Senate Bill No. 140

(By Senators Tomblin, (Mr. President) and Boley,

(By Request of the Executive)


[Introduced January 25, 1996; referred to the Committee on Health and Human Resources; and then to the Committee on Finance.]

A BILL to amend chapter nine of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated article nine, relating to the WV WORKS program for welfare assistance to at-risk families; short title; legislative findings; purpose; definitions; authorization for program; eligibility for benefits; work requirements; responsibilities of program benefit recipients; schooling or training requirements; participation limitation; exceptions; sanctions; emergency assistance loans in lieu of monthly cash assistance; employer subsidy for employment; transitional assistance; supportive and required linkages; and relationship with other law.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That chapter nine of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated article nine, to read as follows:
§9-9-1. Short title.
This article may be cited as the "WV WORKS Act".
§9-9-2. Legislative findings; purpose of the WV WORKS program.

(a) The Legislature hereby finds that with regard to at-risk families, as defined in section three of this article:
(1) At-risk families are capable of becoming self- supporting;
(2) A reformed assistance program should both expect and help parents and caretaker-relatives in at-risk families to support their children and children for which they are caretakers;
(3) Every child's parent or caretaker-relative can exhibit responsible patterns of behavior so as to be a positive role model, thus preparing children to become responsible adults;
(4) Every child's able parent or caretaker-relative who receives welfare assistance has the responsibility to participate in an activity to help them prepare for, obtain and maintain gainful employment;
(5) For a child's parents or caretaker-relative who receives welfare assistance and for whom full-time work is not feasible, participation in some activity is expected to further themselves, their family or their community;
(6) A reformed assistance program should promote the value of work and the capabilities of individuals;
(7) Job development efforts should enhance the employment opportunities of parents and caretaker-relatives in at-risk families;
(8) An effective public education system is the key to long- term self-support;
(9) A reformed assistance program should be driven by results, not rules; action can be driven by a clear set of outcomes, such as employment, graduation rates, wages and benefits; and program accountability can be based on evaluation, monitoring and reporting outcomes;
(10) Services for at-risk families can be provided quickly and simply; and services can be delivered in an expedient, effective and efficient manner, without tolerating fraud; and
(11) A reformed assistance program should maximize community support for at-risk families.
(b) The purpose of the WV WORKS program is to assist at-risk families to become self-supporting through a work-oriented, performance based, time-limited system that emphasizes employment and personal responsibility.
§9-9-3. Definitions.
In addition to the rules for the construction of statutes in section ten, article two, chapter two of this code and the words and terms defined in section two, article one of this chapter, the following words and terms when used in this article have the following meanings unless the context clearly indicates differently:
(a) "At-risk family" means a group of West Virginians living below the federally designated poverty level, lacking the resources to become self-supporting and consisting of a dependent minor child or children living with their parents, stepparents, or caretaker-relative, including an unmarried minor parent and his or her dependent child or children in an adult supervised setting;
(b) "Community or personal development" means activities designed or intended to eliminate barriers to participation in self-sufficiency activities which provide community benefit and enhance personal responsibility, including but not limited to, classes or counseling for learning life skills or parenting, dependent care, job readiness, volunteer work, participation in sheltered workshops, or substance abuse treatment;
(c) "Division" means the division of human services;
(d) "Employment with some support" means employment with earnings, after mandatory deductions, that provides a level of income that does not allow an at-risk family to exist independent of government support such that supplemental cash assistance, child care subsidies, food stamps, subsidized housing or other assistance may be provided as necessary for a period of time;
(e) "Income" means money received by any member of an at- risk family which can be used at the discretion of the household to meet its basic needs: Provided, That income shall not include earnings of minor children in school, payments received from earned income tax credit or tax refunds;
(f) "Secretary" means the secretary of the state department of health and human resources;
(g) "Subsidized employment" means employment with earnings for which the employer is subsidized;
(h) "Support services" means, but is not limited to, the following services: Child care; medicaid; transportation assistance; information and referral; resource development which is assisting families to receive child support enforcement and supplemental social security income; family support services which is parenting, budgeting and family planning; relocation assistance and mentoring services;
(i) "Unsubsidized employment" means employment with earnings, after mandatory deductions, that provides a level of income that allows a family to become completely independent of government support;
(j) "Work" means unsubsidized employment, subsidized employment, employment with some support, work experience or community or personal development; and
(k) "Work experience" means unpaid structured work activities that mirror unsubsidized employment and provide training in occupational areas that can realistically be expected to lead to unsubsidized employment.
§9-9-4. Authorization for WV WORKS program.
The secretary is hereby authorized to implement a WV WORKS program to replace welfare assistance programs for at-risk families in accordance with this article and within federal requirements; to develop such rules for the regulation of such program as the secretary deems necessary or desirable; and to apply to the federal government for a waiver from federal requirements, if necessary to accomplish the purpose of this article.
§9-9-5. Eligibility for benefits.
Support services through WV WORKS may be provided to at-risk families to eliminate the need for cash assistance. Cash assistance through WV WORKS may be provided to at-risk families if their incomes are below the income and asset test levels established by the division.
§9-9-6. Work requirement; responsibilities of WV WORKS program

benefit recipients.

A WV WORKS program shall require that anyone who possesses a high school diploma, or its equivalent, or anyone who is of the age of twenty years or more, to work to receive welfare assistance. In order for parents and caretaker-relatives in at-risk families to receive reform assistance, they shall enter into personal responsibility contracts, which will be reevaluated periodically, that require them to do the following:
(a) Prepare for, obtain and maintain gainful employment or participate in some activity expected to further themselves, their family or their community, attend school or training as required or participate in some other activity as required;
(b) Have the children for which they are the parent or caretaker-relative undergo well-child examinations as required by the attending physician and adhere to the immunization schedule for the children;
(c) Establish paternity or actively pursue child support, or both, if applicable;
(d) Live at home or in other adult supervised arrangements if they are unemancipated minor parents; and
(e) For those parents and caretaker-relatives who must remove barriers in order to go to work, develop a plan to overcome those barriers which may include, but is not limited to, counseling, child care arrangements, transportation, medical treatment, substance abuse treatment, testing, education, and training.
§9-9-7. Schooling or training requirements.
Parents and caretaker-relatives in at-risk families may be required to comply with the following:
(a) If they are teenage parents, they may work and must:
(1) Remain in an educational activity to complete high school, obtain a general equivalent diploma or obtain vocational training; and
(2) Attend parenting classes or be subject to participation in a mentorship program, or both; and
(b) If they are under the age of twenty years and do not have a high school education or its equivalent, they must participate in mandatory education or training which may include a return to high school if they are unemployed.
§9-9-8. Participation limitation; exceptions.
The length of time an at-risk family may receive WV WORKS program benefits will be dependent upon the personal responsibility contract: Provided, That an at-risk family shall not receive benefits for a period longer than sixty months, except in circumstances as defined by the division.
§9-9-9. Sanctions.
The WV WORKS program may impose sanctions for failure to fulfill the terms of a personal responsibility contract.
§9-9-10. Emergency assistance loans in lieu of monthly cash


In order to encourage at-risk families not to apply for ongoing monthly cash assistance from the state, the secretary may issue one-time emergency assistance loans to families in an amount not to exceed three months of cash assistance in order to enable such families to become immediately self-supporting: Provided, That if within one year of receiving such loans a family subsequently applies for monthly cash assistance, the secretary shall recoup the amount remaining unpaid on the loan from future monthly cash assistance payments: Provided, however, That one-half of the amount of such loans may be forgiven after a loan recipient has been employed in unsubsidized employment for one year, and the full amount of the loan may be forgiven after two years of unsubsidized employment.
§9-9-11. Employer subsidy for employment.
To the extent resources are available, an employer may be paid a subsidy by the division for the employment of a parent or caretaker-relative of an at-risk family if the employer agrees to hire the parent or caretaker-relative at the end of the subsidized period.
§9-9-12. Transitional assistance.
The WV WORKS program may provide transitional assistance in the form of supportive services and allow at-risk families to retain a portion of their cash assistance when they have earnings below fifty percent of the federally designated poverty level. For those at-risk families with earnings between fifty and one hundred percent of the federally designated poverty level, supportive services such as child care and medical coverage may be continued.
§9-9-13. Supportive linkages.
The Legislature encourages the development of community linkages with the WV WORKS program to implement the program. The secretary shall require coordination between the WV WORKS program and the child support enforcement division for the purpose of establishing paternity, promoting cooperation in the pursuit of child support, encouraging noncustodial parents to get job search assistance, and determining eligibility for cash assistance and support services.
§9-9-14. Required linkages.
The commissioner of the bureau of employment programs and the superintendent of the department of education shall assist the secretary in the establishment of the WV WORKS program, shall address in their respective agencies' plans the ways in which their respective agencies' resources will be devoted to serving the at-risk families identified by the division and shall coordinate with the division their respective agencies' programs in the provision of services to such families. Each county board of education shall designate a person to coordinate with the division the board's services to at-risk families as identified by the division, and such person shall work to achieve such coordination at the local level.
§9-9-15. Relationship with other law.
If any provision of this article conflicts with any other provision of this code or rules, the provisions of this article shall supersede such provisions: Provided, That the provisions of this article shall not supersede any provisions which are required or mandated by federal law.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to establish a WV WORKS program for the welfare assistance of at-risk families through a work-oriented, performance-based, time-limited system that emphasizes employment and personal responsibility.

This article is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.