HBA-CCH H.B. 2631 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 2631 By: Wohlgemuth Human Services 3/18/2001 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE In 1996, the United States Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) which required states to transition welfare recipients into the workforce. In compliance with PRWORA, Texas has gained national recognition for its welfare-to-work initiatives. However, Texas needs to continue to encourage personal responsibility while also developing better ways to support families, including two-parent families. Many states have implemented programs with greater support for two-parent families, yet Texas continues to require both parents to work or participate in employment activities in order to be eligible for benefits. House Bill 2631 modifies personal responsibility requirements and eligibility criteria for the financial assistance program. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking authority is expressly delegated to the Texas Department of Human Services in SECTION 1 (Section 31.0031, Human Resources Code), SECTION 3 (Section 31.00323, Human Resources Code), and SECTION 5 (Section 31.0136 and 31.0038) of this bill. ANALYSIS House Bill 2631 amends the Human Resources Code to require the Texas Department of Human Services (DHS) to adopt rules governing sanctions and penalties for the family of a person who fails to comply with the responsibility agreement required of adults who receive financial assistance (Section 31.0031). The bill requires DHS, on a recipient's first-time failure or refusal to comply with the responsibility agreement, to reduce the amount of financial assistance provided for each adult person in the family who is not in compliance for a period of two months or until each adult member of the family complies, whichever is later. On a person's second failure or refusal to comply with the responsibility agreement DHS is required to terminate the total amount of financial assistance provided for the person and the person's family in accordance with applicable law. If DHS terminates the total amount of financial assistance provided for a person and the person's family, the person and the person's family are ineligible for subsequent financial assistance for a period of six months from the date of the termination of benefits. If a recipient fails or refuses to comply with DHS and the Office of the Attorney General in establishing the paternity of the recipient's dependent child, the bill requires DHS to terminate a recipient's assistance on the recommendation of the Attorney General's office (Secs. 31.00321 and 31.00322). Before termination of all services and if all sanctions or penalties are imposed, DHS is required to conduct a case review to determine the reasons for the violation of the responsibility agreement and to support services that will enable the person or the member of the person's family to comply with the requirements. The bill requires a DHS representative to conduct the case review in person at the recipient's residence (Sec. 31.00331). The bill provides that a person is permanently ineligible for financial assistance if the person is convicted of a felony that involves the possession, use, manufacture, or distribution of a controlled substance while receiving financial assistance. DHS shall require a recipient of financial assistance to notify DHS if the recipient is or has been convicted of a felony involving a controlled substance. A person convicted for the first time of a felony involving a controlled substance remains eligible for financial assistance if the person has completed any sentence of confinement in connection with the conviction, complies with the terms and conditions of any parole or community supervision, and has completed or is participating in a drug rehabilitation, counseling, or support program. The bill requires DHS to adopt rules as necessary to implement these provisions. These provisions do not affect the eligibility for financial assistance of any other member of the household (Sec. 31.0322). If an adult recipient of financial assistance who participates in the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Program finds employment, DHS is prohibited from considering any earned income received by the recipient that would disqualify the recipient from assistance during the recipient's first six months of employment. In adopting rules for this provision, DHS is required to ensure that this provision applies only to recipients who have an income in an amount that does not exceed the maximum gross income limit set by DHS (Sec. 31.0038). DHS shall require, to the maximum extent allowed by federal law, an adult receiving financial assistance during any one-month period to work or participate in an employment activity authorized under federal law. The bill requires DHS to modify the responsibility agreement to comply with this provision (Sec. 31.011). The bill requires DHS to allow a two-parent family to satisfy the work requirements through the participation of the primary wage earner in a work or employment activity or through the combined participation of both the primary and secondary wage-earners in work or employment activities (Sec. 31.014). DHS shall require a teen noncustodial parent of a child for whom financial assistance is granted to participate in parenting skills training, money management classes, and community service work. The bill requires DHS to determine activities that satisfy these requirements (Sec.31.0136). The bill increases the motor vehicle allowance and provides that, for a vehicle that will not be used to satisfy work requirements, DHS shall exclude from the applicant's available resources $10,000 of the applicant's ownership interest in a primary vehicle and $5,000 for a secondary vehicle. For vehicles that will be used to satisfy work requirements, DHS shall exclude $18,000 of the applicant's combined ownership interest in a primary and secondary vehicle (Sec. 31.032). EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001.