S-2679               _______________________________________________


                                         SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL NO. 5691



State of Washington                               51st Legislature                              1989 Regular Session


By Senate Committee on Way & Means (originally sponsored by Senators McDonald and Owen; by request of Department of Social and Health Services)



Read first time 3/20/89.



AN ACT Relating to eligibility for general assistance unemployable; and reenacting and amending RCW 74.04.005.




        Sec. 1.  Section 1, chapter 6, Laws of 1981 1st ex. sess. as last amended by section 31, chapter 75, Laws of 1987 and by section 9, chapter 406, Laws of 1987 and RCW 74.04.005 are each reenacted and 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 and medical assistance((; however, an individual who refuses or fails to cooperate in obtaining federal-aid assistance, without good cause, is not eligible for general assistance)).  An individual who refuses or fails to cooperate in obtaining federal-aid assistance, without good cause, is not eligible for general assistance.  All recipients referred by the department shall apply for federal-aid assistance and furnish the department with verification of such application within one month of the time they are notified by the department that they are required to apply for federal supplemental security income benefits.  The department shall develop rules in accordance with chapter 34.05 RCW regarding referral of general assistance applicants and recipients who may qualify for federal aid.  The department shall inform applicants and recipients regarding the existence of federal-aid programs and assist them to compile necessary medical information on all disabilities, apply for benefits, and file timely appeals and obtain legal assistance.  A denial of federal-aid assistance shall not be grounds for termination of general assistance unless the recipient of general assistance fails to request reconsideration of the denial or fails to request and proceed in good faith with a hearing on the denial of reconsideration within the time allowed by federal rules.  Recipients of general assistance shall furnish the department with verification of applications, requests for reconsideration, and hearing decisions or they will be sanctioned in accordance with subsection (6)(c) of this section;

          (ii) Are either:

          (A) Pregnant:  PROVIDED, That need is based on the current income and resource requirements of the federal aid to families with dependent children program:  PROVIDED FURTHER, That during any period in which an aid for dependent children employable program is not in operation, only those pregnant women who are categorically eligible for medicaid are eligible for general assistance; or

          (B) Incapacitated from gainful employment by reason of bodily or mental infirmity that will likely continue for a minimum of ((sixty)) ninety days as determined by the department.  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.  This subsection (6)(a)(ii)(B) 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 aid to families with dependent children 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 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 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) First failure:  One week;

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

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

          (d) 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.

          (e) 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.

          (f) Recipients of general assistance 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.

          (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:  PROVIDED, That an applicant may retain the following described resources and not be ineligible for public assistance because of such resources.

          (a) A home, which is defined as real property owned and used by an applicant or recipient as a place of residence, together with a reasonable amount of property surrounding and contiguous thereto, which is used by and useful to the applicant.  Whenever a recipient shall cease to use such property for residential purposes, either for himself or his dependents, the property shall be considered as a resource which can be made available to meet need, and if the recipient or his dependents absent themselves from the home for a period of ninety consecutive days such absence, unless due to hospitalization or health reasons or a natural disaster, shall raise a rebuttable presumption of abandonment:  PROVIDED, That if in the opinion of three physicians the recipient will be unable to return to the home during his lifetime, and the home is not occupied by a spouse or dependent children or disabled sons or daughters, such property shall be considered as a resource which can be made available to meet need.

          (b) Household furnishings and personal effects and other personal property having great sentimental value to the applicant or recipient, as limited by the department consistent with limitations on resources and exemptions for federal aid assistance.

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

          (d) 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.

          (e) Applicants for or recipients of general assistance may retain the following described resources in addition to exemption for a motor vehicle or home and not be ineligible for public assistance because of such resources:

          (i) Household furnishings, personal effects, and other personal property having great sentimental value to the applicant or recipient;

          (ii) Term and burial insurance for use of the applicant or recipient;

          (iii) Life insurance having a cash surrender value not exceeding one thousand five hundred dollars; and

          (iv) Cash, marketable securities, and any excess of values above one thousand five hundred dollars equity in a vehicle and above one thousand five hundred dollars in cash surrender value of life insurance, not exceeding one thousand five hundred dollars for a single person or two thousand two hundred fifty dollars for a family unit of two or more.  The one thousand dollar limit in subsection (10)(d) of this section does not apply to recipients of or applicants for general assistance.

          (f) 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 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, but the recipient must sign an agreement to dispose of the property and repay assistance payments made to the date of disposition of the property which would not have been made had the disposal occurred at the beginning of the period for which the payments of such assistance were made.  In no event shall such amount due the state exceed the net proceeds otherwise available to the recipient from the disposition, unless after nine months from the date of the agreement the property has not been sold, or if the recipient's eligibility for financial assistance ceases for any other reason.  In these two instances the entire amount of assistance paid during this period will be treated as an overpayment and a debt due the state, and may be recovered pursuant to RCW 43.20B.630.

          (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:  PROVIDED, That 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 to decrease his need for public assistance or to aid in rehabilitating him or his 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:  PROVIDED FURTHER, That in determining the amount of assistance to which an applicant or recipient of aid to families with dependent children is entitled, the department is hereby authorized to disregard as a resource or income the earned income exemptions consistent with federal requirements:  PROVIDED FURTHER, The department may permit the above exemption of earnings of a child to be retained by such child to cover the cost of special future identifiable needs even though the total exceeds the exemptions or resources granted to applicants and recipients of public assistance, but consistent with federal requirements.  In formulating rules and regulations pursuant to this chapter, the department shall define income and resources and the availability thereof, consistent with federal requirements.  All resources and income not specifically exempted, and any income or other economic benefit derived from the use of, or appreciation in value of, exempt resources, shall be considered in determining the need of an applicant or recipient of public assistance.

          (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 and the dependent members of his 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 family.

          (13) 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.