3.5.1 Entering Sanction

Created on: 
Aug 15 2017

Non-Compliance Sanction (NCS) Policy

Revised July 28, 2019

Legal References:

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

  • Section 3.5.1 - Entering Sanction describes how to make the sanction decision. This section includes:
    • 3.5.1.1 What is the non-compliance sanction policy?
    • 3.5.1.2 What are sanctions?
    • 3.5.1.3 How long do sanction reductions last?
    • 3.5.1.4 When do I send a good cause appointment/NCS case staffing letter?
    • 3.5.1.5 What is the good cause 10-day period?
    • 3.5.1.6 How do I set up the good cause/NCS case staffing?
    • 3.5.1.7 How do I set up the home visit (or alternative meeting)?
    • 3.5.1.8 What if the post office returns the participant’s mail?
    • 3.5.1.9 What happens at the good cause/NCS case staffing?
    • 3.5.1.10 How do I decide if the participant has good cause?
    • 3.5.1.11 What if I determine the participant doesn’t have good cause?
    • 3.5.1.12 What if the participant fails to attend the good cause/NCS case staffing?
    • 3.5.1.13 What is the NCS case staffing documentation standard?
    • 3.5.1.14 What do I do after the NCS case staffing?
    • 3.5.1.15 What if no contact is made with the participant at the home visit (or alternative location meeting)?
    • 3.5.1.16 What happens at the home visit (or alternative meeting)?
    • 3.5.1.17 What if the supervisor disagrees with the recommendation for sanction/sanction penalty?
    • 3.5.1.18 When do I send the adverse action notice?
    • 3.5.1.19 eJAS/ACES Codes
    • 3.5.1.20 Entering Sanction - Step-by-Step Guide

Other Related Chapters

  • 3.5.2 - Ending Sanction describes what happens after a participant is sanctioned and if they decide to stay in sanction for two months.
  • 3.5.3 - NCS Reapplications describes how to process reapplications

3.5.1 Entering Sanction

3.5.1.1 What is the Non-compliance Sanction policy?

The non-compliance sanction (NCS) policy terminates TANF when participants refuse to do their part to actively prepare for and seek employment, or otherwise participate, for  two months in a row. Dependent teens are not required to participate in WorkFirst activities and can't be sanctioned for failure to participate.

The non-compliance sanction policy also terminates TANF when mandatory WorkFirst participants fail to attend a non-compliance case staffing and or make contact with their WFPS/WFSS at the subsequent home/alternative site visit.

The 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 a tool to promote accountability and responsibility.

The policy provides numerous opportunities for the participant(s) to re-engage in appropriate WorkFirst activities and address any barriers to participation. WorkFirst staff should intervene early and take any opportunity to contact the participants who are in non-compliance with their WorkFirst requirements.

3.5.1.2 What are sanctions?

A sanction is a penalty that reduces or terminates a family's  TANF cash assistance. WFPS/WFSSS imposes a sanction penalty when a participant is able, but refuses without good cause to:

  • Provide information needed to develop the Individual Responsibility Plan (IRP), including completing any required Comprehensive Evaluation(s),
  • Show up for scheduled appointments with the people who provide WorkFirst services and follow participation and attendance rules,
  • Sign the IRP,
  • Participant in IRP activities, or
  • Accept a job (that meets the criteria in WAC 388-310-1500).

If  the WFPS/WFSSS discovers a participant is unable to participate in the activities in the IRP, they may:

  • Revise the IRP to an appropriate activity;
  • Defer; or
  • Exempt the person from participation.

There are two types of sanction penalties:

  • Sanction reduction penalty: the WFPS/WFSSS  reduces the family’s TANF cash assistance by the participant’s share, or 40%, whichever is more, when the participant doesn’t have good cause and attends their NCS case staffing or home visit.
  • Sanction case closure penalty:  TANF cash assistance is terminated when the participant doesn’t have good cause and fails to attend their NCS case staffing and home visit.

3.5.1.3 How long do sanction reductions last?

Months of sanction count because participants who stay in sanction for two months in a row without good cause may lose their cash assistance.

If a sanctioned participant exits TANF for a reason other than NCS termination, and then reapplies for TANF, the sanction count will resume:

  • In month one of sanction if TANF closed after sanction was approved but before the month benefits were scheduled to be reduced,
  • In month two of sanction if TANF closed while the participant was receiving a reduced grant due to sanction.

For example, a participant's sanction was approved on 8/15/16, the sanctioned grant scheduled for 9/1/2016. This participant's TANF terminated 8/31/16 for no Eligibility Review (ER). If the participant reapplies for TANF, they will return in month one of sanction. If this same participant closed 9/30/16 for no ER after receiving a sanctioned grant, they would return in month two of sanction.

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

When a participant isn't participating as required, the WFPS/WFSSS receives an immediate notification from the service provider. When this occurs, the WFPS/WFSSS does a Continuous Activity Planning (CAP) staffing with the provider, and if the provider refers the participant back to the CSO, determines whether or not they had a good reason for not participating. (See 3.7.1.5 How do we treat excused and unexcused absences step-by-step.)

WAC 388-310-1600(2) states participants have 10 days to contact their WFPS/WFSSS when they don’t meet WorkFirst requirements to communicate with their WFPS/WFSSS about their situation that might create a barrier to participate. Participants can contact their WFPS/WFSSS; in writing, by phone, by going to the appointment set in their good cause letter, or by asking for a different appointment time. The WFPS/WFSSS must provide a good cause letter to the participant 10 calendar days, for the participant to provide information about why there may  be "good cause" for not complying. This ensures:

  • Policy and legal requirements are met,
  • All parties are involved in making the sanction decision, and
  • The participant has an opportunity to bring someone with them to their good cause/NCS case staffing appointment.

WFPS/WFSSS must follow all of the steps of the good cause process, even if the participant is reached by phone to discuss their situation. The WFPS/WFSSS completes a thorough review of the case and documents the staffing was conducted with the participant.

If a participant calls or comes in prior to the scheduled good cause appointment and wants to participate – the WFPS/WFSSS can do the following options:

  • Cancels the good cause appointment, completes a new IRP and pursues sanction if the participant fails to comply with the new IRP; or
  • Conducts a good cause determination right then (if the participant waives their 10-day notice) following established guidelines, sanctions as appropriate, and uses their new IRP as the start of the participant’s cure.

If the participant doesn't wish to waive their 10-day notice, attempt to re-engage them at the scheduled good cause/NCS case staffing.

If the participant wasn't given 10 calendar days to establish good cause, or the good cause determination wasn't offered, over the phone without sending a letter to the participant, , the case isn't procedurally correct and the sanction is invalid.

3.5.1.5 What is the good cause 10-day period?

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

 

The WFPS/WFSS documents in eJAS how the letter was sent to the participant (in-person delivery, locally mailed, or centrally printed/mailed)

The following scenarios are examples of how to count the 10-day good cause period. All scenarios assume that today's date is 8/4/2010:

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

  • The WFPS/WFSSS locally prints and hands the good cause letter to the participant in the office. The date on the letter is 8/4/10. Documents in eJAS the letter was handed to the participant on 8/4/10.

  • The WFPS/WFSSS locally prints and places the good cause letter in outgoing CSO mail before the afternoon local mail cutoff. The date on the letter is 8/4/10. Documents in eJAS the letter was locally mailed on 8/4/10 before the afternoon cutoff.

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

  • The WFPS/WFSSS locally prints and places the good cause letter in outgoing CSO mail after the afternoon local mail cutoff. The letter will go out the next business day. The date on the letter is 8/4/10. Since 8/14/10 falls on a weekend, the participant has until the end of the next business day (8/16/10) to provide good cause.

  • The WFPS/WFSSS chooses central print to mail the good cause letter to the participant. The letter will go out the next business day. The date on the letter is 8/4/10. Since 8/14/10 falls on a weekend, the participant has until the end of the next business day (8/16/10) to provide good cause.

3.5.1.6 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 participant 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 participant, with the appointment date as close to the 10th day as possible while allowing for 10-day notice. The WFPS/WFSSS schedules the participant’s home visit (or alternative meeting) in case the participant doesn’t attend the scheduled non-compliance case staffing in the space provided in the letter.

Arranges the good cause/NCS case staffing in compliance with any limited-English proficiency (LEP) and Equal Access (EA) plans to communicate effectively with the non-participating parent/caregiver.

Conducts an NCS case staffing during the good cause appointment to decide whether to initiate a sanction for refusal to participate without good cause. Follows the procedures in section 3.4 Case Staffing to set up the staffing. Documents any information the participant provides about the non-participation (phone calls or documents) before the case staffing occurs.

Includes the following people in the case staffing:

  • The non-participating parent/caregiver (if they show up for the good cause appointment).

  • Anyone the non-participating parent/caregiver brings with them.

  • Two other relevant professionals, such as a Social Service Specialist or applicable persons from other agencies involved with the participant, which may include tribal representatives, WorkFirst partners, family violence advocates, or LEP pathway providers.

  • Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF)  staff if they currently work/recently worked with the family. Incorporate supported activities DCYF may require the participant to engage in activities such as counseling or  substance abuse treatment in their IRP. DCYF staff can help re-engage the participant in activities to support barrier reduction. The WFPS/WFSSS documents in  the participant's case if there is DCYF involvement  and if the DCYF partner was invited to the case staffing.
Note: A  minimum of two professionals must attend the case staffing. 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.

3.5.1.7 How do I set up the home visit (or alternative meeting)?

The WFPS or WFSSS completes the following steps:

  • Schedules the home visit (or alternative meeting) for a time no more than seven days after the noncompliance case staffing, but may be the same day.
  • Schedules the two meetings at least one day apart if it's an alternative meeting instead of a home visit, and both meetings are at the CSO.
  • Notifies the participant 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 3.5.1.6.
  • Explains in the 085-01 that the WFPS or WFSSS shows for a home visit (or alternative meeting) if the participant doesn't attend the noncompliance case staffing. 
Note:  Please see 6.5.12 for more information about what to include in letters to a participant in the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP).

The address for the home visit is the participant's residential address. In some circumstances, an alternate location (and an alternative meeting) may be advisable.  If homelessness or safety for the family or the case manager prevents the completion of a home visit, the WFPS/WFSSS may complete the alternative location meeting at the CSO or at an alternate location. The WFPS/WFSSS must clearly document the reason for using an alternative location meeting in eJAS sanction case notes. Make sure any meeting at an alternative location is easily accessible for the participant.  It should be as close to the participant's home as possible. Only use the CSO when it's the best or only option for the participant.

3.5.1.8 What if the post office returns the participant’s mail?

A WorkFirst participant needs to know what is required of their participation.  When mail is returned, the opportunity to engage participants is missed.  If a participant’s mailed IRP returns, they have good cause for failure to participate because they didn't know the requirement. The sanction process can't be followed if the postal service returns the good cause interview appointment letter because they have a right to attend their case staffing.

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

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

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

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

Comply with any LEP and EA plans in the case staffing to communicate as effectively as possible with the non-participating parent/caregiver. Use the case staffing guidelines established under 3.4.1 What is a Case Staffing?

Once a decision is made, document any barriers  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. The participant must be sent a case staffing results letter.

3.5.1.10 How do I decide if the participant has good cause?

The goal is to involve participants in WorkFirst activities to increase their ability to earn a living and provide support for their children, not to place them in sanction status. It's very important to determine and document whether a participant is refusing, or unable to comply. If a participant is unable to comply and explains why, then we can work more effectively with them and their family.

WFPS/WFSSS needs to be particularly careful not to place participants in sanction status who don't comply because they don't 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 participants who face sanction.

Anyone who isn't fully participating as required has good cause if there are significant barriers outside of their control that prevent full participation. Some problems to review with every participant that may prevent compliance include having:

  • An unmet need for Equal Access services (EA).
  • Limited-English proficiency (LEP), not addressed through interpreters or translations that result in the participant not understanding WorkFirst requirements.
  • An emergent or severe medical condition (verified by health care professional) of the participant or a family member in the participant's care.
  • Mental health or chemical dependency issues.
  • Family violence.
  • Immediate legal concerns.
  • Homelessness.

Don't consider non-participation due to unexcused absences good cause unless there is a significant circumstance outside of the participant's control, such as but not limited to, family violence or hospitalization that made it impossible for the participant to call in to get the absence excused.

If there isn't enough information to make a good cause decision, give the non-participating parent/caregiver a written request for any needed additional proof. For example, if the participant reports a new barrier, it's critical to give/send them a letter requesting documentation or verification of the barrier. Don't send a recommendation to impose a sanction until a decision  is made based on the verification provided.

If  the WFPS/WFSSS determines the participant had good cause for failure to participate in their 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 participant needs to successfully participate in the program and may require:

  • A comprehensive evaluation;
  • Modified participation requirements and/or support services and a new IRP;
  • A deferral from a specific activity or an exemption.
Note: PRISM is a useful tool to identify potential issues that prevent participation; however, use of PRISM to gather information for purposes of imposing sanctions for failure to follow through with requirements is prohibited.

3.5.1.11 What if I determine the participant doesn't have good cause?

If it's determined the participant doesn't 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 WFPS/WFSSS followed the sanction process, gave the participant every opportunity to participate, and reviewed the case with others and agreed with the sanction decision. It also helps to determine the next appropriate step based on all available information. The participant could be placed in sanction reduction, sanction termination, or be re-engaged.

In addition, if the participant attends their NCS case staffing, the WFPS/WFSSS follows the NCS case staffing & review tool:

  • Discusses how participation will help participants and their family.
  • Make sure the participant has an opportunity to participate, which may include:
    • Changing IRP requirements if different WorkFirst activities will help the participant move towards independence and employment sooner.
    • Provides support services the participant needs to participate.
  • Describes the sanction penalties, what happens if a participant stays in sanction and how to end the sanction.
  • Explains continued refusal to participate without good cause, may result in a decision to close the cash grant once the participant has been in sanction status for two months in a row;
  • Explores how the participant plans to care for and support their children, (this is called the Child Safety Review) if their case closes, including local resources that may help meet their needs.  This can include Food, BFET, WIC, Childcare, Head Start etc.;
  • Explains to the non-participating parent/caregiver that they may be able to receive CEAP if the supervisor or designee approves their case for closure (see Section 3.5.3.2)
  • Documents barriers discussed and the results of the case staffing in the NCS eJAS tool, using the NCS Case Staffing Documentation Standard.

3.5.1.12 What if the participant fails to attend the good cause appointment/NCS case staffing?

If the participant fails to attend the good cause appointment/NCS case staffing, the WFPS/WFSSS:

  • Determines whether the participant was able to participate (in the required activities as outlined in the IRP) during the sanction case staffing based on whatever information is available (such as case notes, information from other professionals and medical records).
  • Documents issues discussed and the results of the case staffing in the NCS eJAS tool, using the NCS Case Staffing Documentation Standard.
  • Uses the Case Staffing Result Letter to document that they waived the opportunity to attend and to describe the outcome of the staffing.
  • If the case staffing results in a finding of no good cause, attempts to contact the participant via the scheduled home visit or alternative meeting.
  • Mails the participant information about resources the family may need if their TANF grant is closed. This qualifies as the Child Safety Review if the participant does not show up for their NCS case staffing.

3.5.1.13 What is the NCS case staffing documentation standard?

In addition to any eJAS Case Staffing documentation, the WFPS/WFSSS who conducted the staffing must document the following:

  • All available information was reviewed and discussed, including strengths and barriers, with one or more professionals.
  • An explanation of the decision to pursue or not pursue sanction.
  • The sanctioned participant is provided information about resources they may need if their case closes.

3.5.1.14 What do I do after the NCS case staffing?

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

  • What the participant failed to originally do.
  • The results of the NCS case staffing.
  • Recommendations to impose sanction as appropriate.
  • The date and time of the scheduled home visit/alternative meeting (if the participant didn't attend the staffing and good cause wasn't found).

If the participant attended the staffing, and good cause wasn't found, the  WFPS/WFSSS sends a sanction/sanction penalty recommendation to the supervisor or designee for approval. If the supervisor approves sanction/sanction penalty, the WFPS/WFSSS applies the reduced grant sanction and sends an adverse action notice.

If the participant didn't attend the staffing, the WFPS/WFSSS will attempt to contact them at the previously scheduled home visit (or alternative meeting). If the participant makes contact with their WFPS/WFSSS before the home visit occurs, 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.

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

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

If contact is made with the participant at the home visit (or alternative meeting), the WFPS/WFSSS explains to them that no good cause was found at the noncompliance case staffing and that they will be referred for a reduced grant sanction unless it's determined that they have good cause.

If the participant is willing to discuss the case, the WFPS/WFSSS uses the NCS Home Visit Summary form to take the actions below.  If the participant doesn't have good cause, when the WFPS/WFSSS returns to the office, they enter this information into eJAS and send the NCS Home Visit Summary to DMS stamped “completed”.

Note: Be sure to document any reason for delay.

The WFPS/WFSSS:

  • Reviews the good cause decision with the participant.
  • Discusses how participation will help their family.
  • Makes sure the participant has an opportunity to participate, which may include:
    • Changing IRP requirements if different WorkFirst activities will help the participant move towards independence and employment sooner.
    • Providing support services the participant needs to participate.
  • Describes the sanction penalties; what happens if a participant stays in sanction and how to end the sanction.
  • Explains that continued refusal to participate without good cause, may result in a decision to close the TANF cash grant once the participant has been in sanction status for two months in a row;
  • Explores how the participant plans to care for and support their children (this is called the Child Safety Review) if their case is closed, including local resources that may help meet their needs;
  • Explains to the sanctioned participant that they may be able to receive CEAP if the supervisor or designee approves their case for closure (see Section 3.6.3.2);
  • Offers to start the sanction cure if the participant has decided to reengage in WorkFirst activities by completing the sanction reengagement portion of the CE and the IRP.  Staff can use the NCS Home Visit Summary form to document participant CE responses and the IRP activities if they don’t have access to eJAS during the home visit, and then document the results in eJAS and mail the IRP to the participant when they return to the office.  
  • Schedules an in-person CE at the CSO if the participant chooses to engage and needs a new CE.

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

The WFPS/WFSSS closes out the NCS eJAS tool, updates the IRP and re-engages the participant in appropriate WorkFirst activities if they determine good cause at the home visit (or alternative meeting).

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

The WFPS/WFSSS documents in the NCS eJAS tool the reason that contact wasn't possible and sends any sanction penalty recommendation to the supervisor or designee for approval. The WFPS/WFSSS applies the sanction case closure penalty (without a reduced grant period) and sends an adverse action termination notice when the supervisor/designee approves the sanction penalty.

The WFPS/WFSSS:

  • Documents the reason under #15 in the Sanction Review tool if the home visit/alternative meeting is rescheduled.
  • Documents under the appropriate confidential note if  the home visit is rescheduled due to an unsafe location.
  • Sends an 85-01 with the new home visit date/time and location (if applicable), allowing adequate mailing time.
Note: Contact, defined as a conversation about the sanction/termination between the sanctioned participant and a WFPS/WFSSS, either in person or by phone, must be made before reinstating TANF/SFA. A voicemail, receipt of an application, or some other message doesn't qualify as contact. Contact with anyone other than WF staff won't qualify for the purpose of reinstatement.   

A WFPS/WFSSS takes the following steps if contact happens after completing an approval of sanction case closure penalty and sending the notice of proposed termination, but prior to the effective date of termination:

  1. Removes the NCS termination;

  2. Determines whether to open the TANF grant effective the beginning of the month using the reinstate function, without requiring participation for the 4 week cure period. The case won’t be reinstated if the participant received 10-day notice of case closure for sanction and for another reason, unless they resolve the other reason for case closure prior to termination, and;

  3. Determines whether to code the sanction grant reduction penalty so the month after the proposed termination will be month one of a two-month reduced grant sanction. A sanction grant reduction penalty  won't be coded when the participant is unable to participate.

  4. The WFPS/WFSSS must offer the participant an opportunity to reengage in WorkFirst, just as would have been done had they been available at the home visit.

Example:
Amber didn't attend her NCS staffing March 19 and wasn't available for her home visit March 22.  Sanction was approved, and her TANF termination would be effective April 30.
On March 31, a WFPS returns a call and speaks with Amber. No evidence is provided that would reverse the good cause decision made at the staffing and Amber is currently able to participate. 

The WFPS:

  • Reinstates TANF as of May 1,

  • Removes the NCS termination,

  • Codes the sanction reduction penalty. May will be month one of a two-month reduced grant sanction, and

  • Offers Amber an opportunity to reengage in WorkFirst and start her sanction cure.

If the participant is willing to engage in WorkFirst, complete a reengagement interview including the REIN tool and Part Four of the CE.   Note: The original NCS tool would have been completed when the proposed termination notice was sent.

If the participant is not willing to engage in WorkFirst, track the sanction in the CLMR by completing the first two questions in the REIN tool, using the date of the reinstatement letter in the field for the approval letter date.


 

3.5.1.17 What if the supervisor disagrees with the recommendation for sanction/sanction penalty?

When a participant 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:

  • Inadequate or untimely notice for the good cause/NCS case staffing appointment
  • Case staffing done incorrectly (such as one participant did the staffing and made the decision)
  • DCYF involvement, but failed to invite DCYF
  • Failure to do a Child Safety Review (or send out material to no-shows)

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

  • Didn’t know what their IRP required
  • Was sanctioned for an activity not in their IRP
  • Had unaddressed barriers to participation
  • Reported a barrier and we failed to respond
  • Had good cause for failure to participate

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.

3.5.1.18 When do I send an adverse action notice?

The department cannot sanction participants until a 10 day notice of adverse action is sent to the participant. The earliest date sanction decision can be made and send out the adverse action notice sent depends on whether the participant contacts their WFPS/WFSSS within the 10-day good cause period. If the participant does not show up for their NCS case staffing, do not send the notice until after an attempt at the follow up home visit/alternative meeting.

  • Contact from participant within the 10 days good cause period: When participants contact the WFPS/WFSSS to explain that they will not participate or do not have a good cause anytime during the 10-day period, the notice of adverse action can be issued. The department does not have to wait until the 10th day to issue the adverse action notice. Document the contact and the participant's statements in eJAS.
  • Incomplete information from participant within the 10 days: When a participant provides some information but not everything needed to make a good cause determination, the department must inform the participant in writing what else is needed and allow a reasonable amount of additional time to respond. A reasonable amount of time is not necessarily 10 days. This second request does not make the first good cause letter invalid. Send an updated good cause letter with the date this information is due.
  • No contact within the 10-days: When a participant does not respond at all and does not attend the scheduled good cause meeting, the department must wait until the 10th day to send the adverse action notice. However, if the participant contacts their WFPS/WFSSS and establishes good cause by the end of the 10th day, the adverse action letter must be rescinded.
  • Simultaneous notice of non-participation and intent to not participate: A participant may tell you that they do not intend to participate at the same time you find out that they have not been participating. When this occurs, hand the participant a good cause letter or mail the letter. See 3.5.1.4, When do I send a good cause appointment/NCS case staffing letter? for more information.
  • The adverse action letter addressed to head of household must specify the name of the participant in the household who is being placed in sanction.
    • This applies for both one and two parent households.

WAC 388-310-1600(5) states once the WFPS/WFSSS determines a participant did not have a good reason for failing to meet WorkFirst requirements, the WFPS/WFSSS must tell the participant what they failed to do. This must be added to the participant's adverse action notice. The participant must be also be told how to cure their sanction.

The participant needs to know what specific activity in the Individual Responsibility Plan they did not follow through with. This is particularly important when there is more than one activity. The WFPS/WFSSS 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:

  • Who is being placed in sanction (specific participant)
  • What they failed to do (specific activity in IRP)
  • That the specific participant is in sanction status
  • The penalties that will be applied to the grant
  • When the penalties will be applied
  • Administrative hearing rights
  • How to end the penalties and get out of sanction status

Please note that on the 08-01 Change in Benefits letter staff only need to enter the information corresponding to the first three bullets. The rest of the information is automatically printed on the letter. However, on the 06-02 Termination of TANF/SFA letter for those receiving the case closure sanction penalty, staff must enter the information corresponding to the first three bullets and also add the following text, including appropriate dates:

  • The penalty for this sanction is case closure because you did not attend your staffing appointment scheduled on ________ and you were not available for your home visit or alternative meeting scheduled on ________.
  • If your case is closed, you will need to reapply and may need to follow your IRP for 4 weeks in a row before you can receive a grant.

If these points are not met in the notice of adverse action, then the requirements have not been met, and the participant can't be placed in sanction status.

3.5.1.19 eJAS/ACES codes

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

  • SA (eJAS code indicating the participant is in sanction).
  • IC (eJAS code showing that a component has been closed incomplete)
  • RE (ACES WORK screen sanction code for households 60 months or less on WorkFirst cash assistance)
  • SN (eJAS sanction code for households 61 or more months on WorkFirst cash assistance)

3.5.1.20 Sanctions - Step-by-step guide

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

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

The WFPS/WFSSS identifies participants who aren't complying with program requirements and sends the participant 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.

  • The WFPS/WFSSS:
  1. Addresses the letter to the non-participating parent/caregiver.
  2. Specifies in the body of the letter who is in noncompliance.
  3. Adds the required text explaining what the participant failed to do. This can be vague such as "You didn't meet with your provider on [date] at the scheduled time [time]."
  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 participant doesn't attend the good cause/NCS Case Staffing appointment.
  7. Closes affected component code(s) with IC and contractor code(s) with actual ending date.
  8. 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.
  9. Invites at least two other relevant professionals, such as a social service specialist or someone from another agency who is working with the participant, 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.
  10. Documents whether the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) were or are involved with the family, and if so, if DCYF 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/WFSSS:

  1. Determines whether good cause exists by:
    1. Reviewing available information and determining if activities were appropriate.
    2. Discussing program requirements with the participant and what they failed to do.
    3. Discussing strengths and barriers with the participant.
  2. If the participant doesn’t have good cause:
    1. Ensures the participant was given 10 days to contact the office and establish good cause.
    2. Explains why the department is recommending sanction.
    3. Ensures the participant knows how many NCS closures they have had.
    4. Offers re-engagement.
    5. Completes or schedules the Sanction Reengagement CE interview and modifies the IRP, as required, based on the CE outcome, the participant agrees to participate
    6. Conducts a Child Safety review to help the participant plan for case closure, including:
      1. How the participant 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 that they may be able to apply for CEAP at reapplication if the case is closed for non-compliance sanction.
  3. If the participant doesn’t attend, bases the decision on all available information, such as case notes or medical records.
  4. Closes the PR component code.
Note: PRISM is a useful tool to identify potential issues that prevent participation; however, use of PRISM to gather information for purposes of imposing sanctions for failure to follow through with requirements is prohibited.

C. Processing good cause determinations

  1. When it's determined the participant has good cause, the WFPS/WFSSS:
    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's determined the participant doesn’t have good cause, the WFPS/WFSSS:
    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 with required text from the Sanction Letters and Documentation Resource including:
      1. Who attended the good cause/NCS case staffing,
      2. What the participant failed to comply with originally,
      3. The results of the NCS staffing,
      4. A reminder of the scheduled home visit (or alternative meeting) if the participant didn't show up for the noncompliance case staffing, and
      5. Any recommendation to impose sanction.
    3. Mails a local resource list if the participant doesn't show up for the case staffing (which counts as a Child Safety Review).
    4. Completes question 15 on the NCS eJAS tool if the participant 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 home visit/alternative meeting appointment date.

D.   Conducting the home visit (or alternative meeting) 
When the participant no shows for the noncompliance case staffing and no good cause was found, the WFPS/WFSSS will attempt to make contact with the participant 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 participant at the home visit (or alternative meeting), the WFPS/WFSSS:
    1. Reviews the good cause decision.
    2. Uses the NCS Home Visit Summary form to cover the other topics required during good cause case staffing and offer to start a sanction cure. The form can be accessed on the CSD WF SharePoint Sanction Documents page. Document this discussion and send a copy of the completed form to be scanned into the participant's Electronic Case Record (ECR) in Barcode as ‘completed’ after transferring the information to eJAS and sending the participant the new IRP (if a new plan was agreed upon).
    3. Completes questions 15 and 16 on the NCS eJAS tool, and refer to the supervisor or designee for sanction/sanction penalty approval.
    4. Monitors the NCS Review Pathway report in the Caseload Management Report (CLMR) for supervisor/designee decision.
  2. If contact isn't made with the participant, the WFPS/WFSSS:
    1. Documents why contact wasn't possible in the NCS eJAS tool.
    2. Completes question 15 and 16 on the NCS eJAS tool, and refers 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 participants newly referred for sanction. When a participant is referred for sanction, the supervisor/designee:
    1. Reviews 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. Completes 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/WFSSS for further action. The WFPS/WFSSS 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/WFSSS can monitor the decision of the supervisor/designee on the NCS Review Pathway report. Once a decision has been made, the WFPS/WFSSS:
    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. Completes the NCS eJAS tool, and
      2. Schedules/contacts the participant for IRP development.
    3. If the sanction/sanction penalty is approved:
      1. Processes the sanction in ACES and eJAS,
      2. Actively attempts monthly follow-up and re-engagement contacts with the sanctioned participant until their case is closed, to discuss the benefits of participation and explain how to cure sanction.

F. ACES/3G Processing for Approved Sanctions

  1. If the supervisor or designee approves the sanction reduction penalty, the WFPS:
    1. Changes the Participation Status on the sanctioned participant's Work Registration screen to Refused – Mandatory Participant (RE). The effective date will auto populate to the first of the following month, allowing for advance notice.
    2. Sends 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 participant).
      2. What they failed to do (specific activity in IRP unless the activity is confidential).
      3. That the specific participant 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.

Note: Staff only need to enter the information corresponding to the 1-3. The rest of the information is automatically printed on the letter.

  1. If the supervisor or designee approves the sanction case closure penalty, the WFPS:
    1. Leaves the Mandatory Participant (MP) code on the sanctioned participant's Work Registration screen;
    2. Checks the box on the Work Registration screen for "Closed while in Non-Compliance Sanction", and;
    3. Sends the adverse action notice, Termination of TANF/SFA (06-02) allowing for 10 day advanced notice and adding the required text:
      1. Who is being placed in sanction (specific participant),
      2. What they failed to do (specific activity in IRP unless the activity is confidential),
      3. That the specific participant is in sanction status, and 
      4. Add the following text including appropriate dates;
        • The penalty for this sanction is case closure because you didn't attend your staffing appointment scheduled on ________ and you weren't available for your home visit or alternative meeting scheduled on ________.
        • If your case is closed, you will need to reapply and may need to follow your IRP for 4 weeks in a row before you can receive a grant.

Note: Administrative hearing rights are automatically printed on the letter.

G.   eJAS Processing for Approved Sanction/Sanction Penalties

The WFPS/WFSSS:

  1. Denies any support services being received until the participant starts curing the sanction.
  2. Depending on how long the participant 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. Completes NCS eJAS tool question about the adverse action letter:
    1. Enters the Change in Benefits letter (08-01) or the Termination of TANF/SFA letter (06-02) date.
    2. Enters the sanction effective date.
    3. Selects one sanction reason.

Resources

Related WorkFirst Handbook Chapters

Forms & Other Resources