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256J.425 Hardship extensions.

Subdivision 1. Eligibility. To be eligible for a hardship extension, a participant in an assistance unit subject to the time limit under section 256J.42, subdivision 1, in which any participant has received 60 counted months of assistance, must be in compliance in the month the participant is applying for the extension. For purposes of determining eligibility for a hardship extension, a participant is in compliance in any month that the participant has not been sanctioned.

Subd. 1a. Review. If a county grants a hardship extension under this section, a county agency shall review the case every six or 12 months, whichever is appropriate based on the participant's circumstances and the extension category.

Subd. 2. Ill or incapacitated. (a) An assistance unit subject to the time limit in section 256J.42, subdivision 1, in which any participant has received 60 counted months of assistance, is eligible to receive months of assistance under a hardship extension if the participant belongs to any of the following groups:

(1) participants who are suffering from a professionally certified illness, injury, or incapacity which is expected to continue for more than 30 days and which prevents the person from obtaining or retaining employment and who are following the treatment recommendations of the health care provider certifying the illness, injury, or incapacity;

(2) participants whose presence in the home is required as a caregiver because of a professionally certified illness or incapacity of another member in the assistance unit, a relative in the household, or a foster child in the household and the illness or incapacity is expected to continue for more than 30 days; or

(3) caregivers with a child or an adult in the household who meets the disability or medical criteria for home care services under section 256B.0627, subdivision 1, paragraph (c), or a home and community-based waiver services program under chapter 256B, or meets the criteria for severe emotional disturbance under section 245.4871, subdivision 6, or for serious and persistent mental illness under section 245.462, subdivision 20, paragraph (c). Caregivers in this category are presumed to be prevented from obtaining or retaining employment.

(b) An assistance unit receiving assistance under a hardship extension under this subdivision may continue to receive assistance as long as the participant meets the criteria in paragraph (a), clause (1), (2), or (3).

Subd. 3. Hard-to-employ participants. An assistance unit subject to the time limit in section 256J.42, subdivision 1, in which any participant has received 60 counted months of assistance, is eligible to receive months of assistance under a hardship extension if the participant belongs to any of the following groups:

(1) a person who is diagnosed by a licensed physician, psychological practitioner, or other qualified professional, as mentally retarded or mentally ill, and that condition prevents the person from obtaining or retaining unsubsidized employment;

(2) a person who:

(i) has been assessed by a vocational specialist or the county agency to be unemployable for purposes of this subdivision; or

(ii) has an IQ below 80 who has been assessed by a vocational specialist or a county agency to be employable, but not at a level that makes the participant eligible for an extension under subdivision 4 or, in the case of a non-English-speaking person for whom it is not possible to provide a determination due to language barriers or absence of culturally appropriate assessment tools, is determined by a qualified professional to have an IQ below 80. A person is considered employable if positions of employment in the local labor market exist, regardless of the current availability of openings for those positions, that the person is capable of performing; or

(3) a person who is determined by the county agency to be learning disabled or, in the case of a non-English-speaking person for whom it is not possible to provide a medical diagnosis due to language barriers or absence of culturally appropriate assessment tools, is determined by a qualified professional to have a learning disability. If a rehabilitation plan for the person is developed or approved by the county agency, the plan must be incorporated into the employment plan. However, a rehabilitation plan does not replace the requirement to develop and comply with an employment plan under section 256J.52. For purposes of this section, "learning disabled" means the applicant or recipient has a disorder in one or more of the psychological processes involved in perceiving, understanding, or using concepts through verbal language or nonverbal means. The disability must severely limit the applicant or recipient in obtaining, performing, or maintaining suitable employment. Learning disabled does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; mental retardation; emotional disturbance; or due to environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Subd. 4. Employed participants. (a) An assistance unit subject to the time limit under section 256J.42, subdivision 1, in which any participant has received 60 months of assistance, is eligible to receive assistance under a hardship extension if the participant belongs to:

(1) a one-parent assistance unit in which the participant is participating in work activities for at least 30 hours per week, of which an average of at least 25 hours per week every month are spent participating in employment; or

(2) a two-parent assistance unit in which the participants are participating in work activities for at least 55 hours per week, of which an average of at least 45 hours per week every month are spent participating in employment.

For purposes of this section, employment means:

(1) unsubsidized employment under section 256J.49, subdivision 13, clause (1);

(2) subsidized employment under section 256J.49, subdivision 13, clause (2);

(3) on-the-job training under section 256J.49, subdivision 13, clause (4);

(4) an apprenticeship under section 256J.49, subdivision 13, clause (19);

(5) supported work. For purposes of this section, "supported work" means services supporting a participant on the job which include, but are not limited to, supervision, job coaching, and subsidized wages;

(6) a combination of (1) to (5); or

(7) child care under section 256J.49, subdivision 13, clause (25), if it is in combination with paid employment.

(b) If a participant is complying with a child protection plan under chapter 260C, the number of hours required under the child protection plan count toward the number of hours required under this subdivision.

(c) The county shall provide the opportunity for subsidized employment to participants needing that type of employment within available appropriations.

(d) To be eligible for a hardship extension for employed participants under this subdivision, a participant in a one-parent assistance unit or both parents in a two-parent assistance unit must be in compliance for at least ten out of the 12 months immediately preceding the participant's 61st month on assistance. If only one parent in a two-parent assistance unit fails to be in compliance ten out of the 12 months immediately preceding the participant's 61st month, the county shall give the assistance unit the option of disqualifying the noncompliant parent. If the noncompliant participant is disqualified, the assistance unit must be treated as a one-parent assistance unit for the purposes of meeting the work requirements under this subdivision and the assistance unit's MFIP grant shall be calculated using the shared household standard under section 256J.08, subdivision 82a.

(e) The employment plan developed under section 256J.52, subdivision 5, for participants under this subdivision must contain the number of hours specified in paragraph (a) related to employment and work activities. The job counselor and the participant must sign the employment plan to indicate agreement between the job counselor and the participant on the contents of the plan.

(f) Participants who fail to meet the requirements in paragraph (a), without good cause under section 256J.57, shall be sanctioned or permanently disqualified under subdivision 6. Good cause may only be granted for that portion of the month for which the good cause reason applies. Participants must meet all remaining requirements in the approved employment plan or be subject to sanction or permanent disqualification.

(g) If the noncompliance with an employment plan is due to the involuntary loss of employment, the participant is exempt from the hourly employment requirement under this subdivision for one month. Participants must meet all remaining requirements in the approved employment plan or be subject to sanction or permanent disqualification. This exemption is available to one-parent assistance units two times in a 12-month period, and two-parent assistance units, two times per parent in a 12-month period.

(h) This subdivision expires on June 30, 2004.

Subd. 5. Accrual of certain exempt months. (a) A participant who received TANF assistance that counted towards the federal 60-month time limit while the participant was exempt under section 256J.56, paragraph (a), clause (7), from employment and training services requirements and who is no longer eligible for assistance under a hardship extension under subdivision 2, paragraph (a), clause (3), is eligible for assistance under a hardship extension for a period of time equal to the number of months that were counted toward the federal 60-month time limit while the participant was exempt under section 256J.56, paragraph (a), clause (7), from the employment and training services requirements.

(b) A participant who received TANF assistance that counted towards the federal 60-month time limit while the participant met the state time limit exemption criteria under section 256J.42, subdivision 4 or 5, is eligible for assistance under a hardship extension for a period of time equal to the number of months that were counted toward the federal 60-month time limit while the participant met the state time limit exemption criteria under section 256J.42, subdivision 5.

Subd. 6. Sanctions for extended cases. (a) If one or both participants in an assistance unit receiving assistance under subdivision 3 or 4 are not in compliance with the employment and training service requirements in sections 256J.52 to 256J.55, the sanctions under this subdivision apply. For a first occurrence of noncompliance, an assistance unit must be sanctioned under section 256J.46, subdivision 1, paragraph (d), clause (1). For a second or third occurrence of noncompliance, the assistance unit must be sanctioned under section 256J.46, subdivision 1, paragraph (d), clause (2). For a fourth occurrence of noncompliance, the assistance unit is disqualified from MFIP. If a participant is determined to be out of compliance, the participant may claim a good cause exception under section 256J.57, however, the participant may not claim an exemption under section 256J.56.

(b) If both participants in a two-parent assistance unit are out of compliance at the same time, it is considered one occurrence of noncompliance.

Subd. 7. Status of disqualified participants. (a) An assistance unit that is disqualified under subdivision 6, paragraph (a), may be approved for MFIP if the participant complies with MFIP program requirements and demonstrates compliance for up to one month. No assistance shall be paid during this period.

(b) An assistance unit that is disqualified under subdivision 6, paragraph (a), and that reapplies under paragraph (a) is subject to sanction under section 256J.46, subdivision 1, paragraph (d), clause (1), for a first occurrence of noncompliance. A subsequent occurrence of noncompliance results in a permanent disqualification.

(c) If one participant in a two-parent assistance unit receiving assistance under a hardship extension under subdivision 3 or 4 is determined to be out of compliance with the employment and training services requirements under sections 256J.52 to 256J.55, the county shall give the assistance unit the option of disqualifying the noncompliant participant from MFIP. In that case, the assistance unit shall be treated as a one-parent assistance unit for the purposes of meeting the work requirements under subdivision 4 and the assistance unit's MFIP grant shall be calculated using the shared household standard under section 256J.08, subdivision 82a. An applicant who is disqualified from receiving assistance under this paragraph may reapply under paragraph (a). If a participant is disqualified from MFIP under this subdivision a second time, the participant is permanently disqualified from MFIP.

(d) Prior to a disqualification under this subdivision, a county agency must review the participant's case to determine if the employment plan is still appropriate and attempt to meet with the participant face-to-face. If a face-to-face meeting is not conducted, the county agency must send the participant a notice of adverse action as provided in section 256J.31. During the face-to-face meeting, the county agency must:

(1) determine whether the continued noncompliance can be explained and mitigated by providing a needed preemployment activity, as defined in section 256J.49, subdivision 13, clause (16), or services under a local intervention grant for self-sufficiency under section 256J.625;

(2) determine whether the participant qualifies for a good cause exception under section 256J.57;

(3) inform the participant of the participant's sanction status and explain the consequences of continuing noncompliance;

(4) identify other resources that may be available to the participant to meet the needs of the family; and

(5) inform the participant of the right to appeal under section 256J.40.

Subd. 8. County extension request. A county may make a request to the commissioner of human services, and the commissioner may grant, an extension for a category of participants that are not extended under section 256J.425, provided the new category of participants is consistent with the existing extension policy in which an extension is provided to participants whose MFIP requirements conflict with other statutory requirements or obligations. By January 15 of each year, the commissioner must report to the chairs and ranking minority members of the senate and house committees having jurisdiction over health and human services the extensions that were granted under this section during the previous calendar year. The legislature must act in order for the extensions to continue. If the legislature fails to act by the end of the legislative session in which the extensions were reported, the extensions granted under this section during the previous calendar year expire on June 30 of that year.

HIST: 1Sp2001 c 9 art 10 s 28

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