Legislative Ratified (Through Thursday, June 8, 1995)
Welfare Reform (H3613)

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The following measures have been ratified as acts but have yet to be approved by the governor.

Welfare Reform (South Carolina Family Independence Act of 1995), [H. 3613, Rep. Wilkins]. This act is a comprehensive measure designed to reform the state's welfare system, with emphasis placed on the personal and parental responsibility requirements for recipients of public assistance. Listed here is a section by section summary of H. 3613:

(1) Employment and Training

The act changes the emphasis of DSS (Department of Social Services) from welfare to employment and training, with the welfare system now to be based on a reciprocal agreement between the recipient and agency to achieve self sufficiency and economic independence. H. 3613 also mandates cooperation among all state agencies to attain the goal of welfare reform; requires a contract between the welfare recipient and DSS; and requires recipients to look for a job as soon as they apply for welfare. Education, training, child care and transportation are provided to assist welfare recipients in overcoming barriers to employment, and DSS training program staff will seek agreements with employers and potential employers to allow an AFDC recipient 4 hours off annually to seek family planning services without fear of job loss. The Employment Security Commission (ESC) must provide DSS with current labor market information and provide the Occupational Information System to local offices of DSS to use with career counseling. Other state agencies also must provide DSS with access to economic and demographic information concerning AFDC applicants and recipients.

H. 3613 also allows DSS to provide relocation assistance to families who live where no job opportunities exist and to pay AFDC benefits as wage subsidies or tax credits to employers with new jobs. The act also provides a tax credit to an employer who hires a former welfare recipient who has received benefits and has been employed for 12 continuous months, with the tax credit being for 3 years and for a decreasing amount of the wages paid. In order to take advantage of this tax credit, the employer must make health care coverage available to the former AFDC recipient. DSS and ESC must make information available to employers concerning this tax credit. The act also instructs state agencies to develop recruitment and hiring goals which target 10 percent of jobs requiring a high school diploma or less to be filled by welfare and food stamp recipients. H. 3613 also provides educational, employment and parent effectiveness training to teen parents; allows the governor to target future incentive funds under the Job Training and Partnership Act to increase services related to AFDC recipients; requires DSS to establish goals for placement and retention of AFDC recipients in employment programs, with goals to be reflected in the employee's performance evaluation.

The act terminates welfare for recipients who fail to participate as required in employment and training, except in certain instances (such as if the woman is 6 or more months pregnant or if an individual is physically/mentally incapacitated). AFDC recipients must participate in a family skills training program and have alcohol and other drug assessment (if appropriate). Also (again, if appropriate), the recipient's program should include a family planning assessment. Unemployed/underemployed noncustodial parents must participate in DSS employment and training activities when required by a support order. DSS must seek funds for entrepreneurial development; develop outreach and information programs; and endorse, along with the Department of Public Safety, local mass transportation networks. DSS also must seek a federal waiver for 1 year transitional Medicaid and child care benefits for former AFDC recipients who are employed, earn less than poverty, lack medical coverage, and have medical needs that would jeopardize continued employment. If health insurance benefits cost less than 10 percent of wages, then no transitional Medicaid benefits may be provided.

(2) Welfare Caps and Financial Eligibility

H. 3613 limits receipt of welfare to 24 months out of 120 and to 60 months in a lifetime, with these limits not applying in certain instances, such as in the case of individuals who are physically/mentally incapacitated or who care for an incapacitated individual, or when child care and transportation are not available. Also, additional assistance is granted only with the express permission of the county director if the client is engaged in employment-related activities. Each recipient must participate in a training/employment program when the youngest child is 12 months old, with each recipient encouraged to participate when the youngest child is 6 months old. The act also increases the asset limit for a welfare recipient to $10,000 book value for a vehicle and $2,500 for all other assets and allows a welfare recipient and individuals with income under 185 percent of the federal poverty level to save up to $10,000 in an Individual Development Account (IDA), with deposits and interest in this account being tax free and tax-free withdrawals permitted for certain purposes (such as to purchase a home or for job training). DSS must seek a waiver to assure that no lump sum payment of $10,000 deposited in an IDA within 30 days of receipt makes a family ineligible for AFDC. H. 3613 also exempts earned income of minor children from consideration in an AFDC check and exempts up to $400 in interest/dividend income from consideration for AFDC eligibility.

(3) Parental Responsibility

H. 3613 prohibits any incremental increase in welfare benefits for a child born 10 or more months after the parent begins receiving AFDC, with there being an exception for a child born as a result of rape or incest. Benefits in the form of vouchers may be provided to the parent to continue employment and training. Welfare recipients convicted of an alcohol/drug offense or who give birth to a drug-affected baby must submit to random drugs tests and attend alcohol/drug abuse programs as a condition of receiving benefits. Recipients under age 18 must maintain attendance in school, and minor mothers with a child born out of wedlock must live with their parents, except in limited circumstances (such as if the minor and child are at risk of physical, emotional, sexual abuse or the parents won't allow the mother in the home). The "no daddy rule" is eliminated so that an intact family can receive assistance. Parents who apply for welfare or Medicaid must give specific information about the absent parent to assist in collecting child support. DSS must pass a certain amount of child support payment collected through to the parent and child, rather than keeping it all to reimburse for the welfare payment. The act also requires state agencies, using current resources, to provide better access to early and continuous prenatal care; establish teen parent initiatives on school drop out programs and parent effectiveness programs; promote education on the need for immunizations; foster better access to preventive health services by expanding clinic hours; and increase access to primary health care through school nurses. Additionally, the State must make every effort to obtain federal child care funds.

(4) Child Support Enforcement Initiatives

H. 3613 requires DSS to seek support from the parents of minor parents for support of a child. The act also provides for revocation of the driver's license, recreational sport license, business license, and professional license for a person who does not pay child support under the Title 4-D program and provides for an administrative process to establish paternity and enforcement of child support orders in cases where children receive welfare. These provisions also provide for a voluntary in-hospital paternity process for newborns. As of January 1, 1996, DSS must provide consumer credit reporting agencies with a monthly report on a noncustodial parent who is at least 2 months behind on Title 4-D child support payments. The act also prioritizes claims for state income tax refunds so that the Child Support Division of DSS is second to the Department of Revenue. The act also establishes a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support award which would result from application of child support guidelines is the correct amount, with findings rebutting the guidelines required to state the amount of support that would have been required under the guidelines and include a justification of why the order varies. DSS also must establish the voluntary Employer New Hire Program, where the employer may report information on new employees to DSS to assist efforts in locating absent parents who owe child support and collecting child support from them.

(5) Administrative Reforms/Evaluation

The act requires DSS to develop simplified application forms for AFDC, Medicaid and Food Stamps and requires DSS and the Health and Human Services Department to review procedures and try to ensure that payments to child care providers and transportation providers are not delayed. Additionally, all state agencies must adopt Electronic Data Interchange Standards issued by the Budget and Control Board to facilitate exchange of information concerning AFDC clients and revenue sources, with confidentiality of information to be maintained. DSS and the Department of Education must work on adult education programs to advance AFDC client self sufficiency and to promote school-to-work transition programs. DSS must work with the Technical Education Board to design curricula that target and train AFDC clients. The act also allows the state director of DSS to select regional and county DSS directors, who serve at the pleasure of the director. Finally, H. 3613 requires the Legislative Audit Council to evaluate programs under this Act every 2 years.