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What You Should Know About Welfare's Work Requirements

Welfare recipients are required to do “work activities” for a certain number of hours per week to receive benefits.

What Are Work Activities and How Many Hours Must I Work?

Most people will be required to work 35 hours a week. However, no one can be assigned more than 40 hours a week.

Single parents must work at least 30 hours per week, with the first 20 hours from any of the following activities:

  • Employment
  • Work experience program (WEP)
  • Job placement by the Human Resources Administration (HRA)
  • On-the-job training
  • Job search (for up to 6 weeks)
  • Community service
  • Vocational educational training (for up to 12 months)
  • Providing child care to someone doing community service.

Additional hours of work can be other assigned activities.

For 2-parent families, one or both parents must do at least 35 hours per week of work activities. If the family receives child care benefits, the family must do at least 55 hours of work activities. Parents may divide these hours as they wish.

Adults in families with no dependent children must work 35 hours per week, with the first 30 hours from the following activities:

  • Employment
  • Work experience program (WEP)
  • On-the-job training

Do I Get To Choose the Kind of Work I Am Assigned to Do?

If you have dependent children, HRA is required to assess your education, skills, work experience, training and vocational interests. HRA is required to write up an “employability plan” indicating your assigned work activities and an employment goal that reflects your preferences if possible. If your preferences cannot be met, the plan should say why. The work you are assigned to should be consistent with your employment goal and preferences, if such work is available.

HRA may assign you to work activities even before it completes the assessment. The assessment must be completed within 90 days of the date you were found eligible for welfare.

If you do not have dependent children, HRA must complete an assessment and employment plan within 1 year of your application for welfare.

What Rights Do I Haveat My Work Assignment?

You have the same right to workplace protections that are guaranteed to all workers on the job.

  • You are covered by many safety and health laws.
  • You are covered by some form of workers’ compensation.
  • You are protected against discrimination based on race, gender, national origin or disability.

Who Is Exempt from the Work Requirements?

All welfare recipients are required to work unless you are:

  • Ill or injured and unable to work for up to 3 months
  • Incapacitated or disabled
  • 60 or older
  • Under 16
  • Under 19 and in secondary or vocational school full time
  • The parent or caretaker relative of a child under 1 (for 3 months per child up to a total of 12 months)
  • The caretaker of a disabled household member
  • Pregnant and 30 days from due date.

What Is the Disability Exemption?

HRA has a process to decide if you cannot work or are “work-limited” due to a disability.

HRA must give you an opportunity to submit medical documentation showing you have a disability. You should get letters from your doctors with a specific diagnosis, explaining your symptoms and whether or not you can work.

HRA will usually send you to one of its doctors who will decide if you are disabled and unable to work or “work-limited” (assigned only to work activities consistent with your physical and mental limitations) or neither.

You cannot be assigned to work activities before HRA decides that you are disabled unless you agree to be assigned. To assign you, HRA must give you a “Notice of Work Required and Right to Contest.”

If you disagree with HRA’s decision on whether you are disabled, you can ask for a fair hearing. You must request a hearing within 10 days of the date of the Notice of Work Required.

What About My Children?

There is no exemption from the work requirements for parents who need child care, but you should not be sanctioned if you cannot find child care or your child care falls through.

Welfare must pay for child care for children under age 13.

Parents are responsible for arranging for child care. But if you can show that you cannot find care, HRA must provide 2 child care options in your area.

You should not be sanctioned if you cannot find child care. You can be sanctioned if you stop looking for child care or if you cannot explain to welfare in detail about where you have looked.

What About Transportation?

There is no exemption if you do not have transportation to your work activity. If you must take public transportation to your assignment, welfare will give you subway or bus fare.

What If I Am In School?

Those with dependent children are eligible for up to 12 months of vocational training. For adults without children, educational activities will not count toward most of your required work hours.

HRA does not have to schedule your work activities around your school.

What If I Can’t Comply with the Work Requirements?

You should not be sanctioned if you had “good cause” for failing to comply with your assignment.

Some examples of good cause are: circumstances beyond your control such as your own or your child’s illness, a household emergency, or lack of child care for your children under age 13.

To show good cause for illness, get a signed, dated letter from your doctor on the day you were sick. To show lack of child care, get a dated letter from your child care provider when she cancels or your child care falls through.

If HRA decides that your failure to comply with the work requirements was without good cause, HRA can reduce your welfare budget or close your case.

Parents with dependent children will be sanctioned by losing their share of the welfare grant:

  • 1st sanction: until willing to comply
  • 2nd sanction: 3 months and until willing to comply
  • 3rd or more sanction: 6 months and until willing to comply.

Parents should inform HRA immediately when they are willing to comply.

Adults with no dependent children will be sanctioned by having their case closed:

  • 1st sanction: 90 days and until willing to comply
  • 2nd sanction: 150 days, and until willing to comply
  • 3rd or more sanction: 180 days, and until willing to comply.

Adults with no dependent children should reapply for welfare 45 days before the sanction ends to reopen their case.

Food stamps sanction periods are two, four, and six months.

You should not lose Medicaid because of a work sanction, but you will be required to recertify for Medicaid.

This article was posted March 31, 2007