Review of Sanction Policies and Research Studies. The "Cost" of Work-Oriented Sanctions

03/10/2003

It is more complicated to examine the cost of a sanction to a family and what might affect their response to it than to examine states' policies. All else equal, a full-family sanction imposes a higher penalty for non-compliance than a partial sanction, and thus provides a greater incentive to comply. However, because TANF grants vary from state to state, the amount of the family's penalty depends not only on the type of sanction but also on the amount of the maximum benefit available for a particular family size. TANF sanctions can also affect the receipt of other public benefits, potentially increasing the cost of the sanction (see Appendix C-1). States have the option to terminate Medicaid coverage for non-pregnant adults, and 19 states have chosen to do so. If an individual is subject to both TANF and food stamp work requirements, a state must disqualify the individual from food stamps and has the option to disqualify the whole family if all children in the household are over the age of six; 16 states have elected this latter option. Under federal public housing and Section 8 certificate or voucher rules, families losing income due to work-related sanctions cannot qualify for the rent reductions that would otherwise occur. Finally, in some states, families who are sanctioned are not eligible for subsidized child care.

In five states, all with partial sanctions, the most stringent financial penalty under TANF associated with a work-related sanction is $100 or less (see Figure 1). One of the five states strengthens this sanction by disqualifying the whole family from receiving food stamps and one terminates the adult's Medicaid (see Appendix C-2). At the other extreme, in fifteen states, the financial cost of a work-oriented sanction is more than $400. All of these states impose a gradual or immediate full-family sanction. Almost one-half of the states that eliminate the full food stamp grant fall in this category, as do about one-third of the states that eliminate the adult's Medicaid. Data on what happens to child care for sanctioned families is not available for all states. In 13 of the 23 states where information is available, sanctioned families retain eligibility for child care; in the other ten states, sanctioned families either lose their eligibility or must have it redetermined.

Figure 1.
Financial Cost of Most Stringent Work-Related Sanctions for a Family of Three

 

Figure 1 Financial Cost of Most Stringent Work-Related Sanctions for a Family of Three

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