Connecticut Seal

Senate Bill No. 976

Public Act No. 03-28

AN ACT CONFORMING STATE LAW WITH FEDERAL WELFARE REFORM.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 17b-112 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2003):

(a) The Department of Social Services shall administer a temporary family assistance program under which cash assistance shall be provided to eligible families in accordance with the temporary assistance for needy families program, established pursuant to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Under the temporary family assistance program, benefits shall be provided to a family for not longer than twenty-one months, except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section. For the purpose of calculating said twenty-one-month time limit, months of assistance received on and after January 1, 1996, pursuant to time limits under the aid to families with dependent children program, shall be included. For purposes of this section, "family" means one or more individuals who apply for or receive assistance together under the temporary family assistance program.

(b) The Commissioner of Social Services shall exempt a family from such time-limited benefits for circumstances including, but not limited to: (1) A family with a needy caretaker relative who is incapacitated or of an advanced age, as defined by the commissioner, if there is no other nonexempt caretaker relative in the household; (2) a family with a needy caretaker relative who is needed in the home because of the incapacity of another member of the household, if there is no other nonexempt caretaker relative in the household; (3) a family with a caretaker relative who is not legally responsible for the dependent children in the household if such relative's needs are not considered in calculating the amount of the benefit and there is no other nonexempt caretaker relative in the household; (4) a family with a caretaker relative caring for a child who is under one year of age and who was born not more than ten months after the family's enrollment if there is no other nonexempt caretaker relative in the household; (5) a family with a pregnant or postpartum caretaker relative if a physician has indicated that such relative is unable to work and there is no other nonexempt caretaker relative in the household; (6) a family with a caretaker relative determined by the commissioner to be unemployable and there is no other nonexempt caretaker relative in the household; and (7) minor parents attending and satisfactorily completing high school or high school equivalency programs.

(c) A family who is subject to time-limited benefits may petition the Commissioner of Social Services for six-month extensions of such benefits. The commissioner shall grant not more than three extensions to such family who has made a good faith effort to comply with the requirements of the program and despite such effort has a total family income at a level below the payment standard, or has encountered circumstances preventing employment including, but not limited to: (1) Domestic violence or physical harm to such family's children; or (2) other circumstances beyond such family's control. The commissioner shall disregard ninety dollars of earned income in determining applicable family income. The commissioner may grant a fourth or a subsequent six-month extension if each adult in the family meets one or more of the following criteria: (A) The adult is precluded from engaging in employment activities due to domestic violence or another reason beyond the adult's control; (B) the adult has two or more substantiated barriers to employment including, but not limited to, the lack of available child care, substance abuse or addiction, severe mental or physical health problems, one or more severe learning disabilities, domestic violence or a child who has a serious physical or behavioral health problem; (C) the adult is working thirty-five or more hours per week, is earning at least the minimum wage and continues to earn less than the family's temporary family assistance payment standard; or (D) the adult is employed and works less than thirty-five hours per week due to (i) a documented medical impairment that limits the adult's hours of employment, provided the adult works the maximum number of hours that the medical condition permits, or (ii) the need to care for a disabled member of the adult's household, provided the adult works the maximum number of hours the adult's caregiving responsibilities permit. Families receiving temporary family assistance shall be notified by the department of the right to petition for such extensions. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, the commissioner shall not provide benefits under the state's temporary family assistance program to a family that is subject to the twenty-one month benefit limit and has received benefits beginning on or after October 1, 1996, if such benefits result in that family's receiving more than sixty months of time-limited benefits unless that family experiences domestic violence, as defined in Section 402(a)(7)(B), P. L. 104-193. For the purpose of calculating said sixty-month limit: (I) A month shall count toward the limit if the family receives assistance for any day of the month, and (II) a month in which a family receives temporary [family] assistance for needy families benefits that are issued from a jurisdiction other than Connecticut shall count toward the limit.

[(d) Medicaid eligibility shall be extended for two years to a family who becomes ineligible for cash assistance while employed or a family with an adult who, within six months of becoming ineligible, becomes employed. ]

[(e)] (d) Under said program (1) no family shall be eligible that has total gross earnings exceeding the federal poverty level, however, in the calculation of the benefit amount for eligible families and previously eligible families that become ineligible temporarily because of receipt of workers' compensation benefits by a family member who subsequently returns to work immediately after the period of receipt of such benefits, earned income shall be disregarded up to the federal poverty level; (2) the increase in benefits to a family in which an infant is born after the initial ten months of participation in the program shall be limited to an amount equal to fifty per cent of the average incremental difference between the amounts paid per each family size; and (3) a disqualification penalty shall be established for failure to cooperate with the biometric identifier system. Except when determining eligibility for a six-month extension of benefits pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, the commissioner shall disregard the first fifty dollars per month of income attributable to child support that a family receives in determining eligibility and benefit levels for temporary family assistance.

[(f)] (e) A family receiving assistance under said program shall cooperate with child support enforcement, under title IV-D of the Social Security Act. A family shall be ineligible for benefits for failure to cooperate with child support enforcement.

[(g)] (f) A family leaving assistance at the end of (1) said twenty-one-month time limit, including a family with income above the payment standard, or (2) the sixty-month limit shall have an interview for the purpose of being informed of services that may continue to be available to such family, including employment services available through the Labor Department. Said interview shall contain a determination of benefits available to said family provided by the Department of Social Services. Said interview shall also include a determination of whether such family is eligible for food stamps or Medicaid. Information and referrals shall be made to such a family for services and benefits including, but not limited to, the earned income tax credit, rental subsidies emergency housing, employment services and energy assistance.

[(h)] (g) An applicant or recipient of temporary family assistance who is adversely affected by a decision of the Commissioner of Social Services may request and shall be provided a hearing in accordance with section 17b-60.

[(i) The commissioner may continue to operate under all or portions of the federal waivers granted under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act for the demonstration entitled "Reach For Jobs First". Notwithstanding continuation of the provisions of said federal waivers, the commissioner shall continue the evaluation of the effectiveness of the temporary family assistance program and may continue to utilize a control group using different program requirements. ]

[(j)] (h) The commissioner shall report, annually on or before November fifteenth, to the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to human services and appropriations and the budgets of state agencies on the funding requirements necessary to support the programs funded by the temporary assistance for needy families block grant.

[(k) The Commissioner of Social Services shall implement policies and procedures necessary for the purposes of this section while in the process of adopting such policies and procedures in regulation form, provided the commissioner prints notice of intention to adopt the regulations in the Connecticut Law Journal within twenty days of implementing such policies and procedures. Final regulations shall be submitted to the legislative regulation review committee no later than November 15, 1997. Policies and procedures implemented pursuant to this subsection shall be valid until the time final regulations are effective. ]

Sec. 2. Section 17b-261 of the general statutes is amended by adding subsection (g) as follows (Effective October 1, 2003):

(NEW) (g) To the extent permitted by federal law, Medicaid eligibility shall be extended for two years to a family who becomes ineligible for medical assistance under Section 1931 of the Social Security Act while employed or due to receipt of child support income or a family with an adult who, within six months of becoming ineligible under Section 1931 of the Social Security Act becomes employed.

Sec. 3. Subsection (a) of section 17b-112b of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2003):

(a) An applicant or recipient who is a past or present victim of domestic violence or at risk of further domestic violence, pursuant to subsection (c) of section 17b-112a, shall, for good cause: (1) Be excused from failing to participate in a work activity; or (2) be exempted from child support enforcement requirements pursuant to subsection [(f)] (e) of section 17b-112, as amended by this act. Such an applicant or recipient may, for good cause, be granted an extension of cash assistance beyond twenty-one months, provided the domestic violence experienced is of sufficient magnitude to reasonably render the individual unable to obtain or maintain employment.

Sec. 4. (Effective October 1, 2003) Sections 17b-15, 17b-17 and 17b-55 of the general statutes are repealed.

Approved May 12, 2003