SEC. 43-49-8. Conditions for eligibility for AFDC benefits; department duties.
(1) The State Department of Human Services shall implement the provisions of this section statewide in accordance with the requirements of this section and any applicable waivers from the Secretary of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services.
(2) The AFDC eligibility criteria for parents in two-parent households shall not require the primary wage earner to have had a recent work history, shall not restrict the primary wage earner to working less than one hundred (100) hours per month, and shall not require a thirty-day waiting period after becoming unemployed in order to be eligible for AFDC benefits.
(a) Any person who is otherwise eligible for AFDC benefits shall be required to attend school and meet the monthly attendance requirement as provided in this subsection if all of the following apply:
(i) The person is under age twenty (20);
(ii) The person has not graduated from a public or private high school or obtained a GED equivalent;
(iii) The person is physically able to attend school and is not excused from attending school; and
(iv) If the person is a parent with whom a dependent child is living, child care is available for the child.
The monthly attendance requirement under this subsection shall be attendance at the school in which the person is enrolled for each day during a month that the school conducts classes in which the person is enrolled, with not more than two (2) absences during the month for reasons other than the reasons listed in paragraph (e)(v) of this subsection.
Persons who fail to meet participation requirements in this subsection shall be subject to sanctions as provided in paragraph (f) of this subsection.
(b) As used in this subsection, "school" means any one (1) of the following:
(i) A school as defined in Section 37-13-91 (2);
(ii) A vocational, technical and adult education program;
(iii) A course of study meeting the standards established by the State Department of Education for the granting of a declaration of equivalency of high school graduation.
(c) If any compulsory-school-age child, as defined in Section 37-13-91 (2), to which Section 43-49-8 of this chapter applies is not in compliance with the compulsory school attendance requirements of Section 37-13-91 (6), the school attendance officer of such county in which the child is enrolled or eligible to attend shall notify the county department of human services of the child's noncompliance. The Department of Human Services shall review school attendance information provided by school attendance officers as provided under this paragraph at all initial eligibility determinations and on a monthly basis.
(d) The signature of a person on an application for AFDC benefits constitutes permission for the release of school attendance records for that person or for any teenager residing with that person. The department shall request information from the teenager's school district about the teenager's attendance in the school district's most recently completed semester of attendance. If information about the teenager's previous school attendance is not available or cannot be verified, the department shall require the teenager to meet the monthly attendance requirement for one (1) semester or until the information is obtained. The department shall use the attendance information provided by a school district to verify attendance for a teenager. The department shall review a teenager's claim that he or she has a good cause for not attending school.
A school district shall provide information to the department about the attendance of a teenager who is enrolled in a public school in the district within five (5) working days of the receipt of a written request for such information from the department. The school district shall define how many hours of attendance count as a full day and shall provide that information, upon request, to the department. In reporting attendance, the school district may add partial days' absence together to constitute a full day's absence.
(e) A teenager who is required to attend school to meet the requirements under this subsection shall comply except when there is good cause, which shall be demonstrated by any of the following circumstances:
(i) The teenager is the caretaker of a child less than ninety (90) days old; or
(ii) The department determines that child care services are necessary for the teenager to attend school and there is no child care available; or
(iii) The teenager is prohibited by the school district from attending school and an expulsion is pending. This exemption no longer applies once the teenager has been expelled; or
(iv) The teenager failed to attend school for one or more of the following reasons:
1. Illness, injury or incapacity of the teenager or the teenager's child;
2. Court-required appearances or temporary incarceration;
3. Medical or dental appointments for the teenager or his or her child;
4. Death of a close relative;
5. Observance of a religious holiday;
6. Family emergency;
7. Breakdown in transportation;
8. Suspension; or
9. Any other circumstance beyond the control of the teenager, as defined in regulations of the department.
(f) Upon determination that a teenager has failed without good cause to attend school as required, the department shall provide written notice to the teenager or his parents (whoever is the primary recipient of the AFDC benefits) that specifies:
(i) That the teenager will be disqualified for AFDC benefits in the next possible payment month because the teenager who is required to attend school has failed to meet the attendance requirement of this subsection;
(ii) The beginning date of the sanction, and the teenager to whom the sanction applies;
(iii) The right of the teenager or his parents (whoever is the primary recipient of the AFDC benefits) to request a fair hearing under this subsection.
The teenager or his parents (whoever is the primary recipient of the AFDC benefits) may request a fair hearing on the department's determination that the teenager has not been attending school. If the teenager or his parents do not request a fair hearing under this subsection, or if, after a fair hearing has been held, the hearing officer finds that the teenager without good cause has failed to meet the monthly attendance requirement, the department shall discontinue or deny AFDC benefits to the teenager in the next possible payment month. A sanction applied under this subsection shall be effective for one (1) month for each month that the teenager failed to meet the monthly attendance requirement. In the case of a dropout, the sanction shall remain in force until the teenager provides written proof from the school district that he or she has reenrolled and met the monthly attendance requirement for one (1) calendar month. Any month in which school is in session for at least ten (10) days during the month may be used to meet the attendance requirement under this subsection. This includes attendance at summer school. The sanction shall be removed the next possible payment month.
(4) All parents shall have their dependent children receive vaccinations and booster vaccinations against those diseases specified by the State Health Officer pursuant to Section 41-23-37 in accordance with the vaccination and booster vaccination schedule prescribed by the State Health Officer for children of that age, in order for the parents to be eligible or remain eligible to receive AFDC benefits. Proof of having received such vaccinations and booster vaccinations shall be given by presenting the certificates of vaccination issued by a local health officer or a physician or nurse practitioner on forms specified by the State Board of Health. If the parents do not have their dependent children receive the vaccinations and booster vaccinations as required by this subsection and they fail to comply after thirty (30) days' notice, the department shall disqualify the parents from receiving AFDC benefits for the next payment month and each subsequent payment month until the requirements of this subsection are met.
(5) Single AFDC parents who are minors shall be required to live with their parents, their legal guardian or in-state approved group living facilities in order to receive AFDC benefits, as provided in Section 43-49-3.
(6) The department shall require applicants for and recipients of public assistance from the department to sign a social contract that will require the applicant or recipient to acknowledge his or her responsibilities to the state.
(7) The department shall establish family resource centers to help families who are receiving or are eligible to receive assistance from government agencies to facilitate their access to services and resources that will lead to increased family independence.
(8) The department shall carry out an intense public information campaign to inform low-income workers, and especially public assistance recipients, of the availability of and application rules for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), in order to maximize the refund of federal income tax withheld from those persons. The information campaign shall include publishing and circulating bulletins or notices to recipients of AFDC benefits and other public assistance that publicize and explain the EITC and the criteria for family eligibility for the EITC. The department also shall carry out an intense information campaign to inform employers of the availability of and the criteria for eligibility for the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit (TJTC), which offers employers a credit against their federal tax liability for hiring people from certain target groups, including certain AFDC recipients and most JOBS program participants, and to inform employers of the availability of and the criteria for eligibility for the state income tax credit for employers who hire persons receiving AFDC benefits as authorized under Section 27-7-22.1.
(9) The department shall establish and maintain a statewide incoming wide area telephone service hot line for the purpose of reporting suspected cases of welfare eligibility fraud, food stamp fraud and Medicaid fraud. The department is authorized, subject to the extent of appropriations available, to offer financial incentives to individuals for reporting such suspected cases of public assistance fraud.
(10) The department, in cooperation with the University of Mississippi, the Governor's Office of Literacy and the Mississippi Cable Television Association, shall expand Project LEAP (Learn, Earn and Prosper), the goal of which is to provide JOBS program participants with an education that will result in employment through satellite and tape delivered instruction at sites throughout the state.
(11) Any applicant for or recipient of AFDC benefits or Food Stamps shall be required to agree that, as a condition of eligibility for those benefits, the person will cooperate with the department in determining paternity for the purposes of enforcing child support obligations. The department shall utilize methods and procedures provided for by state or federal law in determining paternity and enforcing child support obligations.
SOURCES: Laws, 1994, ch. 582, Sec. 1; 1995, ch. 344, Sec. 5, eff from and after July 1, 1995
SECTION 27. Sections 43-49-1, 43-49-3, 43-49-8, 43-49-9, 43-49-11, 43-49-13, 43-49-15 and 43-17-31, Mississippi Code of 1972, which is the Mississippi Welfare Program Restructuring Act of 1993, and which provide for the implementation of required welfare reform components of the federal Family Support Act of 1988 and the federal Job Opportunity and Basic Skills (JOBS) Training Program, provide conditions for eligibility for AFDC benefits and prescribe certain duties of the Department of Human Services, provide for a Work Encouragement Program under applicable federal waivers, provide for a Work First pilot program under applicable federal waivers, require the department to prepare waiver requests for the welfare reform programs, authorize the department to request additional waivers regarding welfare reform and direct the department to establish an AFDC unemployed parents program, are repealed.
SOURCE: 1997 Laws, Chapter 316, Section 27, HB766, Effective March 12, 1997.