to help the family avoid homelessness by getting housing that they can afford based on their income.


  1. Find out if an adult in the AU has received AREN within the past twelve-months,the amount they are eligible for is $750 minus what they have already received.


EXAMPLE

If a client comes in with an eviction notice on the 1st of October and a utility shut off notice on the 25th of November, we can use AREN to pay the landlord and the utility company as long as they meet the AREN requirements and the total amount does not exceed $750.


EXAMPLE

Mom and Dad get TANF for their two children. The AU received $400 in AREN for their emergency housing needs on August 10. Mom and dad split up at the end of August. Dad moved out with one child and is now in a new AU. Mom stayed in the home with the other child and is in the original AU. On October 1st, Dad requested AREN for a utility shut-off. Dad was an adult member of an AU that received AREN. He is eligible for up to $350 in AREN.


  1. Determine the lowest amount that will end the client's emergency housing or utility need up to the twelve-month maximum of $750, and issue the lowest amount needed to resolve the emergency completely, not just for a few months. Use the following steps to decide on the lowest amount:

    1. Contact the person the client owes the payment to (e.g., landlord, utility company, etc.). Find out what it will take to prevent the client from being evicted or having their utilities shut off. Ask if the vendor if they will set up a payment plan for the debt or if they will accept a partial payment and have the client set up a realistic repayment plan for the rest of the bill. Do not provide legal advice or attempt to settle a client's legal claims.


NOTE: If the utility company provides services not related to the client's health or safety (e.g., one company provides electric, phone, cable, and garbage), find out if the provider will separate the expenses.  Do not pay for services that are not related to health and safety if the company will separate the expenses.

b. Look at what resources the client has available to meet the need (e.g. cash, checking, savings). Reach an agreement with the client on how much of the need they can cover. Clients do not have to use all of their resources to meet the emergency need. Look at what other expenses the client may need to pay. The following are examples of possible resources:

  1. Money on hand in the form of cash, checking or savings.

  2. Income the AU has that is not excluded for cash assistance. (income of an SSI child, earnings of an ineligible AU member, etc.)

  3. Money from other individuals such as family or friends voluntarily provide.

  4. Money from a non-needy relative caretaker living in the home.

c.  Check other resources that may be able to meet the client's needs:

  1. If the client does not get and is not applying for ongoing TANF/SFA benefits, use Diversion Cash Assistance (DCA) instead of AREN. See WAC 388-432-0005  for information on DCA.


EXAMPLE

In December, a TANF-eligible family of three requests AREN for $500 to repair the heater in their home. The family does not have any other safe and reliable way to keep their home heated. The family is not on assistance and does not want ongoing assistance. The family's gross income is normally $900 a month, but the father had to take a leave of absence for two months due to a medical emergency. Even though AREN would cover this expense, we would not authorize AREN for the repairs. Since the client is eligible for TANF but is not requesting ongoing benefits, we must look at their eligibility for Diversion Cash Assistance for the emergency housing need under WAC 388-432-0005.


  1. Look at what community resources are available to the client to meet the emergency need. (e.g. Catholic Charities, LIHEAP, Millionaire's Club, Multi-Service Center, Salvation Army, St. Luke's, St. Vincent DePaul, etc.)

  1. After you determine the least amount necessary to meet a client's emergency housing or utility need, issue the AREN for the approved needs by vendor payment. You must issue AREN payments directly to a registered vendor.

  2. Use ACES letter 0075-02 AREN Status and call the client.

  3. Review the circumstances that led to the client requesting AREN and decide if the client should have a protective payee under WAC 388-460-0020 and WAC 388-460-0035. Refer the client to social services to get a payee if necessary.

  4. Document the following in the remarks of the AREN screen for the AU:

    1. Date and amount of request,

    2. Eligibility for TANF/SFA or RCA,

    3. The type of housing/utility emergency the client has,

    4. The good reason for not having funds to meet their expenses,

    5. The lowest amount needed to end the emergency need and how this amount (include the name, title, and phone number of the person you spoke with if you used a collateral contact),

    6. Whether or not you approved AREN,

    7. The vendor/landlord name and vendor ID number, and

    8. Amount approved (if any).


ACES PROCEDURES

See Additional Requirement - Emergent Need (AREN)
Modification Date: May 9, 2014