This topic contains information on the following subjects:
“Work First” is the program through which North Carolina administers the federally-funded Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Work First payments are made to custodial parents (CPs) on behalf of dependent children in “Child-Only” Work First cases on or about the first day of each month. In this type of case, the CP of the child(ren) is not included in the assistance payment, but the CP is the payee for the Work First payment.
All other Work First cases that include at least one (1) adult are subject to Work First Benefits (WFB). Payments are made for these cases in the month following the benefit month, if certain requirements are met. For more information on these requirements, see Work First Benefits.
TANF recipients assign their rights to support to the State when they receive Public Assistance (PA). The CSS program is entitled to establish retroactive support owed to the State subsequent to June 30, 1975 (NCGS 110-135).
NOTE: The acronym "AFDC" (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) is sometimes used by the CSS program; it was the PA program under which grants were paid prior to 1995. Where "AFDC" appears, understand that the reference is now to Work First (WFFA) or TANF.
Cases with Work First recipients whose eligibility for financial assistance is based on the absence of one or both parents from the home must be referred to a CSS agency.
Work First recipients are eligible for all CSS services at no cost. CSS agencies must also seek a provision for health insurance coverage as part of the child support order that is established for a Work First recipient. Work First recipients are required to cooperate with the CSS agency in the establishment, enforcement, and modification of a medical support obligation. This service must be explained to the Work First recipient and thoroughly documented in the case record.
The Work First recipient is always the CP of the child(ren). The CP is usually someone related to the child(ren), unless a judge has ordered the placement of the child(ren) in the home of a CP who is not related. Work First recipients can be minors who have applied for WFFA/TANF for themselves and/or the dependent child(ren).
If a child is born to a woman who has been receiving Work First payments for at least ten (10) months, the Work First payment amount DOES NOT increase. This limitation on the amount of the Work First payment is known as the "family cap". A child who is born at least ten (10) months after the family began receiving Work First payments is included in the WFFA assistance unit. The child's mother (or CP, if the mother is a minor) receives a Medicaid card and FNS/Food Stamp benefits for the child, but the Work First payments do not increase.
Children born at least ten (10) months after the family began receiving Work First payments are known as "cap children". Although the WFFA/TANF payment is not increased when the cap child(ren) is added to the family, these children are PA recipients, and any child support payments for them are distributed to the State. CSS case coding reflects this status.
Instead of being approved for Work First, a family can be approved for a one-time benefit known as “Benefit Diversion”, which consists of several months' worth of Work First payments, FNS/Food Stamps, and Medicaid benefits being paid at one time, as opposed to over a period of months. (The Medicaid benefit, however, is provided over a period of months.) This alternative allows the family to meet an immediate need for financial assistance while preserving independence from welfare.
When families select this option, they are provided with information about the availability of CSS services. If the family then requests CSS services, the case is established as a Non-Public Assistance (NPA) case. The Benefit Diversion agreement serves as verification of application; no application fee is charged. A Benefit Diversion case does not create a debt of PPPA (Past Paid Public Assistance) to be recouped by CSS.
If the Benefit Diversion application is withdrawn or denied, CSS is notified via an Income Maintenance Transmittal Form (DSS-8194). The caseworker generates a Letter To CP - TANF Application Denied/ Withdrawn (DSS-4470) to notify the CP that an application fee must be received by the CSS agency within thirty (30) days in order to continue CSS services.
Data on all Work First cases and Benefit Diversion cases is maintained in the Eligibility Information System (EIS). The Economic Independence Section of the Division of Social Services supervises county departments of social services in administering WFFA/TANF and Benefit Diversion.
NCGS 108A-27.2 (1c) and 108A-27.9 (c) (1c) require all eligible Work First recipients to complete all aspects of their Mutual Responsibility Agreement (MRA) Core Requirements and MRA Plan of Action each month before receiving a Work First cash assistance payment, unless Good Cause exists. These Work First cases must include at least one (1) adult; "Child-Only" cases are not subject to Work First Benefits (WFB).
All Work First applications with an adult in the case are approved with a Pay Type "2" in EIS and are subject to Work First Benefits (WFB). These cases include:
The recipients in WFB cases do not receive a Work First payment until after the end of the benefit month. Work First payments are issued the month after the recipient completes all requirements on the MRA for the benefit month.
Recipients in these cases must comply with the MRA and MRA Plan of Action in order to receive a Work First check. The MRA contains the timely notice that if recipients do not comply with all the provisions of the MRA, they will not receive a Work First payment. Recipients must submit documentation of compliance or good cause by the fifth (5th) work day of the following month; however, documentation can be accepted after the fifth (5th) work day in the month if good cause exists for why the information is late.
Work First caseworkers must issue a Work First benefit check within three (3) work days after receiving adequate documentation of compliance. If documentation is not received by the fifteenth (15th) work day of the month, Work First must terminate the Work First check, end the recipient's Medicaid eligibility (unless the recipient is pregnant), and transfer the case to Medicaid (MAF) for the child(ren) in the case.
When a Work First benefit case has been transferred to Medicaid due to the recipient's failure to comply with MRA requirements, a reapplication is required if the family wants to receive Work First Benefits again. If the former Work First recipient reapplies for Work First within the first ten (10) calendar days of the first month of receipt of Medicaid, and provides documentation of compliance with the MRA, the Work First worker can use an administrative reapplication process.
The Work First Benefits (WFB) CP receives a benefit check the month after the benefit month when that CP provided proof of compliance with the MRA. When the recipient does not provide all the necessary documentation by the fifth (5th) work day of the following month, the Work First caseworker makes an effort to contact the recipient to determine if good cause exists or if help is needed to obtain the documentation of compliance with the MRA.
If the required documentation has not been received by the fifteenth (15th) of the month following the report month and good cause has not been established, the Work First caseworker must transfer the case to Medicaid for the child(ren) in the case. The recipient is deleted from the case unless she is pregnant. If she is pregnant, she is evaluated for Medicaid for Pregnant Women (MPW).
When the recipient fails to provide proof of compliance, the recipient does not receive the WFB check for the prior month. When a case transfers from WFB to Medicaid due to the failure of the recipient to comply with MRA requirements, it then becomes "Medicaid only" for child support purposes. Then, the former Work First recipient is eligible to receive child support payments.
When a WFB case has been transferred to Medicaid due to the recipient's failure to comply with MRA requirements, the CSS caseworker must take specific actions for the case. The necessary actions differ, depending on whether or not the noncustodial parent (NCP) made a payment for the month(s) leading up to the termination of WFB and the transfer of the case to Medicaid.
As a condition of eligibility for Work First, the applicant/recipient must assign to the state the "rights to support" from any other person on his/her own behalf, or on behalf of any other family member for whom the applicant/recipient is applying for or receiving assistance. NCGS 110-137 accomplishes an automatic assignment of rights of child support for recipients of Work First for or on behalf of a dependent child up to the amount of WFFA/TANF paid. Assignment of rights is explained fully to the applicant/recipient at the time of the interview with the Income Maintenance caseworker. In addition, a copy of the service brochure with an explanation of services and fees, rights and responsibilities, and distribution policies is also provided at that time.
As a condition of eligibility for WFFA/TANF, the applicant/recipient is required to cooperate in good faith to establish paternity of a child or to establish, modify, or enforce a support order. Providing information, documents, or completed forms or participating in judicial or administrative proceedings could be required for the following purposes:
1. Identifying and locating the noncustodial parent (NCP);
2. Establishing the paternity of a child born out of wedlock, including if necessary, the submittal of the custodial parent (CP) and child to paternity testing;
3. Determining the amount of and collecting support payments;
4. Appearing at the offices of the local IV-A or CSS agency in the county that is providing public assistance benefits, as necessary to provide information relevant to the case;
5. Appearing as a witness at court or other hearings or proceedings as necessary; and
6. When the applicant is the putative father, responding to a request to acknowledge of paternity. (However, the applicant/putative father is not required to admit paternity or otherwise relinquish the right to paternity testing or judicial determination of paternity.)
7. Reporting to WFFA any money that is received directly from the NCP.
If WFFA applicants do not provide information regarding the NCP's identity and/or location, the referral is forwarded to the CSS agency, indicating why the information was omitted.
The Work First program provides a copy of the "Notice Of Requirement To Cooperate And Right To Claim Good Cause For Refusal To Cooperate In Child Support Enforcement" to families at application and review of Work First assistance. This notice explains the meaning, benefits, and consequences of cooperation and noncooperation.
Unless a claim of Good Cause is granted, recipients must cooperate fully with CSS in all Public Assistance (PA) cases that they have with CSS. A noncooperation referral from CSS in one case can cause a recipient to be ineligible for assistance in other existing or future WFFA cases. If a CSS case is closed due to noncooperation and later the recipient applies for assistance for the same or other child, the prior noncooperation must be addressed before assistance can be granted.
Recipients who believe that cooperation would be detrimental to the child can make a claim of Good Cause to the Work First or CSS agency. Work First caseworkers evaluate Good Cause claims by examining the evidence provided by recipients and/or their own investigation.
The Work First agency determines whether or not Good Cause exists based on the best interest of the child, and within five (5) business days of the determination, notifies CSS of the decision.
Evidence of any of the following situations could indicate Good Cause:
1. The applicant/recipient's cooperation in establishing paternity and support is reasonably anticipated to result in:
2. Proceeding to establish paternity or secure support would be detrimental to the child for one of the following reasons:
When a recipient makes a Good Cause claim to Work First after a referral has been made to CSS:
If the Work First agency determines that the recipient has Good Cause for refusing to cooperate:
If the Work First agency determines that Good Cause for refusing to cooperate does not exist:
If a recipient who initially cooperated with the Work First agency later makes a Good Cause claim to CSS after work has begun on the case:
If the CSS caseworker perceives that pursuing work on the case would be dangerous for the recipient and/or child(ren), even though the recipient has not claimed Good Cause:
If Work First applicants/recipients do not cooperate with CSS, and Good Cause for failure to cooperate is not established, a referral for noncooperation might be appropriate.
Public Assistance (PA) recipients can encounter barriers to cooperation involving issues such as transportation, child care, a medical condition, or employment. Before making a noncooperation referral, CSS must take steps to ensure that recipients have been given adequate information and opportunity to cooperate. CSS caseworkers should also confer with the IV-A worker or social worker regarding a recipient's failure to cooperate.
The following examples offer options to prevent the need for noncooperation referrals:
If the recipient fails to respond to one mail or telephone communication attempt:
If recipients cannot be reached by telephone or mail and have made no attempt to contact the caseworker, they meet the criteria for noncooperation.
NOTE: Failure to respond to one communication by CSS does not meet the criteria for referring a recipient for noncooperation. However, stating an intention not to cooperate does meet the criteria for referring a recipient for noncooperation.
If transportation, child care, or the health of a member of the recipient's family is a problem:
If the recipient's own health is an obstacle to keeping the scheduled appointment:
If the recipient's employment is the obstacle preventing him/her from keeping the scheduled appointment:
If a recipient's failure to return the necessary forms in a timely manner could lead to a finding of noncooperation:
If a Work First recipient hires a private attorney to handle child support matters:
NOTE: A Work First recipient's hiring of a private attorney to handle child support matters is not an act of noncooperation.
A decision to refer a recipient for noncooperation can be made as a result of:
Referral for noncooperation can only be indicated in open TANF or MAO cases. CSS caseworkers must indicate custodial parent (CP)/ recipient noncooperation in ACTS, document the date of the decision to make the noncooperation referral, and enter notes that specify what is needed from the CP.
CSS notifies the WFFA worker of the noncooperation. Upon receiving the information, the WFFA worker notifies the recipient of the referral from CSS and potential sanction. EIS does not return a final disposition for noncooperation.
When the recipient corrects the noncompliance, CSS immediately notifies Work First through ACTS. Work First CANNOT accept notice by telephone or other means of communication.
Cooperation with CSS is a part of the Work First recipient's Mutual Responsibility Agreement (MRA) Core Requirements. A Work First recipient who fails to cooperate with CSS without Good Cause:
1. Is ineligible for Medicaid (unless the recipient is pregnant or receives Medicaid as an SSI recipient); and
2. Causes the entire family (all individuals included in the Work First case) to be ineligible for a Work First payment for one (1) month or until compliance, whichever is later.
The MRA for Work First Benefits recipients serves as timely notice of termination of Work First payments when the recipient does not cooperate with CSS. When CSS sends notice of a Work First recipient's noncooperation, the recipient must miss at least one Work First payment.
Sometimes, a Work First recipient cooperates with CSS after CSS sends notice of noncooperation to Work First. The Work First recipient will never receive a Work First payment for the month of noncooperation with CSS, even if the recipient cooperates within the timely notice period or within the same month. If the recipient cooperates with CSS during the timely notice period, the recipient (as well as the children in the case) continues to be eligible for Medicaid, and the family is eligible for the Work First payment the month following the month of cooperation.
Because of the significant impact to the family, CSS must take all appropriate steps to facilitate recipient cooperation efforts, either prior to or following sanction.
When a Public Assistance (PA) recipient contacts CSS to arrange an appointment or to provide information, CSS caseworkers review ACTS to determine whether noncooperation is at issue.
If noncooperation is at issue, CSS should:
NOTE: Scheduling an appointment or agreeing to provide information does not constitute cooperation. Keeping the appointment and/or providing information are required for cooperation to occur.
If the CSS Customer Service Center (CSC) receives a call from a recipient attempting to avoid sanction for noncooperation:
If a WFFA recipient fails to cooperate, the WFFA case is terminated. The remaining Medicaid case is coded Aid-Program/Category "MAF" and Payment Type "9" in EIS. The CSS case remains coded "MAO" and might be eligible for closure.
If the recipient cooperates after the Work First case is closed, he/she must reapply for Work First (because the "AAF" case was terminated and transferred to Medicaid.) When a CSS case is closed, the recipient must correct the noncooperation issue, and the CSS caseworker must update ACTS for the recipient to become eligible for Work First.
Pay-after-performance for "standard" Work First counties means that a two-parent family is receiving Work First payments. Unlike single parent families, two-parent families do not receive a Work First check until they have completed (performed) the required hours of work and/or work-related activities.
Some Work First counties could elect to establish their own eligibility criteria and benefit levels. These counties are known as "electing" Work First counties. Electing counties could define pay-after-performance as a sanction and/or a two-parent family. (CSS caseworkers must contact the local Work First agency for this determination.)
NOTE: A referral for a two-parent Work First cases is appropriate if one parent in the case is a stepparent to a child in the case, and CSS services are required to establish paternity and support for the child.
NCGS 110-131 permits actions to compel testimony from noncooperative custodial parents (CPs). The use of this procedure is limited to situations where all other avenues have been explored and in which the caseworker has reason to believe that the CP/recipient has information that can assist in locating and securing support from the noncustodial parent (NCP).
The use of this procedure is at the discretion of and reviewed by the local supervisor.
NOTE: Issuance of a subpoena for the CP/recipient to appear as a witness in a paternity, support establishment, or enforcement hearing can be an alternative to a motion to compel the CP’s testimony.
NCGS 110-131(a) provides that on failure or refusal to assist in providing the required information, authority is granted to cite the noncooperative parent to appear in District Court and be compelled to disclose such information under oath.
A CP’s refusals to appear before a district court judge constitutes grounds for contempt of court. A CP can be declared ineligible for Public Assistance (PA) by county DSS for as long as he/she fails to cooperate, or the CP can be fined one hundred ($100.00) dollars or imprisoned not more than six (6) months, or both.
Contempt actions under NCGS 110-131 must never be used in CSS cases involving an unemancipated minor mother, even when she is the payee for the Work First grant. Whenever applicable, the only procedure to be used in minor-mother CSS cases is a referral to the local Work First agency for noncooperation.
Minor CPs CAN be subpoenaed to testify or appear as a witness in paternity, support establishment, or show cause hearings, since competency to testify is a decision of the court.
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact your local county office.