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256.048 Income support and transition.

Subdivision 1. Expectations. The requirement for a caregiver to develop a family support agreement is tied to the structure of the family and the length of time on assistance according to paragraphs (a) to (c).

(a) In a family headed by a single adult parental caregiver who has received AFDC, family general assistance, MFIP, or a combination of AFDC, family general assistance, and MFIP assistance for 12 or more months within the preceding 24 months, the parental caregiver must be developing and complying with the terms of the family support agreement commencing with the 13th month of assistance.

(b) For a family with a minor parental caregiver or a family whose parental caregiver is 18 or 19 years of age and does not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, the parental caregiver must be developing and complying with a family support agreement concurrent with the receipt of assistance. The terms of the family support agreement must include compliance with section 256.736, subdivision 3b. If the parental caregiver fails to comply with the terms of the family support agreement, the sanctions in subdivision 4 apply. When the requirements in section 256.736, subdivision 3b, have been met, a caregiver has fulfilled the caregiver's obligation. County agencies must continue to offer MFIP-R services if the caregiver wants to continue with an employability plan. Caregivers who fulfill the requirements of section 256.736, subdivision 3b, are subject to the expectations of paragraphs (a) and (c).

(c) In a family with two adult parental caregivers, at least one of whom has received AFDC, family general assistance, MFIP, or a combination of AFDC, family general assistance, and MFIP assistance for six or more months within the preceding 12 months, one parental caregiver must be developing and complying with the terms of the family support agreement commencing with the seventh month of assistance. The family and MFIP-R staff will designate the parental caregiver who will develop the family support agreement based on which parent has the greater potential to increase family income through immediate employment. To the extent of available resources and provided the other caregiver is proficient in English, the commissioner may require that both caregivers in a family with two adult parental caregivers, in which the youngest child has attained the age of six and is not in kindergarten, must be developing or complying with the terms of a family support agreement by the seventh month on assistance. A caregiver shall be determined proficient in English if the county agency, or its employment and training service provider, determines that the person has sufficient English language capabilities to become suitably employed.

If, as of July 1, 1996, the other caretaker is enrolled in a post-secondary education or training program that is limited to one year and can reasonably be expected to lead to employment, that caretaker is exempt from job search and work experience for a period of one year or until the caretaker stops attending the post-secondary program, whichever is shorter.

Subd. 2. Exemptions. A caregiver is exempt from expectations as provided in paragraphs (a) and (b).

(a) Except for clause (4), which applies only for a single-parent family, a caregiver in a single-parent or two-parent family is exempt from the expectations of MFIP-R if the caregiver is:

(1) ill, incapacitated, or 60 years of age or older;

(2) needed in the home because of the illness or incapacity of another family member;

(3) the parent of a child under one year of age and is personally providing care for the child. This exemption does not apply to the school attendance requirement for minor parents or 18- and 19-year old parents as provided in section 256.736, subdivision 3b, paragraphs (f) and (g);

(4) the parent of a child under six years of age and is employed or participating in education or employment and training services for 20 or more hours per week. This exemption does not apply to the school attendance requirement for minor parents or 18- and 19-year-old parents as provided in section 256.736, subdivision 3b, paragraph (f), clause (5);

(5) working 30 hours or more per week or, if the number of hours cannot be verified, earns weekly, at least the federal minimum hourly wage rate multiplied by 30;

(6) in the second or third trimester of pregnancy; or

(7) not the natural parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent of a minor child in the assistance unit.

(b) In a two-parent household, only one parent may be exempt under paragraph (a), clause (2) or (3). If paragraph (a), clause (5), applies to either parent in a two-parent family, the other parent is exempt. In a two-parent household, if the parent designated to develop a family support agreement becomes exempt and the exemption is expected to last longer than six months, then the second parent is required to develop a family support agreement unless otherwise exempt under paragraph (a).

Subd. 3. Good cause for failure to comply. Caregivers may claim the following reasons as good cause for failure to comply with the expectations of MFIP-R employment and pre-employment services:

(1) needed child care is not available;

(2) the job does not meet the definition of suitable employment according to section 256.736, subdivision 1a, paragraph (h);

(3) the parental caregiver is ill, incapacitated, or injured;

(4) a family member is ill and needs care by the parental caregiver;

(5) the parental caregiver is unable to secure the necessary transportation;

(6) the parental caregiver is in an emergency situation;

(7) the schedule of compliance with the family support agreement conflicts with judicial proceedings;

(8) the parental caregiver is already participating in acceptable activities;

(9) the family support agreement requires an educational program for a parent under the age of 20, but the educational program is not offered in the school district;

(10) activities identified in the family support agreement are not available;

(11) the parental caregiver is willing to accept suitable employment but employment is not available;

(12) the parental caregiver documents other verifiable impediments to compliance with the family support agreement beyond the parental caregiver's control; or

(13) the family support agreement requires an educational program for a parent under the age of 20, but the only available school program requires round trip commuting time from the custodial parent's residence of more than two hours by available means of transportation, excluding the time necessary to transport children to and from child care.

Subd. 4. Sanction. The county agency must reduce an assistance unit's assistance payment by ten percent of the transitional standard for the applicable family size when a caregiver, who is not exempt from the expectations in this section, fails to attend a mandatory briefing, fails to attend scheduled meetings with MFIP-R staff, terminates employment without good cause, or fails to develop or comply with the terms of the caregiver's family support agreement. MFIP-R staff must send caregivers a notice of intent to sanction. For the purpose of this section, "notice of intent to sanction" means MFIP-R staff must provide written notification to the caregiver that the caregiver is not fulfilling the requirement to develop or comply with the family support agreement. This notification must inform the caregiver of the right to request a conciliation conference within ten days of the mailing of the notice of intent to sanction or the right to request a fair hearing under section 256.045. If a caregiver requests a conciliation conference, the county agency must postpone implementation of the sanction pending completion of the conciliation conference. If the caregiver does not request a conciliation conference within ten calendar days of the mailing of the notice of intent to sanction, the MFIP-R staff must notify the county agency that the assistance payment should be reduced.

Upon notification from MFIP-R staff that an assistance payment should be reduced, the county agency must send a notice of adverse action to the caregiver stating that the assistance payment will be reduced in the next month following the ten-day notice requirement and state the reason for the action. For the purpose of this section, "notice of adverse action" means the county agency must send a notice of sanction, reduction, suspension, denial, or termination of benefits before taking any of those actions. The caregiver may request a fair hearing under section 256.045, upon notice of intent to sanction or notice of adverse action, but the conciliation conference is available only upon notice of intent to sanction.

Subd. 5. Orientation. The county agency must provide a financial assistance orientation which supplies information to caregivers about the MFIP-R and must encourage parental caregivers to engage in activities to stabilize the family and lead to employment and self-support.

Subd. 6. Pre-employment and employment services. The county agency must provide services identified in clauses (1) to (10). Services include:

(1) a required briefing for all nonmandatory caregivers assigned to MFIP-R, which includes a review of the information presented at an earlier MFIP-R orientation pursuant to subdivision 5, and an overview of services available under MFIP-R pre-employment and employment services, an overview of job search techniques, and the opportunity to volunteer for MFIP-R job search activities and basic education services;

(2) a briefing for all mandatory caregivers assigned to MFIP-R, which includes a review of the information presented at an earlier MFIP-R orientation pursuant to subdivision 5, and an overview of services available under MFIP-R pre-employment and employment services;

(3) an MFIP assessment that meets the requirements of section 256.736, subdivision 10, paragraph (a), clause (14), and addresses caregivers' skills, abilities, interests, and needs;

(4) development, together with the caregiver, of an employability plan and family support agreement according to subdivision 7;

(5) coordination of services including child care, transportation, education assistance, and social services necessary to enable caregivers to fulfill the terms of the employability plan and family support agreement;

(6) provision of intensive ESL classes;

(7) provision of a broad range of employment and pre-employment services including basic skills testing, interest and aptitude testing, career exploration, job search activities, community work experience program under section 256.737, or on-the-job training under section 256.738;

(8) evaluation of the caregiver's compliance with the employability plan and family support agreement and support and recognition of progress toward employment goals;

(9) provision of postemployment follow-up for up to six months after caregivers become exempt or exit MFIP-R due to employment if requested by the caregiver; and

(10) approval of education and training program activities.

Subd. 7. Employability plan and family support agreement. (a) The caregiver and MFIP-R staff will develop an employability plan and family support agreement. The employability plan includes the caregiver's overall employment goal, activities necessary to reach that goal, a timeline for each activity, and the support services provided by the agency. All activities in the employability plan must contribute to the caregiver's overall employment goal.

(b) The family support agreement is the enforceable section of an employability plan for mandatory caregivers. The family support agreement must be limited to employment, education, or employment and training services, and scheduled meetings with MFIP-R staff. The family support agreement must be signed by both an MFIP-R staff and the parental caregiver.

(1) In developing an employability plan and family support agreement, MFIP-R staff must discuss with the caregiver the economic benefits under MFIP of taking available employment. MFIP-R staff must provide examples of how different levels of earnings increase available income.

(2) Activities in the family support agreement must enhance the family's opportunities to increase its income in a timely manner through paid employment.

(3) Each step of the family support agreement shall build upon prior steps and facilitate progress toward the caregiver's overall employment goal.

(4) Social services, such as mental health or chemical dependency services, parenting education, or budget management, can be included in the employability plan but not in the family support agreement and are not subject to sanctions under subdivision 4.

(5) The family support agreement must state the parental caregiver's obligations and the standards for satisfactory compliance with the requirements of MFIP-R.

Subd. 8. Requirement to attend briefing. All MFIP-R caregivers are required to attend a mandatory briefing which includes a review of the information presented at an earlier MFIP-R orientation pursuant to subdivision 5, and an overview of services available under MFIP-R pre-employment and employment services.

Subd. 9. Requirement to participate in job search. The family support agreement for mandatory caregivers will include 30 hours per week of job search activity. The family support agreement for single parental caregivers with a child under the age of six may require no more than 20 hours of job search activity. Job search requirements do not apply to minor parental caregivers and parental caregivers under the age of 20 who must meet the educational requirement under section 256.736, subdivision 3b.

Subd. 10. Length of job search. Caregivers participating in job search shall have eight weeks to find employment which is consistent with the employment goal in the family support agreement. If after eight weeks of job search the parental caregiver does not find employment consistent with the overall employment goal, the caregiver must accept any suitable employment.

Subd. 11. Level of employment. Caregivers participating in job search are expected to seek and accept full-time employment. Any caregiver satisfies this requirement by working at least 30 hours per week. Single parents with a child under the age of six satisfy the requirement by working at least 20 hours per week.

Subd. 12. Cessation of employment. Mandatory caregivers who quit a job, are laid off, or are terminated must contact MFIP-R staff within ten calendar days of the date the employment ended to schedule a meeting to revise the family support agreement to incorporate job search activities to obtain suitable employment. A caregiver who fails to contact MFIP-R staff within ten calendar days, fails to attend a scheduled meeting to revise the family support agreement, or fails to accept an offer of suitable employment is subject to sanctions under subdivision 4.

Subd. 13. Education and training activities; basic education. Basic education, including adult basic education, high school or general equivalency diploma may be included in the family support agreement when a caregiver is actively participating in job search activities as specified in the family support agreement, or employed at least 12 hours per week. The concurrent work requirement for basic education does not apply to caregivers under subdivision 1, paragraph (b), who are attending secondary school full time. Six months of basic education activities may be included in the family support agreement, and extension of basic education activities, including intensive ESL, is contingent upon review and approval by MFIP-R staff.

Non-English-speaking caregivers have the option to participate in intensive ESL activities for up to six months with approval of MFIP-R staff, provided the caregiver also works or participates in job search. For caregivers participating in intensive ESL, hours spent in intensive ESL, employment, and job search must equal at least 30 hours per week, or 20 hours per week for a single parent caregiver with a child under age six.

Subd. 14. Education and training activities; post-secondary education. (a) Mandatory caregivers, mandatory caregivers who become exempt, and caregivers converted from STRIDE or ACCESS may have post-secondary education included in the family support agreement. For individuals who are participating in an educational program under this paragraph on a full-time basis as determined by the institution, there is no work requirement. For individuals participating in an educational program on a part-time basis as determined by the institution, the minimum number of hours that a participant must work shall be increased or decreased in inverse proportion to the number of credit hours being taken, up to a maximum of 12 hours weekly of work.

(b) Conditions for approval of a post-secondary education program include demonstration by the caregiver that:

(1) there is a market for full-time employees with this education or training where the caregiver will or is willing to reside upon completion of the program;

(2) the average wage level for employees with this education or training is significantly greater than the caregiver can earn without this education or training;

(3) the caregiver can meet the requirements for admission into the program; and

(4) there is a reasonable expectation that the caregiver will complete the training program based on such factors as the caregiver's current MFIP assessment; previous education, training, and work history; current motivation; and changes in previous circumstances.

(c) A comparison must be made between income foregone by delaying immediate entry into full-time paid employment while in pursuit of education or training and the probable income which will be earned following the education or training. The advantages and disadvantages to the family must be discussed with respect to both options.

(d) Activities under this subdivision are limited to the equivalent of two years of full-time education, with the following exceptions:

(1) caregivers in subdivision 15;

(2) caregivers who have already obtained a post-secondary degree. These caregivers are limited to course work necessary to upgrade skills, or obtain licensure or certification;

(3) extenuating circumstances that prohibit the caregiver from completing the program within the equivalent of two years; or

(4) the education activities may be part of a four-year education program provided the family support agreement specifies that the employment goal will be met at the time the caregiver completes the equivalent of two years of full-time education or that the caregiver will participate in activities leading to the employment goal following completion of the two years of full-time education.

(e) Caregivers in education or training programs must maintain satisfactory progress. "Satisfactory progress" in an education or training program means the caregiver remains in good standing as defined by the education or training institution and meets the requirements in the caregiver's MFIP-R employability plan. MFIP-R staff may withdraw approval of the caregiver's employability plan when the caregiver does not maintain satisfactory progress in the education or training program.

Subd. 15. Converted STRIDE and ACCESS cases. Caregivers with an employability plan from STRIDE or ACCESS must develop an MFIP-R employability plan. With approval of the MFIP-R staff, the family support agreement for caregivers under this section may include continuation of educational activities, up to a baccalaureate degree, if initiated under STRIDE or ACCESS. Caregivers who continue these activities must also participate in job search or work at least 12 hours per week.

Subd. 16. Revisions to family support agreement. The caregiver may revise the family support agreement with approval of MFIP-R staff.

Subd. 17. Volunteers for MFIP-R pre-employment and employment services. (a) Upon request, local agencies must continue to offer MFIP-R services to:

(1) caregivers with a signed family support agreement who become exempt under subdivision 2; and

(2) caregivers randomly assigned to MFIP during the conversion period who have an active STRIDE or ACCESS plan.

(b) County agencies must also service the following caregivers, as funding allows:

(1) second parent in a two-parent family; and

(2) caregivers who have not reached the timing for mandatory participation.

(c) Volunteers under paragraph (a) may access all MFIP-R services. Volunteers under paragraph (b), clause (1), may access MFIP-R job search and basic education services only. Volunteers under paragraph (b), clause (2), may access only MFIP-R job search services.

(d) Caregivers identified in this subdivision are voluntary participants for MFIP-R pre-employment and employment services and may not be sanctioned for failure to cooperate unless they reach the timing of MFIP-R pre-employment and employment services under subdivision 6, or are no longer exempt under subdivision 2.

Subd. 18. Conciliation. The county agency must inform the mandatory parental caregiver of the option of a conciliation conference when the mandatory parental caregiver receives a notice of intent to sanction or cannot reach agreement with MFIP-R staff about the contents or interpretation of the family support agreement.

Conciliation procedures shall be available as provided in section 256.736, subdivision 11, paragraph (c). Upon receiving a notice of intent to sanction, a caregiver may request a hearing under section 256.045 without exercising the option of a conciliation conference.

Subd. 19. Child care. The commissioner shall ensure that each MFIP caregiver who is employed or is developing or is engaged in activities identified in an employability plan under subdivision 7, and who needs assistance with child care costs to be employed or to develop or comply with the terms for an employability plan, receives a child care subsidy through child care money appropriated for the MFIP. The subsidy must cover all actual child care costs for eligible hours up to the maximum rate allowed under section 119B.13. A caregiver who is in the assistance unit and leaves the program as a result of increased earnings from employment, and needs child care assistance to remain employed, is entitled to extended child care assistance as provided under United States Code, title 42, section 602(g)(1)(a)(ii), on a copayment basis.

Subd. 20. Health care. A family leaving the program as a result of increased earnings from employment is eligible for extended medical assistance as provided under Public Law Number 100-485, section 303, as amended, and Public Law Number 101-239, section 8015(b)(7).

HIST: 1995 c 178 art 7 s 3; 1996 c 465 art 3 s 8-11