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A Status Report On Welfare Reform in Baltimore City At the Three Year Mark, As Experienced By Those It Was Intended to Help and Their Legal Advocates
December 8, 1999 Prepared for The Welfare Reform Legislative Committee by the FAMILY INVESTMENT PROGRAM (FIP) LEGAL CLINIC An Initiative of the Homeless Persons Representation Project Inc. 300 Cathedral Street, Suite 204 Baltimore, Maryland 21201 (410) 685-6589 ext. 116 (800) 773-4340 ext. 116
Table of Contents
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Maryland's Version of Welfare Reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 The FIP Legal Clinic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Unrealized Promise to Assist In Overcoming Personal Barriers . . . . . . . . Needless Bureaucratic Barriers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Structural Barriers Unique to Baltimore City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Holding Customers Harmless For BCDSS Failings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Addressing Structural Barriers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Changing the FIP Program to Ensure Families Get Needed Help . . . . 4 4 5 6 6 7 7 7
Personal Barriers: Unrealized Promises . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Medical Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Skill Levels: Customer Assessments & Independence Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Independence Plans Executed Prior to Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Independence Plans Executed Prior to Work Activity Selection . . . . . 10 Literacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Family Violence Option . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Substance Abuse Screening and Treatment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Distrust Of the Caseworker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 MCO & DSS Finger-Pointing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Who's Doing Case Management? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 The Unique Position of the Work Activity Vendor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Enter BSAS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 The Lack of Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Child Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Transportation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Getting to Work Activities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Getting to Employment: The Missed Opportunity of Welfare Avoidance Grants (WAGs) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 The Emergencies and Exigencies of Poverty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Evictions & EAFC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Utilities & BGE's “Get Tough” Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Expedited Food Stamps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Criminal Records . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Non-Convictions & Expungements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Convictions & Employment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Needless Bureaucratic Barriers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Frequent Re-determinations of Eligibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Process of Re-Determinations of Eligibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Redets: The Exit Door of TCA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Baltimore City’s 4 Month Redet Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Applicant Diversion: Child Support First . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Other Child Support Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 26 27 28 29 30 ii
Long Waits in Waiting Rooms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Child Specific Benefits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Two Parent Eligibility & Male Caretakers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Fair Hearing Sham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Requesting An Appeal: Forms, Conferences and Other Barriers . . . . The BCDSS Appeals Unit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Administrative Law Judges(ALJs) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Structural Barriers Unique to Baltimore City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Job Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Geographic Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Wage or Earnings Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
30 30 31 31 31 32 32 34 34 35 36
Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 I. Holding the Customers Harmless. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 II. Addressing Structural Barriers to Employment in Baltimore City . . . . . . . 38 III. Changing the Welfare Program to Ensure that Families Get the Help They Need . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
This report was written by J. Peter Sabonis, Executive Director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project; Professor Karen Czapanskiy of the University of Maryland School of Law; and Carolyn Johnson, of the Homeless Persons Representation Project. All are participants in the FIP Legal Clinic, an initiative of the Homeless Persons Representation Project.
In October, 1996, President Clinton made good on his promise to “End Welfare As We Know It” by signing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Act (PRWOA), thereby heralding the latest and most radical version of Welfare Reform. The gist of the legislation is well known: a five year lifetime limit on assistance, strict work requirements, and a preference for assistance governed by state law, rather than federal. Thus, the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, whereby states such as Maryland were entitled to federal reimbursement for one-half of all program expenses per welfare beneficiary, was replaced by the Temporary Aid to Families with Needy Children (TANF) program, a block-grant scheme that eliminated the state's entitlement to reimbursement per case. This elimination of the state entitlement to federal funding on a case by case basis has been erroneously interpreted as the elimination of the “right to welfare.” The PRWOA, however, eliminated only the state entitlement to federal reimbursement per case. States were left to determine by state law, whether they would maintain a state entitlement to aid, now reimbursed in part through a federal block grant. monthly basis (a typical family of three receives $417); Assessments that consider their educational level, job skills, readiness and interests to determinate appropriate work activities; Supportive services from the DSS, which include job services, social services, child care, transportation and referral to other services; Service Agreements that set forth the responsibilities of both the customer AND the State; No sanction for missing work activities when good cause exists, such as illness, domestic violence, breakdown in transportation, participation in substance abuse treatment, and lack of supportive services that DSS agreed to provide via the Service Agreement; Transitional Medical Assistance for up to 12 months after beginning work and leaving welfare, up to four months after leaving welfare due to increased child support collections, and a re-evaluation of Medical Assistance eligibility whenever they leave the welfare rolls for any reason; Substance abuse treatment that is appropriate and available; No sanction for not cooperating with child support when good cause exists, such as a family crisis or critical illness, and when cooperation is against the best interest of the children at issue. In short, the system is now one of a general entitlement to services and financial aid to achieve self-sufficiency-- that is realized through the interaction, negotiation, and relationship between customer and DSS worker. DSS workers must operate as "case managers," familiar with an array of public and private resources that can be utilized to provide support services, and cognizant of the aptitudes and skills necessary for employment, so as to effectively assess customers and refer them to
Maryland's Version of Welfare Reform
Maryland chose to retain the individual entitlement. Thus, everyone who applies and is qualified for Maryland's TANF financed aid, Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) within the Family Investment Program (FIP), receives assistance regardless of funding. The aid, however, is conditioned upon customers participating in work activities, applying for child support enforcement services, forgoing additional cash assistance if they give birth, and being screened for substance abuse problems. In return, customers in Maryland are entitled to: Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) on a
appropriate work activities.
The FIP Legal Clinic
In April, 1998, with the help of a private foundation, the Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP) created a Legal Services “outreach” program to those affected by Welfare Reform: The Family Investment Program (FIP) Legal Clinic . With University of Maryland School of Law students from Professor Karen Czapanskiy's Legal Theory and Practice Course, Czapanskiy, Professor Marla Hollandsworth, and HPRP staff attorneys began stationing themselves at the entrances of selected local Department of Social Services (DSS) offices in Baltimore City on a weekly basis and distributed easy-to-read brochures about FIP-TCA benefits and rights. Recognizing that the supportive services promised by FIP would be realized only through the interaction between caseworker and customer, the Clinic took advantage of the right that customers have to legal representation at any stage of the welfare process. Thus, Clinic staff have accompanied customers through the FIP-TCA application and periodic recertification process. The Clinic also has negotiated on behalf of customers who disagree with DSS actions, and have represented customers in formal administrative “Fair Hearings” whereby disputes are arbitrated by state Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). In addition, the Clinic has used this direct experience to seek systemic change where necessary, through advocacy with DSS, the state Department of Human Resources (DHR), and the General Assembly, and through the threat of class action litigation. To date, the Clinic has opened 232 cases (and finished work in 164 of them). Half of the cases closed to date have involved the provision of legal advice and counseling or simple accompaniment through the eligibility determination process. The remaining cases (86) have required either negotiations with or Fair Hearing requests to the Department. In 88% of these cases involving either negotiations or Fair Hearings, the customer prevailed.
This threat of class-based litigation been used three times by the Clinic — to address statewide the unlawful “linking” of Medical Assistance with TCA, the illegal city practice of requiring customers to submit to eligibility redeterminations every four months (rather than every 12), and an illicit practice of requiring all applicants to meet with child support workers as a pre-condition to making an application for benefits. In each case, DHR and/or BCDSS responded in regard to future decisions. In no case, however, did people already harmed by the illegal practice get full relief. The information contained in this report has been garnered not only from outreach at DSS offices and representation of individuals through the clinic, but also through “FIP Exchanges”-customer gatherings where Clinic staff share information about legal rights in exchange for customer accounts of their personal experiences under Welfare Reform. To date, the Clinic has distributed over 28,000 brochures to roughly 3,500 persons through outreach, and has conducted over 30 FIP exchanges.
At the inception of Welfare Reform in 1996, Baltimore City was home to roughly 45% of all Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) recipients in the state. While caseloads have declined dramatically throughout Maryland, Baltimore's caseload declines have lagged behind other jurisdictions to the extent that the City is now home to 66% of all state TCA adult recipients. Roughly 14,000 adult TCA beneficiaries (with an average of two children per adult) are the responsibility of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS). The numbers in Baltimore dwarf other jurisdictions— Prince Georges County has 2,479 adults on TCA, Baltimore County has 1,909, while all other jurisdictions have less than 1,000. While Baltimore City is home to a disproportionate number of substance abusers, and persons with low-skills, criminal records, and frayed economic and social supports, the state guaranteed a panoply of supportive services to facilitate their transition to selfsufficiency. Yet, for the last 19 months, the FIP Legal Clinic has found these guarantees to be thwarted by caseworker ignorance and bureaucratic bungling. While BCDSS (and DHR) have moved (with varying speeds) to correct these flaws, precious time already has been run off the 60- month lifetime “clocks” of thousands of welfare customers in the City. Bureaucratic barriers, however, are not the only obstacles on the road from welfare to selfsufficiency for city residents. Baltimore's economy continues to lag behind the rest of the state, producing approximately one low-skill job for every three low-skill persons who need one. While the conventional wisdom is that the families currently remaining on the welfare rolls are those “hard to place” in jobs, the Legal Clinic's experience suggests that customers in Baltimore City are in a “place that's hard.” The State must recognize this, and adopt policies that will hold City customers harmless for that which is not their responsibility.
This report documents the pitfalls of the welfareto-work experience in the City, but it should be noted that most customers the Clinic has spoken with have positive things to say about program's new structure— particularly with respect to the Work Activity vendors they deal with daily. These agencies for the most part, have been able to establish mutually respectful and trusting relationships with customers. The goals of employment and self-sufficiency may be difficult to attain, but customers come to find in their work activity vendor a case manager, an advocate, a motivator, and, at times, a friend. They rarely find any of these at BCDSS.
The Unrealized Promise to Assist in In Overcoming Personal Barriers
The radical changes of Welfare reform, and Maryland's desire to implement them as quickly as possible pushed the Bureaucracy to focus on the new job search, work, and child support enforcement responsibilities placed upon the customer. While these were implemented and enforced quickly, BCDSS was slow to recognize its own legal responsibilities in assisting to overcome the following personal barriers that customers face in moving to self-sufficiency:
— Medical Care— instead of receiving continued medical coverage for an additional 12 months after leaving Welfare for employment, or for an additional four months if the exit was due to increased child support, or being considered for the new Children's Health Program (MCHPs), at least 60,000 exiting TCA cases statewide (approximately 30,000 city cases) had their Medical Assistance coverage closed automatically, in violation of federal law, while another 65,000 cases (approximately 32,000 in the city) who were denied TCA at application were automatically denied MA, also in violation in federal law. — Low-Skills— individualized assessments to
determine customers' educational levels, job skills, and interests to evaluate appropriate work activities have been limited primarily to form questions about educational level attained and past work experience, with little attention paid to occupational skills or interests. Also, individualized Independence Plans— specifying the work activities in which the customer is to participate and the supportive services DSS is to provide — did not materialize in DSS offices until July, 1998, 21 months after Welfare reform began, after 5,871 adults already had exited the rolls.
cling to the outdated presumption that the MTA is sufficient for all customer transportation needs.
— The Emergencies and Exigencies of Poverty— While help with utility cut-offs, evictions, social functioning, and other problems is to be obtained from “service” workers in BCDSS Adult and Family Support Services unit, most case managers appear unaware of the unit, its function, or the opportunities for assistance within it. — Criminal Records— the State and City provide little assistance to customers who face this employment impediment, nor to work activity vendors who assist them. Customers must seek their own resources to obtain copies of records, investigate the possibilities of expungement, and develop strategies to overcome employer bias against them.
— Family Violence — screening to determine
whether customers should be exempted from work and/or child support enforcement requirements because of family violence did not begin on a regular basis until April, 1998, a full 19 months after Welfare reform began in Maryland, after 12,963 cases already had left the rolls in Baltimore City. The screening now done is perfunctory, and case workers have little Needless Bureaucratic Barriers knowledge about how to serve the needs of those Additionally, the successful transition from found to have suffered family violence. welfare to self-sufficiency in Baltimore City has been blocked by needless bureaucratic obstacles, — Substance Abuse— screening has been such as: conducted in a cursory manner by BCDSS caseworkers and is further complicated by the — Frequent (every four month) relack of trust between customer and BCDSS determinations of eligibility, where BCDSS caseworker. Success in identifying afflicted erases all institutional memory of recipients and customers has been higher among Work Activity requires them to prove their existence and vendors, but a complex set of administrative eligibility for benefits despite the fact that much practices and policies (including those of of this information already exists in DSS case Managed Care Organizations) have operated to files. The practice is illegal under State law, limit treatment for those who need it. which provides for re-determinations every 12 months for most customers. State exit studies — Child Care— BCDSS frequently sends have shown that problems relating to eligibility customers to work activities without having re-determinations are the primary reason for taken or processed applications for child care. TCA exit, and that Baltimore has the greatest The ensuing child care problems cause needless share of redetermination related exits. interruptions in work activities, place customers at risk of sanction, and cause disruptions for — A “Child Support First” policy that requires children. applicants to see a Child Support worker and gain verification from the worker of — Transportation— assistance for getting to “cooperation” prior to making an application and from work activities is provided only after for TCA, Food Stamps or Medical Assistance the customer gets to the activity first. Further, benefits, despite the fact that state law does not opportunities under the Welfare Avoidance require such “cooperation” as a pre-requisite to Grant (WAG) program to assist individuals who TCA, Food Stamps, or Medical Assistance have the opportunity to repair or purchase cars eligibility. have been squandered. BCDSS continues to
— Long waits in DSS waiting rooms interspersed with contacts with a series of different workers performing single, discreet tasks. — An unworkable Child Specific Benefits component. This“in-kind” benefit, paid to a third-party for additional children born to a TCA family, is frequently not paid because of its administrative demands. — Confusion about two-parent families (now eligible for assistance) and male headed households. Two-parent applicants still are asked to cooperate with child support enforcement, and male applicants are often asked to provide legal evidence of child custody and possession, something not required by law nor asked of female applicants. — A sham of a Fair Hearing Process. While a
workers will make less than $8.50 per hour. These economic problems were known to state policy makers at Welfare Reform's inception. A Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) report in 1995 projecting job growth by region, placed Baltimore City at the bottom of all jurisdictions, with a projected annual growth rate of 2%. The projections have held. While the City's unemployment rate has dipped below 7%, it remains almost twice the state rate and also is misleading. The prevalence of involuntary part-time work, and the limits of the unemployment rate measurement itself make it a suspect tool for assessing the City's economic condition relative to low-skill workers. The Job Gap study is a more effective and accurate assessment.
customer is allowed by law to “appeal” any Recommendations BCDSS action or inaction, they are discouraged by local offices from doing so and their appeals, Hundreds of TCA customers have accepted once filed, are not given proper legal treatment their responsibility to search for work, attend by Administrative Law Judges or by the work activities, and abide by the myriad rules Administrative Appeals Unit of BCDSS, which governing their behavior as a condition of has difficulty obtaining case records, preparing benefit receipt. They cannot take personal timely summaries, and obtaining prompt responsibility for a bureaucracy that has been corrective actions from case workers and slow to tackle its own responsibilities to provide District Managers. supportive services, nor for a local economy that simply cannot produce enough jobs. Of these three actors— the economy, the Structural Barriers Unique to bureaucracy, and the welfare customer— only Baltimore City the customer has been placed under a time-limit to perform or face stark consequences. According to Baltimore Area Jobs and Low-Skill Job Seekers: Assessing the Gaps, a March, 1999 The State and the City share responsibility for report of the Job Opportunities Task Force, there the success and failures of FIP in Baltimore are three “gaps” that confront city residents City. Changes are needed at both levels. In moving from welfare to work: recognition of this, the State and City should act now to hold customers harmless for BCDSS — A Job Numbers Gap— the number of lowfailings, address the structural barriers to skilled persons seeking employment in the employment in the City, and change the FIP Baltimore region exceeds the number of lowprogram to ensure that families get the help they skilled jobs by 3 to 1; need. — A Geographic Gap — two out of every three Holding Customers Harmless For job openings in the Baltimore region in the next five years will occur in the counties; BCDSS Failings — Stop the welfare “clock” for one year for all — A Wage Gap— one out of every two of these Baltimore City customers who have been on
TCA for 36 months or more, by moving these customers to a “Segregated” State program. Such a program, according to federal guidelines, will keep such persons under a “work activity” requirement, but will exempt them from the 60 month time lifetime limit while enlisted in the program.
Community Work Experience, create an Unemployment Insurance program targeted to persons approaching the end of their lifetime TCA limit who are able, available, and actively seeking work, but who are unemployed through no fault of their own.
— Stop or “slow” the clock on certain groups
of TCA customers in the city, whose personal barriers to employment have gone unaddressed because of bureaucratic bungling (i.e. persons with substance abuse, very low-skills, problems with family violence, and criminal records). As indicted above, Segregated funds will keep such persons under a “work activity” requirement, but will exempt them from the 60 month time limit during “segregated” program participation.
— Enact state or local laws that require employers to treat persons with criminal histories fairly, by considering efforts at rehabilitation, time served, and the relationship of the conviction to the employment sought.
Changing the FIP Program to Ensure Families Get Needed Help — Make the provision of Child Care Vouchers a
pre-requisite for any program activity required by BCDSS— from up front job search to work activity participation— by making vouchers available from the date of application. Additionally, extend vouchers until 30 days after TCA eligibility ends.
Addressing Structural Barriers — Stop or slow the clock, through the use of a
Segregated or “Separate” State program for those persons who are qualified for employment, but who are unable to find work because of Baltimore City's economic condition.
— Re-institute a Child Support “pass through” to families.
— Create Individualized Development Accounts for customers, and actively involve customers in “shopping” for and selecting work activity programs that are tailored to their needs.
— Stop the clock for any person currently
employed through the use of wage subsidies under the Grant Diversion program. Such persons are private employees in every sense, and should not have any time counted toward their lifetime clock when they are employed fulltime
— Eliminate the 14 day delay in the effective date for the payment of benefits during the “initial” month of application. — Eliminate the $60 reduction in assistance that applies only to those in subsidized housing, and extend the “rent freeze” now applicable only to residents of public housing who leave welfare for work to those in Section 8 or Voucher assisted rental units. — Increase the amount of child care expenses that can be disregarded when a family applies for cash assistance. The disregards should reflect current market rates. — Require the presence of an Adult and Family Support Service worker at every application and re-determination of eligibility, to screen for utility, housing, social functioning, and other
— Amend the Baltimore City Welfare Avoidance Grant (WAG) plan to allow the purchase of cars to gain or keep employment, and require all caseworkers to screen for WAGs at every contact with customers. — Engage in job creation efforts in Baltimore City, advocate for state and local economic development strategies that benefit City customers, and require DSS, in conjunction with other City and State agencies, to ensure that work activities are coordinated with economic development strategies and existing market conditions. — Through the use of Grant Diversion and
— Amend the Baltimore City Emergency
Assistance to Families With Children (EAFC) to provide assistance to families in subsidized housing.
— Pay for customers to obtain criminal records and for legal services to assist customers to correct and/or expunge records. — Offer professional employment assessment services to any customer who wants them. — Train all caseworkers in identifying Family
Violence and in offering appropriate services
— Require DHR to review DSS Standard Operating Procedures and other directives to line workers and supervisors to ensure compliance with law and with State policy. — Cross-check new hire registry, food stamps, day care and other state records against TCA case closing records to identify families eligible for Transitional Medical Assistance because of employment. — Eliminate the full-family sanction for failure to comply with work requirements and failure to cooperate with child support.
Personal Barriers: Unrealized Promises
A key element of federal welfare reform in 1996 was the separation of eligibility for Medicaid from eligibility for cash assistance. Since January 1, 1997, low income families and children should be found eligible for Medical Assistance (MA) based solely on MA criteria and according to procedures applicable solely to MA. Welfare reform also guaranteed that people who left cash assistance and became employed were eligible for Transitional Medical Assistance for 12 months. Those who left cash assistance because child support was collected in an amount greater than their cash assistance were entitled to Transitional Medical Assistance for 4 months. After encountering numerous customers who had exited TCA but were without MA, it became clear that the two programs remained unlawfully linked in CARES, the statewide computer program developed and maintained by the Department of Human Resources (DHR). When workers at local offices throughout the state made MA eligibility decisions relying solely on CARES, a TCA case closing triggered an automatic MA closing as well. This fact was well known to BCDSS, at least as early as the spring of 1998, when the FIP Legal Clinic first raised the issue. According to BCDSS, only the State could fix the problem. It has since become known, however, that the computer routine in CARES is not the only way a local office can determine MA eligibility, as it is possible to override the routine. BCDSS never instructed its workers to override the computer routine. Statewide, the illegal application of pre-1996
MA eligibility rules resulted in thousands of families being terminated from Medical Assistance when their cash assistance was terminated. More than 70,000 people may have suffered a premature termination of Medical Assistance between January of 1996 and May of 1999. Most of those were in Baltimore City. It is well known that the need for Medical Assistance causes many families to return to welfare, either because a working adult gets ill and cannot get treated or because a child needs routine medical care. The City and the State’s illegal MA terminations, therefore, probably caused thousands of families to make less progress toward independence than they could have during the last three years. The FIP Legal Clinic raised the Medical Assistance issue with the State DHR and DHMH in December 1998. After a number of meetings and communications, the State began in May 1999 to take steps to correct the problem. A
Task Force established to review Medicaid denials recommended by local DSS offices found that more than 15,000 denials recommended between May and September of 1999 were wrong and had to be reversed.
The State has implemented a corrective action to provide some relief to people who were harmed by the illegal Medicaid terminations and denials. The State is providing 60-day fee-for-service cards to 60,000 people and offering them and many others an opportunity to use an abbreviated form to apply for Medicaid based on their present circumstances. The State is also offering to pay medical providers for services provided during the interim period. The corrective plan falls far short of making people whole. A major shortfall is transitional benefits. None of the people who went to work and none of the families whose child support collections increased will be given their full transitional benefits. In short, the people who did everything the state has asked them to do to become independent have been deprived of a significant supportive benefit that they were promised. They were told that work and child support would lead to independence. They followed the rules and were promised that their families would not be left without medical care. The state was not prepared to come through, and it is not prepared to provide a full remedy to those harmed by the state’s lack of preparation.
Independence Plans Executed Prior to Assessment
Since that time, BCDSS has issued additional guidance to caseworkers about Independence Plans. It is still the case, however, that customers are required to sign the Independence Plan before the assessment process has been completed. Even the most recent version of the guidance, SOP 99-12, requires the customer to sign the Independence Plan as part of the application process. This means that the Independence Plan agreement precedes the full assessment of the customer’s needs, interests, abilities and barriers, rather than following it as the statute contemplates. While not quite as bad as signing the Independence Plan in blank, the process still does not provide for a full assessment of the customer’s needs, background and barriers before the Plan is signed.
Independence Plans Executed Prior to Work Activity Selection
One of the most significant problems that arises from this timetable is the customer’s relationship with a vendor. BCDSS relies on vendors to provide customers with a variety of assessment and employment-related services as well as training programs. Each vendor has a different schedule and requirements and provides different services. Customers do not get an indepth consideration of the different vendors until they have a planning meeting with an ongoing case manager after the application for benefits is approved. During the planning meeting, it may become clear that the customer and the ongoing case manager disagree about the appropriateness of a particular vendor. One Clinic client wanted to complete her GED in association with a particular vendor’s program. The ongoing case manager agreed with her goal but wanted her to move to a different location, much farther from the client’s home and daycare provider. With Clinic intervention, the manager changed her mind. Since the client had already signed the Independence Plan, however, her ability to insist on a vendor appropriate to her needs was quite restricted.
Skill Levels: Customer Assessments & Independence Plans
State law requires that each applicant for FIP benefits should be assessed to determine what he or she requires to achieve independence. An Independence Plan should be formulated based on what is learned in the course of the assessment. Both the state and the customer undertake responsibilities under the plan. If the customer fails to perform her responsibilities, she can be sanctioned and her entire family may lose cash benefits. Early in 1998, the Clinic complained to BCDSS that there was no identifiable moment when the Independence Plan was signed and became a contract binding on the customer and the Department. Clinic-accompanied customers during the application interview were told to sign blank Independence Plans, with nothing filled in and no explanation about the purpose of
The planning meeting may also reveal problems with the daycare arrangement the customer thought desirable. One vendor, for example, required participants to do homework in the evenings and on weekends. If a participant failed to present the completed homework the next day, the participant was marked as absent and was reported to the local office as not fulfilling the work requirement. Sanctions were undertaken on that basis against a Clinic client who could not complete homework when two of her children, one of them chronically ill, needed her attention. So far as the record showed, the client had never been given the opportunity to amend the Independence Plan to provide for daycare for her young children during times when she was to do homework. In addition, the planning meeting might reveal transportation problems or even family violence issues that were not evident at the time of the application. The results of any literacy assessment (see below) do not become available before the planning meeting, and they may demonstrate the need for a remedial program. Although it is clear that there are many ways in which the Independence Plan signed during the application process may not fit the needs of the customer by the time the planning meeting is over, there is nothing in the instructions to the ongoing case managers that requires them to revise the Independence Plan if one has already been completed at the time of application. The only item that the ongoing case manager is instructed to add is the choice of vendor. The next opportunity to revise the Independence Plan occurs only at the redetermination interview, which should occur a year later. The failure of BCDSS to ensure that the Independence Plan reflect a thorough consideration of the customer’s needs must be corrected. Planning meetings should be the earliest occasion when the Independence Plan is fully considered and completed. It would be better still if the Independence Plan were not completed until the customer had met with the vendor and completed any assessments that the vendor offers. Further, caseworkers need to be told that the Independence Plan should be
revised when the customer, caseworker, or vendor identifies new problems or appropriate services. Further, it is imperative that customers not suffer any harms from Independence Plans that were signed prematurely. At a minimum, customers who were required to sign an Independence Plan before meeting with an ongoing case manager and vendor should be guaranteed that they will not be sanctioned for failing to fulfill responsibilities laid out in the Plan.
The goal of FIP is family independence through work. Few jobs are available to people who cannot read and write, at least at a minimal level. Further, Welfare-to-Work assistance is available to a limited group of people, including those with low reading skills. Information about a customer’s literacy level, therefore, is essential to the preparation of an Independence Plan. The efforts undertaken by BCDSS to help customers achieve literacy have been exceptionally limited and exceptionally late. BCDSS assessment procedures included nothing about literacy until August 1999, when local offices began to test some applicants for literacy. Applicants are tested if they have no high school diploma or GED. Under the procedure adopted by BCDSS, the results of the test are reviewed by an ongoing caseworker after the TCA application is approved or when a recipient has never been referred to a vendor. This review takes place after the recipient has met with the applications case manager and signed an Independence Plan. A customer’s need for literacy training, therefore, is addressed only in limited situations and only after the customer has attempted to find a job or begin a work activity. Although BCDSS has now taken some limited steps to identify and assist illiterate customers, it has taken no steps to identify customers whose efforts to get a job, satisfy work requirements or meet administrative requirements of the program were impeded because of their illiteracy. At a minimum, BCDSS should call people who left TCA since January 1997 to determine if their
ability to read affected their ability to meet program requirements. Further, BCDSS continues to assess for literacy only applicants who have no high school diploma or GED. Many people with these credentials are functionally illiterate. BCDSS should, at a minimum, contact everyone currently on TCA who has not been tested to determine if they want to be assessed for literacy and offered literacy services.
It is difficult to identify people who are experiencing family violence. As was noted in DHR Action Transmittal 98-30, “family violence victims generally hide the fact that the situation is occurring. Consequently, the screening and identification of customers with a history of family violence requires the local department to include several appropriate screening questions as a part of their job readiness assessment and redetermination process.” The initial assessment instrument adopted by BCDSS in late 1996 makes no mention of family violence at all. The accompanying assessment policy document also makes no mention of family violence. The initial instrument was replaced when BCDSS issued a SOP 97-02 on April 1, 1997 concerning assessment for work activities. Family violence is not mentioned in SOP 97-02 as originally issued. The first Standard Operating Procedure to identify family violence as an assessment issue was SOP 97-02 as revised, issued July 14, 1998, concerning customer assessment for work activities. The Customer Assessment Profile portion of SOP 97-02 as revised contains 4 questions concerning family violence. The narrative portion of SOP 97-02, as revised, mentions that family violence exemptions may extend the 24 and 60 month time limit, but it
Family Violence Option
Maryland adopted the Family Violence Option as part of its welfare reform package. Studies of women who receive welfare have indicated that more than half have experienced family violence. For many, family violence is what led to the welfare application. Under the Family Violence Option, the State committed itself to providing special attention to survivors of family violence who may need unusual services, such as counseling, work activities in a protective setting, protection from the batterer in child support proceedings, etc. Program requirements, including the work requirement and the child support cooperation requirement, may be waived. Further, family violence constitutes good cause for not complying with certain program requirements. The history of BCDSS’s attention to the Family Violence Option is one of ignoring the problem for a long period of time and then giving it inadequate and incomplete attention. A large portion of the history is told by the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued by the BCDSS to let case workers and supervisors know what FIP program requirements are and how to meet them. No SOP focuses exclusively on the family violence option. To the extent that family violence is discussed as affecting FIP, it is only in the context of SOP’s on other subjects. The discussion in those SOP’s is divided into two issues: identifying whether a customer or a customer’s child is experiencing family violence, and formulating appropriate responses to the family violence once it is identified.
does not explain how family violence may affect other aspects of FIP. Family violence is not listed as a reason to exempt a customer from work requirements.
Family Violence questions in initial assessment form: ºSince we are concerned with helping people, and violence is so much a part of society today, I need to ask if you have ever been threatened or afraid of a boyfriend/ partner/ spouse? ºHave you been or are you currently in a relationship in which your partner has hurt you or your children physically, mentally or sexually? ºDo you believe that seeking child support or working would put you or your child(ren) in danger? ºDo you receive counseling or other services to help you with this situation? Family Violence questions in customer reassessment form ºHave you ever been threatened or afraid of a friend, partner, or spouse? ºDo you have any problems in your home that threatens the health or safety of you or your children? ºDo you want information or telephone numbers for places that can help you and your children if you are afraid for your safety? ºIf seeking child support or working would put you or your child(ren) in danger, did you know that you not have to pursue child support or work while you receive help with this situation? ºDo you want to receive counseling or other services to help you with this situation? ºDo you want to receive counseling or other services to help you with this situation?
affected by violence. Three new questions address what should be done if family violence is identified, including safety planning, exemptions from child support and work requirements, and counseling. Family violence is now listed among the exemptions from work requirements but only so long as the victim is receiving counseling. The second issue is what should be done when a customer identifies family violence as an issue for herself or a child in the family. Under the State’s Family Violence Option, a number of accommodations and exemptions are possible. BCDSS caseworkers have received almost no guidance about them. The first mention of family violence as good cause for noncompliance with work requirements appears as an attachment to SOP 97-05, Part A, issued in June of 1997. SOP 9902, issued November 1, 1998, identifies adults receiving family violence services as exempt from work activities at the 24-month period. Finally, in August 1999, BCDSS issued SOP 9912, which contains a narrative about what caseworkers can do if a customer is found to have experienced family violence: “If you believe that compliance with time limits, residency requirements, child support or work activities would make it more difficult for the customer to escape domestic violence, any or all of these requirements can be waived if the customer is participating in counseling. If you suspect or the customer states that family violence is occurring, refer the customer to the service unit.” The story of BCDSS and family violence can also be gleaned from the ways in which caseworkers are trained and supervised. To date, so far as we are aware, BCDSS has not provided case workers with training on family violence, although DHR made training available to all of the local departments. BCDSS casework supervisors are required to review case files to see whether caseworkers are complying with certain FIP policies. Standards for review are contained in the BCDSS “Edit Manual.”
SOP 97-02 was replaced by SOP 99-12, issued August 1, 1999. The customer Assessment Profile portion of SOP 99-12 contains the same 4 questions concerning family violence. BCDSS added a second assessment form to be used when a customer is being reassessed for continuing benefits. The form reduces to 2 the number of questions used to identify families
Nothing in the Manual requires supervisors to determine whether the caseworker adequately investigated whether a customer or her child might have experienced family violence or whether any of the Family Violence Options in FIP might apply to the case. As the State has recognized, many families victimized by family violence need unusual assistance before they can achieve independence. Outside of Baltimore City, customers may be receiving the assistance they are promised in the State plan. Inside of Baltimore City, it would be remarkable indeed for families to be receiving the assistance they are promised, because for more than two years caseworkers had no training, no regular supervision and no adequate directives about family violence and FIP. Although SOP 99-12 cures some of the problems about getting information to caseworkers, BCDSS has not undertaken any review of cases handled before August 1999 to identify people who should have been afforded counseling or offered exemption from time limits, work requirements and child support cooperation.
large number of TCA customers in the City engaged in the use of illegal substances and thus risked sanction for non-compliance with treatment, the law's provision also established a “de-facto” right to “appropriate and available” treatment during a customer's welfare stint.
Distrust Of the Caseworker
The Clinic has accompanied several customers through application or re-application interviews who have substance abuse issues. The four The Four Screening Questions: 1. Do you feel or has anyone told you that you should cut down on your drinking or drug use? Yes No 2. Have you ever tried to cut down or quit drinking or using other drugs? Yes No 3. Has the use of alcohol or drugs caused problems in your life such as getting or keeping a job? Yes No 4. Do you sometimes need a drink or drug first thing in the morning (an eye opener) to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover? Yes No questions designed by DHR to illicit information relative to a potential problem were contained on a written “Assessment” form that was frequently given to the customer for her to complete herself. In these situations, and in the cases where customers were asked the questions by the caseworker, customers were given no explanation as to their purpose and, fearing the worst, avoided any revelation of a problem. Customers were not told of the availability of treatment, or that treatment would be considered a work activity. Needless to say, few customers were identified or referred.
Substance Abuse Screening and Treatment
In the second year of “Welfare Reform,” the General Assembly passed a requirement that TCA customers be assessed by local departments [and Managed Care Organizations (MCOs)] for substance abuse treatment. A recipient found in need of treatment is to be referred to a program that is “available” and “appropriate.” A compliant customer continues to receive TCA, and continues to be subject to its Work Activity requirements — though treatment may be considered such an activity. Non-compliant customers risk the reduction of their monthly TCA grant--by the incremental amount for that family member. Medical Assistance and Food Stamps, however, are retained by the individual. For Baltimore City, the Substance Abuse requirements of the Welfare Innovation Act of 1997, evoked a mixture of fear and optimism. While it was assumed by many legislators that a
MCO & DSS Finger-Pointing
It soon became clear that MCOs were not conducting the “health screens” designed to catch those who had evaded DSS detection. The MCOs complained about DSS's failure to forward authorization forms, or up-to-date addresses for customers, while DSS complained about disinterested MCOs, who simply returned
incomplete forms (rather than contacting the Department) or failed to conduct comprehensive assessments or forward the information to DSS if they did. In late December, 1998, DHR attempted to correct the problems by issuing a policy transmittal (Action Transmittal FIA/OPRS #9924), which emphasized the need for accurate forms and communication between players. To facilitate communication, liaisons were created: MCO liaisons to DSS, and DSS liaisons to MCOs. The latter were to forward completed authorization and screening referral forms to the MCO liaisons. The MCO liaison, in turn, would forward these forms to the Primary Care Provider (PCP) and the MCO's Behavioral Health Organization (BHO) or network of substance abuse treatment providers. Reports about the status of treatment were to flow from MCO liaisons to DSS liaisons, who were then to forward the information to FIP case managers. Treatment status reports also could be received by DSS liaisons from the MCOs' network of comprehensive assessment and treatment providers. If nothing else, the transmittal provides a roster of what DHR believed to be key players in linking customers to treatment. The roster, however, lacked all the players.
see the customer daily — are an important source of information that goes untapped because of a general failure to communicate. While each blames the other for the problem, the Vendors complaints about BCDSS are similar to the ones experienced by the Clinic and by customers: FIP case managers are impossible to reach by phone, and while District Office managers are more accessible, their advice usually requires customers to return to the DSS office to meet with the FIP case manager. For customers struggling with addiction issues, a directive to return to the BCDSS local offices — a trip that will consume an average of two to four hours waiting time per visit (not to mention transportation costs) — is simply another step that is easier to avoid than take. Because of this, a number of work activity vendors have attempted on their own to link customers with substance abuse treatment providers without the involvement of BCDSS.
The Unique Position of the Work Activity Vendor
In contrast to BCDSS caseworkers, customers come in contact with Work Activity vendors on a daily basis. The contact makes them acutely aware of the myriad issues that confront the customer, and they frequently act as case managers — linking customers to help for problems ranging from utility cut-offs to child care— simply to keep the customer coming to the program. More importantly, however, the customer comes to believe the work activity vendor is concerned about them, and has their best interests at heart. This trust, for the most part, does not exist between BCDSS and the customer. The relationship with the vendor has encouraged a number of customers to volunteer information about their substance abuse problems to vendors. Until recently, the vendors then embarked upon the difficult task of securing authorization from the MCOs for drug treatment. Such authorization, as the DHR Action Transmittal of 12/28/98 suggests, involves sustained communication, negotiation, and advocacy with a “Behavioral Health” component of the MCO or a PCP or the MCO's network of treatment
Who's Doing Case Management?
According to BCDSS Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 97-05A&B, Department case managers from the Adult and Family Support Services unit are to be involved with every customer who is identified as having a substance abuse issue. The involvement is initiated through a mandatory referral from the customer’s FIP case manager. Such Support Services workers, according to the SOP, are to assess the “customer's job readiness, treatment and other services,” and handle service needs related to substance abuse treatment.” Such referrals are rare because FIP case managers are rarely able to elicit substance abuse revelations from the customer, and because of the lack of MCO feedback. An additional player— Work Activity Vendors who
providers. The link to treatment is never quick or easy.
In April, 1999, BCDSS introduced yet another player into the substance abuse game, contracting with Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, Inc. (BSAS) to facilitate substance abuse assessments and treatment under FIP. Under the arrangement set forth in BCDSS SOP 99-05, BCDSS case managers or Work Activity Vendors are to contact BSAS initially upon finding indications of substance abuse. BSAS is to screen the customers (within one week of contact) and assign them to an appropriate subgrantee Care Coordinator (CC). The CC will, according to the SOP, outreach and obtain the customer's cooperation in obtaining an assessment and developing an individualized care plan. The CCs are to assist customers in navigating the treatment/MCO process, as well as provide “wrap around services,” such as vocational assessment, counseling, job placement assistance, parenting skills training, interpersonal relationship skills training, child care transportation, housing and nutritional assistance. While CC duties appear to overlap with those of the BCDSS Support Services case manager and the Work Activity vendor, the process of linking customers to treatment has begun to improve. Most Work Activity vendors are willing to forgo the headache of negotiating the treatment/MCO process, and have had positive contacts with BSAS and its CCs. Questions remain, however, about the number of linkages required to access treatment, and the treatment that eventually is provided. Residential (in-patient) treatment appears to be extremely difficult to secure. Questions also remain about the efficiency of this system. With BSAS on the scene, a FIP customer with a substance abuse issue can have an BCDSS ongoing case manager, a BCDSS Family Support Services case manager, a BSAS case manager, and an MCO “special needs” case manager. Additionally, the Work Activity Vendor retains the primary responsibility for the
customer, although its direct responsibility is suspended during treatment. While such a system could pass as “case management” under a team approach, the need for a coordinator to convene the team and ensure communications among team members is imperative. The logical focus for coordination is the BCDSS ongoing case manager; yet, it must be remembered that this multi-actor system evolved initially because of the limitations of such case managers. BCDSS has proven incapable of providing case management in this arena. Responsibility and the resources for such should be transferred to a third party already on the scene— perhaps the Work Activity vendor.
The Players In the Substance Abuse Treatment Game: 1. BCDSS FIP Case Manager: responsible for all aspects of customer eligibility, screens customers for substance abuse using “the four questions,” refers for assessment on suspicion or if customer volunteers information. 2. BCDSS FIP Adult Family & Support Services Case Manager: Meets service needs of customers referred by FIP Case Manager— substance abuse problem warrants mandatory referral. 3. Managed Care Organization (MCO): Private insurance companies to which the “risk” of paying for the comprehensive costs of health services for Medicaid participants have been transferred. Goals of care and cost containment are met through the use of gatekeepers, pre-selected provider networks, service preauthorization, case management, utilization review, medical necessity review, credentialing, evaluation, and financial incentives. 4. Primary Care Provider: The provider of basic health care services generally administered in an ambulatory setting (internists, family practitioners, pediatricians, etc.). 5. Behavioral Health Organization (BHO): An entity that provides heath care in the area of mental and emotional well-being and the use of alcohol and other drugs. 6. Substance Abuse Treatment Provider: Provider of direct care for persons afflicted with substance abuse. 7. BCDSS MCO Liaison: Sends MCO authorization and screening referral forms; receives status forms from MCO liaisons & from MCOs' network of Treatment Providers. 8. MCO Liaison: Receives authorization and screening referral forms from DSS, forwards them to PCP, BHO, or network of treatment providers; forwards status forms to DSS; primary contact relative to substance abuse issues. 9. MCO Special Needs Population Case Manager: MCO employee or contractor who is responsible by law to manage the care of those with special needs, including substance abusers. 10. Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems(BSAS): Non-profit that coordinates Substance Abuse treatment and related care in Baltimore City. Screens TCA customers referred by BCDSS or Work Activity Vendors & assigns to Care Coordinator. 11. BSAS Care Coordinator: Sub-grantee of BSAS that performs comprehensive in-person assessment of customer, develops individualized care plan, navigates the treatment/MCO process, and provides “wrap around services.” 12. Work Activity Vendor: entity that contracts with BCDSS to provide a variety of activities aimed at assisting TCA customers to locate employment. 13. “On Site” Substance Abuse Counselor: City Health Department employee who is to assist in conducting screening at a limited number of BCDSS offices.
The Lack of Data
Incredibly, the Clinic found that the improvement in the substance abuse assessment and treatment system under FIP could not be measured empirically because of a lack of data. While DHR Secretary Lynda Fox indicated in The Baltimore Sun (11/28/99) that treatment referrals had increased by 10% statewide since DHR began new protocol, Secretary Fox told the Clinic earlier that month that the Department does not keep data on such activity. As the box below indicates, something is amiss.
We Can't Handle The Truth 12/28/98 — DHR Action Transmittal FIA/OPRS #99-24: “Beginning October 1998, local departments started collecting data for a monthly report on substance abuse treatment activity. The report is due to Family Investment Administration [of DHR] by the fifth working day each month.” 11/4/99— Letter from DHR Secretary Fox to Clinic Attorney, Nikki S. Behre, in response to a formal Clinic request for information under the State Access to Records Act: “Neither the Department of Human Resources nor the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene keeps records on treatment for substance abuse.”
the search. After the policy changed, BCDSS did nothing to identify applications that had been closed previously for failure to return job interview verification forms. Some of these applicants no doubt were unable to seek job interviews in the absence of daycare, and their applications should have been approved retroactively. Second, BCDSS makes the effective date of the daycare voucher the day the customer begins the work activity. Thus, BCDSS does not allow the customer and the daycare provider any time to help a child become acclimated to a new daycare arrangement. Nor can the child remain in a familiar daycare situation if there is the usual gap of 2 weeks or more between the time the customer applies for assistance and the time the work activity begins. Third, BCDSS does not provide the customer with a voucher to present to the daycare provider. Instead, the customer is told to advise the daycare provider that daycare will be payable as of the first day of the work activity. Many providers are not in a position to accept any representation about payment other than a voucher, so the failure of BCDSS to provide vouchers to customers has made their childcare search all the more difficult. Recently, Work Activity vendors have noticed an even more basic problem: customers are showing up to activities without having even filed applications for Child Care assistance. They are then required to return to the local Department to complete a relatively simple form, thereby disrupting the first week of work activity attendance— a critical time for vendors to initially engage customers and establish trusting relationship with them.
Safe and appropriate daycare is a necessity for all parents of young children and older children with disabilities. Despite this fact, BCDSS has not provided customers with help they need to get daycare. First, BCDSS requires an up-front job search as a condition of approval for cash assistance. Obviously, a parent performing an up-front job search has to have daycare for her children. BCDSS does not provide daycare for customers, however, until after the application has been approved and the work activity begun. Not until July 14, 1998, were caseworkers instructed not to deny benefits when an applicant failed to return job interview verification forms. BCDSS did not clarify until August 1, 1999, that customers should be exempted from the up-front job search when they say they need daycare in order to do
Among the supportive services that customers and applicants should receive pursuant to law from local offices is transportation assistance— either to work activities or to employment. In
Baltimore City, however, such assistance is aided, yet also distorted, by this fact: nearly all (98%) of TCA households live within one quarter mile of mass transit. (See CPHA Transportation Committee, Access to Jobs in the Baltimore Region, p.20, Nov. 1999.)
Getting to Work Activities
Regardless of where they live, most applicants for TCA are without funds at the time of application. BCDSS caseworkers were instructed, however, to explain to applicants that they were to use the bus to attend work activities. Not until August of 1999, however, did BCDSS instruct workers that recipients should be given bus tokens so that they could get to the work activity vendor for an initial appointment. In cases that the Clinic observed, caseworkers did not offer bus tokens. If a customer requested tokens, it was the usual practice to tell the customer that vouchers for tokens were available only from the work vendors, not from the case manager. Therefore, the recipient had to find his or her way to the vendor before bus tokens would be available. The Clinic is unaware of any action by BCDSS since August, 1999 to identify people who may have been unable to get to their assigned work activity vendor because they had no bus tokens. People in that situation should be identified and be reinstated.
Given the fact that 66% of the job openings in the Baltimore region will occur in the counties surrounding the city (see section on “Structural Barriers”), CPHA's recommendations relative to expanding the resources of the MTA and developing intra-county linked mass transit systems must be heeded. Yet, the time-limits of Welfare Reform won't wait. Other transportation options— including cars— must be utilized, and Welfare Avoidance Grants (WAGs) can help. Lump sum payments of cash assistance designed to meet an immediate need so that an applicant or recipient of TCA can avoid welfare assistance, WAGs exemplify the flexibility and innovation of Welfare Reform. Under the WAG, applicants or recipients may receive anywhere from three to 12 months worth of TCA benefits in one lump-sum. In return, the WAG recipient may not apply for TCA during the months “covered” by the WAG. For example, a mother of two receiving a WAG today equal to 12 months of TCA ($5,004), cannot receive TCA for the next 12 months. The 12 months included in the WAG, however, ARE NOT counted toward the customers lifetime 60 month TCA limit. Each jurisdiction determines the confines of its WAG. While some jurisdictions (i.e. Somerset County) have allowed WAGs for car purchases, Baltimore City does not. The City does, however, allow WAGs for car repairs or car insurance to help a customer get to a job site, but not if public transportation is available. While the City's WAG program may be more limited than most, its performance relative to WAGs has been abysmal. As the table below indicates, the City provided only 26 WAGs over the course of one year, compared to 1,306 issued by jurisdictions in the rest of the state. For the locus of more than 50% of the state caseload, this is surprising. But it comes as no surprise to Clinic lawyers and law students who distributed WAG brochures to roughly 3,500
Getting to Employment: The Missed Opportunity of Welfare Avoidance Grants (WAGs)
Living near a bus stop and taking public transportation to work are two separate and distinct issues, as noted by Access to Jobs. While 66% of the “new hires” in Metropolitan Baltimore in 1998 were located within onequarter mile of mass transit accessible from Baltimore City, according to Access to Jobs, CPHA noted that many of the transit routes analyzed did not have frequent or off peak service. The report also recognized the need of TCA households to incorporate several trips, such as child care and shopping into their commute, and that other research has found that “the time and cost of the reverse commuting out of urban areas is so great that it limits the gains to be derived from employment.” (Access to Jobs, p. 24).
customers, only to find many of them returning and complaining that their BCDSS caseworker had no knowledge of the WAG program.
WAGs Issued Per Jurisdiction From May, 1998 through April, 1999 (Source: DHR) Jurisdiction Allegany Anne Arundel Baltimore Co. Calvert Caroline Carroll Cecil Charles Dorchester Frederick Garrett Harford Howard Kent Montgomery Prince George's Queen Anne's St. Mary's Somerset Talbot Washington Wicomico Worcester Total Counties Baltimore City TCA Adult Recipients: Monthly Avg (5/98-4/99) 179 896 2,615 155 77 200 187 350 204 221 124 395 186 25 939 4,271 59 185 80 60 299 483 118 12,308 18,340 # WAGs Issued 78 68 41 13 3 21 15 102 36 18 42 131 32 21 171 49 4 136 48 10 109 73 85 1,306 26 # WAGS Issued As % of Monthly Recipients 44% 8% 2% 8% 4% 10% 8% 29% 18% 8% 34% 33% 17% 83% 18% 1% 7% 74% 60% 17% 37% 15% 72% 11% 0.1%
The Emergencies and Exigencies of Poverty
For most people, familial, social and economic support are the most common cushions that break the fall caused by the unforseen
circumstances of life. Yet, these are the very things most poor families lack. In recognition of the catastrophic impact one emergency can have on a poor family (and on their transition to self-sufficiency), Welfare Reform in Maryland attempted to bridge the divide between the income maintenance and social service functions of the DSS. In Baltimore, this was expressed through the colocation of Adult and Family Support Service workers and FIP case managers in neighborhood centers. It also was expressed in policy. BCDSS SOP 97-05A&-05B, issued in June, 1997, required FIP Case Managers to request “service” intervention when customers encountered barriers that prevented compliance with work activities, or were subject to sanction. Problems relative to housing issues, utilities, substance abuse, social functioning, domestic violence, disability, food, transportation, and pharmacy assistance were listed in the SOP as requiring a service referral. FIP Clinic staff, however, have found very few BCDSS FIP case managers who are familiar with SOP 97-05A&B or the assistance the Service unit can provide. This unfamiliarity manifests itself most prominently for customers with housing and utility issues.
Public or Subsidized (i.e. “Section 8") housing. Given the 16,000 Public Housing units in the City, and roughly 9,000 City “Section 8" subsidies, this ban on emergency aid is significant— particularly in a locale where the number of TCA adults averaged 16,216 per month since the change. BCDSS at least made some attempt to recognize this in its EAFC plan, stating that “case management services will be made available” to persons in need but ineligible for emergency aid because of their subsidized housing status. The plan also required FIP case managers in these situations to make a referral to the “service” unit for “flex funds” (a fund of discretionary money that is controlled by the service unit). The Clinic found FIP case workers generally unaware of the service intervention requirements of the EAFC plan. Many customers in subsidized housing facing a housing or utility problem (see below), were simply informed that emergency assistance was no longer available to them. The availability of flex funds for such persons were not explored because referrals to the service unit were never made.
Utilities & BGE's “Get Tough” Policy
A utility arrearage can terminate service and also prevent new service from being initiated. Increasingly in its work, the Clinic has encountered customers with utility issues. This is not surprising. Less than 12 months after Welfare Reform was implemented in Maryland, utility companies— with an eye to industry restructuring— began strict enforcement of their cut-off and service denial rules. Where only a few hundred utility customers had their service terminated in the Winter of 1996, 7,954 turnoffs were recorded in the Winter of 1997— 6,375 of which occurred in the territory covered by the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company (BGE). These actions have occurred during a decline in resources available under the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP). In 1993, MEAP served 80,000 households, but funding constraints allowed it to serve only 68,000
Evictions & EAFC
Until Welfare Reform, the primary means of obtaining quick cash assistance to prevent an eviction was through the state governed Emergency Assistance to Families with Children (EAFC) program. With reform, however, the state turned these programs over to local Departments of Social Services, who were free to define their assistance criteria and amounts. In Baltimore, BCDSS chose to scale back the number of emergencies eligible for aid from nine to only three: Eviction/Foreclosure, Fuel/Utility Emergency, and Disaster. Until the summer of 1998, assistance was in the form of single grant (to be utilized no more than once every 12 months) of up to $250. In August, 1998, BCDSS raised the amount to $400, but also prohibited eviction and utility assistance to those living in
statewide in 1997. TCA households constitute 19% of MEAP beneficiaries in Maryland. The average grant, which is available in the winter
and is paid directly to the utility provider is $246. Another source of assistance— the Fuel Fund— provides a single grant in a 12 month period, but must be matched with other funds obtained by the customer. A key source of those “other funds,” is EAFC and any Flex Funds available through the service unit. For many FIP customers, this option is limited again by the failure of case managers to follow SOP 9705 and to utilize EAFC creatively with the “service” unit's flex funds. Sadly, as the story of Ms. K indicates (see “box” following), the service unit front line staff also may need instruction.
Number of Winter Heating Season Terminations For Customers Not Receiving Maryland Energy Assistance 1995-1996 Baltimore Gas & Electric Other Utilities Statewide Total 33 1,528 1,561 1996-1997 331 1,506 1,837 1997-1998 6,375 1,579 7,954 1998-1999 4,866 3,428 8,294
Source: Public Service Commission, Utility Service Protection Program Annual Reports
The Story of Ms. K Ms. K and her three children, ages 6, 5,and 2, became impoverished after her husband abandoned the family. In May 1998, unable to make any further payments toward a $1,500 BGE bill, her gas and electric service was terminated. For the next four months she and her children lived primitively, but maintained their housing— an unusual situation given that most residential leases allow eviction when utility service is cut-off. Afraid that her children would be placed in Foster Care if she revealed the crisis to her BCDSS TCA case manager, Ms. K came to the Legal Clinic for help in September 1998 shortly before her scheduled TCA re-eligibility determination. The Baltimore Fuel Fund agreed to pay the remainder of the bill if Ms. K could obtain $871 on her own. As she was not a subsidized housing resident, Ms. K was eligible for $400 from the BCDSS's EAFC program, but such aid would be provided only if it would relieve the emergency and there was assurance it would not happen again. Because the $400 would fall short of the $871 needed, EAFC would be denied— unless an alert BCDSS case worker recognized that Ms. K also might be eligible for Flex Fund assistance through the Service unit. If $471 in Flex Funds could be combined with the $400 EAFC grant, Ms. K could get service restored in time for the cold weather. Afraid that the case worker would not make the service connection, the Clinic accompanied Ms. K to the Mt. Clare BCDSS office on October 26, 1999. At the Office, Ms. K revealed the situation to her worker. While sympathetic, the worker noted that the EAFC grant would not cover the $871 needed by Ms. K. When the Clinic attorney produced SOP 97-05, the worker contacted his supervisor. The supervisor, aware of the SOP, instructed the worker on the method for making a “service” referral. The supervisor recognized that the EAFC could be combined with Flex Funds, but couldn't assure that “service” would provide the aid. Within an hour, Ms. K and her attorney sat with a “service” worker who immediately summoned her supervisor when she saw the attorney. The supervisor indicated that Flex Funds were not available, and that a referral to Intensive Family Services— a unit that specializes in short-term help to families to avoid foster care placement— was not possible because the unit “had no openings,” and because the family had no “social issues.” When the supervisor left, the service worker spoke only to the customer— ignoring the attorney (who had to direct questions to the worker through the customer). In attempting to execute a service plan, the worker said to the customer, “You should make arrangements to put your children some place else. You probably shouldn't be burning any candles or anything because it's a fire hazard.” After challenging the service plan— the goal of which was to find a church that might help— Ms. K and the attorney left the office. The attorney then contacted the assistant director of the Adult Family and Support Services unit (the service worker's unit) and explained the situation. In contrast to the response at the local office, the assistant director directed another service worker to make a visit to Ms. K's home and assess the situation. Within days, the assessment was completed, the Flex Funds and EAFC approved (with a small sum of money provided by K herself), and the utilities restored. While Ms. K was able to obtain help via the services of an advocate, this should not have been necessary.
Expedited Food Stamps
Another source of emergency help is expedited
Food Stamps. While available only to “applicants” but not to ongoing recipients of Food Stamps, the high numbers of “churners” — those persons whose cases are closed for reasons that are administrative in nature but who return within 30 days with a new application for aid— makes this a key and frequent source of emergency aid. Under Federal law all applicants for Food Stamps are to be screened for “expedited” eligibility (the household must have less than $100 on hand and less than $150 in gross monthly income), and to receive Food Stamps within seven calendar days of application if eligible. At various times during the last 18 months, the Clinic has encountered situations at local offices where such screening did not occur in time for applicants to receive aid within seven calendar days. In these instances, receptionists at the local office accepted paper “applications” at the front desk, but then scheduled appointments with an applications case worker anywhere from seven to 14 days after the paper application had been submitted. In these instances, FIP Clinic staff were told that expedited Food Stamp screening would occur at the time of the appointment. The Clinic observed this at the Southwest and Northwest service centers, and at 2000 N. Broadway. The Clinic also is aware that the Homeless Environmental Services Unit (HESU) appears to ignore the flexible verification requirements for expedited stamps, thereby denying such emergency aid to homeless persons who frequently do not have traditional sources of identification.
substantial number of Baltimore City job seekers have criminal histories. TCA customers are no different. Early in the Clinic's existence, customers at “FIP Exchanges” asked Clinic lawyers about criminal record expungement and other strategies to overcome criminal histories. The Clinic then began to assist customers in the expungement process, which is limited only to persons who have been arrested but not convicted.
Non-Convictions & Expungements
Though not commonly known, every arrest results in a “criminal” record, regardless of the outcome of the case in court. While court dispositions such as dismissal, “stet,” or “probation before judgement” are noted on the record, many employers shy away from those who have a number of charges, regardless of the lack of conviction. For such customers, the expungement process can be helpful, but costly. Each offense must be expunged by separate petition, warranting a separate court filing fee of $30 per petition. Additionally, a complete record of criminal history from the state archives costs $23. To date, neither BCDSS or Work Activity vendors provide assistance with such costs.
Convictions & Employment
In listening to clients and Work Activity vendors, the Clinic has become aware that a significant number of employers refuse to even consider potential employees with criminal convictions— regardless of the offense. These flat prohibitions, which don't consider the nature of the offense or the relationship to the job, are of questionable legality. In the 1980s, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) called such broad-based hiring prohibitions violative of Civil Rights laws because they disproportionately impacted minority applicants. While the EEOC has not modified its position, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 has raised questions about its applicability today. Some states, such as New York, Pennsylvania, and California have resolved the ambiguity by enacting state laws that require employers to treat those with criminal
The Maryland Department of Public Safety reported that in FY 1998 alone, 5,316 persons were released from the corrections system into Baltimore City either on parole or on mandatory release. Of these, 3,712 were unemployed at the time of their release. This figure for one year of releases alone constitutes 13% of the estimated total number of low-skill job seekers in Baltimore City set forth in The Job Gap report. When other years are totaled, it is clear that a
convictions fairly. Maryland has not. As the excerpt in the next column indicates, discrimination by employers against those with convictions has been incorporated into TCA directives. Work Activities & Criminal Records:
“If customers states that he/she has a felony conviction(s), DO NOT refer to geriatrics, child care, educational, or hotel hospitality program. Employers in these fields will not hire people with felony backgrounds... Morgan State University. Note: Morgan requires a clean criminal background.” -- Excerpts from BCDSS SOP 99-12 (8/1/99)
Frequent Re-determinations of Eligibility
Legal advocates in the Welfare arena quickly learn that the majority of customers seeking legal help have a problem related to the redetermination of eligibility process: forms are lost, appointments missed, and/or verifications difficult to obtain. The state's Welfare Exit studies quantify this, indicating that more customers exit TCA for re-determination related problems than for any other reason. In fact, the most recent Exit Study shows that these exits are increasing. Baltimore City leads the state in re-determination exits, and its use of an illegal 4month eligibility re-determination period in late 1998 and early 1999, is, no doubt, responsible for the statewide increase.
The Process of Re-Determinations of Eligibility
The General Assembly requires periodic recertification of TCA eligibility, but did not specify a specific certification period. DHR, however, specified that persons working on Independence Plans are to be re-certified every 12 months. Prior to Welfare Reform, such certification occurred every six months. Under FIP, this was not necessary. Given the involvement of the customer with a Work Activity vendor, a management information system to verify such involvement, and the threat of full family sanctions for noncompliance, FIP case managers have an easy and effective means to verify and enforce compliance with eligibility requirements. Though BCDSS had no authority to defy DHR’s rule on the 12 month re-determination period, it did nevertheless, continuing the prior practice of 6 month re-determinations, then increasing its frequency to 4 months in July ,1998 (see below). For a customer who should be at a Work Activity site, employed, or seeking employment, the re-determination process and its frequency can be major obstacles on the road to selfsufficiency. A re-determination, or “redet,” of eligibility, is,
legally, a new application for benefits. All institutional memory of the customer is erased. Customers must again proof TCA eligibility through documentation of Social Security numbers, citizenship status, residence, age, living arrangements, suitability of home, children’s school attendance and medical care, income, and assets. All of this is done pursuant to a face-to-face interview with the FIP case manager, which can take as many as four hours (much of it spent in the DSS lobby waiting area). Subsequent to the interview, customers are afforded time to submit verifications that are missing. These submissions are usually made through subsequent direct visits to DSS, where customers again must wait to see a case worker willing to accept the documentation. Many of the documents submitted have been previously submitted to DSS through prior redets, yet customers are asked to provide them again. DSS must make an eligibility decision on the application no later than 30 calendar days from the submission of a signed written application form. While TCA is paid in flat monthly amounts based on family size (a family of three receives $417), the Department treats the month of application differently from other months of eligibility. Once an application is approved, payment calculation is done using an effective date 14 days after the local department receives a signed application. Thus, depending on the timing of application, the level of TCA payment for the application month can be one-half the regular monthly amount or less. TCA recipients subject to redet can avoid this 14 day rule if all goes correctly at redet. Redet customers are to be given an interview time and opportunity to submit verifications prior to the end of the initial period of TCA eligibility. If the re-application process goes smoothly, the customer is certified as TCA eligible for a new certification period just as her old period expires. While TCA payments then appear to be “uninterrupted,” the customer’s legal status has changed from recipient to applicant, then back to recipient in time for the beginning of the new certification period.
This legal status change is of paramount importance when something goes wrong in the redet process. Recipients, simply put, have more rights than applicants. If the redet process breaks down, because of missed appointments or lost forms, and is not completed prior to the end of the then-current eligibility period, the customer becomes an applicant— unable to utilize an emergency appeal process that allows benefit restoration or a conciliation process designed to resolve issues prior to cut-off ( both available to recipients only). Additionally, the applicant must wait 30 days until the new application is completed to get paid less than a full month’s worth of benefits because of the 14 day rule. During this period of waiting and then partial grant payment, customers typically defer rent or utility payments (if possible).1 Upon benefit resumption, only partial payment of these arrearages will be made (because of the reduced grant amount), and by the time the customer again gets her full monthly amount, another month will have passed and the arrearages increased.
Most view these “administrative reasons” as voluntary case closings, effectively initiated by a customer's negligence or inaction. Indeed, the exit codes suggest as much— “customer failed to re-apply or complete eligibility redetermination; customer failed to give eligibility information; customer moved, transferred, unknown residence; local department transfer; customer has no dependent children; customer's certification period expired.” The Clinic’s direct experience suggests just the opposite: many of the exits are involuntary.
Redets: The Exit Door of TCA
The state Welfare Exit (or leaver) studies (Life After Welfare, prepared by the Welfare and Child Support Research and Training Group headed by Dr. Catherine Born of the University of Maryland School of Social Work) provide a valuable statistical insight into the role of redets in causing caseload declines. In the Second Interim Report (issued in March, 1998; four interim reports have been issued), Dr. Born included a complete list of all the TCA case closing reasons statewide. If the list, which includes fifteen different reasons for exit identified through computer entries by caseworkers, is organized by the nature of exit, the majority (52.5%) of welfare case closings in the report are prompted by administrative reasons, rather than employment or penalties relating to the new work rules of welfare reform.
They should be screened for and receive Expedited Food Stamps, but see prior section entitled “The Emergencies and Exigencies of Poverty.”
The Clinic has represented at least 10 TCA customers who had redet materials sent by BCDSS to outdated addresses despite the fact that the customers had provided the Department with updated addresses prior to the redet. The Clinic also has encountered numerous redet “failures” involving unemployed TCA customers who were required to provide documentary evidence from their prior employer(s) that they were no longer employed (regardless of the time that had passed since). When prior employers refused or were lax in returning the forms, the customers were held accountable, and they exited TCA for either failing to complete a redet or provide eligibility information. (The Clinic has encountered other customers who have exited because BCDSS sent mail to them, but for unknown reasons the mail was returned to the Department as “undeliverable.” These customers were issued exit notices indicating they had “failed to provide eligibility information.” ) Dr. Born has not provided an updated complete list of case closing reasons since the Second Interim Report in March, 1998. She has, however, continued to provide information on the top five reasons for case closure. This information continues to show that administrative related exits are the primary reason customers are leaving TCA in Maryland. In her latest (October, 1999) report, the failure to complete redet accounted for 24.7% of statewide exits, while the failure to provide “eligibility” information accounted for 15%. Combined, these two administrative reasons alone make up
almost 40% of the exits to date, far more than the percentage of exits for work or because of income (26.6%). The October report also provided evidence that these administrative exits are increasing. Examining exiters in five month groupings, or “cohorts,” since she began collecting data in October 1996, Born's figures show that such exits have increased by 37% in the most recent cohort examined. In that grouping— exits occurring from October 1998 to March 1999— these administrative exits accounted for 51.7% of the exits statewide. The Exit Studies also indicate that customers existing for these administrative reasons have the highest rate of recidivism. Roughly one-third of those who do not complete redet or fail to provide eligibility information return to the TCA rolls within 90 days of exit. Two-thirds of the “no redet” cases returned within the first 30 days. Given the 14 day rule and the nature of FIP, these “churners” lose all forms of financial support for at least a six week period and valuable time in work activities.
Baltimore City’s 4 Month Redet Policy
The October Exit Study took note of the increased number of redet exits and revealed that the City accounts for 63.4% of the redet exits registered statewide. There is no mystery to this. In July 1998, the City began implementing a new four month redet schedule, despite the state rule of 12 months. This meant that a customer applying for benefits in July, after having waited thirty days for an eligibility decision which came in August, and then being assigned to a work activity program by September, found herself being summoned in September back to DSS to begin her redet process before her
eligibility expired in October. Given the fact that the typical work activity curriculum moves progressively, with each class building on the prior one, a missed day or two because of redet related responsibilities becomes significant, and also places the customer at risk of sanction. On the other hand, a missed redet also results in benefit termination. When the FIP Clinic encountered customers faced with this “Hobson’s Choice,” it notified the State of the illegal practice and threatened litigation. The City quickly responded by instructing its case workers to stop the practice, and treat all persons subject to it with flexibility. Thus, where a four month redet had been scheduled and could not be canceled, any problems relative thereto were not to result in benefit termination. Other redets were to be rescheduled, though the Clinic has encountered cases where this had not occurred. As the state Exit Studies show, the corrective action came after a great deal of harm already had occurred. Exits due to redet failures alone jumped 37% statewide from October 1998 through March 1999— a period encompassing BCDSS’s four month policy. The study gave the rise a closer look and called it “largely a Baltimore City phenomenon.” (Life After Welfare, Fourth Interim Report, p.18). Because the redet process results in frequent and questionable terminations, interferes with work activities, and is responsible for “churning,” the corrective action taken by the City at the behest of the State is insufficient. Many cut off during the four month redet policy period were adhering to their work activity related responsibilities, seeking to achieve independence. The City’s illegal practice has meant that some of these people have lost their TCA prematurely. For others, the illegal practice had the effect of interfering with the successful completion of a work activity program. In both cases, the effects of the illegal practice will continue to affect them. The City should have protected recipients in
work activities from being subjected to premature redets and it should have reinstated recipients who had been terminated for failure to complete a premature redet. It could have accomplished both of these corrective actions by examining its caseload to determine who had been victimized. Its partial corrective action leaves many people already harmed by the illegal practice without benefits. It also leaves people still subject to the practice in harm’s way.
Applicant Diversion: Child Support First
During the late summer and early fall of this year, the Clinic found that applicants for benefits at two centers were being turned away if they could not first be seen by a child support worker under what was called a “Child Support First” policy. Applicants for cash assistance, medical assistance and food stamps were being treated the same way, even when the program they were applying for did not require child support cooperation. The Clinic alerted authorities at the state and local level. After two weeks, BCDSS acknowledged that the centers were in fact improperly diverting applicants who could not be seen by child support workers the day the applicant sought to apply. The centers were told to stop the practice, and it appears they have done so. Corrective action is still needed for people who were not permitted to apply. The Clinic asked BCDSS to identify any applicants who were diverted from applying by searching the centers and by doing outreach in the surrounding community, and to consider their applications as of the date of the initial attempt to apply. While the Department’s written response has been encouraging, corrective action still must occur.
Other Child Support Problems
Despite the corrective action being considered by BCDSS regarding the Child Support First policy, customers are still harmed by BCDSS' general policies and practice regarding cooperation with child support. The amount of child support staff in the local offices are far from adequate. Customers are required to make
multiple visits in order to see a child support worker, no appointments are given to meet with child support workers even if the customer is working, and customers are required to see child support each time they reapply for benefits regardless of whether the customer has previously filed an application for child support services, has a child support order, or the absent parent is deceased. State law requires that a TCA customer file an application for child support enforcement services at the time of application. However, BCDSS requires an TCA applicant to get a cooperation determination from the child support worker before benefits are issued. If the child support worker finds that the client is not cooperating, the application is denied despite the fact that the FIP case manager is responsible for investigating the possibility for the customer to claim good cause and making a determination IN WRITING of good cause for non-cooperation with child support. The only requirement pending a TCA application should be to file an application for child support services, because TCA customers are also required to cooperate in establishment and enforcement of child support as a condition of continued eligibility. Issues of cooperation or non cooperation with child support should be dealt following the sanction and conciliation process for noncompliance with program requirements to ensure that the proper good cause investigations are completed prior to the family being sanctioned.
number and wait for hours just to drop off information. Customers are also required to take a number and wait just to get a question answered. Customers line up outside local offices (which open their doors at 8:00) as early as 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning in order to get a low number. (One customer, accompanied by a FIP Clinic staff attorney, arrived at the local department at 6:30 a.m. to reapply for benefits. This was the fourth time in two weeks that she had been to the local office. On previous occasions she was unable to be seen by a child support worker or case manager because she had gotten to the office at 8:00 which was too late. She had to take her children to their Grandmother's for an overnight stay so that she could get to the office by 6:30 a.m. She was placed “third” on the list when the doors opened at 8:00 a.m. The customer was able to complete the entire application that day, with the intervention of counsel, in 8 short hours.) Such waits are hardly conducive to workplace norms. Clinic staff have witnessed customers trapped at BCDSS offices who are employed and are expected to be at work. These customers cannot afford long waits at local offices to drop off forms or resolve administrative snafus, nor can they be expected to be engaged in work activities. The culture of the welfare office must change immediately.
Child Specific Benefits
A Child Specific Benefit (CSB) is made for a child born 10 months or more from the date the assistance unit first applied for TCA. The incremental increase in cash assistance that would normally go to the household upon such birth, is paid instead to a “third party payee.” While this family cap was intended by the General Assembly to be “humane,” the Clinic has encountered a number of households who are eligible for, but who do not receive the CSB. The primary reason for non-receipt appears to be the burdensome administrative requirements of the assistance. Third party payees must, according to DHR/FIA Information Memo #97TIME OUT
Long Waits in Waiting Rooms
An application for TCA in a local office requires contact with a greeter, receptionist, child support worker, screener, and case manager. There are typically waits of an hour or more between each step. Usually the applicant is required to return to the local offices on another day to see a child support worker and yet another day to see the case manager to be interviewed to complete the application. Customers or applicants returning requested verifications are required to take a
18 (May 31, 1997), be able to “track the family's funds, properly account for their disbursement, and provide services relating” to the customer's management of their funds. For payees, this means periodic meetings with members of the BCDSS “service” unit, where payees must produce receipts that account for CSB expenditures (which must be for items such as diapers, clothes, school supplies, etc.). The Clinic encountered customers who had difficulty finding friends or relatives who were willing to perform these tasks. While BCDSS, under SOP 97-13, will appoint a payee if the customer is unable to select one, no one had made the customers aware of this option.
fact a court order regarding his children, the customer went to the courthouse and obtained a copy for his case manager. The FIP Legal Clinic was able to get him reimbursed by BCDSS for the $6.00 copy fee. In another Clinic case, a female TCA recipient gave birth to a new daughter and reported to her case manager that the child would be living with the child's father. The case manager demanded to see custody papers and referred the case for a fraud investigation because she could not believe that the father was caring for the child.
The Fair Hearing Sham
The Fair Hearing, or Administrative Appeal process, is the safety net of the TCA program. Customers whose benefits are reduced or terminated have the option of obtaining benefit restoration (until the time of the hearing) with a quick appeal, while other customers can dispute work activity assignments or practically any other DSS action or inaction. In Baltimore City, this safety net is torn.
Two Parent Eligibility & Male Caretakers
The Clinic has encountered staff who appear unfamiliar with the two-parent eligibility aspects of FIP. One Clinic customer was required to complete a child support enforcement application on her husband, despite the fact they were living together. When she refused, her application for benefits was rejected. The matter was corrected with Clinic intervention. The incident occurred in March, 1999, more than two years after the two-parent changes had been implemented. While the majority of TCA households are headed by females (95.9% of exiting cases during the first 30 months of reform were headed by females according to State Exit Studies), there are male headed households that do apply for and are eligible for TCA. These men face stricter verification requirements at application then their female counterparts. Men are typically asked to "prove" that they have "legal custody" of the children by producing a custody order or a notarized statement. These types of verifications are not required under State law and are not requested from female headed households. One male TCA applicant was told by his case manager that he needed to bring in an "updated custody order" before he could receive benefits for himself and the children. Since there was in
Requesting An Appeal: Forms, Conferences and Other Barriers
State law requires that a request for an appeal be received by a social worker, income maintenance worker or any other employee who has contact with the public which would include Greeters, Receptionists, and Case Managers at local Family Investment Centers. A request for an appeal may be made orally or in writing. However, front line employees at BCDSS local offices routinely refuse to accept requests for appeals whether oral or written, refuse to give customers appeal forms, do not know where the appeal forms are located, and require customers to meet with a supervisor if one is available in order to file an appeal. (Recently, a law student from the University of Baltimore accompanied a client to a local office to file an appeal. The receptionist refused to give him an appeal form and was told that he had to wait for a supervisor. He proceeded to wait for 3 hours, no supervisor ever came out to see him, and the client was unable to file an appeal.) Appeal forms should
be readily available to customers in the local the local office to the Appeals Unit. office upon request without question. Customers should be able to pick up a form without waiting, complete it and return it to any Excerpts From Fair Hearing Summaries Written By employee for processing. the BCDSS Appeals Unit & Submitted In Defense of DSS Action: Once an appeal request is received, the local The Case of Ms. B: "The Collection and Accounting department may offer the appellant a settlement Unit has not provided an overpayment file to support conference with a supervisor. These this action." "Conferences" are often used as a mechanism to Ms. A: "The appeals office is unable to substantiate prevent or discourage a customer from filing an the local department's actions due to its failure to appeal. Local offices require customers to meet submit its file." Ms. E: "The LDSS' actions cannot be with a supervisor BEFORE they will accept an substantiated due to its failure to submit Ms. Es' file appeal request and often times supervisors are for review." never available. In fact, BCDSS' own Ms. J: "The Hilton Heights Center failed to provide Memorandum issued November 20, 1998, case record documents to substantiate the regarding the appeals process enforces this reasonableness and accuracy of the decision.” practice, stating that "If the customer declines the supervisory conference, the supervisor or designee is to be informed so that the appropriate form can be made available." By law a conference may only be offered as a means to Administrative Law Judges(ALJs) settle the dispute AFTER the appeal form has ALJs from the state Office of Administrative been accepted and processed, and may not be Hearings are assigned to arbitrate Fair Hearing used as a means for DSS to dispose of the appeal requests. Rare is the Judge who has the interest without resolving the dispute. or the attention span to delve into state regulations and review eligibility or assistance The BCDSS Appeals Unit level determinations by BCDSS. BCDSS has a separate Appeals Unit located at 1510 Guilford that represents the Department in When such questions arise, ALJs prefer to all appeals filed in the local offices. Although “vacate” the Local Department action and the Appeals Unit represents BCDSS at the Fair “remand” the case back to BCDSS for Hearings, they are not given any power to take “corrective action” without specifying the corrective action on an individual case even action. Absent a specific order, BCDSS is free when it is admitted that the Department was in on remand to take the very same action that was error. The only power the appeals unit has is to subject to appeal! Upon complaints by Clinic offer an opinion of what corrective action the attorneys, ALJs (and BCDSS Appeals local department should take and remand the Representatives) have advised customers in such case back to the local office. State law requires situations to simply “file another appeal.” that the Department provide the Appellant with a Summary of its case including all evidence to be introduced six days before the hearing. Summaries are routinely given to unrepresented Appellants the morning of the hearing, and even when appellants are represented, Summaries are rarely received within the prescribed time. In addition to the Summary, the Appellant is entitled to review their file prior to the hearing. Appellants are not informed that they have the right to see their file. Additionally, on many occasions files are lost or never forwarded from
Structural Barriers Unique to Baltimore City
It is popular to set aside funds saved from the welfare caseload decline in anticipation of a downturn in the business cycle. In Baltimore City, there is no need to wait. The City’s economic growth and employment opportunities have been dismal for some time, and even now amidst sustained economic growth, the city still lags behind the rest of the state. At the time of this report, Maryland’s 3.3% unemployment rate has matched a historic low, with employment growth at rates higher than the nation. In Baltimore City, however, the unemployment rate is at 6.8% — the second highest in the state behind Worcester County. Additionally, employment growth in Maryland
has been spearheaded by growth in business services, insurance, warehousing, and labor suppliers. Some of these sectors are not prevalent in Baltimore City, nor is it clear that TCA customers can meet their skill requisites. In March, 1999, the Jacob France Center at the behest of the Job Opportunities Task Force, attempted to analyze the pool of workers most likely to include TCA customers and the regional labor market appropriate to them. The report, Baltimore Area Jobs and Low-Skill Job Seekers: Assessing the Gaps (hereinafter The
Job Gap Report), identified essentially three gaps in the Baltimore region: A job numbers gap— the number of low-skilled persons exceeded the number of low-skilled jobs by 3 to 1; a geographic gap— two out of every three job openings occur in the counties outside of the City; and a wage gap— almost 50% of those employed in these jobs make less than $8.50 per hour.
to measure the plight of the Baltimore City worker. They also highlight the mistaken notion that employment alone is the goal of welfare reform.
The Geographic Gap
The Job Gap Report quantified what most in the Baltimore region already suspected: there are more low-skill job openings outside of the City than within. The City accounts for one of every three jobs in the metropolitan region that includes Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, and Howard counties. The types of jobs in Baltimore that do exist also was analyzed by the report. The City has an aboveaverage reliance on the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE), Services,
The Job Gap
The Job Gap Report identified 27,551 low-skill job seekers in Baltimore City but only 8,952 low-skill job openings. This 3:1 ratio of seekers to jobs increased to 7:1 if only jobs paying a wage of at least $10.00/hour were used. The job seekers estimate used by the Report is a conservative estimate. The pool of seekers used included roughly 13,272 unemployed, 11,318 employed part-time involuntarily, 2,369 “marginally attached” workers, and 592 “discouraged workers.” At the time of the report, there were 13,647 TCA adults in Baltimore City subject to work requirements. Most economists agree that these TCA customers are counted in the surveys that form the basis of the Unemployment Rate calculation. Yet, the number of TCA adults in Baltimore City is roughly equivalent to the number of all persons identified by The Job Gap report as being unemployed in the City. This simply cannot be true— TCA customers are not the only persons seeking work but unemployed in Baltimore. If we were to assume that the Unemployment Rate does not capture TCA customers seeking employment (which is likely), than the number of unemployed in Baltimore must be doubled, creating a job gap of almost 5 to 1. The numbers estimated in the Report to be engaged in employment on a part-time basis involuntarily also is disturbing. The Report sought to examine only low-skill workers and low-skill jobs. Given the wage levels at such jobs (see below), less than full-time work in this arena virtually guarantees continued poverty. These part-timers are yet another reason to cast suspicion on using only the unemployment rate
and government sectors. FIRE and Services are rapidly growing sectors statewide, but the City, according to the report, “has not fared well in attracting its share of jobs in these rapidly growing sectors over the last few years.” From 1990 to 1996, Baltimore City lost more than 52,000 jobs— more than 10% of its jobs. Carroll, Harford, and Howard counties, however, experienced the most rapid growth in new jobs in the metro region during this period. The only sector that grew in the City during this period was Services, although at a paltry 1.4% rate— compared to a 12% service sector growth rate for the metro region as a whole. The future looks dismal. The report accumulated data on projected job growth from 1995 to 2005 and concluded: “It is estimated that if current favorable economic conditions continue, total employment in this region will increase 9 percent over this period, but employment in Baltimore City is estimated to increase only 0.9 percent.” Employment is projected to continue to shift from the city to the outermost suburban jurisdictions to the extent that Baltimore County and the outer jurisdictions will account for twothirds of the low-skill job openings. Projected Annual Job Openings Through 2005 In Baltimore Region Job Requisites OJT-Related Work Experience Vocational/Post Secondary Training Total Metro Area 26,459 2,850 Baltimore City 8,952 958 Baltimore County 8,287 901 Other Counties 9,220 991
Source: DLLR Data Analyzed by the Jacob France Center. Job Gap Report, at 19.
The Wage or Earnings Gap
While the federal poverty level is an outdated
and poor measure of family self-sufficiency, it has yet to be replaced as a benchmark for sustenance. The current level for a family of three is $13,880, while the level for a family of four is $ 16,700. The Job Gap Report again quantified conventional wisdom: low-skill jobs generally pay low wages. Almost 50% of the jobs identified as “low-skill” in the report paid $8.50/hour or less. Cross-matching the hourly wage of the low-skill occupations identified in the Report with the occupations in which TCA customers are most likely to find employment (as identified in the State TCA Exit Studies) increases this percentage. (See Table.) Percentage of Workers Earning Below Key Wage Thresholds for Baltimore Region in Jobs TCA Exiters Are Likely To Enter Job % Earning Below $5.75/hr 52% % Earning Below $8.50/hr 82%
$9,972, 71% of the federal poverty level. While the Federal and Maryland Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) can help put those “ninth quarter” exiters above the poverty level using annualized figures, this is simply a statistical exercise. Most EITC eligible workers receive their ETICs in one lump sum after filing taxes. (An advanced monthly payment option is available, but pays only a partial refund and can hamper those who change jobs frequently.) During the 12 months preceding the EITC refund, these “ninth quarter” exiters will average $831 monthly in earnings. Given that the HUD Fair Market Rent (FMR) for Maryland statewide is $561 monthly for a single bedroom unit— the rent above which 60% of the units statewide actually rent— such a family would pay 68% of its monthly income on housing. Using the City FMR of $495, such a family would contribute two-thirds of its income to rent. Compared to the one-third that most economists (and the federal poverty level) assumes is desired for housing costs, it is clear that even two years after TCA exit, former customers still are living on the edge.
Food Counter & Related Retail Sales Cleaners/ Maids Cashiers Nursing Aides
22% 33% 37% 14%
66% 78% 80% 62%
Source: Combined analysis by the Clinic of Job Gap and Life After Welfare reports.
The state is quick to point out that is Exit Studies do not measure wage levels, only earnings on a quarterly basis. Those figures show in the first quarter after exit, median earnings equal to $1,984, which should produce an annualized income of $7.936, roughly 57% of the federal poverty level for a family of three. Current exit data indicate that by the ninth quarter--more than two years after exit--median quarterly earnings appear to increase to $2,493, which should produce an annual income of
Thousands of TCA customers have accepted their responsibility to search for work, attend work activities, and abide by the myriad rules governing their behavior as a condition of receiving benefits. They cannot take personal responsibility for a bureaucracy that has been slow to tackle its own responsibilities to provide supportive services, nor for a local economy that simply cannot produce enough jobs. Of these three actors— the economy, the bureaucracy, and the welfare customer— only the customer has been placed under a time-limit to perform or face stark consequences. The State and the City share responsibility for the successes and failures of FIP in Baltimore City. Changes are needed in three broad areas. First, the City and the State must hold harmless those who have been harmed by bureaucratic practices that have prevented many customers from achieving economic self-sufficiency. Second, the City and the State must address structural barriers that stand in the way of economic self-sufficiency for residents of Baltimore City. Third, the City and the State must make changes in the welfare program to ensure that families get the help they need.
enlisted in the program. The bureaucratic
problems in Baltimore City have been so pervasive that it is not possible to know exactly who has been harmed and how much. The best way to ensure that everyone is held harmless is to stop the clock for everyone while corrective measures are taken to ensure that customers in Baltimore City begin to get access to the services to which they are legally entitled.
B. Stop or “slow” the clock on groups of TCA customers whose personal barriers to employment have gone unaddressed because of bureaucratic bungling (i.e. persons with substance abuse problems, very low-skills, problems with family violence, and criminal records). As
indicted above, Segregated funds will keep such persons under a “work activity” requirement, but will exempt them from the 60 month time limit during “segregated” program participation. Based on our experiences with customers, our conversations with recipients, our review of BCDSS documents and our observations in BCDSS offices, it is clear that few people with substance abuse problems, very low skills, problems with family violence and criminal records have received the assistance they need to become independent. State law and policy promised that personal barriers to employment such as these would be addressed during the limited period of time when people could receive cash assistance. It was not the fault of customers that the City did not provide them with the assessment and assistance they needed. It should not be the fate of customers to lose cash assistance before their personal barriers to employment have been addressed.
I. Holding the Customers Harmless.
A. Stop the welfare “clock” for one year for all Baltimore City customers who have been on TCA for 36 months or more, by moving these customers to a “Segregated” State program. Such a program, according to federal guidelines, will keep these persons under a “work activity” requirement, II. Addressing Structural Barriers to but will exempt them from the 60 Employment in Baltimore City month time lifetime limit while
A. Stop or slow the clock, through the use of a Segregated or “Separate” State program for those persons who are qualified for employment, but who are unable to find work because of Baltimore City's economic condition.
Undeniably, Baltimore City is a hard place. Even in the good economic times being enjoyed in most of the State, Baltimore’s unemployment rate is nearly 7%, more than twice that of the rest of the State. It is not the fault of City residents that not all of them can find jobs when only one job is available for every three low skill people seeking a job. Keeping cash assistance available to families for whom work is unavailable is a fair and equitable response.
Many jobs in the Baltimore Region are not accessible to City residents by public transportation, especially when they must also get children to daycare on the way to work. City residents with cars have greater accessibility to jobs, and can have greater access to cars if WAGs were made available for car purchases.
D. Engage in job creation efforts in Baltimore City, advocate for State and local economic development strategies that benefit City customers, and require BCDSS, in conjunction with other City and State agencies, to ensure that work activities are coordinated with economic development strategies and existing market conditions.
The public sector cannot wait and hope for increased private sector activity in Baltimore City. Government capital should be directed to economic development activities and sectors that are likely to benefit the large number of lowskilled persons in Baltimore. Efforts to direct private capital toward the same end also are required. Workforce development and Welfare Reform are synonymous. An effective workforce development strategy must take into account market conditions. In Baltimore this means the public sector must act to facilitate a change in those conditions.
B. Stop the clock for any person currently employed through the use of wage subsidy under the Grant Diversion program. Such persons are private employees in every sense, and should not have any time counted toward their lifetime clock when they are employed full-time.
Many TCA recipients are working in subsidized jobs under the Grant Diversion program. Their work effort is the same as that of any employee, but they are counted as receiving cash assistance because their employers receive a subsidy for them through the TCA program. Economic and labor market conditions in Baltimore City, as well as employer demands, make Grant Diversion a useful tool. The customer should not lose valuable time off the clock because of these factors, which are beyond her control.
C. Amend the Baltimore City Welfare Avoidance Grant (WAG) plan to allow for the purchase of cars to gain or keep employment, and require all caseworkers to screen for WAGs at every contact with customers.
E. Through the use of Grant Diversion and Community Work Experience, create a Unemployment Insurance Program targeted to persons approaching the end of their lifetime TCA limit who, at the end of their time on TCA, are able, available, and actively seeking work, but who are unemployed through no fault of their own.
Because few jobs are available to low-skill workers in Baltimore City, many will experience periods of unemployment through no fault of their own. The existing Unemployment Insurance (UI) system, however, penalizes those
with low wages and sporadic work histories. The State should use its surplus funds to provide customers with the wages and work histories they need to become UI eligible. This can be done by combining the programs of Grant Diversion and Community Work Experience to create wage paying jobs in the non-profit sector that are covered by UI.
for TMA because of employment.
Families need medical assistance to remain employed and achieve self-sufficiency, so they are guaranteed 12 months of medical assistance when they become employed soon after leaving cash assistance. Currently, they must report their employment status in order to access transitional medical assistance. Reporting can be time-consuming and interfere with work. The State should use its existing data bases to identify families eligible for transitional medical assistance and extend the benefit automatically.
F. Enact State or Local laws that require employers to treat persons with criminal histories fairly, by considering efforts at rehabilitation, time served, and the relationship of the conviction to the employment sought.
Where employers have many low skill applicants for few jobs, they can discriminate on the basis of irrelevant characteristics. Criminal records in many cases are not pertinent to the particular job, and employers should not be permitted to use them indiscriminately to deny employment.
C. Eliminate the full-family sanction for failure to comply with work requirements and failure to cooperate with child support.
Under current law, families lose all cash assistance if they fail to comply with work requirements or cooperate with child support. Few families have been sanctioned because most customers are eager to become self-sufficient and are persistently and doggedly pursuing that goal no matter what the bureaucratic and structural obstacles. The sanction is unnecessary and draconian and should be abolished.
III. Changing the Welfare Program to Ensure that Families Get the Help They Need
A. Require DHR to review DSS Standard Operating Procedures and other directives to line workers and supervisors to ensure compliance with law and with State policy.
Many of the problems experienced by TCA customers in Baltimore City are not caused by State law or policy; they are the result of Baltimore City DSS and its local offices not following State law or policy. It is essential, therefore, that the State carefully review the policies and policy statements issued by BCDSS to ensure that City residents are treated the same as people in the rest of the State.
D. Offer professional employment assessment services to any customer who wants them.
In order to make a realistic plan for economic self-sufficiency, customers and case managers need to know what skills, aptitudes and experiences the customer has and how those skills, aptitudes and experiences translate into employment in the real economy. An assessment of this type takes expertise that needs to be made available to people who have limited time to make a transition to self-sufficiency.
B. Cross-check new hire registry, food stamps, day care and other state records against TCA case closing records to identify families eligible
E. Pay for customers to obtain criminal records and for legal services to assist customers to correct and/or expunge records.
Since many employers refuse to consider applicants with a criminal record of any type,
including one that is old, consists only of arrests, or is irrelevant to the particular job, it is necessary for customers to know what is contained in their criminal record, if anything, and to remove any incorrect and expungeable entries.
need to continue after TCA eligibility ends to ensure that children can remain in a familiar day care setting as the family makes the transition off of benefits.
F. Train all caseworkers in identifying family violence and in offering appropriate services.
A high percentage of women receiving welfare experience family violence and need special help for that reason. Every person who comes into contact with customers needs to be able to identify family violence because it is extremely difficult for women to reveal their experiences and get the help they need.
I. Re-institute a Child Support “pass through” to families.
Families on cash assistance receive enough help to live at approximately 60% of the minimum standard of need. Children in such deep poverty suffer long-term detriments. One way to increase the standard of living of some of these children is to pass through any child support collected for the family rather than remitting it to the State treasury.
G. Create Individualized Development Accounts for customers, and actively involve customers in “shopping” for and selecting work activity programs that are tailored to their needs.
Low skill levels and low education levels are barriers to employment for thousands of Baltimore residents. The State should use the option available under welfare reform to create Individualized Development Accounts for customers who can then use them to fund continued education after they leave cash assistance.
J. Eliminate the 14-day delay in the effective date for the payment of benefits during the “initial” month of application.
A family eligible for cash assistance is extremely poor, yet cash assistance is paid for only half of the first month for which the family is found eligible. The delay in benefits serves to keep children in deep poverty for no good reason. When combined with the prevalence of redetermination of eligibility problems and the frequency of administrative “churning” in the City, the rule needlessly increases the already heavy financial burden upon families.
H. Make the provision of Child Care Vouchers a pre-requisite for any program activity required by BCDSS— from up front job search to work activity participation – and make them available from the date of application until 30 days after TCA eligibility ends.
Child care is a key supportive service for any TCA customer with young or disabled children. Applications must be processed and vouchers issued promptly to ensure that children get consistent and reliable day care, and vouchers
K. Eliminate the $60 reduction in assistance that applies only to those in subsidized housing, and extend the “rent freeze” now applicable only to residents of public housing who leave welfare for work to those in Section 8 or Voucher assisted rental units.
Housing costs are a very large share of the budget of poor families. To ensure that they can maintain their housing, the State should stop deducting $60 a month from the checks of those in subsidized housing, and it should freeze the
rents of families leaving TCA no matter what kind of subsidized housing they occupy.
BCDSS case manager to a third party.
BCDSS case managers have not been able to provide the expertise or assistance that customers with substance abuse problems need, particularly in light of the difficulties of arranging for treatment. Customers need active case management, and a third party needs to be assigned that task.
L. Increase the amount of child care expenses that can be disregarded when a family applies for cash assistance.
Many families that could benefit from TCA cannot qualify because the amount of child care expense that can be disregarded at the time of application is too low. The disregard amount should be raised to reflect current market rates.
M. Require the presence of a welltrained, Family Support Service worker at every application and redetermination of eligibility, to screen for utility, housing, and social functioning problems.
Many applicants and customers experience problems with utility cutoffs, substance abuse, family violence, evictions, and other emergencies. Service workers have been trained to address these issues, while case workers have not. Families need to have access to service workers whenever they are in the BCDSS offices so that their needs can be identified and met promptly and they can focus their efforts on becoming employed.
N. Amend the Baltimore City Emergency Assistance to Families With Children (EAFC) to provide assistance to families in subsidized housing.
Families in subsidized housing are not immune from emergencies, and they should not be prevented from qualifying for emergency assistance.
O. Responsibility and the resources for case management where a customer has a substance abuse problem should be moved from the
The State and City must be pro-active in dealing with the problems of welfare to self-sufficiency in Baltimore City. The first wave of customers reaching their 60 month lifetime time limit on TCA will begin in two short years. “Churning” and other practices that interrupt time spent on TCA, make it unlikely that all of these first wave customers will hit their time limit simultaneously. As each reach their limit, however, the cumulative impact will be devastating. Federal law allows only 20% of the State's TANF caseload to be exempt from the 60 month lifetime limit on federally financed assistance. Currently, more than 60% of the paid adults on TANF-TCA reside in Baltimore City. Clearly, the hardship exemption is the wrong tool to fix the City's woes. The State and City can use the flexibility and creativity allowed by TANF and FIP to stop or slow the welfare “clocks” for thousands in the City right now. This opportunity should not be squandered. This report has dealt with those involved in the welfare system. State Exit studies show a disturbingly high percentage of welfare exiters who appear unaccounted for— perhaps as many as 48%. In theory, there is nothing keeping these persons from returning to seek assistance. In practice, as this report indicates, the barriers are many.
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