1.5 Application Screening

Revised on: September 20, 2021

Legal References:

The Application Screening section includes:

  • 1.5.1 What is WorkFirst application screening?
  • 1.5.2 Is the family eligible for other sources of income or benefits?
  • 1.5.3 Can the parent apply for or access unemployment compensation?
  • 1.5.4 Is Diversion Cash Assistance an option?
  • 1.5.5 Is child support a potential source of income?

1.5.1 What is WorkFirst Application Screening?

WorkFirst application screening occurs when a family applies for cash assistance. It is an opportunity to provide information to the applicant and review their family’s situation so that they can decide whether WorkFirst is the best choice or if their financial needs can be met by other means. This is called "positive prevention." The goal is to:

  • Determine if the family has other income.
  • Identify possible sources of income or other types of benefits for the family.
  • Assist families in making a decision that will best serve their needs.
  • Reduce or eliminate the ongoing need for TANF/SFA.

All WorkFirst staff must offer positive prevention services which include discussion of:

  • Basic Food Assistance
  • Basic Food Employment and Training (BFET)
  • Child Care
  • Child Support
  • Community Resources
  • Diversion Cash Assistance
  • Health Benefit Exchange referral
  • Other Income (Social Security, Veterans Benefits, Labor and Industry, etc.)
  • Unemployment Compensation

1.5.2 Is the family eligible for other income or benefits?

WorkFirst staff must review available resources to help families avoid ongoing cash assistance if other services will meet their needs. This includes:

  • Determining if the person:
    • Participated in WorkFirst in the past and whether they still qualify for support services.
    • Is receiving or could receive child support.
    • Is receiving or could receive unemployment compensation.
  • Offering Medical and Basic Food assistance as a way of decreasing the need for WorkFirst.
  • Completing an Equal Access (EA) Screening.
Note: If an EA screening was previously conducted, then review and update the accommodation plan (See EA-Z Manual: Necessary Supplementary Accommodation for more details).

1.5.3 Can the participant apply for or access unemployment compensation?

During the WorkFirst application process, WorkFirst staff:

  • Review GUIDE to see if there is already a valid unemployment compensation claim.
Note: GUIDE identifies available income and resources and helps meet and maintain Basic Food accuracy.
  • Require people who report working at least three of the past 18 months in the USA (and who have no unemployment compensation claim) to file an unemployment compensation claim and provide their determination back to CSD.

A person can apply for and access unemployment compensation benefits in a number of ways (see ESD.wa.gov for more information). Community Services Offices (CSOs) must provide resources for people to apply for these benefits (e,g. have phones designated for this purpose in office).

For people who worked in other states, the ESD Unemployment Compensation worker can help the applicant in filing a claim with that other state. They can also help applicants find missing ("lost") wages, and explain other options to maximize benefits.

For applicants who quit their last job, were fired, or have other issues that need to be reviewed, unemployment compensation determination will take longer. In these cases, WorkFirst cash assistance determination should proceed, as they have met the requirement to provide proof of claim filing. WorkFirst staff must inform the applicant of reporting requirements if the unemployment claim is later approved by ESD.

WorkFirst applicants approved for unemployment compensation and found ineligible for WorkFirst due to that income, or who choose not to receive WorkFirst because they can support themselves with the unemployment compensation and other available resources, will be connected by ESD staff to job search and job matching services available in the WorkSource Centers.

1.5.4 Is Diversion Cash Assistance (DCA) an option?

The best outcome for parents is to eliminate the need for WorkFirst 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 isn't appropriate and other benefits alone won't 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 can't 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 limited TANF 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Discuss the TANF requirement of assigning child support rights to the state. In some situations, the difference between available child support and the amount of a TANF grant is enough for a family to choose current child support instead.
  3. 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 TANF because they are afraid of an absent parent.

For individuals who are deferred from receiving TANF, 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 TANF/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.