Session Law

2014

Jump to:

Chapter 158 AN ACT TO FOSTER ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE

     Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to provide forthwith for improvements for programs of the department of transitional assistance in the commonwealth, therefore, it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.     

     Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
     SECTION 1.  Section 16 of chapter 6A of the General Laws, as amended by section 1 of chapter 35 of the acts of 2013, is hereby further amended by adding the following paragraph:-
     Notwithstanding any general or special law, subject to appropriation, the integrated eligibility system developed by the executive office of health and human services shall allow multiple state agencies and programs to access and share data by creating data hubs and streamlining information processes. Through the integrated eligibility system, the department of housing and community development, housing authorities and state health and human services agencies and programs, including, but not limited to, transitional aid to families with dependent children, temporary assistance for needy families and MassHealth shall share and have access to the data.  Said departments and programs shall share information regarding cases of fraud committed by recipients.
     SECTION 2.  Section 2 of chapter 18 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “provision”, in line 3, the following words:- and administration of the supplemental nutrition assistance program, with benefits designed for use by participants to purchase eligible foods, including seeds and plants, for home consumption and use; the provision.
     SECTION 3.  Paragraph (B) of said section 2 of said chapter 18, as amended by section 1 of chapter 65 of the acts of 2013, is hereby further amended by adding the following 7 clauses:-
     (m)  provide notice to households and recipients of cash assistance benefits under emergency aid to the elderly, disabled and children and transitional aid to families with dependent children whose benefits have not been accessed for 270 days or more that they must contact the department or their benefits will be expunged. The department shall expunge and recoup the balance of cash assistance benefits under emergency aid to elders, disabled and children and transitional aid to families with dependent children if no response to the notice is received by the department within 30 days and shall notify the recipient when the funds are expunged;
     (n)  provide notice to all households and recipients of cash assistance benefits under emergency aid to the elderly, disabled and children and transitional aid to families with dependent children with balances higher than $1,500 that such recipients shall contact the department for a case review within 30 days of receiving the notice in order to continue receiving benefits or the recipient’s benefits shall be suspended.  If the recipient has a balance in excess of $2,500, and fails to complete the case review, the department shall expunge and recoup any amount in excess of $2,500.  The department shall provide notice to the recipient that the recipient’s benefits have been suspended or expunged for failure to complete their case review;
     (o)  on a biannual basis, on or before January 1 and July 1, file a report detailing the following: (i) the number of households and recipients receiving cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children who are non-exempt from the work requirement, as described in 106 CMR 203.400(A)(1)(a) to (c), inclusive; (ii) the number of households and recipients receiving cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children who are exempt from the work requirement; (iii) the number of recipients who are required to meet the work requirement and are in need of additional education, training or other barrier-removal services; (iv) the number of exemptions and extensions granted to recipients of cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children; (v) the reasons for granting any exemptions and extensions; (vi) any reason why recipients are applying for additional benefits beyond their initial 24 month period; provided, that this shall include, but not be limited to, an analysis of recipients’ economic independence goals, as required by section 15 of chapter 118; and (vii) information regarding caseloads, including how long recipients have been receiving cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children and how much recipients have received. The report shall not contain a recipient’s personal identifying information. The report shall be filed with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the report to the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities and the house and senate committees on ways and means;
     (p)  on an annual basis, file a report detailing the number of cases referred to the department’s program integrity division and the results of each investigation. The report shall be filed with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the report to the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities and the house and senate committees on ways and means;
     (q)  annually, on or before December 1, file a report detailing the use of economic independence accounts, established pursuant to section 16 of chapter 118, opened by recipients of cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children; provided, that the report shall include, but not be limited to, the number of accounts opened and the average balances in the accounts and a detailed list of reasons for expenditures from the accounts. The report shall be filed with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the report to the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities and the house and senate committees on ways and means;
     (r)  annually, on or before March 1, file a report detailing the number of recipients receiving cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children who are present in the United States under 1 of the eligible noncitizen statuses as described in 106 CMR 203.675 (A). The report shall be filed with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the report to the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities and the house and senate committees on ways and means;
     (s)  annually, on or before March 1, file a report detailing the number of recipients exempt from having a photo identification on any such recipient’s electronic benefit transfer card and the reason for any exemption.
     SECTION 4.  Paragraph (D) of said section 2 of said chapter 18, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following 2 clauses:-
     (g)  the recording and tracking of blank electronic benefit transfer cards to ensure the integrity of the cards and establish a clear chain of custody and best practices in the shipment and custody of those cards; and
     (h)  the suspension of benefits to any recipient who has failed to notify the department of a change of address and who the department has attempted to contact by certified mail, but whose mail communication has been returned to the department as undeliverable; provided, however, that the department, after receiving notice that the mail communication has been returned as undeliverable or returned with a Massachusetts forwarding address, shall use all reasonable means to determine the address of the recipient and, in the event that it cannot be determined, subject the recipient’s case to further review as to continued eligibility.
     SECTION 5.  Said chapter 18 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 2A the following section:-
     Section 2B.  (a) Subject to appropriation, the department of transitional assistance shall create an educational program to be implemented in each department of transitional assistance office. The educational program shall: (i) provide financial education information as described in this section and assist in the development of economic independence goals under section 15 of chapter 118; (ii) inform the recipient of available transportation options; (iii) identify available education and training resources available to the recipient; (iv) educate the recipient about proper card usage, card and PIN security and penalties for abuse or fraud associated with trafficking or fraudulent representation of need of transitional aid; (v) educate the recipient about the advantages of having a bank account and basic financial management; (vi) identify local job opportunities, where available; and (vii) educate the recipient about other topics that the department considers appropriate.
     (b)  As part of the program, in consultation with the department of higher education, the community college system, the public university system, and the University of Massachusetts system, the department shall maintain in each local office an up-to-date list, which shall include: (i) a description of all educational certificate programs and higher education programs, which may be available to the recipient; (ii) financial aid officials at public institutions of higher education; and (iii) financial aid programs, including, but not limited to, scholarships, grants, loans and work study programs. The program shall also counsel children age 14 and older, whose parents receive transitional aid for families with dependent children, on how to access higher education without incurring debt.
     (c)  As part of the program, the department shall provide recipients with a list of already existing free or low-cost financial education programs. In developing the list of financial education programs, the department shall collaborate with the office of the state treasurer, the Massachusetts Credit Union League, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Midas Collaborative, the Moving from Debt to Assets program and the Massachusetts Financial Education Collaborative.  Any financial education program included on the recommended program list shall, at a minimum, provide guidance on: (i) tracking daily spending habits; (ii) preparing a monthly budget; (iii) identifying ways to decrease spending; (iv) identifying ways to increase income; (v) listing and prioritizing financial goals; and (vi) recognizing how to create a plan to achieve financial goals.
     SECTION 6.  Section 5 of said chapter 18, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-
     The commissioner shall establish specialist positions within the department. The specialists shall focus on providing targeted employment and training assistance to recipients that the department determines have a high risk of long term dependence on state benefits and require specialized assistance to achieve economic independence. These recipients shall include teen parents and may include other recipients defined by the department. Each office location shall have specialists. Specialists shall provide focused intervention and assistance to recipients and shall have a caseload of not more than 60 recipients. The commissioner shall: track the progress made by recipients who are receiving targeted assistance under this section in reaching economic independence and transitioning off transitional aid to families with dependent children; track each specialist’s success, as determined by the department, in assisting recipients; and annually report the results to the house and senate committees on ways and means and the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities not later than December 31.
     SECTION 7.  Subsection (b) of section 5I of said chapter 18, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “jewelry”, in line 36, the following words:- ; televisions, stereos, video games or consoles at rent-to-own stores.
     SECTION 8.  Said chapter 18 is hereby further amended by striking out section 5J, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     Section 5J.  (a) The department shall maintain policies and practices as necessary to prevent direct cash assistance from being used in electronic benefit transfer transactions at: liquor stores; casinos, gambling casinos or gaming establishments licensed pursuant to chapter 23K; retail establishments which provide adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment as defined in section 408(a) of the Social Security Act; adult bookstores or adult paraphernalia stores as defined in section 9A of chapter 40A; firearms dealers licensed pursuant to section 122 of chapter 140 and ammunitions dealers licensed pursuant to section 122B of said chapter 140; tattoo parlors; manicure shops or aesthetic shops registered pursuant to chapter 112; jewelry stores; foreign transmittal agencies licensed pursuant to chapter 169; or on cruise ships. Those establishments shall not accept electronic benefit transfer cards. A store owner who knowingly allows a prohibited electronic benefit transfer transaction in violation of this section or subsection (b) of section 5I shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500 for a first offense, by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $2,500 for a second offense and by a fine of not less than $2,500 for a third or subsequent offense.
     (b)  A store owner who knowingly violates this section and who possesses a license to sell alcoholic beverages pursuant to section 12 of chapter 138 shall be referred to the appropriate licensing authority for possible disciplinary action pursuant to section 64 of said chapter 138.  A store owner possessing a license pursuant to said section 12 of said chapter 138 who knowingly violates this section a second or subsequent time shall have its license suspended for not less than 30 days and shall be referred to the appropriate licensing authority for possible further disciplinary action pursuant to said section 64 of said chapter 138.
     (c)  A store owner who knowingly violates this section and who possesses a license to sell lottery tickets under sections 26 and 27 of chapter 10 shall be referred to the director of the state lottery commission for possible disciplinary action. A store owner possessing a license pursuant to said section 26 or 27 of said chapter 10  who knowingly violates this section a second or subsequent time shall have such license suspended for not less than 30 days and shall be referred to the director of the state lottery commission for possible further disciplinary action.
     SECTION 9.  Section 5L of said chapter 18, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following subsection:-
     (f)  An individual who traffics food stamp benefits, as described in subsection (b) and on 1 prior occasion has been convicted of trafficking food stamp benefits pursuant to said subsection (b) or conspiracy to traffic food stamp benefits shall be punished by imprisonment in a state prison for not more than 10 years or by a fine of not more than $25,000 or both.
     SECTION 10.  Section 5M of said chapter 18, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out subsection (f) and inserting in place thereof the following subsection:-
     (f)  A retail or wholesale organization owner who is convicted of organizational food stamp benefits trafficking and who also possesses a license to sell lottery tickets under sections 26 and 27 of chapter 10 shall have such license suspended for not less than 2 years and shall be referred to the director of the state lottery commission for possible further disciplinary action.
     SECTION 11.  Section 10 of said chapter 18, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-
     Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, 60 days before promulgating or amending any regulation that would alter eligibility for, or the level of benefits provided through the department, other than regulations which would benefit recipients, the department shall file with the clerks of the house of representatives and senate, the house and senate committees on ways and means and the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities a report describing the changes and setting forth justification for any changes.
     SECTION 12.  Section 16 of said chapter 18, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the second paragraph the following paragraph:-
     A person whose benefits have been expunged under clause (m) or (n) of section 2 shall, upon request of the person, be afforded a full and fair hearing to determine whether there exists a legitimate reason for the person to maintain a balance in excess of $2,500 or for not accessing the person’s benefits for more than 270 days. Upon a finding by the commissioner that a legitimate reason exists, the commissioner shall reinstate the expunged benefits.
     SECTION 13.  The first paragraph of section 22 of said chapter 18, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following sentence:- Self-declarations by applicants or recipients of transitional aid to families with dependent children shall be signed under the penalties of perjury and, if possible, shall not be accepted as the sole verification of categorical and financial eligibility during eligibility evaluations and reviews.
     SECTION 14.  The second paragraph of said section 22 of said chapter 18, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the first sentence and inserting in place thereof the following 2 sentences:- The department shall determine  what verification requirements can be reasonably met by third party affidavits and shall provide notification to recipients and applicants of the circumstances that third party affidavits may be used; provided, however, that all work participation forms shall be verified by a third party who shall sign the work participation form under the penalties of perjury. For the purposes of verification, the department may accept a payroll stub that contains an employer’s federal employment identification number.
     SECTION 15.  Said chapter 18 is hereby further amended by adding the following 9 sections:-
Section 31.  (a) The department, in collaboration with the commonwealth corporation, shall develop a job diversion program for applicants for cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children to identify applicants who have the necessary job skills and experience and match those applicants with appropriate full-time employment prior to receiving benefits. The job diversion program shall be mandatory for all identified applicants over the age of 18 who are not attending a secondary school full-time or participating in an education or training activity, as defined in 106 CMR 203.400(A)(2)(i); provided, however, that the program shall not be mandatory for an applicant exempt from the work requirements under 106 CMR 203.400(A)(1)(a) to (c), inclusive; and provided further, that the program shall not be mandatory for an applicant participating in a substance abuse treatment program while in a substance abuse shelter or other in-patient program.
     (b)  The program shall identify able-bodied applicants who are capable of working and attempt to match them with jobs prior to receiving benefits. For those identified applicants not connected with full-time employment prior to receiving cash assistance, the department shall provide a written finding as to why the job diversion program was not successful. The findings shall be part of the applicant’s case file. An applicant otherwise eligible for assistance shall not be denied temporary benefits while awaiting job diversion placements.
Section 32.  The department shall require participation in the pathways to self-sufficiency program, established pursuant to section 3C of chapter 118, for all identified applicants over the age of 18 who are not attending a secondary school full-time, participating in an education or training activity, as defined in 106 CMR 203.400(A)(2)(i); provided, however, that the program shall not be mandatory for an applicant exempt from the work requirements pursuant to 106 CMR 203.400(A)(1)(a) to (c), inclusive; and provided further, that the program shall not be mandatory for an applicant participating in a substance abuse treatment program licensed or approved by the department of public health while the applicant is in a substance abuse shelter or other inpatient program.  The department shall monitor the participation of applicants in educational or training programs they are referred to, and the applicant shall provide documentation to the department of such participation.  An applicant who is otherwise eligible for TAFDC assistance shall not be denied temporary benefits while awaiting employment placement under the program; provided, however that benefits shall be suspended if employment documentation is not provided to the department in a timely manner.
Section 33.  The department shall require applicants or recipients of cash assistance to provide their social security number upon application; provided, however, that this section shall not apply to recipients who are present in the United States under 1 of the eligible noncitizen statuses as described in 106 CMR 203.675(A) or 106 CMR 320.620(A) or a victim of domestic violence who has a pending petition for legal status under the federal Violence Against Women Act; provided further, that the department shall provide a 3 month placeholder social security number for applicants or recipients who are expecting mothers in the third trimester of pregnancy or a child under 4 months of age.  Failure to provide a valid social security number within 3 months shall result in the suspension of benefits until a valid social security number is provided and verified by the department. The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section.
Section 34.  The department shall require all training and employment service programs, contracted through the department, to track the outcomes of individuals served by the program for at least 1 year after transitioning into employment. The department shall determine the number of individuals each employment service program is required to track.
     Section 35.  The department shall ensure when a recipient of cash assistance contacts  the department via telephone during normal business hours the recipient is able to speak with a caseworker.
     Section 36.  (a) The department, in consultation with the bureau of program integrity, established pursuant to section 16V of chapter 6A, shall develop a fraud detection program.  The fraud detection program shall analyze the risk of fraud and refer any cases of suspected fraud to the program integrity division and the bureau of special investigations in the office of the state auditor.
     (b)  In analyzing risk of fraud and identifying cases for investigation, the program shall consider: (i) even-dollar transactions; (ii) full-benefit withdrawal; (iii) usage patterns; (iv) high electronic benefit transfer card balances; (v) repeated duplicate electronic benefit transfer card requests; (vi) purchases of prohibited items; (vii) other relevant data sources; (viii) reports to case workers of potential fraud; and (ix) instances of the use of direct cash assistance in states other than Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Vermont and Maine. 
     (c)  To assist the program in identifying and investigating likely cases of fraud, the department shall develop and make available reports identifying: (i) even-dollar transactions by cardholder; (ii) instances of full-benefit withdrawal; (iii) high electronic benefit transfer card balances; (iv) duplicate electronic benefit transfer card requests; (v) purchases of prohibited items and (vi) other data reports, biannually.
Section 37.  The department shall allow applicants or recipients, who are employed, a monthly $150 work-related expense deduction from gross wages in determining eligibility and the amount of the cash assistance grant.  The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section.
     Section 38.  The department shall not approve an application for new benefits for any person required to register pursuant to sections 178C to 178P, inclusive, of chapter 6 and who has failed to register until the individual registers as required by said sections 178C to 178P, inclusive, of said chapter 6; provided, however, that prior to the denial of benefits, the department shall provide the applicant with notice of the applicant’s failure to register pursuant to said sections 178C to 178P, inclusive, of said chapter 6 and a reasonable opportunity to be heard.
     Section 39.  The department shall develop protocols for coordinating information with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and the administrative office of the trial court regarding recipients of publicly-funded benefits who are the subject of felony warrants.  The protocols shall be designed to use the department’s records to facilitate proper notice to the individual and the department shall, upon request, provide all relevant information to any such law enforcement or the court to facilitate the timely resolution of the warrant.
     SECTION 16.  Subsection (b) of section 21 of chapter 62C of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following clause:-
     (27)  the disclosure of tax return information for individuals or households to an agency of the commonwealth, if the agency certifies that the information is relevant to determining the eligibility of an individual or household for benefits, which are provided by the agency.
     SECTION 17.  Section 3 of chapter 118 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 35, the words “division of employment and training” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- department of career services.
     SECTION 18.  Said chapter 118 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 3A the following 2 sections:-
     Section 3B.  The department, in collaboration with the commonwealth corporation, shall establish an employment counseling and job training program to ensure appropriate training for recipients of cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children. The department, in consultation with the commonwealth corporation, shall work with community colleges, vocational schools, one-stop career centers, adult basic education programs, adult college transition programs and other workforce training programs to identify and develop, if necessary, employment training programs and resources, including programs and resources that meet participants’ language and cultural needs and refer applicants to these programs or resources; provided further, that the program shall include, but not be limited to; (1) job coaching; (2) assistance in resolving workplace disputes; (3) life skills development; (4) transportation assistance; (5) counseling; (6) tutoring; (7) support services referrals; (8) tax information forms regarding state and federal earned income tax credits; and (9) any other activities to assist recipients through the first year after transitioning into employment.
     Section 3C.  (a) The department, in consultation with the commonwealth corporation, shall establish the pathways to self-sufficiency program to promote financial independence for recipients of transitional aid to families with dependent children, hereinafter referred to as TAFDC, by coordinating the placement of recipients with regional employers through employment agencies, including one-stop career centers, with the goal of permanent employment. The program  shall identify applicants with relevant job skills and experience, then match those applicants with appropriate employment for the required number of hours, as specified in 106 CMR 203.400(A)(5). Applicants shall be referred to the program following an intake and employment assessment process.
     (b)  The department, in consultation with the commonwealth corporation, shall create selection criteria and guidelines for employment agencies seeking to participate in the placement of applicants, including, but not limited to: (1) experience with job-seeking difficulties facing recipients of public assistance; (2) demonstrated ability to identify and overcome barriers to employment; (3) geographic diversity; (4) experience with members of diverse populations and individuals who do not speak English; (5) a willingness to accommodate job seekers with dependent children or family members; and (6) a proven track record of job placement and retention.
     (c)  For identified applicants who are not connected with appropriate employment within 60 days of applying for TAFDC benefits, the department shall provide a written finding as to why the pathways to self-sufficiency program was not successful. The finding shall be part of the applicant’s TAFDC case file.
     (d)  The department shall annually file a report, in consultation with the commonwealth corporation, detailing the number of households and recipients receiving cash assistance under TAFDC who are participating in the pathways to self-sufficiency program who can reasonably be moved into gainful employment within 12 months of applying for TAFDC benefits. This report shall include, but not be limited to: (1) the cost of implementing the components of the pathways to self-sufficiency program; (2) the estimated placement cost per participant; (3) job placement and retention rates; (4) the extent to which appropriate activities and supports were available to recipients; (5) the components of the pathways to self-sufficiency program that were implemented in light of available resources and appropriations; and (6) the reasons recipients were unsuccessful in obtaining gainful employment within 12 months. The report shall be filed with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the report to the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities and the house and senate committees on ways and means.
     (e)  The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section.
     SECTION 19.  Said chapter 118 is hereby further amended by adding the following 8 sections:-
     Section 12.  A temporary absence from the commonwealth which exceeds 30 calendar days or 90 days in aggregate over the course of a calendar year shall create a rebuttable presumption that Massachusetts residency has been abandoned by a recipient of cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children and that the recipient is no longer eligible for assistance. The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section, including, but not limited to, the process by which the temporary absence shall be determined.
     Section 13.  (a) During the initial qualification process for full cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children, all adult applicants who are not exempt from the work requirement shall be required to conduct an initial job search unless the applicant has good cause for not participating as determined by the department which may include disability; provided further, that an applicant shall not be disqualified from receiving temporary assistance during the cash assistance eligibility determination process.
     (b)  The department shall inform all applicants required to conduct an initial job search of available local job placement service providers. Applicants shall provide evidence of this search by returning to the department a list of the potential employers contacted recently, the date of contact and the name and telephone number of the person with whom the applicant spoke, to the extent feasible. All initial job search documentation shall be signed by the applicant under the penalties of perjury. The number of potential employers to be contacted by the applicant shall be determined by the department. An applicant shall provide the information prior to the applicant’s case approval. The submission to the department of proof of job search activities issued by a one-stop career center within the department of career services shall satisfy the requirements of this subsection. An applicant who fails to provide this information within 60 days of filing the application shall be determined to be ineligible. The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this subsection.
     (c)  The department shall require adult recipients, who are meeting their work requirement through a job search under the pathways to self-sufficiency program established pursuant to section 3C, to provide, on a weekly basis, evidence of job searches by returning to the department a list of the employers contacted, the date of contact and the name and telephone number of the person with whom the applicant spoke, to the extent feasible.  The requirements of this subsection shall be deemed satisfied upon submission to the department of proof of job search activities issued by a one-stop career center within the department of career services. The department shall terminate cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children for a recipient who fails to provide such accurate information; provided, however, that the department shall not terminate the cash assistance provided to the recipient’s dependent children. The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this subsection.
     Section 14.  The department shall not calculate a separate 60 month benefit period for an individual who receives aid under transitional aid to families with dependent children if the individual is part of a 2 parent assistance unit.  The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section.
     Section 15.  The department shall develop economic independence goals for all recipients of cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children to be completed during the recipient’s first 24 month period of receiving benefits.  The economic independence goals shall assist a recipient in determining a path through which the recipient may become self-sufficient.  Recipients who re-apply for benefits at any time after the first 24 month period shall demonstrate a good faith attempt to meet their goals prior to receiving additional benefits or an extension of benefits.  Recipients who fail to demonstrate a good faith attempt to meet all of their goals shall not receive additional benefits or an extension of benefits; provided, however that this section shall not prohibit a recipient from receiving benefits on behalf of a dependent child.
     Section 16.  (a) The department shall develop a savings program that allows recipients of cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children to accumulate assets outside of the asset limit in savings accounts, called economic independence accounts.  The economic independence accounts shall be used to help recipients save for the first and last month of rent, a security deposit, costs related to education or training or any other expense that the department determines will aid a recipient in transitioning off of benefits, which may include health care costs or debt reduction. The economic independence accounts shall not be included as a countable asset under 106 CMR 204.120.
     (b)  For recipients of cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children who elect to participate in the savings program, the department shall require a designated amount of a recipient’s cash assistance to be held in an escrow account for the recipient until the recipient is no longer eligible or in need of benefits; provided further, that the department shall allow a recipient to deposit additional funds to the account. While a recipient is receiving benefits, funds in the economic independence account shall only be withdrawn for a department approved purpose. If a recipient, who is currently receiving benefits, uses funds from an economic independence account for any purpose other than a department approved purpose, the department shall reduce the recipient’s monthly cash assistance until the cumulative reductions are equal to the amount used for a non-allowable purpose. The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section; provided that the commissioner shall submit any proposed regulations to the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities and the house and senate committees on ways and means at least 30 days before their adoption by the department. 
     Section 17.  The department shall require unverified applicants for cash assistance for a dependent under transitional aid to families with dependent children to provide proof of income and assets. For the purposes of this section, an unverified applicant shall mean an applicant who has not provided the required information about citizenship or immigration status.
     Section 18.  Notwithstanding 106 CMR 203.400(A)(2)(i) or any general or special law to the contrary, an education or training activity for the purpose of meeting the work requirement shall be defined as any 4-year degree granting higher education institution, community college or certificate program, not to exceed 24 months, or a vocational education program, not to exceed 12 months. If the education or training activity is less than the hours per week required to meet the work requirement, the recipient shall perform other work program activities to total the required hours per week.
     Section 19.  A pregnant teen who meets all other eligibility requirements shall be eligible to live in a teen parent shelter or participate in a teen living program during such pregnant teen’s entire pregnancy and shall be eligible to receive cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children if the pregnant teen meets the school attendance requirements in 106 CMR 203.610 and 106 CMR 203.630.
     SECTION 20.  Chapter 121B of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 32F the following section:-
     Section 32G.  A temporary absence from the commonwealth which exceeds 30 calendar days or 90 days in aggregate over the course of a calendar year shall create a rebuttable presumption that Massachusetts residency has been abandoned by a recipient of state or municipally-funded or subsidized housing and that the recipient is no longer eligible for such assistance pursuant to this chapter.  The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section, including, but not limited to, the process by which the 90 days shall be monitored.
     SECTION 21.  The definition of “Child of record” in subsection (a) of section 110 of chapter 5 of the acts of 1995 is hereby amended adding the following words:- ; provided, however, that the commissioner shall develop specific criteria for approving exemptions or waivers to the family cap provision for extraordinary circumstances and shall only grant an exemption or waiver when the specific criteria is met.
     SECTION 22.  Subsection (b) of said section 110 of said chapter 5, as amended by section 308 of chapter 159 of the acts of 2000, is hereby further amended by striking out the words “provided, however, that the fair market value of any licensed motor vehicle does not exceed an amount determined by the commissioner in consultation with the secretary of the executive office of transportation and construction and the equity value of any licensed motor vehicle does not exceed $5,000; provided, further, that any value in excess of said five thousand dollars shall be attributed toward said family’s countable resources” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- provided, however, that an assistance unit shall be allowed 1 non-luxury vehicle the value of which does not exceed $15,000; provided further, that any value in excess of $15,000 shall be attributed toward the family’s countable resources; and provided further,  that the commissioner, deputy commissioner or an assistant commissioner may grant a full or partial written waiver for a vehicle valued in excess of $15,000 that the commissioner, deputy commissioner or assistant commissioner determines is necessary for a particular employment or family circumstance.
     SECTION 23.  Said subsection (b) of said section 110 of said chapter 5, as so amended, is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:- The department shall exclude from a family’s countable resources any earned income of dependent children of the family who are working part-time while attending school full time.  The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section, including, but not limited to, updating 106 CMR 204.210(D)(2).
     SECTION 24.  Subsection (e) of said section 110 of said chapter 5 is hereby amended by striking out clauses (1) and (2) and inserting in place thereof the following 2 clauses:-
     (1)  recipients who are disabled, as defined by the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 423 (d) or, in the commissioner's discretion, a recipient who has been determined by the commonwealth’s disability evaluation service to have a disability that meets or equals medical standards established by the department or substantially reduces the recipient’s ability to support the recipient’s children taking into account the individual’s age, education and work experience; provided that in families with 2 parents, both parents are disabled; provided further, that to the extent permitted by federal law, the word “disabled” shall not include recipients who are dependent on alcohol or drugs or whose disability is based in whole or in part on previous dependency. A recipient who requests an exemption under this clause shall, as a condition of continued eligibility for transitional aid to families with dependent children, apply for supplemental security income (SSI) and, if requested by the department, appeal a denial of SSI benefits. Recipients who do not comply with the department’s request to apply for SSI or appeal a decision shall not be granted a work exemption under this clause.
     (2)  recipients who must care for a disabled child or spouse. A recipient who requests an exemption under this clause shall apply for SSI benefits on behalf of the disabled child or spouse.
     SECTION 25.  Clause (3) of said subsection (e) of said section 110 of said chapter 5 is hereby amended by striking out the words “recipients in their third trimester of pregnancy” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- recipients in their thirty-third week or later of pregnancy, recipients in their third trimester of pregnancy who have submitted documentation signed by a primary care provider, as defined in section 1 of chapter 111 of the General Laws, or an obstetrician, gynecologist, nurse-midwife or family practitioner registered and certified under chapter 112 of the General Laws, that the recipient has a medical condition that prevents the recipient from working.
     SECTION 26.  The fourth paragraph of subsection (f) of said section 110 of said chapter 5 is hereby amended by inserting after the word “extended”, in line 2, the following words:- ; provided, however, that an extension of benefits shall not exceed 3 months.
     SECTION 27.  The first paragraph of subsection (j) of said section 110 of said chapter 5, as appearing in section 218 of chapter 149 of the acts of 2004, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 9,  the word “older;” and inserting in place thereof the following words:-
     older. The department shall exempt from the work requirement a recipient who is age 66 or older; provided, however, that a recipient who is age 60 or over, who is the primary caregiver for a child and who was retired prior to applying for benefits shall be exempt from the work requirement; and provided further, that the department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this sentence, including, but not limited to, updating 106 CMR 203.100(A)(1)(h).
     SECTION 28.  Said subsection (j) of said section 110 of said chapter 5 is hereby further amended by inserting after the second paragraph, as so appearing, the following 2 paragraphs:-
     An individual receiving cash assistance under transitional aid to families with dependent children who is not exempt from the work requirement as determined through regulations promulgated by the department may meet the work requirement by participating in an education or training activity for up to the required hours per week as determined by the department. The education or training activity shall not exceed 24 months.
     The department may extend the duration of the education or training activity eligible to meet the work requirement if the department determines, using performance standards established by the department, that the individual is making substantial progress towards completion of a certificate or degree program. If the department determines that an individual is not making substantial progress towards completion of a certificate or degree program the individual shall no longer be eligible for the exemption. The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section.
     SECTION 29.  Subsection (l) of said section 110 of said chapter 5, as amended by section 157 of chapter 43 of the acts of 1997, is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-
     (16)  To reduce or eliminate the amount of contributions or payments made by employers and applicants participating in the full employment program, toward the cost of qualified medical insurance, employers and applicants who participate in the program shall receive insurance reimbursement pursuant to section 9C of chapter 118E of the General Laws. The insurance reimbursement shall be provided to employers participating in the program regardless of whether the employer employs more than 50 employees or meets the other requirements of an “eligible employer” pursuant to said section 9C of said chapter 118E or under the regulations.  The insurance reimbursement shall be provided to any recipient employed through the program regardless of whether the recipient is an eligible employee under said section 9C of said chapter 118E. Reimbursements to employers under this paragraph shall be in accordance with subsection (4) of said section 9C of said chapter 118E, but shall not be subject to limitation by MassHealth in accordance with paragraph (C) of subsection (2) of said section 9C of said chapter 118E.  Reimbursements to recipients pursuant to this paragraph shall not be subject to paragraph (A) of subsection (2) of said section 9C of said chapter 118E, but shall be in accordance with a fee schedule set forth in regulations promulgated by MassHealth in consultation with the department of transitional assistance.  Reimbursements under this section shall be subject to all other applicable requirements of said section 9C of said chapter 118E.
     SECTION 30.  Section 121 of said chapter 5 is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 3, 8 and 25, the word “fourteen” and inserting in place thereof, in each instance, the following figure:- 16.
     SECTION 31.  Said section 121 of said chapter 5 is hereby further amended by adding the following clause:-
     (3)  Participation in an alternative education program or a general education development preparation and training program shall meet the school attendance requirement.
     SECTION 32.  Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the department of transitional assistance shall develop, implement and maintain a plan to reduce the use of paper records and documentation and to eliminate the sole reliance on such paper records for its operations. The plan shall progressively eliminate the need to use hard copies of forms. The department shall submit quarterly reports to the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate on its progress. The first report shall be filed not later than December 1, 2014.
     SECTION 33.  Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the department of housing and community development shall allow the Worcester housing authority to operate the authority’s a better life program, so called, in state-subsidized housing.
     SECTION 34.  Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the department of transitional assistance, in consultation with the commonwealth corporation, shall revitalize the full employment program, established by section 110 of chapter 5 of the acts of 1995, in which recipients, subject to criteria and eligibility rules established by the department, shall be provided with employment in a manner which promotes self-sufficiency and which shall provide work experience to improve the recipient’s competitive position in the workforce.
     SECTION 35.  Notwithstanding any special or general law to the contrary, the secretary of administration and finance shall study the administration and efficacy of the current benefit systems and programs in the commonwealth  and the resource inputs of said benefit system and programs, including, but not limited to, the following: electronic benefit transfer, supplemental nutrition assistance program, section 8 housing, low income home energy assistance program, extending the earned income tax credit, the extension of a child and dependent care tax credit,  and any other programs deemed appropriate by the secretary that move individuals out of poverty and into situations of economic independence and autonomy.  The study shall be conducted in consultation with the commissioner of the department of transitional assistance, the commissioner of the department of housing and community development and other executive agencies as the secretary deems appropriate.  The secretary shall provide an opportunity for comments and input from members of the public and general court on or before January 1, 2014, provided that such opportunity shall include at least 1 public hearing.  The secretary shall report on the findings of the study to the clerks of the house of representatives and senate and the house and senate committees on ways and means on or before January 5, 2015.
     SECTION 36.  Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, as federally permissible, the department of transitional assistance and the department of elementary and secondary education shall develop and implement a statewide system to verify school attendance.
     SECTION 37.  Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the department of transitional assistance shall issue a report to establish a cashless system by January 1, 2019.
     SECTION 38.  Wherever required, the department of transitional assistance shall seek a federal exemption or waiver in order to implement this act.
     SECTION 39.  The department of transitional assistance shall promulgate regulations to implement this act.
     SECTION 40.  Sections 6, 15, 18 to 21, inclusive, and 29 shall take effect 90 days after the effective date of this act; provided, however that section 39 of chapter 18 of the General Laws as added by section 15 shall take effect upon passage of this act.     

Approved, July 7, 2014.