SENATE BILL 267
56th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2023
Linda M. Lopez and Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Angelica Rubio
RELATING TO PUBLIC ASSISTANCE; CHANGING PROVISIONS OF THE NEW MEXICO WORKS ACT; ALLOWING HOMELESSNESS TO BE A WORK REQUIREMENT EXEMPTION; SETTING THE FINANCIAL STANDARD OF NEED; REMOVING CHILD CARE SERVICES AS A CATEGORY FOR GRANTS; EXEMPTING ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF CHILD SUPPORT FROM INCOME SOURCES; LIMITING SANCTIONS TO ADULT MEMBERS OF A BENEFIT GROUP; SPECIFYING PRO RATA SHARES FOR DIFFERENT BENEFIT GROUPS; CLARIFYING THE SANCTIONS CONCILIATION PROCESS.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. Section 27-2B-3 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1998, Chapter 8, Section 3 and Laws 1998, Chapter 9, Section 3, as amended) is amended to read:
"27-2B-3. DEFINITIONS.--As used in the New Mexico Works Act:
A. "applicant" means a person applying for cash assistance on behalf of a benefit group;
B. "benefit group" means a pregnant woman or a group of people that includes a dependent child, all of that dependent child's full, half or adopted siblings or stepsiblings living with the dependent child's parent or relative within the fifth degree of consanguinity and the parent with whom the children live;
C. "cash assistance" means cash payments funded by the temporary assistance for needy families block grant pursuant to the federal act and by state funds;
D. "department" means the human services department;
E. "dependent child" means a natural child, adopted child, stepchild or ward who is:
(1) seventeen years of age or younger;
(2) eighteen years of age and is enrolled in high school; or
(3) between eighteen and twenty-two years of age and is receiving special education services regulated by the public education department;
F. "director" means the director of the income support division of the department;
G. "earned income" means cash or payment in kind that is received as wages from employment or payment in lieu of wages; and earnings from self-employment or earnings acquired from the direct provision of services, goods or property, production of goods, management of property or supervision of services;
H. "federal act" means the federal Social Security Act and rules promulgated pursuant to the Social Security Act;
I. "federal poverty guidelines" means the level of income defining poverty by family size published annually in the federal register by the United States department of health and human services;
J. "homelessness" means members of a benefit group that lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including:
(1) children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or are abandoned in hospitals;
(2) children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
(3) children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations or similar settings;
(4) migratory children who qualify as homeless because the children are living in circumstances described in this subsection; and
(5) a family that is receiving a supportive housing or rapid rehousing voucher pursuant to federal law;
[J.] K. "immigrant" means alien as defined in the federal act;
[K.] L. "parent" means natural parent, adoptive parent or stepparent;
[L.] M. "participant" means a recipient of cash assistance or services or a member of a benefit group who has reached the age of majority;
[M.] N. "person" means an individual;
O. "pro rata share" means the amount of the cash assistance divided among the benefit group;
[N.] P. "secretary" means the secretary of the department;
[O.] Q. "services" means child care assistance; payment for employment-related transportation costs; job search assistance; employment counseling; employment, education and job training placement; one-time payment for necessary employment-related costs; case management; or other activities whose purpose is to assist transition into employment;
[P.] R. "unearned income" means old age, survivors and disability insurance; railroad retirement benefits; veterans administration compensation or pension; military retirement; pensions, annuities and retirement benefits; lodge or fraternal benefits; shared shelter payments; settlement payments; individual Indian money; child support; unemployment compensation benefits; union benefits paid in cash; gifts and contributions; and real property income;
[Q.] S. "vehicle" means a conveyance for the transporting of individuals to or from employment, for the activities of daily living or for the transportation of goods; "vehicle" does not include any boat, trailer or mobile home used as a principal place of residence; and
[R.] T. "vocational education" means an organized educational program that is directly related to the preparation of a person for employment in a current or emerging occupation requiring training other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree. Vocational education must be provided by an educational or a training organization, such as a vocational-technical school, community college, post-secondary educational institution or proprietary school."
SECTION 2. Section 27-2B-4 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1998, Chapter 8, Section 4 and Laws 1998, Chapter 9, Section 4, as amended) is amended to read:
"27-2B-4. APPLICATION--RESOURCE PLANNING SESSION--INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY PLANS--PARTICIPATION AGREEMENT--REVIEW PERIODS.--
A. Application for cash assistance or services shall be made to the department. The application shall be in writing or reduced to writing in the manner and on the form prescribed by the department. The application shall be made under oath by an applicant having custody of or residing with a dependent child who is a benefit group member and shall contain a statement of the age of the child, residence, a complete statement of the amount of property in which the applicant has an interest, a statement of all income that the applicant and other benefit group members have at the time of the filing of the application and other information required by the department.
B. The department shall assist an applicant in completing the application for cash assistance or services and shall evaluate an applicant to determine eligibility for all department programs for which the applicant is eligible. The department shall process all expedited [food stamp] supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits applications within two business days of submission, and the department shall deliver expedited [food stamps] supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits to an eligible applicant within seven days of the application.
C. At the time of application for cash assistance and services, an applicant and the department shall identify everyone who is to be counted in the benefit group. Once an application is approved, the participant shall advise the department if there are any changes in the membership of the benefit group.
D. No later than thirty days after an application is filed, the department shall provide to an applicant a resource planning session to ascertain the applicant's immediate needs, assess financial and nonfinancial options, make referrals and act on the application.
E. No later than five days after an application is approved, the department shall provide reimbursement for child care.
F. Whenever the department receives an application for assistance, a verification and record of the applicant's circumstances shall promptly be made to ascertain the facts supporting the application and to obtain other information required by the department. The verification may include a visit to the home of the applicant, as long as the department gives adequate prior notice of the visit to the applicant.
G. No later than fifteen days after an application is approved, the department shall assess the education, skills, prior work experience and employability of the participant and discuss with the participant work requirement exemption factors listed in Subsection H of Section 27-2B-5 NMSA 1978.
H. After the initial identification of goals and assessment of skills, the department shall work with the participant to develop an individual responsibility plan that:
(1) sets forth an employment goal for the participant and a plan for moving the participant into employment;
(2) sets forth obligations of the participant that may include a requirement that the participant attend school, maintain certain grades and attendance, keep the participant's school-age children in school, immunize the participant's children or engage in other activities that will help the participant become and remain employed;
(3) is designed to the greatest extent possible to move the participant into [whatever employment the participant is capable of handling] employment that will help the participant achieve the participant's goals and to provide additional services as necessary to increase the responsibility and amount of work the participant will handle over time;
(4) describes the services the department may provide so that the participant may obtain and keep employment; and
(5) may [require the participant to participate] include participation in appropriate services, such as substance abuse, domestic violence or mental health services.
I. The participant and the department shall sign the participant's individual responsibility plan. [The department shall not allow a participant to decline to participate in developing an individual responsibility plan.] The department shall not waive the requirement that a participant develop an individual responsibility plan. The department shall emphasize the importance of the individual responsibility plan to the participant.
[J. If a participant does not develop an individual responsibility plan, refuses to sign an individual responsibility plan or refuses to attend semiannual reviews of an individual responsibility plan, the participant shall be required to enter into a conciliation process pursuant to Subsection C of Section 27-2B-14 NMSA 1978. If the participant persists in noncompliance with the individual responsibility plan process after the conciliation process, the participant shall be subject to sanctions pursuant to Section 27-2B-14 NMSA 1978.
K.] J. The participant shall also sign a participation agreement that designates the number of hours that the participant must participate in work activities to meet participation standards.
[L.] K. The department shall review the current financial eligibility of a benefit group when the department reviews [food stamp] supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits eligibility.
[M.] L. The department shall meet semiannually with a participant to review and revise the participant's individual responsibility plan.
[N.] M. The department shall develop a complaint procedure to address issues pertinent to the delivery of services and other issues relating to a participant's individual responsibility plan."
SECTION 3. Section 27-2B-5 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1998, Chapter 8, Section 5 and Laws 1998, Chapter 9, Section 5, as amended) is amended to read:
"27-2B-5. WORK REQUIREMENTS--WORK PARTICIPATION RATES.--
A. The following qualify as work activities:
(1) unsubsidized employment, including self-employment;
(2) subsidized private sector employment, including self-employment;
(3) subsidized public sector employment;
(4) work experience;
(5) on-the-job training;
(6) job search and job readiness;
(7) community service programs;
(8) vocational education;
(9) job skills training activities directly related to employment;
(10) education directly related to employment;
(11) satisfactory attendance at a secondary school or course of study leading to a high school equivalency credential in the case of a participant who has not completed secondary school or received such a certificate; [and]
(12) the provision of child care services to a participant who is participating in a community service program; and
(13) other activities approved by the department that will help the participant achieve the participant's goals.
B. The department shall recognize community service programs and job training programs that are operated by an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo.
C. The department may not require a participant to work more than four hours per week over the work requirement rate set pursuant to the federal act.
D. The department shall require a parent, caretaker or other adult who is a member of a benefit group to engage in a work activity.
E. Where best suited [for the participant to address barriers, the department may require the following work activities] to help the participant eliminate barriers or achieve the participant's goals, the participant may participate in the following activities:
(1) participating in parenting classes, money management classes or life skills training;
(2) participating in a certified alcohol or drug addiction program;
(3) in the case of a homeless benefit group, [finding] searching for a home;
(4) in the case of a participant who is a victim of domestic violence, residing in a domestic violence shelter or receiving counseling or treatment or participating in criminal justice activities directed at prosecuting the domestic violence perpetrator for no longer than twenty-four weeks; and
(5) in the case of a participant who does not speak English, participating in a course in English as a second language.
F. Subject to the availability of funds, the department in cooperation with the workforce solutions department, Indian affairs department and other appropriate state agencies may develop projects to provide for the placement of participants in work activities, including the following:
(1) participating in unpaid internships with private and government entities;
(2) refurbishing publicly assisted housing;
(3) volunteering at a head start program or a school;
(4) weatherizing low-income housing; and
(5) restoring public sites and buildings, including monuments, parks, fire stations, police buildings, jails, libraries, museums, auditoriums, convention halls, hospitals, buildings for administrative offices and city halls.
[G. If a participant is engaged in full-time vocational education studies or an activity set out in Paragraphs (9) through (11) of Subsection A of this section, the participant shall engage in another work activity at the same time. Additionally, for two-parent families that receive federally funded child-care assistance, the participant's spouse shall engage in a work activity set out in Paragraphs (1) through (5) or (7) of Subsection A of this section unless the participant suffers from a temporary or complete disability that bars the participant from engaging in a work activity or the participant is barred from engaging in a work activity because the participant provides sole care for a person with a disability.
H.] G. A participant engaged in vocational education studies shall make reasonable efforts to obtain a loan, scholarship, grant or other assistance to pay for costs and tuition, and the department shall disregard those amounts in the eligibility determination.
[I.] H. A participant is exempt from the work requirement if the participant is determined by the department to meet an exemption listed in this subsection. For as long as the described conditions exist, the following are exempt from the work requirement:
(1) a participant who is barred from engaging in a work activity because the participant has a temporary or permanent disability;
(2) a participant who is over age sixty;
(3) a participant who is barred from engaging in a work activity because the participant provides the sole care for a person with a disability;
(4) a single custodial parent who is caring for a child less than twelve months old [for a lifetime total of twelve months];
(5) a single custodial parent who is caring for a child under six years of age if the parent is unable to obtain child care for one or more of the following reasons:
(a) unavailability of appropriate child care within a reasonable distance from the parent's home or work as defined by the [children, youth and families] early childhood education and care department;
(b) unavailability or unsuitability of informal child care by a relative under other arrangements as defined by the [children, youth and families] early childhood education and care department; or
(c) unavailability of appropriate and affordable formal [child-care] child care arrangements as defined by the [children, youth and families] early childhood education and care department;
(6) a pregnant woman [during] who is in her last trimester of pregnancy;
(7) a participant who is prevented from working by a temporary emergency or a situation that precludes work participation for thirty days or less;
(8) a participant who demonstrates by [reliable] medical, psychological or mental reports, counselor or social worker written or oral verifications, court orders or police reports that family violence or threat of family violence effectively bars the participant from employment; [and]
(9) a participant who is experiencing family homelessness; and
[(9)] (10) a participant who demonstrates good cause of the need for the exemption.
[J.] I. As a condition of the exemptions identified in Subsection [I] H of this section, the department may establish participation requirements specific to the participant's condition or circumstances, such as substance abuse services, mental health services, domestic violence services, pursuit of disability benefits, job readiness or education directly related to employment. The activities are established to improve the participant's capacity to improve income and strengthen family support."
SECTION 4. Section 27-2B-7 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1998, Chapter 8, Section 7 and Laws 1998, Chapter 9, Section 7, as amended) is amended to read:
"27-2B-7. FINANCIAL STANDARD OF NEED.--
A. The secretary shall adopt a financial standard of need at or above fifty percent of the federal poverty guidelines, with annual cost-of-living adjustments based [upon] on the availability of federal and state funds and based upon appropriations by the legislature of the available federal temporary assistance for needy families grant made pursuant to the federal act in the following categories:
(1) cash assistance;
[(2) child care services;
(3)] (2) other services that go to families that qualify for temporary assistance for needy families; and
[(4)] (3) administrative costs.
The legislature shall determine the actual percentage of each category to be used annually of the federal temporary assistance for needy families grant made pursuant to the federal act. Within the New Mexico works program, the department may provide cash assistance or services to specific categories of benefit groups from general funds appropriated to cash assistance or services. The department may exclude these funds from temporary assistance for needy families maintenance of effort. The department shall identify alternative state spending to claim as maintenance of effort and make necessary arrangements to allow reporting of that spending.
B. The following income sources are exempt from the gross income test, the net income test and the cash payment calculation:
(2) [food stamps] supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits;
(3) government-subsidized foster care payments if the child for whom the payment is received is also excluded from the benefit group;
(4) supplemental security income;
(5) government-subsidized housing or housing payments;
(6) federally excluded income;
(7) educational payments made directly to an educational institution;
(8) government-subsidized child care;
(9) earned income that belongs to a person seventeen years of age or younger who is not the head of household;
(10) one hundred percent of child support passed through to the participant by the child support enforcement division of the department [in the following amounts:
(a) fifty dollars ($50.00) per month through December 31, 2008; and
(b) no later than January 1, 2009, a minimum of one hundred dollars ($100) for one child and two hundred dollars ($200) for two or more children as based on the availability of state or federal funds];
(11) earned income deposited in an individual development account by a member of the benefit group or money received as matching funds for allowable uses by the owner of the individual development account pursuant to the Individual Development Account Act; and
(12) other income sources as determined by the department.
C. The total countable gross earned and unearned income of the benefit group cannot exceed eighty-five percent of the federal poverty guidelines for the size of the benefit group.
D. For a benefit group to be eligible to participate:
(1) gross countable income that belongs to the benefit group must not exceed eighty-five percent of the federal poverty guidelines for the size of the benefit group; and
(2) net countable income that belongs to the benefit group must not equal or exceed the financial standard of need after applying the disregards set out in Paragraphs (1) through (4) of Subsection E of this section.
E. Subject to the availability of state and federal funds, the department shall determine the cash payment of the benefit group by applying the following disregards to the benefit group's earned income and then subtracting that amount from the benefit group's financial standard of need:
(1) one hundred twenty-five dollars ($125) of monthly earned income and one-half of the remainder, or for a two-parent family, two hundred twenty-five dollars ($225) of monthly earned income and one-half of the remainder for each parent;
(2) monthly payments made for child care at a maximum of two hundred dollars ($200) for a child under two years of age and at a maximum of one hundred seventy-five dollars ($175) for a child two years of age or older;
(3) costs of self-employment income; and
(4) business expenses.
F. In addition to the disregards specified in Subsection E of this section, and between June 28, 2007 and June 30, 2008, or until implementation of the employment retention and advancement bonus program described in Subsection G of this section, the department shall apply the following income disregards to the benefit group's earned income and then subtract that amount from the benefit group's financial standard of need:
(1) for the first two years of receiving cash assistance or services, if a participant works over the work requirement rate set by the department pursuant to the New Mexico Works Act, one hundred percent of the income earned by the participant beyond that rate; and
(2) for the first two years of receiving cash assistance or services, for a two-parent benefit group in which one parent works more than thirty-five hours per week and the other works more than twenty-four hours per week, one hundred percent of income earned by each participant beyond the work requirement rate set by the department.
G. No later than July 1, 2008, New Mexico employment incentives shall be as follows:
(1) the department shall implement an employment retention and advancement bonus program based on availability of state or federal funds that includes financial incentives to encourage a participant to:
(a) leave the New Mexico works program and move into an employment retention and advancement bonus incentive program;
(b) maintain a minimum of thirty hours per week employment; and
(c) leave the employment retention and advancement bonus incentive program due to increased earnings above the income eligibility standard and continue employment;
(2) the employment retention and advancement bonus incentive program shall provide a cash bonus and employment services to a former participant who, upon application:
(a) is currently engaged in paid work for a minimum of thirty hours per week;
(b) has received cash assistance for at least three months and one of the last three months;
(c) has had a gross income of less than one hundred fifty percent of the federal poverty guidelines; and
(d) has participated in the employment retention and advancement bonus incentive program for no longer than eighteen months;
(3) for continued eligibility in the employment retention and advancement bonus incentive program, a participant shall:
(a) be engaged in paid work for thirty hours per week for at least one of the past three months;
(b) be engaged in paid work for thirty hours per week for at least four of the past six months;
(c) have had gross income less than one hundred fifty percent of the federal poverty guidelines; and
(d) have participated in the program no more than eighteen months;
(4) the department shall provide employment services to assist participants in gaining access to available work supports, maintain employment and advance to higher-paying employment; and
(5) the department shall:
(a) establish the amount of bonus to be paid to participants in the employment retention and advancement bonus program based on availability of state and federal funds;
(b) propose rules to implement the employment retention and advancement bonus incentive program of this subsection no later than January 1, 2008; and
(c) begin implementation of the employment retention and advancement bonus incentive program of this subsection no later than July 1, 2008.
H. The department may recover overpayments of cash assistance on a monthly basis not to exceed fifteen percent of the financial standard of need applicable to the benefit group.
I. Based upon the availability of funds and in accordance with the federal act, the secretary may establish a separate temporary assistance for needy families cash assistance program that may waive certain New Mexico Works Act requirements due to a specific situation.
J. Subject to the availability of state and federal funds, the department may limit the eligibility of benefit groups that are eligible because a legal guardian is not included in the benefit group."
SECTION 5. Section 27-2B-14 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1998, Chapter 8, Section 14 and Laws 1998, Chapter 9, Section 14, as amended by Laws 2003, Chapter 311, Section 5 and Laws 2003, Chapter 432, Section 5) is amended to read:
A. The department shall sanction [a] an adult member of a benefit group for noncompliance with work requirements or child support requirements. Only the pro rata share for the adult members of a benefit group may be reduced or terminated.
B. For benefit groups that are entirely adults, the group has one hundred percent pro rata share of the cash assistance.
C. For a benefit group that includes adults and children or minor parents and children, the pro rata share for the amount of cash assistance shall be designated as follows:
(1) seventy-five percent for the child or children in the benefit group unit; and
(2) twenty-five percent for the adult member or members, or minor parent or parents of the benefit group unit.
D. For a participant that is a benefit group that includes only adults or a participant who is a pregnant person, one hundred percent of the amount of assistance shall be designated for the adult member or members or the pregnant person.
E. The pro rata share of the grant amount designated for children in the benefit group may not be reduced or terminated for noncompliance with the New Mexico works program work requirement or child support requirements.
[B.] F. The sanction shall be applied by reducing the pro rata share of cash assistance for adult household members at the following levels:
(1) twenty-five percent reduction of cash assistance for the first occurrence of noncompliance;
(2) fifty percent reduction of cash assistance for the second occurrence of noncompliance; and
(3) termination of cash assistance and ineligibility to reapply for six months for the third occurrence of noncompliance.
[C.] G. Prior to imposing the first sanction, if the department determines that a participant is not complying with the work participation requirement or child support requirements, the participant shall be required to enter into a conciliation process established by the department to address the noncompliance and to identify good cause for noncompliance or barriers to compliance. [The conciliation process shall occur only once prior to the imposition of the sanction. The participant shall have ten working days from the date a conciliation notice is mailed to contact the department to initiate the conciliation process. A participant who fails to initiate the conciliation process shall have a notice of adverse action mailed to him after the tenth working day following the date on which the conciliation notice is mailed. Participants who begin but do not complete the conciliation process shall be mailed a notice of adverse action thirty days from the date the original conciliation notice was mailed.
D. Reestablishing compliance shall allow full payment to resume.
E. Noncompliance with reporting requirements may subject a participant to other sanctions, except that an adult member of the benefit group shall not be sanctioned for the failure of a dependent child to attend school.] The department shall provide a thirty-day conciliation period for each instance of noncompliance.
H. During the thirty-day conciliation periods, the department shall notify the participant of the noncompliance and help the participant by:
(1) determining the reasons for noncompliance, including by personally contacting the participant;
(2) evaluating and preparing a written determination of whether the participant qualifies for an exemption from the work requirement pursuant to Section 27-2B-5 NMSA 1978 or has good cause for noncompliance pursuant to that section; and
(3) sending the participant a letter offering a conciliation conference and assistance in identifying and resolving barriers to compliance.
I. The department shall not reduce or terminate cash assistance to a participant until at least thirty days after the day on which the first written notice of noncompliance is sent to the participant.
J. When the department determines that a participant is noncompliant with a reporting requirement, the work requirement or child support requirements, the full amount of cash assistance shall resume as soon as the requirements are met.
K. An adult member of a benefit group shall not be sanctioned for:
(1) the failure of a dependent child to attend school; or
(2) voluntarily participating in limited work participation.
[F.] L. Effective October 1, 2001, the department shall not terminate the medicaid benefits of any member of a benefit group due to imposition of a sanction pursuant to the provisions of this section."
SECTION 6. EFFECTIVE DATE.--The effective date of the provisions of this act is July 1, 2023.
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