Screenings that occur prior to the eligibility determination can serve many purposes, including:
- Simplifying and shortening the eligibility interview;
- Determining the need for expedited food stamps or other immediate services;
- Conducting an up-front needs assessment for the purpose of diverting applicants from TANF to financial lump-sum assistance or referrals to other programs and/or resources;
- Informing applicants about the types of documentation they will need to submit;
- Determining whether or not individuals appear to be eligible for Medicaid because applicants must be determined ineligible for Medicaid before being enrolled in SCHIP; and
- Identifying potential barriers to participation in the TANF work program.
It is common for screenings to be used to identify clients in need of immediate assistance, such as emergency Medicaid or expedited food stamps. In some places (e.g., Raleigh), screenings are intended to identify whether applicants should receive short-term lump sum payments rather than regular TANF while other sites (e.g., Arlington and Seattle) use them as a tool to improve customer service and administrative efficiency.
Eligibility-related screenings may be incorporated into initial reception/intake responsibilities or may constitute a completely separate and distinct step in the application process. For example, reception/intake staff in Sedalia and Raleigh routinely conduct a preliminary screening to assess applicants’ need for expedited or emergency services. At this time they may also refer applicants to other programs or organizations in the community for assistance. This type of screening also provides staff with enough information so they can provide the correct application form and tell applicants which types of additional documentation they will need to submit.