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Minnesota Legislature

Office of the Revisor of Statutes

Chapter 256J

Section 256J.95

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256J.95 DIVERSIONARY WORK PROGRAM.
    Subdivision 1. Establishing a diversionary work program (DWP). (a) The Personal
Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Public Law 104-193,
establishes block grants to states for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). TANF
provisions allow states to use TANF dollars for nonrecurrent, short-term diversionary benefits.
The diversionary work program established on July 1, 2003, is Minnesota's TANF program to
provide short-term diversionary benefits to eligible recipients of the diversionary work program.
(b) The goal of the diversionary work program is to provide short-term, necessary services
and supports to families which will lead to unsubsidized employment, increase economic stability,
and reduce the risk of those families needing longer term assistance, under the Minnesota family
investment program (MFIP).
(c) When a family unit meets the eligibility criteria in this section, the family must receive a
diversionary work program grant and is not eligible for MFIP.
(d) A family unit is eligible for the diversionary work program for a maximum of four
consecutive months. During the four consecutive months, family maintenance needs as defined
in subdivision 2, shall be vendor paid, up to the cash portion of the MFIP standard of need for
the same size household. To the extent there is a balance available between the amount paid for
family maintenance needs and the cash portion of the transitional standard, a personal needs
allowance of up to $70 per DWP recipient in the family unit shall be issued. The personal needs
allowance payment plus the family maintenance needs shall not exceed the cash portion of the
MFIP standard of need. Counties may provide supportive and other allowable services funded by
the MFIP consolidated fund under section 256J.626 to eligible participants during the four-month
diversionary period.
    Subd. 2. Definitions. The terms used in this section have the following meanings.
(a) "Diversionary Work Program (DWP)" means the program established under this section.
(b) "Employment plan" means a plan developed by the job counselor and the participant
which identifies the participant's most direct path to unsubsidized employment, lists the specific
steps that the caregiver will take on that path, and includes a timetable for the completion of each
step. For participants who request and qualify for a family violence waiver in section 256J.521,
subdivision 3
, an employment plan must be developed by the job counselor, the participant, and
a person trained in domestic violence and follow the employment plan provisions in section
256J.521, subdivision 3. Employment plans under this section shall be written for a period of time
not to exceed four months.
(c) "Employment services" means programs, activities, and services in this section that are
designed to assist participants in obtaining and retaining employment.
(d) "Family maintenance needs" means current housing costs including rent; manufactured
home lot rental costs, or monthly principal, interest, insurance premiums, and property taxes due
for mortgages or contracts for deed; association fees required for homeownership; utility costs
for current month expenses of gas and electric, garbage, water and sewer; and a flat rate of $35
for telephone services.
(e) "Family unit" means a group of people applying for or receiving DWP benefits together.
For the purposes of determining eligibility for this program, the composition of the family unit is
determined according to section 256J.24, subdivisions 1 to 4.
(f) "Minnesota family investment program (MFIP)" means the assistance program as defined
in section 256J.08, subdivision 57.
(g) "Personal needs allowance" means an allowance of up to $70 per month per DWP unit
member to pay for expenses such as household products and personal products.
(h) "Work activities" means allowable work activities as defined in section 256J.49,
subdivision 13
.
(i) "Caregiver" means the caregiver as defined in section 256J.08, subdivision 11.
    Subd. 3. Eligibility for diversionary work program. (a) Except for the categories of family
units listed below, all family units who apply for cash benefits and who meet MFIP eligibility as
required in sections 256J.11 to 256J.15 are eligible and must participate in the diversionary work
program. Family units that are not eligible for the diversionary work program include:
    (1) child only cases;
    (2) a single-parent family unit that includes a child under 12 weeks of age. A parent is
eligible for this exception once in a parent's lifetime and is not eligible if the parent has already
used the previously allowed child under age one exemption from MFIP employment services;
    (3) a minor parent without a high school diploma or its equivalent;
    (4) an 18- or 19-year-old caregiver without a high school diploma or its equivalent who
chooses to have an employment plan with an education option;
    (5) a caregiver age 60 or over;
    (6) family units with a caregiver who received DWP benefits in the 12 months prior to the
month the family applied for DWP, except as provided in paragraph (c);
    (7) family units with a caregiver who received MFIP within the 12 months prior to the month
the family unit applied for DWP;
    (8) a family unit with a caregiver who received 60 or more months of TANF assistance;
    (9) a family unit with a caregiver who is disqualified from DWP or MFIP due to fraud; and
    (10) refugees as defined in Code of Federal Regulations, title 45, chapter IV, section 444.43,
who arrived in the United States in the 12 months prior to the date of application for family
cash assistance.
    (b) A two-parent family must participate in DWP unless both caregivers meet the criteria for
an exception under paragraph (a), clauses (1) through (5), or the family unit includes a parent who
meets the criteria in paragraph (a), clause (6), (7), (8), or (9).
    (c) Once DWP eligibility is determined, the four months run consecutively. If a participant
leaves the program for any reason and reapplies during the four-month period, the county must
redetermine eligibility for DWP.
    Subd. 4. Cooperation with program requirements. (a) To be eligible for DWP, an applicant
must comply with the requirements of paragraphs (b) to (d).
(b) Applicants and participants must cooperate with the requirements of the child support
enforcement program but will not be charged a fee under section 518A.51.
(c) The applicant must provide each member of the family unit's Social Security number to
the county agency. This requirement is satisfied when each member of the family unit cooperates
with the procedures for verification of numbers, issuance of duplicate cards, and issuance of
new numbers which have been established jointly between the Social Security Administration
and the commissioner.
(d) Before DWP benefits can be issued to a family unit, the caregiver must, in conjunction
with a job counselor, develop and sign an employment plan. In two-parent family units, both
parents must develop and sign employment plans before benefits can be issued. Food support and
health care benefits are not contingent on the requirement for a signed employment plan.
    Subd. 5. Submitting application form. The eligibility date for the diversionary work
program begins with the date the signed combined application form (CAF) is received by the
county agency or the date diversionary work program eligibility criteria are met, whichever is
later. The county agency must inform the applicant that any delay in submitting the application
will reduce the benefits paid for the month of application. The county agency must inform a
person that an application may be submitted before the person has an interview appointment.
Upon receipt of a signed application, the county agency must stamp the date of receipt on the
face of the application. The applicant may withdraw the application at any time prior to approval
by giving written or oral notice to the county agency. The county agency must follow the notice
requirements in section 256J.09, subdivision 3, when issuing a notice confirming the withdrawal.
    Subd. 6. Initial screening of applications. Upon receipt of the application, the county
agency must determine if the applicant may be eligible for other benefits as required in sections
256J.09, subdivision 3a, and 256J.28, subdivisions 1 and 5. The county must screen and the
applicant must apply for other benefits as required under section 256J.30, subdivision 2. The
county must also follow the provisions in section 256J.09, subdivision 3b, clause (2).
    Subd. 7. Program and processing standards. (a) The interview to determine financial
eligibility for the diversionary work program must be conducted within five working days of the
receipt of the cash application form. During the intake interview, the financial worker must discuss:
(1) the goals, requirements, and services of the diversionary work program;
(2) the availability of child care assistance. If child care is needed, the worker must obtain a
completed application for child care from the applicant before the interview is terminated. The
same day the application for child care is received, the application must be forwarded to the
appropriate child care worker. For purposes of eligibility for child care assistance under chapter
119B, DWP participants shall be eligible for the same benefits as MFIP recipients; and
(3) if the applicant has not requested food support and health care assistance on the
application, the county agency shall, during the interview process, talk with the applicant about
the availability of these benefits.
(b) The county shall follow section 256J.74, subdivision 2, paragraph (b), clauses (1) and
(2), when an applicant or a recipient of DWP has a person who is a member of more than one
assistance unit in a given payment month.
(c) If within 30 days the county agency cannot determine eligibility for the diversionary
work program, the county must deny the application and inform the applicant of the decision
according to the notice provisions in section 256J.31. A family unit is eligible for a fair hearing
under section 256J.40.
    Subd. 8. Verification requirements. (a) A county agency must only require verification of
information necessary to determine DWP eligibility and the amount of the payment. The applicant
or participant must document the information required or authorize the county agency to verify
the information. The applicant or participant has the burden of providing documentary evidence to
verify eligibility. The county agency shall assist the applicant or participant in obtaining required
documents when the applicant or participant is unable to do so.
(b) A county agency must not request information about an applicant or participant that is
not a matter of public record from a source other than county agencies, the Department of Human
Services, or the United States Department of Health and Human Services without the person's
prior written consent. An applicant's signature on an application form constitutes consent for
contact with the sources specified on the application. A county agency may use a single consent
form to contact a group of similar sources, but the sources to be contacted must be identified by
the county agency prior to requesting an applicant's consent.
(c) Factors to be verified shall follow section 256J.32, subdivision 4. Except for personal
needs, family maintenance needs must be verified before the expense can be allowed in the
calculation of the DWP grant.
    Subd. 9. Property and income limitations. The asset limits and exclusions in section
256J.20 apply to applicants and recipients of DWP. All payments, unless excluded in section
256J.21, must be counted as income to determine eligibility for the diversionary work program.
The county shall treat income as outlined in section 256J.37, except for subdivision 3a. The initial
income test and the disregards in section 256J.21, subdivision 3, shall be followed for determining
eligibility for the diversionary work program.
    Subd. 10. Diversionary work program grant. (a) The amount of cash benefits that a family
unit is eligible for under the diversionary work program is based on the number of persons in
the family unit, the family maintenance needs, personal needs allowance, and countable income.
The county agency shall evaluate the income of the family unit that is requesting payments under
the diversionary work program. Countable income means gross earned and unearned income not
excluded or disregarded under MFIP. The same disregards for earned income that are allowed
under MFIP are allowed for the diversionary work program.
(b) The DWP grant is based on the family maintenance needs for which the DWP family
unit is responsible plus a personal needs allowance. Housing and utilities, except for telephone
service, shall be vendor paid. Unless otherwise stated in this section, actual housing and utility
expenses shall be used when determining the amount of the DWP grant.
(c) The maximum monthly benefit amount available under the diversionary work program is
the difference between the family unit's needs under paragraph (b) and the family unit's countable
income not to exceed the cash portion of the MFIP standard of need as defined in section 256J.08,
subdivision 55a
, for the family unit's size.
(d) Once the county has determined a grant amount, the DWP grant amount will not be
decreased if the determination is based on the best information available at the time of approval
and shall not be decreased because of any additional income to the family unit. The grant must be
increased if a participant later verifies an increase in family maintenance needs or family unit
size. The minimum cash benefit amount, if income and asset tests are met, is $10. Benefits of
$10 shall not be vendor paid.
(e) When all criteria are met, including the development of an employment plan as described
in subdivision 14 and eligibility exists for the month of application, the amount of benefits for
the diversionary work program retroactive to the date of application is as specified in section
256J.35, paragraph (a).
(f) Any month during the four-month DWP period that a person receives a DWP benefit
directly or through a vendor payment made on the person's behalf, that person is ineligible for
MFIP or any other TANF cash assistance program except for benefits defined in section 256J.626,
subdivision 2
, clause (1).
If during the four-month period a family unit that receives DWP benefits moves to a county
that has not established a diversionary work program, the family unit may be eligible for MFIP
the month following the last month of the issuance of the DWP benefit.
    Subd. 11. Universal participation required. (a) All DWP caregivers, except caregivers
who meet the criteria in paragraph (d), are required to participate in DWP employment services.
Except as specified in paragraphs (b) and (c), employment plans under DWP must, at a minimum,
meet the requirements in section 256J.55, subdivision 1.
(b) A caregiver who is a member of a two-parent family that is required to participate in
DWP who would otherwise be ineligible for DWP under subdivision 3 may be allowed to develop
an employment plan under section 256J.521, subdivision 2, paragraph (c), that may contain
alternate activities and reduced hours.
(c) A participant who is a victim of family violence shall be allowed to develop an
employment plan under section 256J.521, subdivision 3. A claim of family violence must be
documented by the applicant or participant by providing a sworn statement which is supported by
collateral documentation in section 256J.545, paragraph (b).
(d) One parent in a two-parent family unit that has a natural born child under 12 weeks of
age is not required to have an employment plan until the child reaches 12 weeks of age unless the
family unit has already used the exclusion under section 256J.561, subdivision 3, or the previously
allowed child under age one exemption under section 256J.56, paragraph (a), clause (5).
(e) The provision in paragraph (d) ends the first full month after the child reaches 12 weeks
of age. This provision is allowable only once in a caregiver's lifetime. In a two-parent household,
only one parent shall be allowed to use this category.
(f) The participant and job counselor must meet within ten working days after the child
reaches 12 weeks of age to revise the participant's employment plan. The employment plan
for a family unit that has a child under 12 weeks of age that has already used the exclusion in
section 256J.561 or the previously allowed child under age one exemption under section 256J.56,
paragraph (a)
, clause (5), must be tailored to recognize the caregiving needs of the parent.
    Subd. 12. Conversion or referral to MFIP. (a) If at any time during the DWP application
process or during the four-month DWP eligibility period, it is determined that a participant
is unlikely to benefit from the diversionary work program, the county shall convert or refer
the participant to MFIP as specified in paragraph (d). Participants who are determined to be
unlikely to benefit from the diversionary work program must develop and sign an employment
plan. Participants who meet any one of the criteria in paragraph (b) shall be considered to be
unlikely to benefit from DWP, provided the necessary documentation is available to support the
determination.
(b) A participant who:
(1) has been determined by a qualified professional as being unable to obtain or retain
employment due to an illness, injury, or incapacity that is expected to last at least 60 days;
(2) is required in the home as a caregiver because of the illness, injury, or incapacity,
of a family member, or a relative in the household, or a foster child, and the illness, injury, or
incapacity and the need for a person to provide assistance in the home has been certified by a
qualified professional and is expected to continue more than 60 days;
(3) is determined by a qualified professional as being needed in the home to care for a
child or adult meeting the special medical criteria in section 256J.561, subdivision 2, paragraph
(d), clause (3);
(4) is pregnant and is determined by a qualified professional as being unable to obtain or
retain employment due to the pregnancy; or
(5) has applied for SSI or SSDI.
(c) In a two-parent family unit, both parents must be determined to be unlikely to benefit
from the diversionary work program before the family unit can be converted or referred to MFIP.
(d) A participant who is determined to be unlikely to benefit from the diversionary work
program shall be converted to MFIP and, if the determination was made within 30 days of the
initial application for benefits, no additional application form is required. A participant who is
determined to be unlikely to benefit from the diversionary work program shall be referred to MFIP
and, if the determination is made more than 30 days after the initial application, the participant
must submit a program change request form. The county agency shall process the program change
request form by the first of the following month to ensure that no gap in benefits is due to delayed
action by the county agency. In processing the program change request form, the county must
follow section 256J.32, subdivision 1, except that the county agency shall not require additional
verification of the information in the case file from the DWP application unless the information in
the case file is inaccurate, questionable, or no longer current.
(e) The county shall not request a combined application form for a participant who has
exhausted the four months of the diversionary work program, has continued need for cash and
food assistance, and has completed, signed, and submitted a program change request form within
30 days of the fourth month of the diversionary work program. The county must process the
program change request according to section 256J.32, subdivision 1, except that the county agency
shall not require additional verification of information in the case file unless the information is
inaccurate, questionable, or no longer current. When a participant does not request MFIP within
30 days of the diversionary work program benefits being exhausted, a new combined application
form must be completed for any subsequent request for MFIP.
    Subd. 13. Immediate referral to employment services. Within one working day of
determination that the applicant is eligible for the diversionary work program, but before benefits
are issued to or on behalf of the family unit, the county shall refer all caregivers to employment
services. The referral to the DWP employment services must be in writing and must contain
the following information:
(1) notification that, as part of the application process, applicants are required to develop
an employment plan or the DWP application will be denied;
(2) the employment services provider name and phone number;
(3) the date, time, and location of the scheduled employment services interview;
(4) the immediate availability of supportive services, including, but not limited to, child care,
transportation, and other work-related aid; and
(5) the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of participants in the program, including, but
not limited to, the grounds for good cause, the consequences of refusing or failing to participate
fully with program requirements, and the appeal process.
    Subd. 14. Employment plan; DWP benefits. As soon as possible, but no later than ten
working days of being notified that a participant is financially eligible for the diversionary work
program, the employment services provider shall provide the participant with an opportunity to
meet to develop an initial employment plan. Once the initial employment plan has been developed
and signed by the participant and the job counselor, the employment services provider shall
notify the county within one working day that the employment plan has been signed. The county
shall issue DWP benefits within one working day after receiving notice that the employment
plan has been signed.
    Subd. 15. Limitations on certain work activities. (a) Except as specified in paragraphs (b)
to (d), employment activities listed in section 256J.49, subdivision 13, are allowable under the
diversionary work program.
(b) Work activities under section 256J.49, subdivision 13, clause (5), shall be allowable
only when in combination with approved work activities under section 256J.49, subdivision
13
, clauses (1) to (4), and shall be limited to no more than one-half of the hours required in
the employment plan.
(c) In order for an English as a second language (ESL) class to be an approved work
activity, a participant must:
(1) be below a spoken language proficiency level of SPL6 or its equivalent, as measured
by a nationally recognized test; and
(2) not have been enrolled in ESL for more than 24 months while previously participating
in MFIP or DWP. A participant who has been enrolled in ESL for 20 or more months may be
approved for ESL until the participant has received 24 total months.
(d) Work activities under section 256J.49, subdivision 13, clause (6), shall be allowable only
when the training or education program will be completed within the four-month DWP period.
Training or education programs that will not be completed within the four-month DWP period
shall not be approved.
    Subd. 16. Failure to comply with requirements. A family unit that includes a participant
who fails to comply with DWP employment service or child support enforcement requirements,
without good cause as defined in sections 256.741 and 256J.57, shall be disqualified from the
diversionary work program. The county shall provide written notice as specified in section 256J.31
to the participant prior to disqualifying the family unit due to noncompliance with employment
service or child support. The disqualification does not apply to food support or health care benefits.
    Subd. 17. Good cause for not complying with requirements. A participant who fails
to comply with the requirements of the diversionary work program may claim good cause for
reasons listed in sections 256.741 and 256J.57, subdivision 1, clauses (1) to (13). The county shall
not impose a disqualification if good cause exists.
    Subd. 18. Reinstatement following disqualification. A participant who has been
disqualified from the diversionary work program due to noncompliance with employment
services may regain eligibility for the diversionary work program by complying with program
requirements. A participant who has been disqualified from the diversionary work program due to
noncooperation with child support enforcement requirements may regain eligibility by complying
with child support requirements under section 256.741. Once a participant has been reinstated,
the county shall issue prorated benefits for the remaining portion of the month. A family unit
that has been disqualified from the diversionary work program due to noncompliance shall not
be eligible for MFIP or any other TANF cash program for the remainder of the four-month
period. In a two-parent family, both parents must be in compliance before the family unit can
regain eligibility for benefits.
    Subd. 19. DWP overpayments and underpayments. DWP benefits are subject to
overpayments and underpayments. Anytime an overpayment or an underpayment is determined
for DWP, the correction shall be calculated using prospective budgeting. Corrections shall be
determined based on the policy in section 256J.34, subdivision 1, paragraphs (a), (b), and (c).
ATM errors must be recovered as specified in section 256J.38, subdivision 5. Cross program
recoupment of overpayments cannot be assigned to or from DWP.
    Subd. 20.[Repealed, 2005 c 98 art 2 s 18]
History: 1Sp2003 c 14 art 1 s 102; 2004 c 288 art 4 s 55-59; 2005 c 98 art 1 s 17-21; 2005 c
164 s 29; 1Sp2005 c 7 s 28; 2007 c 147 art 2 s 48