Tennessee Code Annotated

Title 71: Welfare

Chapter 3: Programs and Services for Children

Part 1: Aid to Dependent Children -- General Provisions

TCA 71-3-154: Eligibility for temporary assistance. -- [Amended effective January 15, 2011. See the Compiler's Notes.]

(a)  A family shall be eligible for temporary assistance pursuant to this part if:

     (1)  A dependent child resides in this state with a caretaker relative in that family, or an individual who applies for temporary assistance is pregnant, or as otherwise defined by the department;

     (2)  The family meets income standards based upon the standard of need for a family based upon its size and income and based upon resource limits as determined by the department in its rules;

     (3)  The family members are engaged in work activities as set forth in subsection (g), except as exempted by this part or by rule of the department;

     (4)  The caretaker relative has agreed to and complies with a personal responsibility plan as developed by the department in accordance with subsection (h); and

     (5)  The family or individual of the family is otherwise eligible pursuant to federal or state laws or regulations.

(b)  (1)  A caretaker relative who becomes ineligible for any reason other than a failure to cooperate with child support obligations shall be eligible for eighteen (18) months of transitional child care assistance and such assistance shall be paid, for any months the caretaker relative is employed, on a sliding fee scale based upon the family's income for so long as federal funding for the temporary assistance to needy families (TANF) block grant program or any related waiver is in effect.

     (2)  Food stamp assistance shall continue to be available to these families as prescribed by federal or state law or regulations.

(c)  (1)   Persons who are recipients of temporary assistance and who marry while receiving such assistance may disregard the new spouse in determining eligibility for three (3) months after the date of marriage.

     (2)  [Deleted by 2007 amendment.]

(d)  (1)  Except as provided in this part or as otherwise required by federal law, no family shall receive assistance if that family includes an adult who has received temporary assistance from this program or the program of any other state or territory for a total of sixty (60) months, whether or not consecutive, unless an exemption is granted pursuant to this part.

     (2)  As to a child who was not the head of a household or who was not married to the head of a household, the sixty (60) month time limit stated in subdivision (d)(1) shall not begin to run during the time that the child was a member of a family receiving assistance under this part.

     (3)  A family shall be eligible for temporary assistance beyond the sixty (60) month time limit stated in subdivision (d)(1) if:

          (A)  The family does not contain an adult;

          (B)  The caretaker relative is sixty-five (65) years of age or older;

          (C)  The caretaker relative is caring for a disabled or incapacitated child relative or disabled adult relative, based upon criteria set forth in the department's rules;

          (D)  The caretaker relative is disabled, based upon criteria set forth in the department's rules; or

          (E)  As otherwise required by federal and state laws or regulations.

     (4)  The exemptions in subdivision (d)(3) are subject to the limitations for the percentages of individuals allowed to receive temporary assistance beyond sixty (60) months.

(e)  (1)  No payment of assistance shall be made for an individual who is not the head of a household, who has not reached eighteen (18) years of age, who has a child who is at least sixteen (16) weeks of age in the person's care, and who has not successfully completed a high school education or its equivalent, unless the individual participates in educational activities directed toward the attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent.

     (2)  No payment of assistance shall be made to an individual who is head of a household, who has not reached twenty (20) years of age, who has a child who is at least sixteen (16) weeks of age in the person's care, and who has not successfully completed a high school education or its equivalent unless the individual participates in:

          (A)  Educational activities directed toward the attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent; or

          (B)  Thirty (30) hours of countable work activities as delineated in subsection (g).

(f)  (1)  Except as provided in subdivision (f)(2), if a person applying for assistance under this chapter is under eighteen (18) years of age, has never married, and is either pregnant or has the applicant's child in the applicant's care, the applicant is not eligible for assistance if:

          (A)  The applicant and the applicant's child or children do not live in a place maintained by the applicant's parent, legal guardian, or other adult relative as such person's own home or other suitable living arrangement as otherwise defined by rule of the department; and

          (B)   The department determines after investigation that the physical or emotional health or safety of the person applying for assistance or the dependent child or children would not be jeopardized if the applicant and the dependent child or children were required to live in one of the situations described in subdivision (f)(1)(A).

     (2)  Subdivision (f)(1) does not apply if:

          (A)  The person applying for assistance has no parent, legal guardian or other adult relative whose whereabouts are known;

          (B)  No parent, legal guardian or other adult relative of the person applying for assistance allows the person to live in the home of that parent, legal guardian or other adult relative as determined by the department's verification; or

          (C)  The department otherwise determines that there is good cause not to apply subdivision (f)(1).

(g)  All family members who are not otherwise exempt pursuant to rules of the department and who receive temporary assistance pursuant to this part shall engage in work, training or educational activities. The department shall define the types of activities by rule. These activities may include, but shall not be limited to, the following:

     (1)  Employment;

     (2)  Work experience activities;

     (3)  On-the-job training;

     (4)  Job search and job readiness assistance;

     (5)  Community service programs;

     (6)  Vocational educational training;

     (7)  Job skills and educational training related directly to employment;

     (8)  Education directly related to employment, in the case of a recipient who has not received a high school diploma or a certificate of high school equivalency; and

     (9)  Satisfactory attendance at a secondary school, in the case of a recipient who:

          (A)  Has not completed secondary school; and

          (B)  Is a dependent child or a head of a household who is nineteen (19) years of age or younger.

(h)  (1)  As a condition of eligibility, an applicant for or a recipient of temporary assistance must agree to a personal responsibility plan developed by the department in direct consultation with the applicant or recipient. For all applicants or recipients who are not exempt from the work requirements established by this part, an individualized career plan shall be developed establishing goal-oriented work activities designed to provide the applicant or recipient with an opportunity to move toward self-sufficiency. Supportive services determined essential to successful engagement in the work activities shall be provided. At least once each twelve (12) months throughout the period of continuous temporary assistance provided pursuant to this part, the department shall monitor and evaluate the personal responsibility plan to promote the recipient's success in gaining self-sufficiency.

     (2)  (A)  The personal responsibility plan shall require participation in personal responsibility activities as set forth in subsection (g). The department may provide either a parent education training class for parents or caretakers of children in pre-kindergarten through third grade (pre-K-3) or a program of volunteer service in school in which a parent or caretaker relative who is a recipient of temporary assistance under this part may agree to participate.

          (B)  The personal responsibility plan shall also require the parent or other caretaker relative, regardless of age or disabling status, to enter a plan that requires, but is not limited to, the following:

                (i)  The children in the family attend school;

                (ii)  The children in the family receive immunizations and health checks; and

                (iii)  The parent or caretaker relative cooperate in the establishment and enforcement of child support, including, but not limited to, the naming of the father of a child for purposes of paternity establishment, unless good cause not to cooperate exists, as defined by the department.

          (C)  (i)  Unless exempt, refusal or failure to engage in full-time employment, part-time employment or other training or other work preparation activities as set forth in subsection (g), without good cause, or the failure to cooperate in the establishment or enforcement of child support without good cause, shall result in denial of eligibility for, or termination of, temporary assistance for the entire family unit.

                (ii)  Failure to comply with the personal responsibility plan as required under subdivisions (h)(2)(B)(i) and (ii), without good cause, shall result in a percentage reduction with regard to the temporary assistance payment in the amount of twenty percent (20%) until such time as compliance occurs.

          (D)  The personal responsibility plan shall provide for transportation and child care services for those individuals who are receiving benefits, participating in work activities delineated in subsection (g), and not exempt from work activities pursuant to this part.

     (3)  The work requirements shall be excused for:

          (A)  A parent or caretaker relative who proves to the satisfaction of the department the existence of the person's temporary incapacity or permanent disability;

          (B)  A parent or caretaker relative who proves to the satisfaction of the department that the person must provide personal care for a disabled relative child or adult relative living in the home;

          (C)  A single parent with a child under sixteen (16) weeks of age;

          (D)  A person who is sixty-five (65) years of age or older;

          (E)  A non-parental caretaker relative who chooses not to be included in the assistance group; and

          (F)  Other exemptions that may be required by federal law or regulation, as well as other exemptions that may be established by rule of the department in order to promote the purposes of this part.

     (4)  If, without good cause, a recipient of temporary assistance fails to comply with a child support or work plan requirement imposed by this part or prescribed within the personal responsibility plan, then the family shall be subject to appropriate sanction by the department, which may include termination of temporary assistance, until there is compliance with the requirement.

(i)  The maximum payment standard for a family shall not be increased for a child who is born to a caretaker relative of a temporary assistance unit who, as determined by the statement of a physician, becomes pregnant while receiving temporary assistance, or as otherwise defined by regulation of the department; provided, that if the family loses eligibility for any reason other than a failure to cooperate with the department or a failure to comply with the personal responsibility plan and if the family subsequently becomes eligible again for temporary assistance, then the department shall base the maximum payment standard on the actual size of the family unit including such child.

(j)  No payment of temporary assistance shall be made to an individual for ten (10) years from the date of conviction, guilty plea or plea of nolo contendere of that individual in a federal or state court for having made a fraudulent statement or representation with respect to the place of residence of the individual in order to receive assistance simultaneously from two (2) or more states under the temporary assistance program under this part, TennCare or any program of medical services under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, the Food Stamp Act of 1977, or under the supplemental security income program under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.

(k)  (1)  No payment of assistance shall be made to an individual who is fleeing to avoid prosecution or custody or confinement after conviction under the laws of the place from which the individual flees, for a crime, or an attempt to commit a crime, that is a felony under the laws of the place from which an individual flees, or that, in the case of the state of New Jersey, is a high misdemeanor under the laws of such state, or who is violating a condition of probation or parole imposed by federal or state law.

      (2) (A) Pursuant to the option granted the state by 21 U.S.C. SC 862a(d), an individual convicted on or before June 30, 2011, under federal or state law of a felony involving possession, use or distribution of a controlled substance shall be exempt from the prohibition contained in 21 U.S.C. SC 862a(a) against eligibility for families first program benefits for such convictions, if such person, as determined by the department:

(i) (a) Is currently participating in a substance abuse treatment program approved by the department of human services;

(b) Is currently enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program approved by the department of human services, but is subject to a waiting list to receive available treatment, and the individual remains enrolled in the treatment program and enters the treatment program at the first available opportunity;

(c) Has satisfactorily completed a substance abuse treatment program approved by the department of human services; or

(d) Is determined by a treatment provider licensed by the department of mental health not to need substance abuse treatment according to TennCare guidelines; and

(ii) Is complying with, or has already complied with, all obligations imposed by the criminal court, including any substance abuse treatment obligations.

(B) Eligibility based upon the factors in subdivision (k)(2)(A) must be based upon documentary or other evidence satisfactory to the department, and the applicant must meet all other factors of program eligibility, including, specifically, being accountable for the requirements of the personal responsibility plan required by this part.

(C) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivisions (k)(2)(A) or (k)(2)(B) to the contrary, no person convicted of a Class A felony for violating a provision of title 39, chapter 17, part 4, shall be eligible for the exemptions provided by subdivision (k)(2)(A) or (k)(2)(B).

(D) Pursuant to the option granted the state by 21 U.S.C. SC 862a(d), an individual convicted on or after July 1, 2011, under federal or state law of a felony involving possession, use or distribution of a controlled substance shall be exempt from the prohibition contained in 21 U.S.C. SC 862a(a) against eligibility for families first program benefits for such convictions, if such person meets the following requirements:

(i) (a) Requirements contained in subdivisions (k)(2)(A) or (k)(2)(B) and (C);

(b) If treatment was prescribed according to the requirements in subdivisions (k)(2)(A) or (k)(2)(B), successful completion of a substance abuse program must occur within three (3) attempts. If such person does not complete the originally prescribed treatment program within three (3) attempts, the individual shall be ineligible for a period of three (3) years.

(E) Pursuant to the option granted the state by 21 U.S.C. SC 862a(d), an individual convicted of a second drug felony under federal or state law of a felony involving possession, use or distribution of a controlled substance on or after July 1, 2011, shall not be eligible for families first program benefits for a period of three (3) years from the date of conviction.

(l) No payment of assistance pursuant to this part shall be made for an illegal alien in a family.

(m) [Deleted by 2007 amendment.]

History: Acts 1996, ch. 950, SC 5; 1999, ch. 520, SC 47; 2000, ch. 981, SC 76; 2002, ch. 715, SC 1; 2007, ch. 31, SCSC 1-8; 2009, ch. 186, SC 38; 2010, ch. 1056, SC 1; 2010, ch. 1100, SC 135; 2011, ch. 221, SC 1.