Section 815 - Disqualification
Q. Section 815 states, in part, that "no physically and mentally
fit individual over the age of 15 and under the age of 60 shall be eligible
to participate in the Food Stamp Program if ... the individual refuses
without good cause to register for work, participate in an employment
and training program, accept employment, provide information, .... However,
Section 824 indicates that individuals under 18 or over 50 would be subject
to the able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD) disqualification provisions.
Can this apparent discrepancy in the age requirements be reconciled?
A. We do not see these as conflicting provisions although the age limits
are not consistent. Section 815 requires a person to register for work,
participate in an employment and training (E&T) program, etc., and
it contains its own disqualification penalties for failure to comply.
Section 824 is an additional (and overriding) requirement and provides
time-limited benefits to certain people (ABAWDs) if they are not working
or participating in a work program. This distinction was deliberately
made by Congress.
Q. If a recipient meets an exemption criteria while under an employment
and training sanction, what happens to the sanction?
A. The sanction will end if the sanctioned individual becomes exempt
from work registration.
Q. Would a penalty be imposed in a situation where a recipient has
earnings equal to 30 hours a week times the minimum wage and subsequently
reduces hours of work so that the earnings were no longer equal to 30
hours a week times the minimum wage?
A. The Act requires a penalty for those who are working more than 30
hours per week and then cut their hours to less than 30. The Secretary
has the authority to determine the meaning of "reducing work effort."
Proposed rules incorporating the welfare reform changes will address situations
in which an individual has earnings equal to 30 hours times the applicable
minimum wagebut does not actually work 30 hoursand reduces
their work hours.
Q. If an applicant or recipient quits a 40 hour per week job that
pays $5 per hour to go to work at a 26 hour per week job that pays $10
per hour, would they be subject to a penalty because they reduced their
hours below thirty per week or would this be acceptable because the wage
at their new job equals or exceeds 30 hours per week X minimum wage and
also exceeds the earnings from the old job?
A. Although the Act requires a penalty for those who are working more
than 30 hours per week then cut their hours to less than 30, the Secretary
has the authority to determine the meaning of "reducing work effort."
Current regulations, which provide for comparable hours or wages (working
30 hours weekly or receiving weekly earnings at least equal to the Federal
minimum wage multiplied by 30 hours), will remain in effect.
Q. Lack of child care has been deleted as good cause exemption for
refusal to meet work requirements. Are there exceptions to this provision?
A. The new law eliminated the language that included the lack of adequate
child care for children above the age of 5 and under the age of 12 as
a good cause reason for refusing an offer of employment. The Secretary
has the authority to determine the meaning of good cause for paragraph
6(d)(1). Proposed rules will address the determination of good cause.
In the interim, States should be encouraged to consider the child care
needs of prospective workers.
Q. Would a temporary, voluntary reduction in earnings agreed to by
a client in order to eventually obtain a higher rate of pay at a different
job subject the client to a penalty?
A. Current rules recognize that such job changes occur and, to prevent
forcing food stamp recipients to remain in dead end jobs, allow the individual
to avoid the voluntary quit penalty by accepting employment of comparable
hours or salary. Although the term "comparable" has not been
defined, State agencies are not expected to reject a new job as not comparable
simply because the number of hours or the salary of that job is lower
than the job that was quit. Proposed rules will retain this approach.
Q. If a mandatory work registrant who has failed to comply, complies
(or agrees to comply) during the NOAA period, is the disqualification
A. If the work registrant actually complies with the requirement during
the NOAA period, the proposed disqualification can be canceled. Once canceled,
the proposed disqualification would not count as an "occurrence."
Q. If the State agency fails to take timely action to disqualify an
individual or household for its non-compliance with work registration
requirements, how is the disqualification applied?
A. In the event a State agency fails to take timely action to disqualify
an individual or household, the State agency must implement the full disqualification
at the end of the adverse action period.
Q. Does a voluntary quit still have to be within 60 days of application?
Does the 20 hours per week provision still apply for voluntary quit?
A. The 60 day period will continue to apply. Since the Secretary has
the authority to determine the meaning of voluntarily quitting, proposed
rules will address the standardsincluding hours workedthat
actually establish voluntary quit.
Q. Does a reduction in work effort have to occur within the past 60
days to subject an individual to disqualification under Section 815?
A. The proposed rule will address reduction of work effort.
Q. A State intends to impose the following sanctions: 1 month for
the 1st offense; 3 months for the second offense; and 6 months for the
third and subsequent offenses. Is the following statement correct? An
individual fails to comply a second time and is sanctioned for October-December.
The individual cures the noncompliance in November but doesn't begin to
receive benefits again until January (assuming he's otherwise eligible).
A. The statement is correct. Assuming the State agency opts to limit
the sanction for the second violation to 3 months, the individual may
not regain eligibility until the end of the 3 month period. The Act specifies
that the individual will remain ineligible until the later of the date
the individual becomes eligible or the date that is 3 months after the
date the individual became ineligible.
Q. The law provides that USDA define the meaning of good cause, voluntary
quit, and reducing work effort. Also under disqualifications, the State
is required to determine the meaning of other terms. Are there parameters
or restrictions to the State developed definitions? Will these State defined
terms be subject to FCS approval?
A. The law requires States to determine the meaning of terms other than
good cause, voluntary quit, and reducing work effort. (Examples of terms
subject to State determination include: the meaning of physically/mentally
fit; what constitutes sufficient information or a refusal.) The parameters
and restrictions are that none of the States' determinations can be less
restrictive than comparable determinations under Title IV-A of the Social
Security Act. FCS approval is not required.
Q. This provision deletes lack of adequate child care as an explicit
good cause exemption for refusal to meet work requirements. According
to the summary by DHHS on Title VI (Child Care), single parents with children
under 6 who cannot find child care would not be penalized for failure
to engage in work activities. Is Title VI only referring to the TANF?
Are the provisions in Title VI and Section 815 mutually exclusive? Will
waivers be considered for extremely rural areas or other extenuating circumstances?
A. Title VI refers to TANF. The provisions are not necessarily mutually
exclusive. The language of the new law eliminated the previous language
concerning lack of adequate child care as a good cause for refusing an
offer of employment. However, the statute gives the Department the authority
to determine the meaning of good cause for section 6(d) of the Food Stamp
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