Revised November 26, 2019


This section contains cash, medical and Basic Food rules and procedures for budgeting income.

WAC 388-450-0215 How does the department estimate my assistance unit's income to determine my eligibility and benefits?

WAC 388-450-0225 How are my assistance unit's benefits calculated for the first month I am eligible for cash assistance?

WAC 388-450-0230 What income does the department count in the month I apply for Basic Food when my assistance unit is destitute?

WAC 388-450-0162 for the definition of countable income and its effect on eligibility.

Worker Responsibilities and Clarifying Information using above WACS. 

WAC 388-450-0245 When are my benefits suspended?

Worker Responsibilities 

The following topics are discussed below:

  • Recording Hours of Employment
  • Best Estimate
  • Averaging
  • When AM Must Be Used to Budget Income
  • Month of Application
  • Client Choice
  • Special Circumstances for Budgeting Income and Expenses
  • Budgeting Income for Medical Programs
  • Budgeting Deductions
  • Effect of Incorrect Estimates
  • Determining the Effective Date When a Client's Income Causes Them to be Ineligible

Recording Hours of Employment

For WorkFirst, Working Family Support (WFS), and Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) cases, we must verify and record the anticipated hours that a person will be working in the same manner that we budget anticipated income. We use ACES 3G (not eJAS) data to claim employment hours towards meeting the federal TANF work participation rate, to help determine who qualifies for WFS, and for ABAWD Basic Food eligibility.

Treat in-kind income, such as working in lieu of paying some or all of one's rent, as employment, verify the hours and enter the hours into ACES 3G. See separate instructions below for how to code self-employment (SE) hours.

ACES 3G automatically records and reports employment hours from the ongoing month forward. See the following links for information about how to record and report employment hours in historical months from the employment start date.

  • Regular employment - WorkFirst Handbook section 8.1.4
  • Community Jobs - WorkFirst Handbook section 8.3.12

Note:  Community Jobs pays the state or local minimum wage, whichever is higher.

For employed WorkFirst, WFS, or ABAWD, we record:

  • The best estimate of the actual hours we expect the person to work each month when we budget their anticipated income using the Anticipate Monthly (AM) method; or
  • An average monthly amount of hours using the Combined Average (CA) budgeting method and the person’s pay frequency; and
  • The actual date the person’s work began, particularly for new jobs.

For self-employment, ACES 3G uses SE data to calculate the average weekly hours of SE and display that information in eJAS.

  • ACES 3G applies the 50% SE expense standard deduction or use the participant's allowable, verified business expenses, as appropriate, to determine the amount of the cash grant without any action on your part. Only enter verified business expenses on the ACES 3G EARN screen. ACES treats all SE earned income expense types as actual business expenses.
  • Self-employment formula to calculate federally countable PT or FT participation hours:
  1. ACES 3G subtracts the participant's allowable, verified business expenses or the 50% SE expense standard deduction, whichever is greater, from her or his gross monthly business receipts.
  2. Divide the result by the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour).
  3. The result is the number of self-employment hours per month.
  4. Divide the number of hours per month by 4.33.
  5. The result is the number of hours per week.
NOTE: Though we must record and verify the hours and start date information to the best of our ability for WorkFirst, it is not an eligibility requirement by itself. We cannot delay or deny benefits for missing hours or begin date information when we do not need it to determine benefits.

Steps to arrive at the best estimate of the client's income

  1. During the interview process, identify all sources of earned and unearned income that are:
    1.  Owned by the client; and
    2. Available to the client.
  2. Subtract any income excluded or disregarded; and
  3. Budget the income remaining using the appropriate calculation method based on the client's choice or the requirements of WAC 388-450-0215.

How to determine the best estimate of a client's income and hours

The best estimate of a client's income and hours is:

  1. What hours you can reasonably expect a client to work (including overtime hours); and
  2. What income is reasonably expected to be received for the pay period frequency?
EXAMPLE Client who is paid yearly $18,000.00 in June, applies in June and estimates they will continue to earn $18,000.00/year. $18,000/year ÷ 12 months=$1,500/month. Budget $1,500.00/month for the month of application, then budget $1,500.00/month on-going.
EXAMPLE Jerry, a seasonal farmworker, is in the office for a Basic Food/TANF re-certification. Jerry isn't currently working and has no other income. In the past several years, he has always worked this season and had an average monthly income of $900.00. Jerry states he intends to work as soon as the farms start hiring. Since no source of income is identified, no income should be budgeted. When Jerry starts working, he must report the change for TANF which will affect his Basic Food.  If Jerry was Basic Food-only, he would not have to report until his income exceeded 130% of the FPL.
EXAMPLE Dawn ends her job at Burgertown on June 30th to work at Lotsabooks.com. Burgertown pays weekly on Fridays with a one-week period between the end of a pay period and the payday for that week's work. The job at Lotsabooks starts on July 5th. Pay periods at Lotsabooks are the 1st - 15th and 16th - End of month. Dawn is paid ten days after the pay period ends (the 10th and 25th ). When you estimate the income for July, consider that she will: · Receive the last check for Burgertown on July 7. · Receive the first check for Lotsabooks on July 25th, which will be for a partial pay period. Remember to update her work hours along with her income if Dawn is on TANF.
EXAMPLE  Bob normally works 30 hours per week at a department store. Every other month he works 20 hours overtime to conduct inventory at the store. Since the overtime hours are consistent and are reasonably expected every other month these hours and income must be included and budgeted for the benefit calculation. Bob's average monthly hours would be 30 hours per week x 4.3 = 129 + 10 hours (20 hours/2 months) = 139 hours per month x the hourly wage = average monthly income.   (Note:  Remember that overtime hourly rate may be higher if weekly hours exceed 40 hours)
NOTE: What you can expect may vary depending upon length of employment, consistency of hours, wages, and anticipated changes. See Best Estimate Guide. See Interview Requirements for more information on interviews. See Income - Treatment and Income - Special Types to find out if a specific type of income is excluded or disregarded. See WAC 388-450-0005 to decide if income is owned by and available to the client.


Use the Combined Average (CA) method in ACES 3G to calculate income when clients expect their income to change from month to month, but want their benefits to stay the same. The income we budget and hours we estimate will depend on the frequency that the person is paid.

It may be appropriate to use past wage stubs to do the averaging if it represents what the client expects to receive. In certain situations, such as new employment or recent changes in the client's rate of pay or work hours, it may be more appropriate to use an estimate from the employer.

  1. Estimate the income and hours per pay period as follows:
    1. If using wage stubs:
      1. Total the gross income from all pay periods where the income represents what the client should receive; and
      2. Divide by the number of pay periods used in step (i).
    2. If using an employer statement, take the anticipated weekly amount and:
      1. Multiply by 1 if paid weekly.
      2. Multiply by 2 if paid biweekly (every other week).
      3. Multiply by 52 weeks per year and divide by 24 pay periods if paid twice a month.
      4. Multiply by 52 weeks per year and divide by 12 pay periods if paid once a month.
  2. Enter the result from step (1)(a) or (1)(b) on the EARN screen in ACES 3G using the CA method and the appropriate pay frequency.
    1. To get the monthly amount, ACES 3G will take the amount from step (1)(a) or (1)(b) and:
      1. Multiply by 4.3 if paid weekly.
      2. Multiply by 2.15 if paid biweekly (every other week).
      3. Multiply by 2 if paid twice a month.
      4. Multiply by 1 if paid monthly.
The methods listed in step 1 are not all-inclusive. Based on the type of employment and frequency of pay, you may find that another budgeting method is more appropriate. It is important that you document in the remarks and describe in detail what method you used to determine the income you budget. 
ACES 3G performs the conversion calculation based on the budgeting method and pay frequency used. See the ACES 3G User Manual for more information.
Terry started a new job. The employer states Terry will work 15 - 25 hours per week at $13.50 per hour and will be paid twice a month. The employer does not expect this to change.  Determine the anticipated income as follows: - (15 hours per week + 25 hours per week) ÷ 2 = 20 hours per week average - 20 hours per week x $13.50 an hour = $270 per week - $270 per week x 52 weeks = $14,040 per year - $14,040 per year ÷ 24 pay period s per year = $585 per pay period - $585 per pay period x 2 pay period per month =
$1170 per month. ** Determine the anticipated hours as follows: - (15 hours per week 25 hours per week) ÷ 2 = 20 hours per week - 20 hours per week x 52 weeks = 1,040 hours per year - 1,040 hours per year ÷ 24 pay period s = 43.33 hours per pay period - 43.33 hours per pay period x 2 pay periods per month = **86.66, round up to 87 hours per month* *
Same situation as above, except client is paid
biweekly (every other week). Determine the anticipated income as follows: - (15 hours per week + 25 hours per week) ÷ 2 = 20 hours per week - 20 hours per week x $13.50 an hour = $270 per week - $270 per week x 2 weeks per pay period = $540 per pay period - $540 per pay period x 2.15 = $1161 per month* * Determine the anticipate d hours as follows: - (15 hours per week 25 hours per week) ÷ 2 = 20 hours per week - 20 hours per week x 2 weeks per pay period = 40 hours per pay period - 40 hours per pay period x 2.15 = **86 hours per month* *
Same scenario as above but the client is paid
twice a month.** Determine the average income as follow: $912, $948, $984, 960, = $3,804 ÷ 4 pay periods = $951 per pay period.   $951 per pay period x 2 pay periods per month = $1,902 per month.   Determine the average hours as follows: 76,79, 82, 80, = 317.  317 ÷ 4 pay periods = 79.25 per pay period.  79.25 per pay period x 2 pay period s per month = **158. 5 (round up to 159) hours per month* *
NOTE:  If you are using past work history to estimate future income, remember that the rate of pay may have changed. Use the average hours from the previous pay periods and the new pay rate to calculate the income. 
Tom applies for cash and Basic Food benefits. He works 20 - 30 hours per week and is paid
every other Friday**. Tom earns the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour. He provides three pay stubs that show 40, 50, and 54 hours per pay period. Tom states he expects his hours to remain about the same as they have been over these periods. Determine the average monthly income as follows: - (40 hours 50 hours 54 hours) ÷ 3 = 48 hours per pay period - 48 hours per pay period x $13.50 an hour = $648 per pay period - $648 per pay period x 2.15 = $1393.20 per month. Determine the average monthly hours as follows: - (40 hours 50 hours 54 hours) ÷ 3 = 48 hours per pay period - 48 hours per pay period x 2.15 = 103.2 (round up to 104) hours per month.
Take the annual adjustment to minimum wage into account when you estimate earnings. The Department of Labor and Industries adjusts the state minimum wage every January. The current minimum wage for the state is available at: https://lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/wages/minimum-wage/
Ann was just hired for a new job. The employer states that Ann will start working 40 hours per week beginning July 15th, but because of the time lag in the employer's payroll system, Ann won’t receive her first weekly check until the first Friday in August. Ann will receive a $400 weekly salary every Friday. - Budget no income for this job in July. - For August and ongoing months, determine the anticipated monthly income and hours as follows: - Multiply $400 per week x 4.3 = $1,720 per month - Multiply 40 hours per week x 4.3 = 172 hours per month. Even though Ann is salaried, we also note the correct hours per pay period in ACES 3G. In this example, the client works 40 hours per week.

To find information on entering income and work hours in ACES 3G, see Income Eligibility and Budgeting – (EARN) Earned Income Screen

When AM Must Be Used to Budget Income

  1. For Basic Food only, if an AU is destitute under WAC 388-406-0021:
    1. Use AM for the month of application. If you do not have to use AM for any other reason, you may use either AM or averaging for the remainder of the certification period.
    2. Provide expedited service if available cash resources are $100 or less under WAC 388-406-0015.
    3. See WAC 388-450-0230 to determine if we exclude any of the AUs income for the month of application.
  2. AM and SSI-related medical:
    1. Use AM to budget all of the client’s income if:
      1. A client receives SSI-related medical; or
      2. The AU has income allocated to someone receiving SSI-related medical. The following program codes in ACES 3G require AM:
        G G03, G95, G99
        L L01, L02, L04, L21, L22, L95, L99
        S S01, S02, S03, S04, S05, S07, S08, S95, S99
  3. For clients in the same Basic Food AU with someone receiving SSI, you don't have to use AM to budget the income of the client who doesn't:
    1. Receive SSI-related medical;
    2. Have income allocated to someone receiving SSI-related medical; or
    3. Meet any of the other requirements to use AM under WAC 388-450-0215.
 Sheila receives SSI; her spouse has earned income that Social Security allocates to her. Budget Sheila’s SSI income using AM because the income is SSI. Budget hers spouse's income using either AM or averaging.  Don’t allocate income to a spouse receiving SSI medical.

    4. When clients get SSI, but no one in the AU gets SSI-related medical:

Budget SSI and Social Security income using AM. If there is no other situation that requires us to use AM, use either method for the other sources of income.

Month of Application

  1. AM method is not required
    1. With the exception of those in subsection (5) of WAC 388-450-0215, you do not have to obtain or budget actual income the household has already received in the month of application if you have enough information to reasonably estimate the client's income by averaging.
  2. Conversion of Income
    1. If a client is paid weekly or biweekly and you convert the income using 2.15 or 4.3 method, you must also convert in the month of application, unless:
      1. A full months' income is not anticipated in the month of application. In this situation, budget AM in the month of application and average the income for the rest of the certification period.
      2. The client chooses to use the AM method. If we use AM in the month of application, we must also use it for the rest of the months in the certification period. See Client Choice for more information.
Jan applied for Basic Food on 01/01/19. She just lost her job and has applied for unemployment benefits. In January, she will receive one final paycheck and two unemployment checks. For February and on-going, she will receive weekly unemployment checks. For the application month, budget the final paycheck using AM method since no other earning is expected from this income source, and budget the two unemployment checks using AM method since she did not receive a full-month of UC benefits. For February and on-going, budget the unemployment benefits using CA method (unless Jan chooses to use AM for all months).
Jen applies for Basic Food for herself and two kids on Friday, 07/01/19. She was interviewed on 07/05/19. Jen works full-time and provided a statement from her employer indicating that she works 30-40 hours a week and is paid $13.50 an hour, every Friday. No change to her employment is expected in the near future. In the month of July, Jen will receive five paychecks. You do not have to request for a copy of the July 1st paycheck or budget 5 checks in July. Use the employer's statement and budget Jen's income for the month of application and on-going using CA/WE method.
Peter applies for Basic Food for his 6-year-old son. Peter is employed and earns $1350 every other week. The gross income limit for Basic Food is $2818. He will receive two checks in the month of application. Using the CA method, Peter's income would put him over the income limit for Basic Food ($1350 x 2.15 = $2902). Using the AM method, Peter will be under the income limit for Basic Food because only the two checks he will actually receive in the month of application will be budgeted ($1350 x 2 = $2700). Budget his income using the AM method to open up the Basic Food, and set a tickle to adjust Peter's income in a month where he will receive three paychecks.

Client Choice

  1. If you don't have to use AM, clients can choose either budgeting method unless the client is paid less often than monthly, such as quarterly or yearly. In this situation, we must average the income.
  2. If a client has more than one source of income, the budgeting method for each source does not have to be the same. For example, if a client has two different jobs, you can use AM for one job and CA for the other.
  3. The client's choice should be guided by whether:
    1. They want their benefits to remain consistent through the certification period; or
    2. They want their benefits to change based on anticipated changes in income and hours.
  4. Sometimes the client's circumstances make AM a likely choice, such as when they:
    1. Have stable income such as a regular monthly salary;
    2. Are paid daily;
    3. Expect several changes at different times within the month (e.g. regular hours for the first week, no hours for the second week due to unpaid leave, raise in wages on the third week); or
    4. Expect to get less than a full month's income due to the beginning or end of a source of income.
  5. There are times when one method will be more beneficial to the client. If a client is ineligible using one method, review the case to see if the client would prefer another method.
  6. Calculation methods cannot be changed during a certification period just to maximize a client's benefits. Changing calculation methods to give a client more benefits does not result in the best estimate of the client's income and hours for the entire certification period. Changes in methods may occur at:
    1. Application, eligibility review, or recertification; and
    2. During a certification period only when the client reports a change that was not considered in the original estimate.
  7. When a client is paid biweekly and chooses AM, we adjust the client's case for anticipated changes through the certification period as follows:
    1. Determine which months the client will receive an extra check;
    2. Set a tickle with enough time to budget the extra check for that month;
    3. Give advance and adequate notice to the client.
  8. If a client reports a change in their income and hours, take the following steps:
    1. Determine if the change will last at least a month beyond the date the client reported the change;
    2. If so, re-calculate this source of income.
    3. Document the change and whether or not it is expected to last at least a month beyond the month the change was reported.
    4. Record the actual job start date in ACES 3G. This will allow us to report employment hours for all of the time the client has been working.
NOTE: Inform the client how the choice of methods will affect their benefits and let them choose the method. 
NOTE: If you average income using the weekly or every-other week conversion, you are better protected against payment errors because it accounts for extra periodic checks. Since conversion is based on an annual average, it's safe to convert income received weekly or every-other week even if the client will not get an extra check. 
NOTE: Include the work hours to correspond with the pay frequency selected for budgeting.
EXAMPLE Gina calls us on January 9th to report that she is working. She started work on December 3rd and expects the work to continue beyond the ongoing month. When we enter her income and hours for February and ongoing, we must be sure to record her start date of 12/3 as well.
NOTE: See WAC 388-418-0020 to determine the effective date of a change in the client’s benefits. 

Special Circumstances for Budgeting Income and Expenses

  1. Self Employment. See:
  1. Clients that receive their annual income over a timeframe less than a year under contract:
    1. When a client gets their annual income over a period of less than a year as a part of the client's employment contract, average their annual income and hours over a 12-month period unless the client is:
      1. A migrant or seasonal farmworker; or
      2. Paid on an hourly or piecework basis.
  2. Other contract income:
    1. If a client's income that is paid under contract is not the client's annual income (yearly), we average the income over the period of time the contract income covers unless the client is:
      1. A migrant or seasonal farmworker; or
      2. Paid on an hourly or piecework basis.
    2. Examples of employees that may receive their income under contract include:
      1. School Employees;
      2. Bus Drivers;
      3. Farmers; and
      4. Fishers.
For employed TANF clients paid on a piecework basis, record the corresponding hours to the pay frequency as any other pay rate. If the hours are unavailable as part of the income verification process, use the following formula to estimate piecework hours: - Take the gross anticipated income for the pay period; and - Divide by the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25. Enter the appropriate amount in the ‘hours’ field consistent with the job’s pay frequency.
 Linda is employed as a teacher for Evergreen School District. As allowed under her contract, she receives her annual salary of $31,002 in the months of September through June of each year. Because this is the client’s annual income, we budget 1/12 of the client’s yearly income ($2583.50) for each month even though she doesn’t receive a paycheck from the school district in July or August. If she receives TANF, enter her annual hours to correspond with the annual pay frequency. However, if we are budgeting by the individual month, budget the actual hours anticipated for the month.
Jordan is applying for ABD cash receives $12,600 every December from a trust fund that was set up to distribute an inheritance from his grandmother. The fund cannot be accessed in any other manner. We average this income throughout the entire year and budget $1,050 monthly.
Bob is on TANF and is paid per bushel of cherries picked. His wage stubs clearly verify his weekly income, but do not indicate his hours worked. The weekly pay we are budgeting based on the verification is $200.00. To estimate his work hours, we divide $200 by $5.15 to get 38.83 weekly hours. We enter 39 hours, consistent with the pay frequency we used to budget his income.
  1. Budgeting the earned income of a child turning age 18:
    1. Count or exclude the earned income of a child according to WAC 388-450-0070. For cash assistance, consider a client to be a child if they meet the requirements of WAC 388-404-0005.
    2. We use a child’s age on the first day of the month as the child’s age for that month.
If a child turns 18 on August 8, consider them as 17 in August and 18 in September. For Basic Food, you would not budget the child's earnings for August and would budget the income in September.
ACES 3G reads the age of the child as well as their student status and applies this rule.
  1. Budgeting child support that fluctuates :

You can use either AM or CA to budget child support you expect a client to receive. Determine the amount to budget based on what you can reasonably expect knowing the client's current support, what they received in the past, and changes that you anticipated changes. Document your decision.

When you know of a change in child support income, decide if the new amount is something you can expect to continue or if the original estimate was valid.

  1. If the support is paid through DCS, you can contact DCS and the client to determine if:
    1. There was a change that would impact your estimate for the monthly support (such as a new support order); or
    2. The change could be explained by some short-term situation such as:
      1. Job changes, with a lag between the start of the job and the start of the payroll deduction for support;
      2. Was making larger payments for a period of time to pay arrears, and is now caught up; or
      3. Was off work for a period of time and DCS was unable to collect support.
  2. If the support is not paid through DCS, you can contact the client and request information to help determine why the support changed.
 If you decide the amount budgeted should be changed, see WAC 388-418-0020 to determine the effective date of the change. For clients that receive support through DCS, consider the change as known to the department and don't require additional verification of the amount.
For Basic Food, if the entire amount of child support arrears is paid off in a single payment, consider the amount for arrears as a lump sum payment and count it as a resource. Count any amount for current support as unearned income. See WAC 388-470-0055 for information on lump sums. 
  1. Budgeting additional cash assistance payments for Basic Food: If a cash supplement is issued due to a change in income or expenses, do not budget the additional cash against the Basic Food without ten days’ notice.
    1. When issuing a cash and Basic Food supplement due to adding a person to both AUs, include the cash supplement when determining the Basic Food supplementary amount for that month.
  2. Budgeting a client's partial Unemployment Compensation:  Refer to ESD's Earnings Deduction Chart to budget anticipated   ongoing unemployment benefits when a client is expected to receive partial unemployment compensation.

See LETTERS for information on timely and adequate notice.

Budgeting Income for Medical Programs

  1. Budget the income the client received or expects to receive for the month of application. 
  2. Use the income you can reasonably expect the client to receive for the month(s) you authorize medical care.
  3. See WAC 388-418-0020 - How the department determines the date a change affects my benefits, and WAC 182-504-0125 - Effect of Changes on Medical, for changes in income after certification.

Budgeting Deductions

  1. Budget allowable expenses for the month you expect the client to have the expense using AM budgeting or an offline average. Dependent care expenses can be converted using ACES 3G.
  2. See INCOME - Effect on Eligibility and Benefit Level to determine if an expense is allowed as a deduction for cash or Basic Food.
  3. Refer to the ACES User Manual for information on entering expenses for deductions.
NOTE: If you choose to average an expense outside of ACES 3G, your documentation must clearly show that you averaged the expense and how you came about the amount you entered for the expense. 

Effect of Incorrect Estimates

  1. When clients receive less income than estimated, do not supplement benefits unless you made an error in calculating the client’s benefits.
  2. If a TANF/SFA-eligible assistance unit receives less income than you anticipated, see EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE to determine if this created an emergent need and if the client may be eligible for AREN.

Determining the Effective Date When a Client's Income Causes Them To Be Ineligible

For information regarding changes that cause ineligibility, see WAC 388-418-0020.

See WAC 388-406-0055 for the effective date of eligibility for cash assistance applications.

See WAC 388-450-0162 for the definition of countable income and its effect on eligibility.


Clarifying Information

  1. Count only income received between the first of the month and the date of application. Do not count any income from a new source that is anticipated after the date of application.
EXAMPLE Ted applied for assistance on April 15. His household is destitute because he is a migrant farmworker and received $50 income from a terminated source on April 8, and expects to receive $575 from a new source on April 26. Consider only $50 for the month of application.
  1. If a client receives money after the date of application, and this money is not from a new source, the client is not destitute under WAC 388-406-0021. In this case, we budget the actual amount the client received from the date of application to the date of the client's interview as well as the income we estimate the client will receive for the remainder of the month.
  2. Apply the above procedures at initial application and recertification, but only for the first month of each certification period. At recertification, disregard income from a new source in the first month of the new certification period if income of more than $25 will not be received from this new source by the 10th calendar day after the date of the AU's normal assistance cycle.
EXAMPLE A client whose Basic Food AU number ends in an "8" applies for recertification on May 15. The certification period ends on May 31. The AU is destitute and expects to receive $700 from a new source on June 25. Disregard $700 for June because the AU will not receive it by June 18.

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-450-0245 

Some situations that could lead to a suspension of benefits include when:

  1. Use AM for a client paid weekly or every-other week and they receive an extra periodic check;
  2. Clients get pay from an additional temporary job;
  3. Clients get overtime pay;
  4. Clients get one-time income such as a bonus on individual performance; and
  5. Clients get a quarterly payment from an investment.

ACES 3G Procedures