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Q & A: Work Participation Rate

TANF Reporting Questions

Published: July 1, 2012
Audience:
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Topics:
Data Collection and Reporting, Work Participation Rates
Types:
Q&A
Tags:
TANF Program Policy Questions and Answers, Work Participation Rate (WPR)

Work Participation Rate

 

Q1: Can the two-parent families work participation rate exceed 100 percent?

A1: No. All two-parent families counted as participating in the numerator of the two-parent families work participation rate must also be counted in the denominator of the two-parent families work participation rate.

Q2: What are the hours of activity required for the two-parent families work participation rate?

A2: The hours requirements for the two-parent families work participation rate are as follows:

If the family does not receive federally-funded child care, an adult (or minor child head-of-household) and the other parent in the family are required to participate in work activities for an average of at least 35 hours per week during the month, and, at least 30 of the 35 hours per week must come from participation in the core work activities, (1) through (8) and (12) listed below. Above the 30 hours per week, countable hours may also come from work activities (9), (10), and (11) from those work activities listed below.

If the family receives federally-funded child care, and if an adult in the family is not disabled or caring for a severely disabled child, an adult (or minor child head-of-household) and the other parent in the family are required to participate in work activities for an average of at least 55 hours per week during the month, and, at least 50 of the 55 hours per week come from participation in the core work activities, (1) through (8) and (12) listed below. Above the 50 hours per week, countable hours may also come from work activities (9), (10), and (11) from those work activities listed below.

The statute requires that adults and minor child heads-of-household participate in certain work activities. Countable work activities include the following:

  1. Unsubsidized employment;
  2. Subsidized private sector employment;
  3. Subsidized public sector employment;
  4. Work experience;
  5. On-the-job training (OJT);
  6. Job search and job readiness assistance;
  7. Community service programs;
  8. Vocational educational training;
  9. Job skills training directly related to employment;
  10. Education directly related to employment, in the case of a recipient who has not received a high school diploma or a certificate of high school equivalency;
  11. Satisfactory attendance at secondary school or in a course of study leading to a certificate of general equivalence, if a recipient has not completed secondary school or received such a certificate; and
  12. Providing child care services to an individual who is participating in a community service program.

Q3: Is the two-parent data automatically counted with the all-families data in calculating the all-families work participation rate?

A3: Yes. Two-parent families are included in the all families work participation rate unless specifically disregarded. However, when two-parent families are used in the all-families rate, the all-families hours standard applies. That is, in FY 1999, an adult must be engaged in work for at least 25 hours of which 20 hours comes from the core activities. In FY 2000 and thereafter, an adult must be engaged in work for at least 30 hours, of which 20 hours comes from the core activities. The core work activities are captured on the TDR – Section One data elements #49 through #56 and #60.

Q4: Are families with a disabled parent counted as a two-parent family?

A4: Yes. A two-parent family with one of the two parents disabled is a two-parent family and, in the TANF Data Report - Section Three, this family must be included in the count of the total number of two-parent families. However, this family is not used in calculating the two-parent families work participation rate.

Q5: In the following two-parent scenarios, how would the case be counted for the numerator of the two-parent families work participation rate and in the overall rate (assuming the hours per week are from core work activities)?

1.  No child care, one parent working an average of 40 hours per week?

A.  Family would count as participating for both the all-families work participation rate and the two-parent families work participation rate.

2.  No child care, both parents are working an average of 25 hours per week (i.e., a total of 50 hours per week)

A.  Family would count as participating for the two-parent families work participation rate. In FY 1999 the family would be counted as participating for the all-families work participation rate, but in FY 2000 and thereafter, the family would not count as participating for the all-families work participation rate. Beginning in FY 2000, the hours requirement for an adult to be considered "engaged in work" changes from an average of 25 hours per week to an average of 30 hours per week.

3.  Federally funded child care is provided, both parents are working 30 hours (one is working 30+5). The sum of hours per week for the two parents is greater than 60 hours per week.

A. The family would be counted as participating for both rates.

4.   Neither parent is working

A. The family would not be counted as participating for either rate.

5.   Federally funded child care is provided, both parents are working (40 + 20 hours)

A. The family would be counted as participating for both rates.

6.   Federally funded child care is provided, both parents are working (40 + 35 hours)

A. The family would be counted as participating for both rates.

7.   Federally funded child care is provided, one parent is working 25 hours

A. The family would be counted as participating for the all-families participation rate in FY 1999, but not in FY2000 and thereafter. The family would not be counted as participating for the two-parent families work participation rate.

8.   No child care, one parent is working 55 hours.

A. The family would be counted as participating for both rates.

9.   Federally funded child care is provided, two parents each working 35 hours

A. The family would be counted as participating for both rates.

10.  Federally funded child care is provided, parents working 35 + 15 hours

A. The family would be counted as participating for the all-families work participation rate and would not be counted as participating for the two-parent families work participation rate.

11.  Federally funded child care is provided, one parent is working 55 hours

A. The family would be counted as participating for both rates.

Q6: How frequently are the Work Participation Rate Summaries published?

A6: We do not actually publish the summary tables. We do periodically run the program that generate the tables and send each State the tables containing their data. Initially, we will run such tables about once a month. As we get closer toward closing a fiscal year, we run them more frequently.

Q7: If a case with a single parent with a child under age 1 was coded 1 in data element #12 and the parent was coded 01 in data element #48, the case would be disregarded and not included in the denominator. Is this correct?

A7: Yes. The case would not be used in the calculation of the all families work participation rate.

Q8: In the interim coding and calculation routines, it is our understanding that if an adult was coded as unrelated (code 10) when completing the relationship to the head-of-household data element, his/her hours were not counted when calculating the work participation rate. A State includes adults in the TANF case who live in the household and are a parent to one or more of the children, although there is no formal marital relationship to the head of the household. Will the final calculation routine consider unrelated adults (code 10) in calculating the work participation rate and if no, how should we code the adult to assure his/her consideration?

A8: Your understanding is incorrect. The data element #24 (Relationship to Head-of-Household) of the Emergency TANF Data Report is not currently used in this manner for calculating either the all families work participation or the two-parent families work participation rate. Nor will it be used with the new TANF Data Report (TDR) to identify which adult is used for the all families work participation or which two parents are used in the two-parent families work participation rate. For the TDR, we will look at all adults with a family affiliation code "1" in order to determine the all families work participation rate. We will look at both the family affiliation code "1" and the parent with a minor child in the family code "1" to identify the two parents used in the two-parent families work participation rate.

Q9: Why is it necessary to report the total number of case closures on the new ACF-202, Caseload Reduction Report when these data may be obtained for the full population reporting States from a summation of data reported in TDR – Section Two or from TDR – Section Three, data element #18?

A9: We included the number of case closures on the Caseload Reduction Report in order to have all information used in determining the amount of credit in one place. However, States should not have to resubmit this information. The State may simply refer to its prior submission on the TDR.

Q10: It is our understanding that for State programs where MOE is not claimed as expenditures on the TANF Financial Report, the SSP-MOE Data Reports are not required. What is the impact on caseload reduction or High Performance Bonus?

A10: States are not required to complete the SSP-MOE Data Report for separate State programs for which MOE is not claimed. Failure to report on these programs would not affect a State’s caseload reduction credit or the high performance bonus.

Q11: A State may disregard from the participation rate calculation a family that has been sanctioned for not more than 3 months in the preceding 12. To determine whether it may disregard a particular family, does the State really look back 13 months, meaning the reporting month and the 12 months prior to it and determine if the reporting month is the 4th month of sanction?

A11: A State may disregard a given family from the participation rate calculation for a month if: (1) the family is subject to a penalty (sanction) for that month; and (2) the family has not been subject to a sanction for more than 3 months in the preceding 12 months. For example, a family is subject to a sanction in January 2000. If from January 1999 to December 1999 that family has not been subject to a sanction for more than 3 months, then the State may disregard that family in January 2000.

Q12: Does the State have the flexibility to disregard a sanctioned case from the participation rate calculation if the case has been sanctioned for more than 3 months in the last 12 but has not been removed from the calculation (disregarded) for 3 months? In other words, does the flexibility to disregard a family relate to the number of months it is subject to a sanction or the number of months it is disregarded from the calculation?

A12: The ability to exclude (disregard) from the participation rate a family subject to a sanction relates to the number of months (in the preceding 12 months) that the family has been subject to a sanction. The statute created this ability to exclude certain families from the rate and provided the basis for excluding them. Under the regulations (§261.22(b)(3)), we clarified that States have the flexibility not to exclude such a family from the calculation. This was intended to allow a State to include a family with sufficient hours of work to count for the participation rate, despite the fact that it is subject to a sanction. The additional flexibility under the regulations to include sanctioned families does not change the underlying statutory basis for excluding them.

Q13: Interim Final Rules:What standards of participation apply to a State when it elects to include Tribal TANF or NEW families in its work participation rate?

A13: TANF eligible families within a State who are receiving Tribal TANF assistance or receiving State TANF assistance but participate in the NEW program can, at State option, be included in that State’s work participation rate. A State that exercises this option must include such families in the denominator of the calculation. The preamble to the original final TANF rules, which were published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 12, 1999 (see Federal Register/Vol.64, No. 69, page 17775), explain that in order to be included as participating in work (i.e., included in the State’s numerator), the family must meet the State standards for counting a family both in terms of hours of participation and allowable activities. Under the new work verification plan requirements, a State that exercises this option will have to establish a process for verifying that the hours of participation and allowable work activities for these families satisfy the State standards.

Q14: Final DRA 2005 Rules:How should a State code an individual when there is a change in circumstances in the family? For example, suppose a work-eligible individual dies on March 31, but the family receives a TANF benefit for that person for April. Should that person be included in the participation rate for April even though he died?

A14: If an individual's status changes from work-eligible to non work-eligible or vice versa during the report month, the State must code the individual as a work-eligible individual for the report month. In determining the average number of hours of participation per week for the report month, State may apply the same approach we use for partial months of receipt of assistance. This means that the family will be in the denominator for the month if an adult is “work-eligible” for any time in that month, but it may also be possible to include the family in the numerator that month and count it toward the participation rate even if the work-eligible status of the adult changes in the course of the month. As under prior TANF rules, the new rules make accommodation for partial months of receipt of assistance. Section 261.22(d)(1) says “If a family receives assistance for only part of a month, we will count it as a month of participation if a work-eligible individual is engaged in work for the minimum average number of hours in each full week that the family receives assistance in that month.” Similarly, if a family includes a work-eligible individual for only part of a month, we will consider the family to have met the participation standard for the month and include it in the numerator if the adult engaged in work for the minimum average hours required in each full week that he or she was a work-eligible individual in that month. This is because under the new rules, the participation rates are based the number of families that include a work-eligible individual, as opposed to families with an adult receiving assistance so the same discussion applies to families with a work-eligible individual that applied before to families receiving assistance that include an adult.

In some cases, there may have been a change in circumstances that took place prior to the report month, but the State did not learn of the change until a subsequent month. In such a situation, the State should revise its data to the extent possible. For example, the definition of a work-eligible individual does not explicitly refer to a deceased individual, but it is clear that such an individual cannot meet the work requirements and is not “work-eligible.” If an adult (or minor child head-of-household) who was receiving assistance died prior to the report month, the deceased individual is not a work-eligible individual for the report month. This is true even if the family's grant for the report month included the needs of the deceased individual, for example because the State must provide timely notification to a family before reducing the grant or the family failed to report the death to the TANF agency. However, if a work-eligible individual died in the report month, the State should treat it as it would any other change in circumstances, following the guidance above.

Q15: Does counting just one hour of job search and job readiness assistance use up one week of the six-week or twelve-week time limit on this activity?

A15: No, it does not. The final rule implementing the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, published February 5, 2008, defined one week of job search and job readiness assistance as equal to 20 hours for a work-eligible individual who is a single custodial parent with a child under six years of age and equal to 30 hours for all other work-eligible individuals (See 45 CFR 261.34). Thus, when a jurisdiction is subject to the statutory limit of six weeks of job search and job readiness assistance, the six weeks equates to 120 hours in a 12-month period for the first group and 180 hours in a 12-month period hours for all others. For those months in which the jurisdiction is able to count 12 weeks of this activity, these limits are 240 hours and 360 hours in a 12-month period, respectively.

The law imposes an additional restriction on counting hours of job search and job readiness assistance. The TANF statute provides that job search and readiness is not countable for a week that follows four consecutive weeks of participation in the activity. The preamble to the final rule published February 5, 2008, states that “any hours of participation in job search and job readiness assistance during the course of a seven-day period triggers a week for the four-week limit. Once an individual has four consecutive weeks of participation, that individual’s participation in job search and job readiness assistance may not count for one week, i.e., seven consecutive days” (73 Fed. Reg. 6789).

States are free to require or allow individuals to participate in these activities beyond the period in which the activities count toward Federal participation rates; the law only restricts the extent to which they may count toward Federal work participation rates.

Here are a couple of examples of how the hourly equivalents work. Suppose Brad is a work-eligible individual in a two-parent family who participates in one-hour substance abuse treatment sessions three times a week. The six-week limitation on counting job search and job readiness assistance hours for Brad equates to 180 hours in a 12-month period. He accrues 12 hours toward that limit in the first four weeks of his treatment program, with at least one hour in each of the four weeks. Although he goes to treatment in the fifth week, the law prohibits a State from counting more than four consecutive weeks of participation in job search and job readiness assistance. The State does not report his treatment hours in week five and thus those hours do not count toward his limit. At the end of the 12 weeks of treatment, Brad will have accumulated a total of 30 reported hours of job search and job readiness assistance, i.e., the equivalent of one week. The State could place him in another job search and job readiness assistance activity, such as a job skills training class, and continue to report up to 150 additional hours in this activity for the remainder of the 12-month period.

Now suppose Catherine, a single custodial parent of a two-year-old child, participates in mental health treatment for five hours a week. Because she is a single custodial parent of a child under age six, the State limit on counting Catherine’s participation in job search and job readiness assistance equates to 20 hours per week. In this example, because the State is a needy State, the State qualifies to count an individual for 12 weeks of participation in this activity in a 12-month period (see Q2 below); therefore the State may count up to 240 hours in this activity in a 12-month period for Catherine. If this is her only activity in job search and job readiness assistance (and the State continues to qualify to count 12 weeks instead of six of this activity), Catherine’s mental health treatment would count all year long, since she would only reach 210 hours in a full year (excluding hours of participation every fifth week).

Q16: How does a State qualify for 12 weeks of job search and job readiness assistance in a 12-month period rather than six weeks?

A16: Under Section 407(c)(2)(A)(i) of the Social Security Act and the regulation at 45 CFR 261.34, an individual’s participation in job search and job readiness assistance may count for a maximum of six weeks in a 12-month period (no more than four consecutive weeks). This can be extended to 12 weeks in 12-months if a State:

  1. has an unemployment rate at least 50 percent greater than the unemployment rate of the United States, or
  2. 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:”
    1. Unemployment Trigger – the average rate of total unemployment (seasonally adjusted) for the most recent 3-month period for which data are published for all States equals or exceeds 6.5 percent and is at least 110 percent of the average rate for either (or both) of the corresponding 3-month periods in the two preceding calendar years.
    2. 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 percent 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.

Note that in accordance with the statute, a State may only count participation in job search and job readiness assistance beyond the initial six weeks in a month in which it qualifies for the additional six weeks under one or more of the triggers.  The official list of States that have qualified for counting up to six additional weeks of job search and job readiness assistance by month and fiscal year is available.

Q17: A state (in accordance with 45 CFR 261.2(n)(1)(iii)) may choose on a case-by-case basis to exclude as a work-eligible individual a parent (living with a child receiving TANF assistance) who does not receive TANF assistance but does receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  If the parent retains eligibility for SSI without receiving SSI cash benefits (i.e., the individual is in “non-payment status” for SSI), may the state still exercise its option to exclude the parent as a TANF work-eligible individual?

A17: Under 45 CFR 261.2(n)(1)(iii), the parent must actually receive SSI benefits  for the option to exclude him or her to apply.  Thus, if the individual does not receive SSI for a month because his or her income is too high to qualify for an SSI payment, that individual would not be considered a SSI recipient in that month, even if the individual retains SSI eligibility and continues to qualify for Medicaid.  The only circumstance under which we would consider an individual to be a SSI recipient without receiving a SSI payment is if the individual’s non-payment status is due to receipt of a SSI overpayment in a prior month and the Social Security Administration is recovering such overpayment by reducing the current month’s payment.  This is because the individual was entitled to SSI benefits for that month and would have received them, but for the recoupment of the overpayment.  In such a case, the state should input the amount of SSI benefits the individual received for that month and, if possible, should correct the amount reported in error for the earlier month.

States should be aware that individuals with earnings too high for a SSI cash payment may have sufficient hours to count the family in the numerator of the work participation rate.  (Posted on: 6/13/2013)