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Florida Department of Children and Families Voluntary Compliance Agreement

Florida Department of Children and Families Voluntary Compliance Agreement [PDF]

The Florida Department of Children and Families ("DCF") is the state agency responsible for administering eligibility determinations for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Medicaid, and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. In early 2000, OCR received a complaint alleging that eligible Hispanic applicants were being discriminated against at the DCF office located in Okeechobee County. The complaint alleged that DCF employees requested extra documentation from Latino applicants, asked unnecessary questions about the citizenship status of non-applicant household members, threatened to report Hispanic household members to the INS, and denied benefits to eligible persons if their household included other persons unwilling or unable to provide Social Security Numbers ("SSNs") or documentation proving citizenship or immigration status.

OCR conducted an investigation and exchanged correspondence with DCF.notified DCF of existing and/or potential violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. DCF responded with a letter of intent to voluntarily comply with Title VI and proposed a complex work plan. In December 2002, DCF and OCR signed a Voluntary Compliance Agreement to clarify the steps that DCF and OCR agreed to take to address the problems identified by OCR. The stated goal of the agreement is "to provide that actions are taken which will ensure that Hispanic and other immigrant minorities may apply for DCF-administered public benefits without facing discrimination and intimidation."

As part of the Agreement, DCF and OCR agreed to the following general principles:

  1. DCF agreed:
    1. not to deny benefits to otherwise eligible applicants because they do not provide SSNs or proof of immigration status of any non-applicant household member.
    2. not to deny benefits to persons who meet alien eligibility and other eligibility requirements mandated under Federal law.
    3. to allow family members to designate themselves as non-applicants on the initial application form, and as to those persons, to not inquire about SSN or immigration status for purposes of determining another's eligibility.
  2. OCR agreed to provide ongoing technical assistance as requested by DCF to implement the Agreement.

DCF agreed to take the following specific actions to ensure that its application and re-verification process does not deter or deny eligible applicants on the basis of race, color, or national origin:

  1. Revise the KidCare (SCHIP) application to clarify that only applicants are required to provide their SSNs, and to add language clarifying that SSNs will not be shared with the INS.
  2. Revise the joint application for public benefits to allow ineligible household members to be designated as non-applicants and to put information about emergency Medicaid on the form to ensure that eligible persons are not deterred from applying for the benefit.
  3. Revise several other forms used in the application and re-verification process.
  4. Strive to devote a portion of the outreach budget to increase participation by eligible persons in immigrant households, in recognition that immigrant participation in public benefit programs has been hampered by confusion and fear unique to the immigrant community.
  5. Review and revise existing policy as necessary to ensure that DCF staff do not inappropriately request or require SSNs or proof of immigration status.
  6. Develop employee training on procedures for requesting and verifying immigration status and SSNs, and deliver this training to all districts.

During its revision of forms and notices, DCF agreed to try to incorporate, wherever relevant and practicable, the following:

  1. Clear, understandable and necessary language.
  2. Consistent racial designations provided by the Office of Management and Budget.
  3. Enrollee participation or representation on workgroups to voice enrollee concerns and perspectives.
  4. On application forms:
    1. an immediate offer of assistance for persons with limited English proficiency and/or disabilities.
    2. a non-discrimination statement and description of the discrimination complaint process.
    3. clarification of possible misconceptions immigrants may have about INS public charge determinations and the effect, or lack thereof, that applying for Medicaid, SCHIP, TANF and other public benefits will have on such determinations.