CHAPTER 66

FORMERLY

HOUSE BILL NO. 251

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 31 OF THE DELAWARE CODE AND THE LAWS OF DELAWARE RELATING TO THE EMPLOYMENT OF WELFARE RECIPIENTS.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1. This Act shall be known as the "Delaware Welfare Employment Act."

Section 2. Amend Title 31 of the Delaware Code by adding thereto a new chapter, designated as Chapter 15, which new chapter shall read as follows:

"DELAWARE WELFARE EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM

§ 1501. Statement of Purpose.

It is the purpose of the Delaware Welfare Employment Program to:

(a) create expanded opportunity for increased personal responsibility and advancement toward economic independence and self-sufficiency by Delaware's welfare recipients through the acquisition of useful work skills and performance in productive employment which will end their dependence on public assistance; and

(a) enlist Delaware's private businesses in an expanded effort to provide job opportunities and reduce dependency, and to enhance their work forces and increase their competitiveness; and

(a) complement and strengthen other important state incentives designed to move welfare recipients into private sector jobs, including child care, medical care, and job training and placement; and

(b) authorize the creation of personal advancement accounts as an additional incentive for workers to achieve self-sufficiency and increased skills; and

(c) achieve the foregoing purposes in a cost-effective manner.

§ 1502. Establishment of Program.

(a) The Delaware Welfare Employment Program (the "Program") is created within the Department of Health and Social Services (the "Department") as a critical component of the State's welfare-to-work strategy; provided, however, that the Program shall, as with the State's other welfare-to-work strategies, be administered by the Department in cooperation with the Department of Labor, the Delaware Economic Development Office and the Delaware Work Force Development Council (hereinafter the "Cooperating Agencies"). To the extent necessary to enable the Department to make use of the Program for appropriate cases, the Department shall amend the State plans for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children ("AFDC") program and the jobs and basic skills ("JOBS") program and shall seek federal approval for plan amendments and any waivers from federal law. The Department shall implement the Program with maximum federal financial participation.

(b) In lieu of receiving cash payments from the AFDC program during a placement, participants in the Program shall be provided with productive jobs and paid in a way that promotes self-sufficiency and the opportunity for advancement in the work force.

(c) Job placement services shall be used by the State to the maximum extent possible to assist participants to take unsubsidized private sector jobs. Only if no suitable unsubsidized job or more cost-effective job can be found within a reasonable time may participants be assigned to jobs under the Program.

§ 1503. Individual Participation in the Program.

(a) Unless otherwise exempted, the following persons may be required by the Department to participate in the program:

(1) adult and caretaker relatives of children who are receiving AFDC program benefits; and

(2) unemployed non-caretaker parents of children who are receiving AFDC program benefits.

(b) The following recipients of public assistance may not be required by the Department to participate but may elect, to the extent resources are available, to participate in the Program:

(1) any person who is receiving Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits or other continuing State or federal maintenance benefits based on age or disability;

(2) a parent who is the sole caretaker of a child who is incapacitated as determined by receipt of social security disability benefits or benefits under the SSI Program;

(3) any individual, including caretakers, under 16 years of age;

(4) any individual unable to participate because of a temporary medical condition preventing employment and training, as certified by a written statement from a physician, such exemption to be reevaluated every sixty days; and

(5) any individual 62 years of age or older.

(c) Parents under the age of 20 who are enrolled full-time in a secondary school shall be exempt from participation in the Program.

(d) Any person enrolled full-time in an accredited post-secondary degree program who demonstrates adequate progress toward completion of such program shall be exempt from participation in the Program for a period not to exceed two years and may be permitted an extension to continue his or her studies for an additional two years provided that such person works sufficient hours to earn his or her AFDC program grant during such period.

(e) Notwithstanding subsection (a), any AFDC recipient working full time in a job not subsidized under the Program shall be exempt from participation in the Program.

§ 1504. Financing.

Within the limit of its appropriations, the Department may expend such portion of the moneys appropriated to it for expenditure by or apportioned to the State for operation of the AFDC and the JOBS programs as the Department deems necessary to make maximum advantage of the Program. The Department may also expend such monies as are received from grants and contributions from individuals, corporations, trusts, foundations, and the federal government for growth of the Program.

Not less than once a year, the Department shall review the cost-effectiveness of the Program and shall take necessary action to modify or suspend the Program to ensure the Program is a cost-effective use of the appropriations available to it for the AFDC and JOBS programs.

§ 1505. Participating Employers.

(a) Any employer subject to the State unemployment insurance tax, or reimbursement in lieu thereof pursuant to § 3345 of Title 19 of this code, shall be eligible for assignment of Program participants as temporary employees, but no employer shall be required to participate in the Program.

(a) As part of the State's overall effort to place employable recipients in unsubsidized private sector jobs, the Department and the Cooperating Agencies, in cooperation with the Welfare Employment Committee, shall recruit participating employers from among those employers subject to the unemployment insurance tax, through public invitation and through cooperative efforts with business associations, chambers of commerce, local governments, and other such organizations.

(a) Each participating employer shall enter into an agreement with the Department to abide by all requirements of the Program, and to repay reimbursements in the event that the employer violates program rules. If the Department finds that a participating employer has violated the rules of the Program, the Department shall withhold any amounts due to the employer under this chapter, and may seek repayment of any amounts paid to employers under this chapter.

(b) The maximum number of program participants that any employer may utilize at one time shall not exceed 10 percent of the total number of the employer's employees in the State, but any employer may utilize one participant. The Secretary may waive this limitation in special circumstances.

(c) The Department shall assign available jobs on the basis of a preference schedule developed by the Department. In consultation with the participant, the Department shall try to match the prior training and education, work profile and desires of the participant with the needs of an employer when making a placement; provided, however, that non-cooperation by the participant shall give rise to sanctions pursuant to § 1508 of this chapter and §§ 512 and 518 of this title.

(d) Either the employer or the participant may terminate a placement by contacting the appropriate Department office. If a participant terminates a placement with good cause, the Department shall reassess the needs and skills of the participant and determine an appropriate course of action, such as whether to place the participant in another private sector job, another Program placement, a work force job, or a job training or educational program. If a participant terminates a placement without good cause, the participant shall be subject to sanctions established pursuant to § 1508 of this chapter and §§ 512 and 518 of this title. If an employer terminates a placement with good cause, the Department may, at the employer's request, provide the employer with another participant. If an employer terminates a placement without good cause, such employer may be precluded from further participation in the Program and shall be permitted to participate subsequently only upon application to the Department and a determination by the Department that the employer is likely to comply with the Program's rules and regulations.

(e) The Department shall establish criteria for excluding employers from participation for failure to abide by Program requirements or other demonstrated unwillingness to comply with the stated intent of the Program.

(a) Employers making jobs available to Program participants shall:

(1) endeavor to make placements positive learning, training and
employment experiences for Program participants:

(1) maintain health, safety and working conditions for participants at or above levels comparable to those of other employees of the employer;

(3) offer such on-the-job training, including workplace monitoring, as may be necessary to enable the participants to perform their duties;

(4) conform to § 3304(a)(5) of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act, which requires that the job offered cannot be available as a result of a strike or labor dispute, that the job cannot require the employee to join or prohibit the employee from joining a labor organization, and that program participants are not used to displace regular workers;

(3) pay a wage that is substantially equal to the wage paid for similar jobs in the local economy, with appropriate adjustments for experience and training, and including provision for advance receipt of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit ("EITC"), but in no case lower than the State minimum wage provided in § 902 of Title 19;

(4) withhold from each participant's paycheck, and pay as required by federal and State law, federal and State income taxes, and social security contributions;

(5) provide worker's compensation coverage as required by State law;

(6) allow sick leave, holiday and vacation absences in conformity to the individual employer's policy for temporary employees;

(7) offer group health insurance benefits if, and to the extent that, State or federal law requires the employer to provide such benefits;

(3) make an additional contribution to the participant's Personal Advancement Account, as provided in § 1507 of this chapter.

(i) For a maximum of six months, the Department shall reimburse the employer for each participant hour worked in the amount of the State minimum wage. The employer shall be responsible for each participant's unemployment insurance taxes and worker's compensation insurance premiums, and the employer's share of the Federal Insurance Contributors Act.

(j) If after four months in a placement, a participant has not been hired for an unsubsidized position, the employer shall allow the worker to undertake eight hours of job search per week. Participating employers shall consider such time as hours worked for the purpose of paying wages.

(k) If after six months in a placement a participant has not been hired for an unsubsidized position, the placement shall be terminated and the employer shall file a statement with the Department explaining its reason for not hiring the participant in an unsubsidized position. At that time, the Department, or one of the Cooperating Agencies as the case may be, shall reassess the participant's employability and determine an appropriate course of action such as whether to place the participant in another private sector job, a workfare job, or a job training or educational program, another Program placement, or to sanction the participant pursuant to its authority under § 1508 of this chapter and §§ 512 and 518 of this title.

(1) The Department and the Cooperating Agencies may provide the following types of services: job readiness, job development, job training and placement, job support, program evaluation, and other services incident to the operation of the Program, and to that end, shall, to the extent such services may be provided more cost-effectively in such manner, subcontract for such services with qualified public and private organizations.

§ 1506. Participant Compensation and Benefits.

(a) Participants shall receive the following benefits so long as they satisfactorily participate in the Program:

(1) compensation for their work effort substantially equal to the wage paid for similar jobs in the local economy, with appropriate adjustments for experience, training, and productive effort;

(2) the EITC, with advancible portions paid as a part of the wage payment;

(3) continuation of federal and State medical assistance benefits for which the participants was eligible at the time of entering the Program;

(4) child care benefits as may be necessary to permit participation in the Program;

(1) job training and job search counseling as otherwise available under the JOBS program;

(5) such portion of the child support payments collected by the Department as the Department determines, in addition to, and not in lieu of, the payments for work provided in the Program;

(6) accumulation of an earned Personal Advancement Account as provided for in § 1507 of this chapter.

(b) AFDC benefits shall be suspended for the duration of the placement at the end of the first calendar month in which an employer makes the first wage payment to a participant who is a custodial parent in a family that receives AFDC program benefits.

(c) The Department shall also make supplemental payments to families for which the participant's wages, together with the EITC, represent less spendable income than the value of the AFDC program benefits that the family would otherwise receive. The supplemental payments shall be in amounts which when added to the amount of participant wages together with the EITC will be equal to the value of the AFDC program benefits that the family would otherwise receive. The Department shall determine and pay in advance supplemental payments to participants on a monthly basis as necessary to ensure equivalent net program wages. Such supplemental payments shall not be subject to federal income taxes and social security contributions.

(d) The Department may provide life skills classes and opportunities for participants to achieve high school graduation equivalency diplomas in conjunction with participation in the Program.

§ 1507. Personal Advancement Account.

(a) In accordance with rules adopted by the Department, each participant in the Program shall create a Personal Advancement Account in his or her name. The account may be held by the employer, by a bank, savings and loan association, or credit union, or by another suitable organization approved by the Secretary. The account may be designed to take advantage of any relevant federal or State tax exemption or tax deferral privileges. The account shall be the property of the participant but shall not be subject attachment for judgments arising from causes antedating the establishment of the account, other than obligations for child support.

(b) Beginning with the 30th day of each participant's employment with an employer and ending six months thereafter, in addition to the participant's wage as defined in § 1506 of this chapter and at the same time that such wages are paid, the employer shall pay into the participant's Personal Advancement Account, one dollar for each participant hour worked, less any required deductions for income tax withholding, 171,,...A, and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act.

(c) During the period specified in subsection (b), the participant may make withdrawals from the Account, in accordance with rules adopted by the Department, for the following purposes:

(1) tuition and charges for qualified education and training programs;

(2) participation in a contributory benefit program offered by the employer, including but not limited to a medical savings account;

(3) the purchase of tools, vehicles or equipment necessary to start the participant's business;

(4) the payment of medical expenses of the participant's family, not covered by insurance;

(5) other approved expenditures made in response to emergencies or severe hardships.

(d) At the end of period specified in subsection (b), any balance in the Account shall inure to the participant's benefit.

§ 1508. Sanctions for Refusal to Participate.

Pursuant to its authority under § 512 and § 518 of this title, the Department shall establish sanctions for participants who fail to comply with the requirements of the Program.

§ 1509. Welfare Employment Committee.

(a) The Welfare Employment Committee (the "Committee") is established to assist the Department and the Cooperating Agencies in placing AFDC recipients in unsubsidized private sector jobs, and to advise them on the policy, direction and implementation of all of Delaware's welfare-to-work efforts, including the Program. The Committee shall operate in close cooperation with the Delaware Workforce Development Council (the "Council") and shall provide the Council with its advice with respect to the allocation of job training and placement funds for implementation of the State's welfare-to-work efforts.

(b) The Committee shall have seven members appointed by the Governor, who shall designate one member to serve as Chairperson at the Governor's pleasure. At least five of those members shall be representatives of employers, two of the members shall be current members of the Council. No more than four members may belong to the same political party.

(c) The initial appointees to the Committee shall serve until February I, 1997. Three of the appointees who begin service after February 1, 1997, shall have terms of three years, two shall have terms of two years, and two shall have terms of one year, as designated by the Governor at the time of their appointment. Vacancies shall be filled for the duration of the unexpired term. Committee members shall be eligible for reappointment.

(d) The Committee shall recruit employers for AFDC recipients. For that purpose and to assist the State in placing AFDC recipients in private sector jobs, the Committee may hold public meetings and meet periodically with employers, AFDC recipients, and relevant State agencies to remove barriers to the placement of public assistance recipients in private sector jobs and to adapt State policies, including the Program, so as to better accomplish such placements.

(e) The Council shall include a section in its annual report prepared by the Committee regarding the status and implementation of the State's efforts to place AFDC recipients in private sector jobs, including the Committee's recommendations for improvements in such efforts.

§ 1510. Annual Report.

The Department shall submit an annual written report to the Governor and the General Assembly containing a full and complete analysis of the operation of the Program, recommendations for the improvement of the Program, and an analysis of the cost projections of the Program. If the analysis concludes that the Program is not likely to achieve or maintain long-term budget neutrality, allowing for expected price inflation, the Department shall present a plan for the modification or termination of the Program."

Section 3. Waiver of Federal Requirements.

The Department is authorized and directed to apply for and expedite the acquisition of all federal waivers and amendment approvals needed for implementation of the Program. The Department, after consultation with the Welfare Employment Committee, is authorized to make the minimum changes in the Program as may be necessary to secure required federal approval. Any such changes shall advance the purposes of the Program as set for in § 1501 of Section 2 of this Act and the purposes set forth in § 501 of Title 31.

Section 4. Severability.

If any of the provisions of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end the provisions of this Act are declared to be severable.

Section 5. Effective Date.

This Act shall take effect on January 1, 1996, or upon receipt of the required federal waivers, whichever occurs later.

Approved June 19, 1995