Research on Employment Supports for People with Disabilities: Summary of the Focus Group Findings. Transitional Income Support Programs


Transitional income assistance programs are designed to provide temporary assistance to unemployed or otherwise disadvantaged individuals and families. Typically, these programs have restrictions on the receipt of such benefits, in terms of eligibility and the amount of time an individual can receive payments.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (Welfare to Work). Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal program that replaced the Aid for Dependent Children (AFDC) program under federal welfare reform legislation. TANF provides block grants to states that are used to provide assistance and work programs for needy families. Washington enacted the Washington Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Act (ESHB 3901), creating the WorkFirst program in order to complete implementation of the federal welfare reform legislation. It uses federal TANF funds and state funds to develop and deliver services to needy families. The state's welfare caseload was 56,255 in May 2000.101

WorkFirst. WorkFirst is Washington State's welfare reform program that helps people in low-income families find jobs, keep their jobs, find better jobs and become self-sufficient. Four state agencies jointly carry out the program: Department of Social and Health Services; the Employment Security Department; State Board for Community and Technical Colleges; and the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development. In addition, local employers, tribal governments, Private Industry Councils, transportation entities and community-based, nonprofit organizations are key partners in planning and providing services to WorkFirst participants.

WorkFirst is the major cash assistance program providing cash benefits and services for low-income families with (or expecting) children in the state of Washington. There is no legal entitlement to WorkFirst benefits. Effective July 1, 1999, The WorkFirst exemption for parents of infants was changed from 12 months to three months. Additionally, pregnant women in their first two trimesters now receive TANF benefits instead of state-funded General Assistance. Pregnant women and parents of infants older than three months are now required to participate in WorkFirst activities. Based on the needs of the individual family and the results an assessment, families' activities can range from medical treatment to parenting classes to job search and employment. Furthermore, major features of WorkFirst include childcare subsidies, job readiness skill and job search workshops, pre-employment training and on-the-job training.

Additionally, Washington State makes available a diversion program to families who are otherwise eligible for TANF assistance. The Diversion Cash Assistance (DCA) program is designed to provide brief, emergency assistance and prevent some families in crisis from developing a dependency on WorkFirst assistance. Diversion assistance is available once in each 12-month period for each adult applicant, and may not exceed $1,500 for each instance.

DCA may include cash or vouchers in payment for child care, housing, transportation-related expenses, food, medical costs for the recipient's immediate family, and employment-related expenses which are necessary to keep or obtain paid unsubsidized employment.

On-Going Additional Requirements (AR). WorkFirst families containing an aged, blind, or disabled member, may qualify for special need items or additional requirements under WorkFirst program rules. On-going additional needs are added to the monthly TANF cash grant.

Consolidated Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP). Low-income families, with monthly income below 90 percent of the WorkFirst payment standard with a child under 18 years old, may qualify for emergency cash aid to help meet their basic living needs. Basic needs include, but are not limited to, food, shelter, clothing, minor medical expenses, utilities, and household maintenance supplies. Assistance is limited to 30 consecutive days within any 12-consecutive-month period.

Additional Requirements - Emergent Need (AREN). WorkFirst families who experience a short-term expense caused by an emergency may qualify for additional cash assistance (e.g. to prevent eviction, obtain housing, or prevent a utility shut-off). Payment is limited to the least amount necessary to get the family through the emergency and is usually paid directly to a third party, such as the utility company.

State Family Assistance (SFA).102 This program is available to clients who are ineligible for TANF for specific reasons. Individuals not eligible for TANF under the following conditions are eligible for SFA.

  • An individual is a qualified alien and has been in the United States for less than five years.

  • An individual is an alien permanently residing in the United States.

  • An individual is a nineteen or twenty-year-old student that meets certain education requirements under the Washington Administrative Code.

  • An individual is a caretaker relative of a nineteen or twenty-year-old students who meets certain educational requirements of WAC.

  • A pregnant women who has been convicted of misrepresenting residence in order to receive benefits from two or more states at the same time, or a drug-related felony.

Unemployment Insurance.103 Unemployment Insurance (UI) is designed and intended to provide partial wage replacement for workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. In Washington, UI is administered by the Employment Security Department. UI results from a partnership between states and the federal government. Federal law dictates the administration of the basic program and state law governs individual eligibility. The money to pay UI benefits comes from a state payroll tax levied on employers. The amount employers pay depends on the number of their employees who receive benefits from the program. The money to pay for the administration of national and state UI programs comes from a federal tax under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA). Neither of these taxes is deducted from the payroll checks of employees in the state of Washington.

General Assistance--Unemployable (GA-U) Program. This program serves individuals who are unable to work due to incapacity and who are not eligible for or receiving benefits from other programs.104