S-0149.3  _______________________________________________


                         SENATE BILL 5201



State of Washington      57th Legislature     2001 Regular Session


By Senators Kohl‑Welles, Deccio, Winsley, Carlson, Sheahan, Swecker, Jacobsen, Hargrove, B. Sheldon, Shin, McAuliffe and Fairley


Read first time 01/15/2001.  Referred to Committee on Higher Education.

Creating the higher education for lifelong progress program.

    AN ACT Relating to increasing access to education for recipients of temporary assistance for needy families; amending RCW 74.08A.250; adding new sections to chapter 74.08A RCW; and creating new sections.




    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 1.  The legislature finds that recent studies show a powerful relationship between postsecondary education and an increase in lifetime earned income.  Even just two years of college can equate to a quarter of a million dollar increase in lifetime income.  A bachelor's degree can boost annual income seventy-three percent, compared to a high school degree.  In addition, studies indicate that for individuals attending college, there is a correlation with improved health status, increased civic participation, improved savings rates, less reliance on government assistance, and improved quality of life for their children.  Additionally, this correlates to increased tax revenues and reduced crime rates for society.  The legislature finds that some welfare recipients could qualify for college admission and benefit from completion of their higher education at a community, trade, or technical college, or other institute of higher education.

    The federal government has specifically encouraged creative approaches to higher education for welfare recipients, and several other states have enacted legislation to this end.  In Washington state, there is currently a shortage of skilled workers, with sixty‑four percent of Washington employers reporting difficulty in finding qualified applicants in 2000.  The scarcity of workers with postsecondary training affects many businesses, and has severe implications for the state's economy.  Skill requirements are expected to continue to increase.  In order to close the postsecondary skills gap, Washington will need significantly more advanced workers in the coming months and years, and enabling welfare clients to achieve their educational goals will help solve this problem.

    In 1999, the federal government adopted final regulations for temporary assistance for needy families, allowing expanded use of block grant and maintenance of effort funds.  These funds can be used creatively for a variety of special approaches, to help poor families achieve true financial independence.

    The legislature intends to provide access to postsecondary education for qualified adult recipients of temporary assistance for needy families, while maintaining the emphasis on employment that is the hallmark of the WorkFirst program.  The legislature intends to provide temporary assistance for needy families grants, including working connections child care and tuition assistance, to college-qualified individuals, with the goal of providing a means for highly motivated welfare recipients to successfully complete college, exit assistance, and secure careers to benefit themselves, their families, and society.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 2.  The department shall establish the HELP program.  The goal of the program is to help college-qualified parents who have dependent children in need and are eligible for temporary assistance for needy families receive up to two years of undergraduate education or training.  Annually the department shall provide parents accepted into or enrolled at an institution of higher education in Washington state with assistance that includes their temporary assistance for needy families cash grants, as well as the other support services provided to recipients of temporary assistance for needy families, including but not limited to medical assistance, working connections child care, food stamps, tuition assistance based upon actual tuition or public higher education tuition rates, whichever is less, and other support services.  The department may facilitate access to Pell grants and state need grants.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 3.  Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the definitions in this section apply throughout sections 2 through 10 of this act.

    (1) "HELP program" means the higher education for lifelong progress program.

    (2) "Institution of higher education" means the state research universities, the regional universities, The Evergreen State College, the community colleges, the technical colleges, and private career schools, colleges, and universities.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 4.  (1) Families that qualify for temporary assistance for needy families under this chapter may participate in the HELP program as a countable work activity of the temporary assistance for needy families program.  Eligibility for assistance, and the amount of assistance, shall be determined under criteria used in the temporary assistance for needy families program.  Because participation in the HELP program satisfies the countable work activity requirement, the department shall not impose an additional work requirement upon HELP participants.

    (2) The department shall assess the educational program to determine whether the completion of the program is likely to result in employment that provides the wages and benefits necessary for the applicant to support the applicant's family without public assistance.

    (3) To the extent that funds are available, enrollment in the program shall be granted if the department determines that:

    (a) The applicant intends to pursue higher education in a field with a high probability of wage progression and likely to enable the applicant to exit assistance; and

    (b) Considering potential employment opportunities and local labor market conditions, the undergraduate education sought by the individual is likely to improve the ability of the family to be self-supporting.

    The applicant shall meet the requirements for the state need grant under RCW 28B.10.800 through 28B.10.820 and qualify for acceptance at and be admitted to an institution of higher education in the state.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 5.  The department shall recommend that applicants obtain career planning and counseling services from their educational institutions to assist them in choosing an educational plan that is likely to lead to self-sufficiency, and provide to students who have begun an educational program assistance to overcome barriers to completing the program and becoming employed.  The department may work with other state, local, and private entities to provide the planning and counseling services.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 6.  Students receiving assistance under sections 2 through 10 of this act shall meet the following requirements:

    (1) They must be accepted into a postsecondary program; and

    (2) They must be enrolled full-time, with the expectation that they make satisfactory progress toward a degree, certificate, or license in a field likely to create a high probability of employment and wage progression.  Satisfactory progress may be evidenced by earning at least a 2.5 grade point average.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 7.  The department shall inform all persons applying for or participating in the temporary assistance for needy families program of the option to apply for the HELP program and the criteria for acceptance.  Recipients of temporary assistance for needy families who have already partially completed their postsecondary education will be encouraged to apply and be given priority.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 8.  To the extent permitted by federal law, assistance received under sections 2 through 10 of this act must be disregarded as income and excluded as a resource or asset to the same extent as assistance under the temporary assistance for needy families program, under this chapter, for the purposes of any state, federal, tribal, or municipal assistance program.  Assistance received under sections 2 through 10 of this act must be treated in the same manner as assistance received under the temporary assistance for needy families program under this chapter for all tax purposes.  Furthermore, the department shall implement the program so participants qualify for food stamps until completion of their degree or certificate.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 9.  (1) The department shall contract with the Washington state institute for public policy for the performance of an outcome study of program participants.  The study shall, at a minimum:

    (a) Track degree or certificate completion by participants;

    (b) Report on wage progression of participants;

    (c) Report on the program's dropout rate, including temporary assistance for needy families' recidivism;

    (d) Quantify the projected increase in lifetime earnings of program graduates; and

    (e) Report on self-identified enhancers and barriers to success in postsecondary education experience by the study population.

    (2) The results of the outcome study shall be reported annually, no later than January 15th, beginning in 2003, to the governor and to appropriate committees of the legislature.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 10.  Participation in the HELP program shall be incorporated in the recipient's individual personal responsibility plan, in a manner that clearly indicates that satisfactory progress in college is the recipient's temporary assistance for needy families work activity and responsibility.


    Sec. 11.  RCW 74.08A.250 and 2000 c 10 s 1 are each amended to read as follows:

    Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, as used in this chapter, "work activity" means:

    (1) Unsubsidized paid employment in the private or public sector;

    (2) Subsidized paid employment in the private or public sector, including employment through the state or federal work-study program for a period not to exceed twenty-four months;

    (3) Work experience, including:

    (a) An internship or practicum, that is paid or unpaid and is required to complete a course of vocational training or to obtain a license or certificate in a high demand field, as determined by the employment security department.  No internship or practicum shall exceed twelve months; or

    (b) Work associated with the refurbishing of publicly assisted housing, if sufficient paid employment is not available;

    (4) On-the-job training;

    (5) Job search and job readiness assistance;

    (6) Community service programs;

    (7) Vocational educational training, not to exceed twelve months with respect to any individual;

    (8) Job skills training directly related to employment;

    (9) Education directly related to employment, in the case of a recipient who has not received a high school diploma or a GED;

    (10) Satisfactory attendance at secondary school or in a course of study leading to a GED, in the case of a recipient who has not completed secondary school or received such a certificate;

    (11) The provision of child care services to an individual who is participating in a community service program;

    (12) Internships, that shall be paid or unpaid work experience performed by an intern in a business, industry, or government or nongovernmental agency setting;

    (13) Practicums, which include any educational program in which a student is working under the close supervision of a professional in an agency, clinic, or other professional practice setting for purposes of advancing their skills and knowledge; ((and))

    (14) Services required by the recipient under RCW 74.08.025(3) and 74.08A.010(3) to become employable; and

    (15) Participation in the higher education for lifelong progress program.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 12.  The department shall adopt rules to implement sections 2 through 10 of this act.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 13.  Sections 2 through 10 and 12 of this act are each added to chapter 74.08A RCW.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 14.  If any part of this act is found to be in conflict with federal requirements that are a prescribed condition to the allocation of federal funds to the state, the conflicting part of this act is inoperative solely to the extent of the conflict and with respect to the agencies directly affected, and this finding does not affect the operation of the remainder of this act in its application to the agencies concerned.  Rules adopted under this act must meet federal requirements that are a necessary condition to the receipt of federal funds by the state.


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