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3.16.1 Work Requirements

3.16.1.1 Background

3.16.1.2 FoodShare Work Requirements

3.16.1.3 Exemptions from the FoodShare Work Registration Requirements

3.16.1.4 Registering for Work

3.16.1.4.1 Work Registration Interview Requirements

3.16.1.5 Sanctions for Noncompliance

3.16.1.6 Sanction Period

3.16.1.6.1 At Application

3.16.1.6.2 Ongoing

3.16.1.7 Good Cause

3.16.1.8 Ending a Sanction Event

3.16.1.9 Sanctions and Fair Hearings

 

7 CFR 273.7

3.16.1.1 Background

Federal regulations require FoodShare applicants and members to comply with FoodShare work registration requirements and ABAWD work requirements as a condition of FoodShare eligibility. ABAWD policy related to FoodShare eligibility is located in section 3.17 Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDs).

 

As of March 1, 2008, FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) became a voluntary program for all FoodShare applicants and members. The FSET program serves people who wish to voluntarily enroll, but benefits cannot be sanctioned for non-participation. All FSET policy and some additional ABAWD policy pertaining to the ABAWD work requirement is in the FSET Handbook.

3.16.1.2 FoodShare Work Requirements

All FoodShare applicants or members ages 16 through 59 must comply with the work registration requirements as a condition of FoodShare eligibility, unless they meet an exemption. Applicants or members who do not comply with the work registration requirements are sanctioned from receiving FoodShare benefits. The work registration requirements are different from the work requirement for certain able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) that was implemented statewide on April 1, 2015. For information on the ABAWD work requirement, see section 3.17.1.

 

Compliance with the work registration requirements includes registering for work at the time of application and every 12 months thereafter. An applicant or member must provide the IM agency with sufficient information regarding employment status or availability for work.

 

To maintain compliance after registering for work:

  1. A person who is working a job of 30 or more hours per week (or a job with earnings equivalent to 30 or more hours per week at the federal minimum wage) must not voluntarily and without good cause quit that job. The converted monthly amount (i.e., the amount of monthly earnings calculated based on average weekly earnings) should be used. A person who is working 30 or more hours per week must not voluntarily and without good cause reduce work hours to less than 30 per week. If a person reduces hours to less than 30 per week, but continues to earn weekly wages greater than 30 hours at the federal minimum wage, a sanction should not be applied. The converted monthly amount should be used;

  2. A person must not turn down suitable employment without good cause. The following must all be true for a job to be considered suitable employment:

  3. A person who has applied for or is receiving unemployment compensation must continue to comply with the unemployment compensation program work requirements;

  4. A person participating in a Wisconsin Works (W-2) placement must continue to comply with the W-2 program work requirement.

 

Note: If the person is open for W-2 in CWW, he or she is in compliance with the W-2 program work requirement. If W-2 is showing as closed (after having been open) in CWW, the worker will need to review the closure reason and correspondence history to evaluate if there was a failure to comply with W-2. The worker must then evaluate if the member had good cause for the failure to comply with W-2. See Operations Memo 18-40.

 

Minor variations in the number of work hours worked or in the weekly gross wage equivalent to federal minimum wage multiplied by 30 hours per week are inevitable and must be taken in consideration when assessing compliance with work requirements.

3.16.1.3 Exemptions from the FoodShare Work Registration Requirements

Some FoodShare applicants and members are exempt from the work registration requirements in 3.16.1.2. The following applicants and members are exempt from the work registration requirements:

  1. A person 16-17 years of age who is not the primary person in a food unit.

  2. A person 16-17 years of age who is the primary person in a food unit but who is enrolled in school or in an employment and training program at least half-time.

  3. A person determined unfit for employment, which includes a person who is one of the following:

    1. Receiving temporary or permanent disability benefits from the government or a private source.

    2. Mentally or physically unable to work, as determined by the income maintenance (IM) agency.

    3. Verified as unable to work by a statement from a health care professional or a social worker.  

  4. A person participating in and complying with the Wisconsin Works (W-2) work requirement.

Note: If a person is open for W-2 in CWW, he or she is in compliance with the W-2 program work requirement.

  1. A parent or other food unit member who is the primary caregiver for a dependent child younger than 6 years old (whether the child lives in the home or out of the home). If two people are exercising parental control of a child, only one of those people can be exempt from work registration as the primary caretaker of that child.

  2. A parent or other food unit member who is the primary caregiver for a person who cannot care for himself or herself (whether the person lives in the home or out of the home).

  3. A person who has applied for or is receiving unemployment compensation.

  4. A person regularly participating in an alcohol or other drug abuse (AODA) treatment or rehabilitation program.

  5. An employed or self-employed person working 30 or more hours per week or earning wages equivalent to 30 or more hours per week at the federal minimum wage.

  6. A person who is enrolled at least half-time in any recognized school, training program, or institution of higher education.

 

An individual who jointly applies for SSI and FoodShare would be exempt from work requirements until a disability determination is made. If they are determined ineligible for SSI, the requirement to register for work should be re-evaluated.

 

Currently in Wisconsin, SSA does not participate in a joint FoodShare application process.

 

Verification for an exemption from the work registration requirements is not required unless the exemption is questionable.

 

Note: There are some differences between exemptions from the general FoodShare work registration requirements and exemptions from the ABAWD work requirement. For more information on exemptions from the ABAWD work requirement, see section 3.17.1.5.

3.16.1.4 Registering for Work

As a condition of FoodShare eligibility, each food unit member not exempt from the FoodShare work requirements in 3.16.1.2 must register for work at the time of application and renewal, and every 12 months after initial enrollment in FoodShare. An applicant or member must provide the IM agency with sufficient information regarding employment status or availability for work.

 

Registering for work is completed when the agency receives one of the following:

 

An applicant or member who signs the FoodShare application or renewal registers all food unit members subject to the work registration requirements for work.

3.16.1.4.1 Work Registration Interview Requirements

During each FoodShare interview, IM workers must do the following:

 

During the FoodShare interview, IM workers must explain the FoodShare work registration requirements, the rights and responsibilities of work-registered food unit members, and the consequences of failure to comply with the work registration requirements. IM workers must differentiate between the FoodShare work registration requirements and the ABAWD work requirement.  

 

IM workers should provide applicants and members with information about the FSET program. IM workers need to inform work registrants that although registration for work is mandatory, participation in FSET is voluntary and non-participation will not result in being sanctioned.

3.16.1.5 Sanctions for Noncompliance

An applicant or member without an exemption (3.16.1.3 Exemptions from the FoodShare Work Registration Requirements) is considered to be noncompliant if he or she does not meet the work registration requirements in 3.16.1.2 FoodShare Work Requirements. An applicant or member who does not comply with the work registration requirements and does not have good cause will be sanctioned from receiving FoodShare benefits. An event that results in a sanction has historically been referred to as a voluntary quit or a reduced work effort (VQT). These events are now referred to as sanction events.

 

Acts of noncompliance that may result in a sanction and that are reported by the applicant or member are generally not questionable; the IM worker should not pend the application or renewal for verification of the sanction event unless there is conflicting or questionable information. The IM worker should document the steps taken to explore good cause in case comments.

 

The following are sanction events:

Note: Quitting a job of 29 or fewer hours per week should not result in a sanction, unless the weekly earnings prior to quitting were greater than 30 times the federal minimum wage.

Note: The reason for closure needs to be explored with the applicant or member.

 

It is possible that a FoodShare applicant or member who is exempt from the work registration requirements could be sanctioned for noncompliance. FoodShare applicants or members who are initially exempt from meeting the work registration requirements solely due to working, applying for or receiving unemployment compensation, or participating in W-2, but who commit an act of noncompliance resulting in the loss of the exemption without good cause will be sanctioned. If there are any additional exemptions for this applicant or member, a sanction will not be applied.

 

Note: FoodShare applications must be processed within the normal processing time frame. If verification of a sanction event or good cause is required and has not been verified by day 30, the IM worker must determine FoodShare eligibility as if this person has not failed to meet the FoodShare work registration requirement. Once eligibility has been determined, the sanction event/good cause reason should pend for the appropriate time. If a sanction event occurred without good cause, the IM worker would sanction that person in the next possible benefit month.

 

If an application is eligible for expedited FoodShare and it is unknown whether the applicant failed to meet the work registration requirement or if there is good cause for a sanction event, the expedited issuance must not be delayed and the expedited issuance must occur by the seventh day after the date of application.

3.16.1.6 Sanction Period

Sanctions will be systematically applied for the time periods indicated below. During a sanction period, if the applicant or member remains part of a food unit, he or she will be a gross deemer for the purpose of income and deduction budgeting (i.e., his or her income and expenses will be used in the FoodShare benefit determination for the rest of the food group).

 

Sanction Occurrence

Time Period for Sanctions

Applied at the Time of Application (days)

Time Period for Sanctions

Applied to Ongoing Cases

(benefit months)*

1st

30 days

1 month

2nd

90 days

3 months

3rd and subsequent

180 days

6 months

 

*In instances where a break in service occurs, the sanction applies from the first date that eligibility is regained and runs for the remainder of that benefit month.

3.16.1.6.1 At Application

If a sanction event occurs within 30 days of the application filing date, without good cause, the applicant or member will be sanctioned from receiving FoodShare benefits as of the application filing date.

 

An application is not eligible for expedited FoodShare issuance if there is a sanction event. An interview is required to determine if there is a sanction event. The worker is required to determine sanction events and good cause in the interview. The IM worker should document exploration of sanction events and good cause in case comments. 

 

If an applicant’s or member’s FoodShare eligibility is failing for another reason (e.g., the applicant or member did not verify information), a sanction will not be applied at the time of application.

 

Example 1: Joe completes an application on December 6 and the agency is unable to reach him for the interview. Joe reports no income or assets and he is otherwise eligible, so the agency pends for his interview. Joe comes into the agency on December 20 and completes his interview. Joe reports he quit his job on November 26 and has no exemption or good cause. Joe is otherwise eligible so the worker confirms the application denied, and CWW applies his first sanction beginning December 6.

 

Example 2: Jack applies for FoodShare on August 8. Jack completes his interview on August 21 and reports that he refused suitable employment on July 20 without good cause. Jack is not otherwise exempt. Jack’s application pends for verification of his identity. Jack fails to verify his identity by his verification due date of September 7. Since Jack is being denied for failure to verify information, a sanction will not be applied.

3.16.1.6.2 Ongoing

If a sanction event occurs within the 6- or 12-month certification period, without good cause, the work registrant will be sanctioned. Sanctions for ongoing cases are applied following adverse action. In instances where a break in service occurs, the sanction applies from the first date that eligibility is regained and runs for the remainder of that benefit month.

 

Note: Other than during six-month reporting and renewal, the only change food units are required to report is if their total monthly gross income increases above 130 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) for their reported food unit size. This change must be reported by the 10th of the month following the month in which the total income exceeded 130 percent of the FPL. As long as a food unit's total income is less than 130 percent of the FPL, the food unit does not need to report changes in income, assets, address, household composition, etc. [6.1.1 Change Reporting for All Food Units (Reduced Reporting)].

 

Example 3: John completes his renewal interview on December 3, and FoodShare pends for verification. John doesn’t provide verification timely, so his FoodShare case closes at adverse action, effective December 31. John provides his verification on January 15 and also reports that he refused employment without good cause. Break-in-service requirements were met on January 15. This is John’s first sanction event and the sanction is applied January 15 through January 31. Since John did not receive benefits from January 1 through January 31, this is a one-month sanction.

 

Example 4: Jeff applied for FoodShare in February and his case is currently open. On August 21, Jeff reports that he quit his job without good cause; he is not otherwise exempt. Verification is not necessary, so the worker determines Jeff’s FoodShare eligibility and he receives his first sanction. Since FoodShare issuance already occurred for September, Jeff will be assigned a one-month sanction, beginning October 1.

 

When, during six-month reporting or renewal, a member reports that a sanction event took place during the certification period and FoodShare eligibility is closing for any reason, a sanction will be applied. This occurs because the member was subject to the work registration requirements at the time of the sanction event.

 

Example 5: Jill has a renewal due by December 31. Jill submits an ACCESS renewal and completes her interview on December 21. During the interview, she reports that she quit her job without good cause and is not otherwise exempt. The agency needs to verify Jill’s unearned income. Jill fails to verify the income by December 31. The worker confirms that Jill’s eligibility for ongoing FoodShare was closed on December 31 for failure to verify the unearned income, and a one-month sanction is applied for the month of January for her first sanction occurrence.

3.16.1.7 Good Cause

When considering whether a potential sanction event has taken place, IM workers are required to consider the reasons leading to the event in order to determine if there was good cause. The IM worker should document steps taken to explore good cause in case comments. When good cause exists, a sanction should not be applied.

 

Reasons for good cause include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. The job did not meet the suitable employment criteria (3.16.1.2).
  2. The applicant or member was fired or resigned at the employer’s demand.
  3. The employer discriminated based on the applicant or member’s age, race, sex, color, handicap, religious belief, national origin, or political belief.
  4. Work demands or conditions made continued employment unreasonable (e.g., working without being paid timely).
  5. The applicant or member accepted other employment at a wage equivalent to working 30 or more hours per week at federal minimum wage.
  6. The applicant’s or member’s work hours were reduced to less than 30 hours per week, but wages earned are equivalent to working 30 or more hours per week at the federal minimum wage.
  7. The applicant or member enrolled at least half-time in any recognized school, training program, or institution of higher education that requires him or her to leave employment.
  8. There were changes in the food unit residence that impacted access to current employment (e.g., members of the food unit moved to another community because a member accepted a new job or enrolled at least half-time in a recognized school, training program, or institution of higher education).
  9. The applicant or member has personal health problems, or others in the food unit have health problems requiring the presence of the applicant or member.
  10. The applicant or member is under age 60 and resigned from a job, which the employer recognized as retirement.
  11. The applicant or member quit in the context of the natural pattern of employment, such as a migrant worker or construction laborer.
  12. Hours of employment were reduced by the employer without consent from the applicant or member, but the employer remained the same.
  13. The applicant or member quit unsubsidized employment to join a volunteer program, such as Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA), AmeriCorps, etc.
  14. Transportation was not available.
  15. The applicant or member was unable to obtain adequate child care for a child or children younger than age 12.
  16. The applicant’s or member’s self-employment ended.
  17. There were other circumstances beyond the applicant’s or member’s control that the agency feels constitute good cause.

 

Example 6 (sanction event resulting in a sanction): John reports that he quit his job because he doesn’t like his boss. No good cause exists. determine if his job ended due to good cause. Scott does not have good cause for quitting his job. Because the worker is processing the sanction event after adverse action in December, his sanction begin date will be February 1.

 

Example 7 (sanction event not resulting in a sanction due to good cause): John reports that he quit his job because his boss was creating a hostile work environment by harassing him for his religious beliefs. Good cause exists. The worker should not create a sanction.

 

Verification of good cause is not required unless the reason for good cause is questionable. If an IM worker receives conflicting or unclear information about the good cause reason, verification must be requested to clarify the circumstances. If verification of good cause is requested, the reason for requesting verification should be documented in case comments.

 

Any federal, state, or local government employee who participates in a strike and is dismissed because of the participation is considered to have voluntarily quit the job without good cause.

 

Note: Simplified reporting does not require reporting of job loss or reduction in work hours with the exception of ABAWDs who are meeting the ABAWD work requirement because they are working at least 80 hours per month (see 6.1.1 Change Reporting). IM workers are required to determine good cause at the time the loss or reduction in employment becomes known to the agency. A sanction is imposed the first of the month after the month proper notice of the sanction is provided.

 

Example 8: While processing Scott’s SMRF on December 20, Mary notices that Scott’s last day of work was October 1. Mary contacts Scott to determine if his job ended due to good cause. Scott does not have good cause for quitting his job. Because Mary is processing the sanction after adverse action in December, his sanction begin date will be February 1.

 

Example 9: John has medical restrictions that limit him to lifting no more than 25 pounds. Pepsi offered John a job at which he would be required to lift 75 pounds regularly. This job does not meet the definition of suitable employment for John because it does not match his physical and mental ability to perform the job (3.16.1.2). John refused the employment and the IM worker should grant him good cause because he could not reasonably perform the duties of the job.

3.16.1.8 Ending a Sanction Event

A sanction will end if:

 

FoodShare benefits are not automatically re-instated at the end of a sanction period. An applicant or member who was sanctioned must re-apply or re-request FoodShare benefits. If an application for FoodShare is filed in the final month of the sanction period, the worker will use that application to deny benefits for the remaining sanction month and to issue benefits for any subsequent month if all other eligibility criteria are met.

 

Case Currently Open for FoodShare:

If the applicant or member who had a sanction would like to be added to an open food unit, he or she must re-request FoodShare. The applicant or member will be added to the food unit the first of the month following the month of the re-request.

 

Closed Food Unit or One-Person Case:

If the applicant or member who had a sanction is re-requesting FoodShare, and the ongoing food unit has been closed for more than a calendar month, the applicant or member must complete a new application. If the sanction event occurred on an ongoing FoodShare case that has been closed for less than a calendar month, the case can re-open under break-in-service rules, with benefits pro-rated from the date in which the re-request is made and all eligibility criteria are met.

 

If the sanction event was determined through a one-person FoodShare application, and it is the first sanction event, the original application can be used so long as the applicant is re-requesting FoodShare no more than 60 days from the original filing date. Steps that follow an application submission must be completed (interview and any required verification). The applicant or member is required to re-request FoodShare.

 

After the applicant or member re-requests FoodShare, a worker must run eligibility and confirm the case closed, and then set an expected change for the day after the sanction has ended. The expected change should indicate that the worker needs to take the following actions. The worker must end date the Loss of Employment page, then update the FoodShare request to the day after the sanction end date and run eligibility to issue the pro-rated FoodShare benefits starting with the first day after the sanction.

 

For one-person FoodShare applications in which the applicant or member has incurred more than one sanction event, the applicant or member is required to re-apply during or after the final month of the sanction period.

 

Example 10: Jeff received notice on March 10 that he will be sanctioned beginning April 1 for voluntarily quitting his full time job. On March 28 Jeff reports new full-time employment. The sanction would not apply because Jeff is now exempt from meeting work registration requirements since he is employed more than 30 hours per week.

 

3.16.1.9 Sanctions and Fair Hearings

If the food unit requests a fair hearing to contest a sanction, and the food unit members request to continue receiving benefits during the hearing process, benefits should continue until after the fair hearing decision. If the sanction is upheld, the sanction period will begin the first of the month following the month of decision, allowing for an adverse action notice. In order for FoodShare benefits to continue, the worker should enter good cause as “other” and document in case comments until a hearing decision is made.

 

This page last updated in Release Number: 20-02

Release Date: 08/03/2020

Effective Date: 08/03/2020