Fw: Information on W-2

H. C. Covington (ach1@sprynet.com)
Sat, 18 Apr 1998 11:11:09 -0500


H. C. Sonny Covington  @  I CAN! America
427 St. John Street - Lafayette, LA  70501
(318) 235-7005  Fax 318-234-0953
-----Original Message-----
From: Ctr on Soc Welfare Policy Law <HN0135@HANDSNET.ORG>
Date: Saturday, April 18, 1998 10:28 AM
Subject: Information on W-2


In response to Ian Morrison=92s request for information on W-2, I set out
below an
article from the March 1998 issue of Welfare News, and another web site.

Henry Freedman, Welfare Law Center

CONCERNS FOR FAMILIES EXPRESSED AS WISCONSIN CONTINUES TRANSITION TO W-2

        Last September Wisconsin began converting families from the AFDC
cash
benefits program to its new Wisconsin Works, or W-2 program, under which
families are generally assigned to one of several work activity categorie=
s
and
receive time-limited payments based on the category to which they are
assigned
and then only in ex-change for engaging in the required activity.  Famili=
es
assigned to the =93job ready=94 (ready for unsubsidized employment) categ=
ory do
not
get a cash grant.  Families can also be assigned to several other
categories:
trial jobs, community service jobs, and W-2 transition.  The shift from
AFDC to
W-2 is set to be completed by the end of March.  Current AFDC families mu=
st
enroll in W-2 by then in order to continue receiving benefits.

        This transition to W-2 takes place amid reports that the state=92=
s
overall
welfare caseload has declined 46% statewide and 32% in Milwaukee since
September
and complaints from advocates and reports that families are losing
benefits,
including Medicaid and Food Stamps, or having benefits delayed,  because =
of
administrative foul-ups.  As a sign of the confusion among families that
the
massive overhaul has caused, news reports cite a quadrupling in calls to =
a
W-2
hotline in the last three months of 1997 compared to the prior six months.
In
the meantime, last December the state agency reportedly warned Milwaukee
W-2
agencies that they should be sanctioning more families for failure to
satisfy
work participation requirements. Developments reported by advocates and i=
n
Wisconsin news media in the past few months include the following:

        LEGAL ACTION OF WISCONSIN (LAW) SAYS FAMILIES HARMED BY MAXIMUS W=
-2
VIOLATIONS.

        In late November LAW complained to the state that Maximus, a
for-profit
contractor responsible for W-2 eligibility determinations and
administration in
one region of Milwaukee, was =93systematically violating state policy and=
 the
W-2
con-tract provisions=94 and that as a result families have been improperl=
y
terminated from AFDC and denied W-2 benefits.   LAW asked the state to
investigate and con-sider assessing damages as provided in the W-2
contract.
LAW charged Maximus with closing AFDC cases without making the required
contacts
with families; incorrectly determining AFDC cases to be job ready and
therefore
not eligible for W-2 cash aid without meeting the family; converting case=
s
to
W-2 without individual assessments, employability plans, and the signing =
of
a
W-2 agree-ment; in some cases conducting group, rather than individual ,
assessments and employability plans; terminating some AFDC cases and
assigning
them to the W-2 =93trial job=94 group without actually assigning a trial =
job
and
therefore not providing benefits; failing to respond to clients=92 phone
calls;
failing to advise families of their eligibility for W-2, their W-2
placement,
and whether they will receive a cash payment; and in some cases, failing =
to
provide approval or denial notices resulting in families not knowing of
their
right to appeal agency decisions.

        Maximus responded shortly thereafter by describing its efforts to
contact AFDC cases that it had closed and reinstate AFDC or assign them t=
o
the
appropriate W-2 group;  its plans to meet individually with each family t=
o
develop individual employability plans; its plans to upgrade its inadequa=
te
telephone system to handle the volume of calls it had received; its effor=
ts
to
dispel confusion that various notices created among families; and its pla=
ns
to
supplement staff training and internal quality control systems.

        According to a January 8th  report by Shepherd Express a state
review of
Maximus=92 operations revealed that 105 fam-ilies incorrectly lost aid wh=
en
Maximus assigned them to the W-2 =93job ready=94 group.  People in this g=
roup
do not
get benefits and are expected to be in unsubsidized employment.  Maximus
assigned families who it claimed did not respond to its notices if it
thought
the family had earnings, but it turned out that many had lost their jobs =
or
had
limited employment.  The Shep-herd Express report noted that at one point
Maximus had 150 cases assigned to the =93job ready=94 group but after a r=
eview
only
3 cases were in this group.  Maximus said that it has changed its
procedures so
as not to put people into the =93job ready=94 group because of its own co=
ncerns
about the category and not just because of LAW=92s complaint (see the
following
paragraph).

W-2 AGENCIES AND STATE LEGISLATORS WANT TO END W-2 =93JOB READY=94 CATEGO=
RY.

        On February 19,  Shepherd Express re-ported that some of the
agencies
administering W-2 are ready to abandon the W-2 =93job ready=94 classifica=
tion
because of concerns that this classification means that fam-ilies can be
left
without cash benefits even if no jobs are available.  In addition, a
bi-partisan
group of state legislators, reacting to reports that people have lost
benefits
after being classified as =93job ready=94 despite having no employment, h=
as
proposed
eliminating this category.  The state claims, on the other hand, that as =
of
last
October only 13 of 1830 =93job ready=94 people were without jobs.

        Other accounts report advocates=92 complaints that people with on=
ly
part-time or temporary jobs that do not meet their needs are denied cash
assistance because they are in unsubsidized employment.   The state agenc=
y
has
promised to inform W-2 agencies that W-2 participants whose limited
employment
does not provide earnings to meet their needs can receive a full Communit=
y
Service Job (CSJ) grant of $673 a month until the state computers are abl=
e
to
calculate partial CSJ grants based on part-time participation in a CSJ.

FAMILIES ENROLLED IN MEDICAID DECLINES.

        According to a mid-February report in the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel,
there has been a 6% decline statewide in the num-ber of children and
parents
enrolled in Medicaid since W-2 began last September.  (However, the
Medicaid
Healthy Start program for pregnant women and young children has increased
by 6%
since W-2 began.) W-2 has not changed the Medicaid eligibility rules for
families, but W-2 families are no longer automatically enrolled in Medica=
id
and
must sign up.  Health care providers and advocates are concerned that
families
are falling through the cracks because of computer problems that resulted
in
cutting off Medicaid to families who are ineligible for W-2 cash payments=
,
and
administrative confusion.  State officials reportedly acknowledged proble=
ms
and
were taking steps to correct computer errors, send out information
brochures,
and expand outreach, among other efforts.
FEWER THAN EXPECTED CHILDREN ARE IN SUBSIDIZED CHILD CARE.

        According to a mid-February report in the Milwaukee Jour-nal
Sentinel,
the state is likely to save $60 million in W-2 costs because fewer childr=
en
than
expected are in subsidized child care.  While the state thinks that
families are
receiving the child care they want, advocates are concerned that
co-payments
required for subsidized child care may be discouraging families from usin=
g
subsi-dized care instead of informal arrange-ments.  In addition, a
Milwaukee
county welfare agency official noted that the process of getting county
approval
for child care subsidies is more difficult since  in some cases parents
have to
go to the county office and cannot yet get approval at the W-2 agency.
County
workers are due to be placed at all W-2 agencies by early April.  The
county
official also suggested that more children will receive subsidized care a=
s
families with more younger children are converted to W-2.

******

This report is based on information received from Legal Action of Wiscons=
in
and
reports from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (available on the web at
www.onwisconsin.com) and Shepherd Express (available on the web at
www.shepherd-express.com).

Another source of information is the web page of the Wisconsin Council on
Children and Families, www.wccf.org.

ABOUT WELFARE NEWS

        Welfare News is a bimonthly publication of the Welfare Law Center=
,
275
Seventh Avenue, Suite 1205, New York, NY 10001-6708, tel. 212-633-6967;
fax:
212-633-6371; e-mail: wlc@welfarelaw.org; web page: www.welfarelaw.org.  =
A
yearly subscription fee of $40 ($60 for libraries or outside the US) brin=
gs
you
both Welfare News and Welfare Bulletin, the Center's monthly publication
which
summarizes the latest noteworthy publications, court decisions, and polic=
y
issuances on income support programs.

Mail Sent: April 17, 1998        6:51 am PDT   Item: R016f1E