The Application Process For TANF, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Raleigh, North Carolina


TANF/FSP/Medicaid. Raleigh, like Arlington, requires applicants to participate in an up-front screening process prior to the eligibility interview. The primary purpose of the screening is to determine if applicants qualify for a one-time lump sum payment (called “Benefit Diversion”) in lieu of going on cash assistance. Applicants are also screened for a county-funded program for working families whose income is below 150 percent of poverty and a TANF-funded program for those with income below 200 percent of poverty. Spanish-speaking TANF applicants, however, do not have to go through the screening process unless one of the two bilingual screeners is on duty. If no bilingual screener is available, Spanish-speakers meet with an interpreter who prepares the information needed by the case manager to complete the application and verification process.

Following the meeting with the screener, applicants participate in an eligibility interview. After the interview, but while their application is pending, applicants must register for work with an on-site representative from the Employment Services Commission. Typically, this happens during the same day as the eligibility interview, but if not, it must occur within ten days of the interview. Applicants are encouraged but not required to attend a work orientation and visit the on-site resource area to start a job search.

Food Stamp-Only. The food stamp-only application process is simpler than the TANF application process. Food stamp-only applicants do not participate in a screening interview and are not subject to any additional up-front requirements that must be met prior to eligibility determination. Instead, they register with the receptionist to start the application process and then meet briefly with a verification clerk who records basic household composition, income, and work history information. After completing an application, applicants are interviewed by an eligibility worker. If food stamp applicants would also like to apply for Medicaid, they may do so at the same time.

Medicaid/SCHIP. In Raleigh, as with the other sites, Medicaid-only and SCHIP individuals may submit applications by mail or apply for either program through out-stationed eligibility workers. At the time of our visit (August 2001), food stamp and Medicaid/SCHIP applications for Spanish-speaking families were only taken two days per week (but subsequent to our site visit were taken five days per week). Raleigh officials noted that even though face-to-face interviews are no longer required for eligibility determination, the Latino population tends to prefer face-to-face interviews to the mail-in option. Administrators said it is rare for Latino applicants to mail in their applications, and they believe that staff encourage this practice because they are able to obtain better information through face-to-face interviews and to address other service needs. Additionally, most staff indicated a preference to take Spanish-language applications in person due to the high volume of mistakes in mail-in forms. Medicaid eligibility workers are also out-stationed at public health clinics and hospitals throughout the county.

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