S-2158.2  _______________________________________________


                         SENATE BILL 6144



State of Washington      57th Legislature     2001 Regular Session


By Senators Stevens, Rossi, Long, Hewitt, Carlson, Zarelli, Honeyford, Parlette, McDonald and West


Read first time 03/12/2001.  Referred to Committee on Human Services & Corrections.

Determining who receives general assistance.

    AN ACT Relating to general assistance to persons in need; and amending RCW 74.04.005.




    Sec. 1.  RCW 74.04.005 and 2000 c 218 s 1 are each amended to read as follows:

    For the purposes of this title, unless the context indicates otherwise, the following definitions shall apply:

    (1) "Public assistance" or "assistance"‑-Public aid to persons in need thereof for any cause, including services, medical care, assistance grants, disbursing orders, work relief, general assistance and federal-aid assistance.

    (2) "Department"‑-The department of social and health services.

    (3) "County or local office"‑-The administrative office for one or more counties or designated service areas.

    (4) "Director" or "secretary" means the secretary of social and health services.

    (5) "Federal-aid assistance"‑-The specific categories of assistance for which provision is made in any federal law existing or hereafter passed by which payments are made from the federal government to the state in aid or in respect to payment by the state for public assistance rendered to any category of needy persons for which provision for federal funds or aid may from time to time be made, or a federally administered needs-based program.

    (6)(a) "General assistance"‑-Aid to persons in need who:

    (i) Are not eligible to receive federal-aid assistance, other than food stamps or food stamp benefits transferred electronically and medical assistance; however, an individual who refuses or fails to cooperate in obtaining federal-aid assistance, without good cause, or who has received general assistance for a maximum lifetime benefit of thirty-six months after the effective date of this act, is not eligible for general assistance;

    (ii) Meet one of the following conditions:

    (A) Pregnant:  PROVIDED, That need is based on the current income and resource requirements of the federal temporary assistance for needy families program; or

    (B) Subject to chapter 165, Laws of 1992, incapacitated from gainful employment by reason of bodily or mental infirmity that will likely continue for a minimum of ninety days as determined by the department.

    (C) Persons who are unemployable due to alcohol or drug addiction are not eligible for general assistance.  Persons receiving general assistance on July 26, 1987, or becoming eligible for such assistance thereafter, due to an alcohol or drug-related incapacity, shall be referred to appropriate assessment, treatment, shelter, or supplemental security income referral services as authorized under chapter 74.50 RCW.  Referrals shall be made at the time of application or at the time of eligibility review.  Alcoholic and drug addicted clients who are receiving general assistance on July 26, 1987, may remain on general assistance if they otherwise retain their eligibility until they are assessed for services under chapter 74.50 RCW.  Subsection (6)(a)(ii)(B) of this section shall not be construed to prohibit the department from granting general assistance benefits to alcoholics and drug addicts who are incapacitated due to other physical or mental conditions that meet the eligibility criteria for the general assistance program;

    (iii) Are citizens or aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence or otherwise residing in the United States under color of law; and

    (iv) Have furnished the department their social security account number.  If the social security account number cannot be furnished because it has not been issued or is not known, an application for a number shall be made prior to authorization of assistance, and the social security number shall be provided to the department upon receipt.

    (b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (6)(a)(i), (ii), and (c) of this section, general assistance shall be provided to the following recipients of federal-aid assistance:

    (i) Recipients of supplemental security income whose need, as defined in this section, is not met by such supplemental security income grant because of separation from a spouse; or

    (ii) To the extent authorized by the legislature in the biennial appropriations act, to recipients of temporary assistance for needy families whose needs are not being met because of a temporary reduction in monthly income below the entitled benefit payment level caused by loss or reduction of wages or unemployment compensation benefits or some other unforeseen circumstances.  The amount of general assistance authorized shall not exceed the difference between the entitled benefit payment level and the amount of income actually received.

    (c) General assistance shall be provided only to persons who are not members of assistance units receiving federal aid assistance, except as provided in subsection (6)(a)(ii)(A) and (b) of this section, and ((will accept available)) who comply with an individual responsibility plan that:  (i) Sets forth an employment goal and a plan for moving the recipient into gainful employment; (ii) contains the obligation of the recipient to become and remain gainfully employed; (iii) moves the recipient into whatever gainful employment the recipient is capable of handling as quickly as possible; and (iv) specifies necessary medical, social, and employment services which can reasonably be expected to enable the person to work or reduce the need for assistance ((unless there is good cause to refuse)).  Failure to accept such services, without good cause, shall result in termination until the person agrees to cooperate in accepting such services and subject to the following maximum periods of ineligibility after reapplication:

    (((i))) (A) First failure:  One week;

    (((ii))) (B) Second failure within six months:  One month;

    (((iii))) (C) Third and subsequent failure within one year:  Two months.

    (d) Persons found eligible for general assistance based on incapacity from gainful employment may, if otherwise eligible, receive general assistance pending application for federal supplemental security income benefits.  Any general assistance that is subsequently duplicated by the person's receipt of supplemental security income for the same period shall be considered a debt due the state and shall by operation of law be subject to recovery through all available legal remedies.

    (e) The department shall adopt by rule medical criteria for general assistance eligibility to ensure that eligibility decisions are consistent with statutory requirements and are based on clear, objective medical information.

    (f) The process implementing the medical criteria shall involve consideration of opinions of the treating or consulting physicians or health care professionals regarding incapacity, and any eligibility decision which rejects uncontroverted medical opinion must set forth clear and convincing reasons for doing so.

    (g) Recipients of general assistance based upon a finding of incapacity from gainful employment who remain otherwise eligible shall not have their benefits terminated absent a clear showing of material improvement in their medical or mental condition or specific error in the prior determination that found the recipient eligible by reason of incapacitation.  Recipients of general assistance based upon pregnancy who relinquish their child for adoption, remain otherwise eligible, and are not eligible to receive benefits under the federal temporary assistance for needy families program shall not have their benefits terminated until the end of the month in which the period of six weeks following the birth of the recipient's child falls.  Recipients of the federal temporary assistance for needy families program who lose their eligibility solely because of the birth and relinquishment of the qualifying child may receive general assistance through the end of the month in which the period of six weeks following the birth of the child falls.

    (h) No person may be considered an eligible individual for general assistance with respect to any month if during that month the person:

    (i) Is fleeing to avoid prosecution of, or to avoid custody or confinement for conviction of, a felony, or an attempt to commit a felony, under the laws of the state of Washington or the place from which the person flees; or

    (ii) Is violating a condition of probation, community supervision, or parole imposed under federal or state law for a felony or gross misdemeanor conviction.

    (7) "Applicant"‑-Any person who has made a request, or on behalf of whom a request has been made, to any county or local office for assistance.

    (8) "Recipient"‑-Any person receiving assistance and in addition those dependents whose needs are included in the recipient's assistance.

    (9) "Standards of assistance"‑-The level of income required by an applicant or recipient to maintain a level of living specified by the department.

    (10) "Resource"‑-Any asset, tangible or intangible, owned by or available to the applicant at the time of application, which can be applied toward meeting the applicant's need, either directly or by conversion into money or its equivalent.  The department may by rule designate resources that an applicant may retain and not be ineligible for public assistance because of such resources.  Exempt resources shall include, but are not limited to:

    (a) A home that an applicant, recipient, or their dependents is living in, including the surrounding property;

    (b) Household furnishings and personal effects;

    (c) A motor vehicle, other than a motor home, used and useful having an equity value not to exceed five thousand dollars;

    (d) A motor vehicle necessary to transport a physically disabled household member.  This exclusion is limited to one vehicle per physically disabled person;

    (e) All other resources, including any excess of values exempted, not to exceed one thousand dollars or other limit as set by the department, to be consistent with limitations on resources and exemptions necessary for federal aid assistance.  The department shall also allow recipients of temporary assistance for needy families to exempt savings accounts with combined balances of up to an additional three thousand dollars;

    (f) Applicants for or recipients of general assistance shall have their eligibility based on resource limitations consistent with the temporary assistance for needy families program rules adopted by the department; and

    (g) If an applicant for or recipient of public assistance possesses property and belongings in excess of the ceiling value, such value shall be used in determining the need of the applicant or recipient, except that:  (i) The department may exempt resources or income when the income and resources are determined necessary to the applicant's or recipient's restoration to independence, to decrease the need for public assistance, or to aid in rehabilitating the applicant or recipient or a dependent of the applicant or recipient; and (ii) the department may provide grant assistance for a period not to exceed nine months from the date the agreement is signed pursuant to this section to persons who are otherwise ineligible because of excess real property owned by such persons when they are making a good faith effort to dispose of that property:  PROVIDED, That:

    (A) The applicant or recipient signs an agreement to repay the lesser of the amount of aid received or the net proceeds of such sale;

    (B) If the owner of the excess property ceases to make good faith efforts to sell the property, the entire amount of assistance may become an overpayment and a debt due the state and may be recovered pursuant to RCW 43.20B.630;

    (C) Applicants and recipients are advised of their right to a fair hearing and afforded the opportunity to challenge a decision that good faith efforts to sell have ceased, prior to assessment of an overpayment under this section; and

    (D) At the time assistance is authorized, the department files a lien without a sum certain on the specific property.

    (11) "Income"‑-(a) All appreciable gains in real or personal property (cash or kind) or other assets, which are received by or become available for use and enjoyment by an applicant or recipient during the month of application or after applying for or receiving public assistance.  The department may by rule and regulation exempt income received by an applicant for or recipient of public assistance which can be used by him or her to decrease his or her need for public assistance or to aid in rehabilitating him or her or his or her dependents, but such exemption shall not, unless otherwise provided in this title, exceed the exemptions of resources granted under this chapter to an applicant for public assistance.  In addition, for cash assistance the department may disregard income pursuant to RCW 74.08A.230 and 74.12.350.

    (b) If, under applicable federal requirements, the state has the option of considering property in the form of lump sum compensatory awards or related settlements received by an applicant or recipient as income or as a resource, the department shall consider such property to be a resource.

    (12) "Need"‑-The difference between the applicant's or recipient's standards of assistance for himself or herself and the dependent members of his or her family, as measured by the standards of the department, and value of all nonexempt resources and nonexempt income received by or available to the applicant or recipient and the dependent members of his or her family.

    (13) For purposes of determining eligibility for public assistance and participation levels in the cost of medical care, the department shall exempt restitution payments made to people of Japanese and Aleut ancestry pursuant to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and the Aleutian and Pribilof Island Restitution Act passed by congress, P.L. 100‑383, including all income and resources derived therefrom.

    (14) In the construction of words and phrases used in this title, the singular number shall include the plural, the masculine gender shall include both the feminine and neuter genders and the present tense shall include the past and future tenses, unless the context thereof shall clearly indicate to the contrary.


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