3.5.2 Ending Sanction

Non-Compliance Sanction Policy

Revised March 15, 2020

Effective March 16, 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, WorkFirst participants are temporarily suspended from:

  • Mandatory participation

  • Home visits

  • Sanction and sanction termination.


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.
  • Section 3.5.2 -Ending Sanction describes what happens after a participant is sanctioned and if they decide to stay in sanction for two months. This section includes:
    • What happens after a case is placed in sanction?
    • What are the CE & IRP requirements for sanctioned participant?
    • How does a participant cure a sanction?
    • How might changes in circumstances change a participant's grant, IRP or cure requirements?
    • When do I withdraw cases referred for NCS case closure?
    • What if a supervisor approves a case for sanction/sanction penalty and it is time to close the case?
    • What if the sanction lasts longer than two months?
    • How do I resolve procedural issues & reapply sanction penalties?
    • What happens when a participant is closed for NCS for the third time? (Section no longer valid, as of 7/28/19).
    • Ending Sanction - Step-by-Step Guide

Other Related Chapters

  • 3.5.3NCS Reapplications describes how to process reapplications from non-compliance sanction case closures..

3.5.2 Ending Sanction What happens after a case is placed in sanction?

The non-compliance sanction policy is designed to provide numerous opportunities for the participants to re-engage in appropriate WorkFirst activities and address any barriers to participation. For best results, WorkFirst Program Specialists (WFPS) or WorkFirst Social Service Specialist (WFSSS) should intervene early and take any opportunity to contact the people who are in non-compliance with their WorkFirst requirements. Once the sanction/sanction penalty decision is approved, continue to attempt to work with the participant to cure their sanction.

Continue to attempt re-engagement each month until the sanction is waived, cured or the case closes.

The NCS Review Pathway (2-Month) report on the Caseload Management Report will display the date in the Reengage Contact column whenever a “Re-engagement” note type is entered into eJAS.  This note type is entered when;

  • An NCS Re-engagement Contact Letter is printed from eJAS, or when;
  • The WFPS/WFSSS makes other re-engagement contact and selects the “Re-engagement” note type to post a note.

The information in this section should only be followed after a case has been placed in sanction status following the procedures in section 3.5.1-Entering Sanction.If the supervisor or designee approves sanction/sanction penalty, the WFPS/WFSSS will close the case after:

  • The participant has been in sanction for  2 months in a row; or
  • The participant is given 10-day notice that their case will close because they did not attend either their non-compliance case staffing or their home visit/alternative meeting. What are the CE & IRP requirements for sanctioned participants?

Every sanctioned participant must complete the Sanction Re-engagement portion of the CE to start a sanction cure after entering sanction status. The Sanction Re-engagement portion of the CE ensure the sanctioned participant and their families are in the most appropriate activities to meet their needs and to help them move out of sanction.

The Sanction Re-engagement CE is a series of six questions to discuss how the participant will cure their sanction.  It also screens for changes that may affect the participant’s ability to participate.

CE process:

  • Schedule (via an appointment letter) a Sanction Re-Engagement CE for the sanctioned participant.
  • Complete the Sanction Re-engagement CE interview,
  • Develop an Individual Responsibility Plan (IRP).

The participant does not require a special "sanction IRP" just because they have entered sanction. Everyone participating in the WorkFirst program is required to have a current IRP based upon their activities. If the participant agrees to a sanction cure plan, the IRP should reflect the activities not done without good cause. The participant must complete a CE and comply with their existing IRP requirements to cure the sanction.

When the participant agrees to cure the sanction, update the IRP with current dates and any new activities needed to meet any new circumstances, including any activities recommended by the Sanction Re-engagement CE interview. How does a participant cure a sanction?

Once the sanction decision has been approved, a participant must start and continue to do the required WorkFirst activities to cure the sanction. This holds true even if the participant was originally sanctioned for failure to provide information or for refusing to accept a job. A participant must do what is in their IRP when the sanction decision was made, unless circumstances change and the IRP is modified (including any changes made as a result of the Sanction Re-engagement CE interview).

The length of time required to end a sanction is referred to as the "cure period". The cure period starts on the day the participant completes their Sanction Re-engagement CE interview and agrees to their IRP activities. To cure the sanction, the sanctioned participant must participate for 4 weeks (28 days) in a row. After four weeks of satisfactory participation, the sanction is removed effective the first of the following month. This same process is used for each subsequent sanction. How might changes in circumstances change a participant's grant, IRP or cure requirements?

If circumstances change, a participant's grant, IRP and/or cure requirements may change.

  • Grant:
    • If a sanctioned case is found where the required steps to impose a sanction were not taken, done incorrectly or, the department knew about a barrier to participation and did not respond, then the sanction on the case must be removed back to the original date it was imposed. A supplement must be issued following the established procedures in the EAZ manual under "Benefit Errors -F ." Cash and Food Assistance Underpayments ". Follow the instructions in to resolve the procedural error and re-apply the sanction penalty.
    • If a participant reports a change of circumstance which prevents them from participating and has not been previously reported, then, once verified, the sanction on the case must be removed the first of the following month after the change of circumstances was reported.
  • IRP: 
    Create a new IRP if:
    • The department did not respond to a known barrier,
    • The participant discloses a barrier after the fact,
    • The participant agrees to new activities based on their Sanction Re-engagement CE interview, or
    • The participant's situation changes so they can no longer meet prior IRP requirements.
  • Four-week cure requirement:
Anyone able to participate (with a new IRP and participation requirements appropriate to their new circumstances) must comply for four weeks before they get a full grant.  However, if they are only able to participate in family violence related activities, the cure requirement should be waived.  Once they comply or the cure requirement is waived:
  • Remove the sanction penalty the first of the following month.
  • The participant starts over with a clean slate (zero months in sanction).

Waive  participant's four-week cure requirement only when:

  • They enter the third trimester of pregnancy if they have completed a Pregnancy to Employment assessment and are not required to participate in mental health and/or chemical dependency treatment.
  • Family, personal, or health issue is now severe enough that they cannot participate.
  • Family violence is directly or significantly contributing to their inability to participate – see examples of family violence situations in 6.5.18.

Examples: A woman is sanctioned for refusing to do job search. Below are three different circumstances with the appropriate response for each.

  • #1: She now discloses chemical dependency issues but her chemical dependency treatment provider indicates she is able to participate in other WorkFirst activities. She must participate in activities for four weeks to get a full cash grant (in her case, go through a Sanction Re-engagement CE interview, followed by a mix of training, job search and chemical dependency treatment).
  • #2: After she entered sanction, she was in a car accident and hospitalized. This woman will be working with a social service specialist (who verifies her circumstances) after the Sanction Re-engagement CE interview is completed. Waive her four-week sanction cure requirement and remove he sanction penalty the first of the following month.
  • #3: The woman is now entering her third trimester of pregnancy. There is no requirement for participation during the third trimester, as long as the Pregnancy to Employment assessment has been completed and there are no mandatory requirements.  Waive the four-week cure requirement and remove the sanction penalty the first of the following month. When do I withdraw cases referred for NCS sanction/sanction penalties?

A case that has already been referred to the supervisor/designee for sanction/sanction penalties can be withdrawn only on a limited exception basis. The table below outlines what constitutes an appropriate reason for withdrawal:

What if circumstances change after I refer a case for NCS sanction and sanction penalties?

Cases that may be removed

Cases that cannot be removed

Participant cured the sanction 
Sanction lifted (e.g.., unaddressed barriers discovered; participant now exempt from WorkFirst activities) 

Closed cases What if a supervisor approves a case for sanction/sanction penalty and it is time to close the case?

The WFPS or Financial Services Specialist closes WorkFirst cash assistance by:

  • Entering a "Y" in the "Close AU Due to NCS" field on the WORK screen in ACES or checking the “Closed while in Non-Compliance Sanction” box on the Work Registration/Participation – Cash screen in 3G. . The case will close for reason code 252.
  • Sending an adverse action notice following the adverse action rules in the EAZ Manual and adding the following information:
    • Who is receiving a Non Compliance Sanction termination (specific participant)
    • What the participant failed to do to justify the sanction status.

In addition, this text should be added to the 06-02 Termination of TANF/SFA letter:

  • 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.

For case closure sanction penalties only, 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 ___________.

When this is done, staff should complete the question, “Was an adverse action letter sent to the participant 10 days prior to the NCS termination effective date?” on the eJAS NCS tool.

Staff must also make sure that the family receives other types of public assistance benefits they may qualify for, like Basic Food or Washington Apple Health. Encourage participants who file an administrative hearing and request continued benefits to re-apply and meet participation requirements in case they lose the hearing. What if a sanction lasts longer than two months?

If a sanction goes beyond  2 months, input the appropriate "delay reason" code on the ACES WORK screen.

  • FH is used when a case closure is delayed by an administrative hearing request. How do I resolve procedural issues & reapply sanction penalties?

This process is used when a case was sanctioned in error. The WFPS completes the following actions:

  • Ends the sanction: For invalid sanction/case staffing, send a change letter to end the sanction. If only the good cause/NCS case staffing is invalid, explains that full benefits will be reinstated until the procedural error is resolved.
  • Restores lost benefits: Removes the sanction on the case back to the original date it was imposed. Issues a supplement following the established procedures in the EAZ manual under "Benefit Errors -F. Cash and Food Assistance Underpayments ".
  • Reinstates sanction: If the sanction has to be re-instated because the good cause/NCS case staffing was invalid, sends out a new good cause appointment letter, describing what the participant did not originally do. Follows the regular sanction process from this point forward to do a good cause/NCS case staffing, completes the sanction review checklist and makes the sanction decision. If the sanction is found appropriate, sends a new adverse action notice (describing what the participant did not originally do) and imposes a new sanction. The participant will start over in month 1 of the new sanction.
  • Insufficient information in the adverse action notice: If  the WFPS/WFSSS did not state who did not comply and/or adequately describe what was not done, a new sanction decision will not have to be made. The WFPS lifts the sanction and restores lost benefits. Sends out a new adverse action letter naming who and/or describing what the participant originally did not do and imposes a new sanction with advance and adequate notice. The participant will start over in month 1 of the new sanction.
  • Curing requirements: Allows participants who have already begun to cure their sanction to continue their cure by doing their required activities. If the participant has not started to cure and wishes to re-engage, the WFPS/WFSSS completes a new CE and IRP based on current circumstances. Lifts the new sanction after the participant participates for four consecutive weeks. See section for a description of when a participant's four-week cure requirements can be waived. What happens when a participant is closed for NCS for the third time? (NO LONGER VALID SECTION AS OF 07/28/19, THERE IS NO LONGER PERMANENT DISQUALIFICATION AFTER THIS DATE.)

When a person’s case closes that has been terminated for NCS three times, that person is permanently disqualified from receiving TANF/SFA benefits. In addition, the disqualified person’s household is ineligible to receive TANF/SFA benefits while the person lives in the home. For more information about permanent TANF disqualification, please refer to section 3.5.4 – Permanent TANF Disqualification. (No longer valid, as of 7/28/19. Households )

See section for instructions on removing the permanent disqualification when you reinstate a sanction case closure penalty case. (Section no longer valid, after 7/28/2019. Households are no longer permanently disqualified after that date.) Ending Sanction - Step-by-Step Guide

Note: The NCS process and automated supports track each specific incidence of non-participation. If the WFPS/WFSSS considers sanction again based on another incidence of non-participation, WorkFirst staff must conduct new appointments and create a separate NCS eJAS tool.

  • Curing Sanction

When a sanctioned participant agrees to participate to cure the sanction the WFPS/WFSSS completes the following steps:

  1. Completes the Sanction Re-engagement CE interview.
  2. Opens the appropriate components(s) in eJAS (but keep the SA or SN code in place).
  3. Authorizes any needed support services and updates the IRP.
  4. After 4 weeks of satisfactory participation is verified:
    1. Changes the Participation Status from Refused – Mandatory Participant (RE) to Mandatory Participant (MP) on the Work Registration screen and enters the sanction cure date in the ‘ Re-qualifying Date’ field.
    2. Removes the SA or SN code from eJAS by entering the CS closing code.


    Related WorkFirst Handbook Sections

    Forms & Other Resources