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TANF-ACF-PI-2006-04 (Qualifying to Count Participation in Job Search and Job Readiness Assistance Activities for Up to Twelve Weeks)

Published: September 25, 2006
Audience:
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Topics:
Data Collection and Reporting, Additional Work Activities
Types:
Program Instructions (PI)

To:

State agencies administering or supervising an approved Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (IV-A) program and other interested parties.

Subject:

Qualifying to Count Participation in Job Search and Job Readiness Assistance Activities for Up to Twelve Weeks.

References:

Sections 407(c)(2) and 403(b) of the Social Security Act (the Act), and 45 CFR 261.34

Purpose:

To explain how a State qualifies to count up to 12 weeks of job search and job readiness assistance per fiscal year under the statute and rules and to provide the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Food Stamp monthly thresholds to trigger qualification under the Food Stamp criterion.

Background:

Since we issued the interim final rule on June 29, 2006, implementing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provisions of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, States have asked us how to address the job search and job readiness assistance needs of clients, given the time limitations on counting this activity in the statute.

First, we would like to emphasize that States may permit and should encourage clients to participate in job search and job readiness assistance activities any time these activities will lead to employment or help overcome barriers to employment.  However, a State may not count those activities towards the participation rate if they exceed the statutory limitations.  The law and regulations limit counting participation in job search and job readiness assistance activities to six weeks (or 12 weeks if a State qualifies due to high unemployment or as a “needy State”), with no more than four consecutive weeks, in a fiscal year.  We believe Congress envisioned those weeks as concentrated participation in job search or job readiness activities, not an hour here or there, because the idea was to focus people on preparing for or getting a job.  We encourage States to consider counting only those weeks in which clients primarily engage in job search or job readiness assistance activities with sufficient hours to meet their participation requirements.  For example, a State could count a client that is in full time substance abuse treatment for the week.  When participation is more part time or episodic, such as attending a counseling session for two hours, a State could count these hours as an “excused absence” from the countable work activity in which the individual is participating or simply require an individual to participate in these activities after satisfying the minimum hourly requirements in another countable activity.  This would avoid using up the limited weeks that this activity can count and conserve it for times when the individual can participate intensively in these activities.

12-Week Qualification

Under Section 407(c)(2) of the Social Security Act and 45 CFR 261.34, an individual’s participation in job search and job readiness assistance can count for a maximum of six weeks in a fiscal year (no more than four consecutive weeks).  This can be extended to 12 weeks in a fiscal year if a State has an unemployment rate at least 50 percent greater than the unemployment rate of the United States or if the State meets the definition of a “needy State” under the Contingency Fund provisions of the law.  There are two ways for a State to qualify as a “needy State,” one based on its unemployment rate, the other based on increases in its Food Stamp caseload. (See section 403(b)(5) of the Act.)  Here is a general description of the two triggers:

  • Unemployment Trigger – the average unemployment rate for the most recent 3-month period is at least 6.5% and at least 110% of the State rate for the corresponding 3-month period in either of the two preceding calendar years.
  • Food Stamp Trigger (as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture) – the monthly average number of participants for the most recent 3-month period is at least 110% of the State’s monthly average caseload for FY 1994 or FY 1995, whichever is less, had the immigrant and Food Stamp provisions of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) been in effect in those years.

Policy:

Some readers of the TANF interim final rule have speculated that, once a State meets the high unemployment rate criterion or meets a “needy State” trigger, it will be eligible to count up to 12 weeks of qualifying participation in job search and job readiness assistance for the rest of the fiscal year.  We do not believe this is a proper interpretation of the law or our rule.  Under the statute, a State may count up to 12 weeks of participation in job search and job readiness assistance for an individual participating in those activities only in a month in which the State qualifies as “needy” or the unemployment rate is at least 50 percent greater than the national unemployment rate in that month.  (See sections 407(c)(2)(A)(i) and 407(c)(1)(A) of the Act.)

During FY 2006, many States qualified in one or more months to count up to an additional six weeks of participation for individuals engaged in job search and job readiness assistance activities, either due to high unemployment or by qualifying as a “needy State.”  As of June 2006, 32 States (including the District of Columbia and Guam) met the definition of a “needy State” for at least one month in FY 2006 and 27 States met it in the month of June.  Twenty-five States also met the definition each consecutive month, October through June.  With the exception of Mississippi, which only qualified on the basis of the unemployment trigger, States qualified primarily because of growth in Food Stamp caseloads, although some States qualified under two criteria.  Many States may remain “needy States” for the foreseeable future and others may qualify by the end of the fiscal year because the monthly Food Stamp thresholds that trigger the definition decline in most States over the last half of the fiscal year.

The USDA determines when a State’s Food Stamp caseload increases enough to qualify as a “needy State.” Because the USDA’s calculations are based on caseload data reported by States, the official determination that a State is a “needy State” in a particular month comes with a two- to three-month lag.  Similarly, the Department of Health and Human Services determines when a State meets either unemployment criterion, based on unemployment data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  At the very earliest, this occurs late in the month following the month of qualification.   As a result, a State will not know officially that it qualified to count a client’s additional weeks of participation in job search and job readiness assistance activities until the month has passed.

However, using its own trends and projections of Food Stamp participants and unemployment rates, a State can predict with reasonably high accuracy whether it will qualify due to high unemployment or as a “needy State” for a month.  Based on actual Food Stamp participation in fiscal years 1994 and 1995 (adjusted, as required by statute, as if the immigration and Food Stamp provisions of PWRORA had been in effect in those years), the USDA has established a table of the caseload thresholds for each State for each month in the year (See Attachment).  A State whose monthly average number of participants for the most recent 3-month period exceeds the threshold for the comparable period qualifies as “needy” for purposes of the 12-week job search and job readiness assistance provision.  Using USDA’s threshold table and the State’s actual count and/or estimate of the average number of Food Stamp participants in any three-month period, a State will be able to determine with high probability whether it will be a “needy State” for a month.  Similarly, for unemployment rates, State economists can predict with a high degree of accuracy whether a State will qualify under either unemployment criterion in an upcoming month.  A State making such a determination with respect to the Food Stamp trigger should be sure to use the average of the most recent month and the two preceding months in comparison to the threshold for the most recent month.  For example, to determine whether it qualifies on this basis for July, a State would calculate the monthly average caseload for May, June, and July 2006 and compare it to the July threshold.

With this announcement, we are posting by month the official list of States Qualified for Counting up to Six Additional Weeks of Job Search and Job Readiness through June of 2006 for FY 2006.  As soon as the USDA or ACF determines which States qualify as “needy States” for July and each subsequent month, we will post that information.  If, at that time, a State has incorrectly counted additional weeks of job search and job readiness assistance to which the State is not “officially” entitled or conversely failed to count weeks of participation to which it is entitled, the State must adjust the participation rate data for that month.

Attachments:

USDA’s Monthly Food Stamp Caseload Thresholds Triggering “Needy State” Status

Inquiries:

Inquiries should be made to the appropriate Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Regional Administrator.

/s/

Sidonie Squier, Director
Office of Family Assistance


 

Attachment

Monthly Food Stamp Caseload Thresholds Triggering "Needy State" Status

State October November December January February March April May June July August September
Alabama 557,583 553,973 567,231 577,658 574,138 571,584 555,154 550,696 544,803 539,741 537,801 536,721
Alaska 48,233 47,493 37,574 37,812 39,398 44,882 53,487 54,341 53,709 51,086 48,816 47,068
Arizona 519,606 517,578 515,030 512,448 507,389 502,836 497,500 491,895 485,254 476,688 470,001 461,233
Arkansas 289,713 288,342 289,770 292,127 293,362 293,704 290,954 288,660 285,594 283,895 284,000 282,992
California 3,193,596 3,142,001 3,099,793 3,167,500 3,256,804 3,268,925 3,278,272 3,238,866 3,226,045 3,217,342 3,218,253 3,207,074
Colorado 273,232 271,048 270,903 270,943 270,587 270,588 269,959 267,118 263,195 258,951 257,831 255,407
Connecticut 230,710 230,802 226,758 227,638 228,176 229,882 231,198 231,850 231,116 230,377 230,387 230,430
Delaware 60,628 59,991 60,412 60,752 60,987 61,221 60,902 60,780 59,782 59,071 58,376 57,777
District Of Col 94,069 93,124 92,306 91,787 91,210 91,256 93,326 93,489 92,855 92,425 93,129 93,386
Florida 1,483,686 1,479,286 1,474,773 1,464,806 1,441,184 1,424,780 1,412,068 1,412,574 1,404,695 1,401,359 1,407,172 1,416,181
Georgia 869,093 864,125 853,199 854,198 849,295 853,423 853,356 848,326 840,911 836,041 835,699 836,137
Guam 14,991 15,124 15,310 15,520 15,734 15,846 16,143 16,444 16,731 16,885 17,085 17,257
Hawaii 116,755 115,481 114,324 114,884 115,081 116,368 117,561 119,215 119,086 119,916 121,035 122,454
Idaho 81,257 81,199 83,020 85,025 86,790 88,508 89,016 88,603 86,542 84,965 83,942 82,253
Illinois 1,209,396 1,201,523 1,202,691 1,199,372 1,194,121 1,192,076 1,188,327 1,186,049 1,177,694 1,169,521 1,165,229 1,159,462
Indiana 513,823 518,169 514,245 511,247 508,022 506,961 501,754 495,199 485,203 473,323 454,468 436,274
Iowa 200,382 198,481 198,516 197,552 197,058 197,496 197,424 196,497 193,807 191,511 189,653 188,397
Kansas 198,580 196,726 196,794 195,997 195,710 196,252 195,858 194,334 192,213 190,967 190,656 189,326
Kentucky 536,920 537,580 540,577 544,240 548,314 552,523 551,240 547,997 541,757 537,631 535,261 534,769
Louisiana 765,985 744,864 742,978 744,765 757,039 755,396 751,151 750,731 742,942 736,671 728,616 722,264
Maine 135,831 135,173 135,465 137,130 138,356 140,181 140,293 140,200 138,213 136,203 134,203 132,625
Maryland 410,242 406,020 402,590 403,862 403,842 408,284 412,809 414,283 412,311 411,308 412,528 408,464
Massachusetts 451,947 448,500 446,340 443,766 440,801 439,432 434,932 428,974 420,174 414,096 410,850 407,779
Michigan 1,029,851 1,019,180 1,013,108 1,006,459 1,000,425 994,133 992,237 988,318 986,925 979,040 972,719 965,784
Minnesota 312,108 307,403 324,456 323,107 322,957 324,566 325,347 325,466 325,685 325,496 324,694 315,147
Mississippi 524,112 518,159 518,784 517,177 515,726 514,953 512,681 509,987 505,731 501,664 499,392 496,634
Missouri 605,958 604,307 604,650 607,291 608,154 609,318 605,626 601,574 594,034 588,556 586,373 583,693
Montana 72,621 72,231 73,052 74,662 75,833 76,787 77,179 76,943 76,204 75,074 74,260 73,113
Nebraska 114,494 113,574 113,380 113,390 113,613 113,810 113,160 112,323 111,086 110,420 109,943 109,192
Nevada 97,377 97,640 98,182 98,862 99,148 99,505 99,415 99,222 98,019 97,205 97,077 97,113
New Hampshire 63,004 62,636 62,517 62,822 63,285 63,808 63,780 63,257 62,111 60,712 59,437 58,289
New Jersey 574,059 572,502 563,421 564,844 566,262 571,116 575,407 573,996 570,213 567,170 570,177 569,075
New Mexico 249,424 248,691 249,994 250,750 251,024 251,099 249,931 249,516 247,582 246,563 245,899 244,555
New York 2,188,914 2,167,382 2,108,329 2,122,318 2,136,146 2,154,794 2,169,862 2,180,929 2,183,641 2,177,286 2,161,798 2,152,182
North Carolina 653,505 651,067 654,596 655,387 653,860 653,216 649,206 643,868 636,193 630,099 631,982 634,442
North Dakota 44,905 44,224 44,216 44,433 44,942 45,021 45,012 44,545 44,491 44,043 43,546 42,520
Ohio 1,249,384 1,238,643 1,232,476 1,228,989 1,223,227 1,221,111 1,209,739 1,201,048 1,182,715 1,170,338 1,158,398 1,147,691
Oklahoma 390,146 393,569 390,098 392,740 394,703 396,424 394,683 393,210 389,603 386,976 385,073 383,324
Oregon 288,727 289,885 288,531 292,174 297,856 302,088 304,671 302,694 299,516 295,461 292,175 289,206
Pennsylvania 1,219,641 1,211,279 1,214,259 1,213,495 1,211,471 1,214,242 1,211,077 1,206,112 1,194,003 1,183,079 1,175,309 1,168,155
Rhode Island 96,650 97,582 97,952 98,273 98,638 99,300 99,052 98,510 97,389 96,219 95,673 95,508
South Carolina 398,550 397,443 397,796 396,564 394,266 391,974 387,382 383,560 378,028 374,605 372,918 371,600
South Dakota 54,332 53,692 53,976 54,367 54,723 54,901 54,723 53,976 53,123 52,234 52,127 52,021
Tennessee 736,442 727,122 707,930 705,435 700,106 700,019 693,338 688,695 679,131 672,303 668,833 666,380
Texas 2,732,302 2,725,491 2,722,348 2,707,322 2,677,901 2,650,641 2,613,954 2,587,942 2,552,971 2,530,521 2,518,379 2,511,155
Utah 129,925 129,380 129,005 129,344 129,103 129,177 127,966 126,568 124,223 122,211 120,931 119,429
Vermont 61,222 61,051 64,005 62,455 61,108 61,211 61,364 61,287 60,881 60,152 59,537 59,040
Virginia 569,184 564,984 559,109 559,287 564,248 571,028 576,891 583,843 577,696 571,085 567,370 562,333
Virgin Islands 19,419 19,420 19,481 19,811 20,093 20,291 20,657 21,029 21,446 21,835 22,277 22,583
Washington 481,954 479,148 469,319 472,853 479,038 489,647 496,812 498,223 494,426 488,873 484,999 480,506
West Virginia 317,121 315,609 317,210 319,593 322,290 322,589 320,475 317,947 314,314 311,285 309,426 308,347
Wisconsin 347,779 346,062 344,163 342,299 340,645 341,472 340,949 338,999 335,142 330,723 328,197 325,517
Wyoming 34,995 34,195 34,104 34,769 35,142 35,847 36,348 36,438 36,273 35,915 35,319 34,324

Note: Monthly State figures are the smaller of estimates for fiscal years 1994 and 1995. Since some States have figures derived from 1994 and others from 1995, summing the State figures for a national figure does not provide a meaningful number.