Enforcement Success Stories Involving TANF Programs
Summary of Selected OCR Compliance Reviews and Complaint Investigations
North Carolina Department Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) - The State of North Carolina has voluntarily agreed to screen and assess applicants and participants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations in compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Reasonable accommodations may include job training and supports for a longer time period than what was typically afforded, modified work experience programs at public agencies or nonprofits, or in-depth services from the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Read the Settlement Agreement.
Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) – Under a voluntary compliance agreement between the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) and OCR, DCF will ensure that when Wisconsin families seek income assistance and help finding employment, they will have an equal opportunity to participate in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), DCF will ensure that sanctions (i.e., reductions in income assistance) are not applied to TANF participants in a discriminatory manner based on race, color, or national origin (including limited English proficiency). Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), DCF will screen and assess TANF applicants and participants to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations, which may include job training and supports for a longer time period than what is typically afforded, sign language interpreters, or in-depth services from the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Read the Voluntary Compliance Agreement Read the “Wisconsin Works (W-2) Sanctions Study” Read the HHS Press Release
Alabama Department of Human Resources (ADHR), Family Assistance Division (FAD) – OCR conducted a review of Alabama's TANF program to determine its compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). OCR's review involved the Alabama Department of Human Resources Family Assistance Division (ADHR) and five Alabama counties. Before the conclusion of the review, OCR and ADHR entered into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement through which ADHR agreed to take a variety of actions. ADHR agreed to make reasonable modifications to its programs, policies, and practices as necessary to ensure that clients with disabilities are provided the opportunity to effectively participate in TANF programs and activities. The reasonable modifications discussed in the agreement include the development of appropriate screening tools, policies to facilitate the identification of TANF clients with disabilities, and policies regarding reasonable modifications. ADHR also agreed to: undertake appropriate steps to ensure that each county office makes necessary arrangements to facilitate effective communication with sensory-impaired clients; develop a training program for all TANF staff statewide on the applicability of the ADA and section 504 in a TANF program; develop a monitoring tool to assess compliance by the counties with the ADA and section 504; develop and incorporate specific procedures the agency will institute to identify clients with disabilities by category; and create notices about client rights and responsibilities in the TANF program that are readable and understandable by all clients, especially those with learning disabilities or mental health impairments Voluntary Compliance Agreement Between OCR and Alabama Department of Human Resources, Division of Family Assistance
Los Angeles County, California Department of Public Social Services – OCR conducted an investigation of complaints filed by four advocacy organizations, which alleged that the TANF program of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services (LADPSS) denied meaningful access to individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This complaint was resolved when OCR and LAPDSS entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement, in which LAPDSS agreed to undertake various actions to facilitate meaningful access for LEP individuals. LAPDSS agreed to: establish an office to ensure that appropriate language assistance is provided to LEP persons who apply and participate in the TANF program and to monitor LAPDSS compliance with Title VI and the Agreement; form a 10 to 12 member LEP community advisory board that includes representatives of advocacy groups that filed the complaint; ensure accurate information of the primary language of program applicants and participants; actively recruit and make a good faith effort to employ bilingual staff; ensure that all interpreters are competent to interpret; notify LEP applicants and participants of the availability of free language assistance; and provide training to LAPDSS staff with public contact and their managers on civil rights issues affecting LEP individuals. Read the Agreement
Georgia Department of Human Resources (GDHR), Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) – OCR conducted a review of compliance with Section 504, Title II of the ADA and Title VI in the Georgia TANF program as operated by the Georgia Department of Human Resources (GDHR) and five Georgia counties. OCR also received three complaints alleging discrimination on basis of disability while the review was in progress. Following the compliance review, GDHR agreed to work with and enter into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement with OCR. The agreement included commitments by GDHR to: (1) develop and implement policies and procedures to identify clients with disabilities and determine the impact of disability on clients' ability to participate in TANF; (2) develop and implement policies and procedures for reasonable modifications to programs, policies and practices as necessary to enable effective participation in GDHR TANF programs by individuals with disabilities; (3) develop a monitoring tool to ensure county compliance with Section 504 and the ADA; (4) undertake appropriate steps to ensure that each county office has made necessary arrangements to facilitate effective communication with sensory impaired clients; (5) develop and institute policies and procedures to review the cases of clients who may have been terminated from the TANF program without being properly assessed for disability; (6) invite representatives of advocacy organizations to serve on a "workgroup" on disability issues and (7) meet with OCR and attorneys representing individual OCR complainants to determine appropriate measures to meet the needs of these complainants. In addition, OCR agreed for one year to bring to GDHR's attention any complaints against GDHR received by OCR involving matters addressed in the agreement, in order to facilitate resolution prior to the initiation of formal OCR investigative activity. OCR's compliance review did not find non-compliance by GDHR with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Thus, the Voluntary Resolution Agreement did not address Title VI issues. Read the Agreement
Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Family and Children's Services (GDHR, DFACS) and Clinch County Department of Human Resources, Division of Family and Children's Services (CCDHR, DFACS) – OCR issued a Letter of Finding to the Georgia Department of Human Resources (GDHR) that concurred with the GDHR's investigative findings concerning the TANF program in Clinch County, Georgia. The investigation was based on a complainant's allegations that the county failed to reasonably accommodate the complainant's disability and thus subjected the complainant to disability-based discrimination. The complaint was investigated initially by GDHR in accord with a prior Voluntary Resolution Agreement, in which OCR agreed for one year to inform GDHR of complaints involving alleged TANF disability discrimination before determining whether formal OCR investigation is warranted GDHR's investigation found that the Clinch County Division of Family and Children's Services had not provided the complainant with a reasonable accommodation for her disability. GDHR advised the county to change its practices and recommended corrective action. OCR concurred with the recommendations made by GDHR, requested that GDHR and Clinch County notify OCR of any corrective action taken, and notified GDHR that OCR would keep the case in monitoring status until OCR received documentation of corrective action. OCR Letter of Finding
Georgia Department of Human Resources (GDHR), Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) - OCR conducted a compliance review of GDHR to determine if the agency administers its TANF program in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and whether all TANF clients were provided equal opportunity without regard to race, color, or national origin. Following the conclusion of the review, OCR issued a Letter of Finding stating that the information gathered by OCR's investigation suggests that the agency is substantially complying with the standards of Title VI. OCR found that GDHR has adopted non-discriminatory policy statements in regards to race, color, and national origin, and this is reflected in the TANF brochures and application/eligibility materials distributed to TANF clients and interested persons. GDHR staff in all but one county indicated that they received multiple civil rights training sessions and recalled having received non-discrimination training within the previous year. While statistical information provided only limited data regarding participation in work related activities and employment placement, by race, OCR noted that a review of a random sample of records done during on-site visits revealed no evidence of significant difference in types of jobs or salaries by race. OCR recommended that GDHR staff be advised to enter racial data into GDHR's automated system and to generate and evaluate reports based on the race of TANF clients. OCR Letter of Findings
Maryland Department of Social Services (DSS) Family Investment Centers (FIC), Baltimore County – OCR conducted a compliance review of the Baltimore County, Maryland Department of Social Services (DSS), regarding its TANF program's compliance with Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In conjunction with the DSS review, OCR also reviewed the ADA/Section 504 compliance of the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) with respect to DSS activities. Before the conclusion of the review, DSS and the DHR worked with OCR to address issues relating to DSS TANF clients with disabilities. During the review, DHR and DSS took numerous actions, including: (1) issuing a revised Information Memo to all directors, supervisors, and staff working with TANF clients that addressed Section 504/ADA requirements, updated policy guidance, and civil rights issues; (2) developing a "Job Readiness Screening and Assessment Form" which would identify specific barriers to employment and would be completed at the customer's first application review; (3) creating a "Job Readiness and Reassessment Form,", to be completed on the 24th, 42nd, 55th, and 60th months of receipt of Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA), as well as at the end of work activity time lines or service referrals; (4) sending to all vendors in Baltimore City a letter from OCR that addressed Section 504/ADA regulations and informed vendors of their obligations to comply with these regulations; (5) contracting with the University of Baltimore to provide training for all DSS staff addressing DSS' obligation to individuals with disabilities under Section 504 and ADA and (6) strengthening DSS' relationship with the state Department of Rehabilitative Services, which provides employment services and supportive services related to employment and can identify resources for disabled customers. Based on these actions, and after being provided with certain data and information by Baltimore City DSS, OCR closed the reviews. OCR Closure Letter
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance – OCR and the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) entered into a comprehensive resolution agreement that ensures people with learning disabilities have equal access to participate in and benefit from DTA's Employment Services Program. DTA's Employment Services Program provides TANF beneficiaries in Massachusetts with the basic skills, education and support services needed to acquire and retain jobs. The agreement resolves a complaint filed with OCR by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute on behalf of two women. The complaint alleged that DTA denied the women and other people with learning disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in the Employment Services Program in violation of the ADA and Section 504. In response to the complaint, OCR conducted an investigation. OCR's investigation indicated that DTA violated the ADA and Section 504. OCR sent a letter to DTA listing its findings. DTA and OCR then entered into negotiations, which resulted in a resolution agreement. An important component of the agreement is a requirement that DTA implement a tool to screen participants of the Employment Services Program for learning disabilities, and offer more in-depth diagnostic assessments when screening indicates possible learning disabilities.
The circumstances that led to the filing of this complaint illustrate why State adoption of effective screening and assessment is important. One of the women involved in the complaint had a formal education up to the 10th grade and could only read at the second-grade level. She had learning disabilities, mild mental retardation, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The woman wanted to obtain a GED, learn a skill, and become self-supporting. However, she did not know that she had learning disabilities and DTA's Employment Services Program could not serve her because her educational level was so low. Effective screening and assessment would have identified the nature of the woman's learning disabilities, as well as the modifications DTA could make so the woman could successfully participate in and benefit from the Employment Services Program.
The agreement includes, but is not limited to, provisions that require DTA to:
- Notify program applicants and participants of their rights under the ADA and Section 504 in a variety of forms and at various application and participation stages of DTA programs;
- Provide ADA and Section 504 training to all new staff and to staff that missed prior ADA and Section 504 training;
- Provide training on how to use the learning disability screening tool to staff that have client contact;
- Offer free screening for learning disabilities to program participants;
- Screen only upon receipt of program participants' informed consent;
- Offer Employment Service Program participants free diagnostic assessments if screening indicates potential learning disabilities;
- Evaluate the potential need to offer screening and assessment to DTA program participants not associated with the Employment Services Program;
- Monitor contractors of the Employment Services Program for compliance with the ADA and Section 504;
- Continue to utilize "accommodation teams" consisting of DTA staff, which respond to reasonable accommodation requests from people with disabilities, assist in negotiating reasonable accommodations, and ensure that Employment Service Program contractors implement approved reasonable accommodations.
- Notify individuals whose benefits have been terminated since January 19, 2001 for failure to comply with DTA requirements of the availability of screening and assessment for learning disabilities and the continuing right to reapply for benefits; and
- Provide general notice to the public on the availability of screening and assessment for current and future Employment Service Program participants, including former participants who reapply.
Oregon Department of Human Services – Following the receipt of complaints from advocacy organizations, OCR conducted a review to determine the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) TANF program's compliance with Section 504 and Title II of the ADA. Prior to OCR completing its review, OCR and DHS entered into a Voluntary Settlement Agreement that addressed a variety of issues regarding access to DHS' TANF program by individuals with disabilities. DHS agreed to: (1) develop policies and procedures to screen all TANF clients for disabilities and provide the opportunity for a more in-depth assessment when screening indicates a possible disability; (2) develop procedures to ensure that caseworkers have the support they need to provide reasonable modifications to clients who are identified as having disabilities; (3) incorporate into DHS client sanction procedures the consideration of disability as a potential reason for client non-compliance with TANF program requirements, including by not sanctioning clients when DHS determines that non-compliance was caused by disability; (4) train DHS TANF caseworkers and contracted staff about the nature of various disabilities, conducting disability screening and assessment, providing reasonable modifications and appropriate follow-up for clients identified as having disabilities; and (5) develop policies and procedures to ensure that DHS is adequately monitoring its own compliance with the Agreement. DHS also agreed to revise certain program and policy manuals, to appoint ADA/Section 504 Coordinators, and to develop and inform clients about an ADA and Section 504 grievance procedure to raise concerns about alleged disability-based discrimination, including the alleged failure to make reasonable modifications. Voluntary Compliance Agreement Between OCR and Oregon Department of Human Services
Virginia Department of Social Services; Richmond City, Virginia Department of Social Services; Hampton, Virginia Department of Social Services; Roanoke, Virginia Department of Social Services – OCR conducted reviews of the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) and three local Virginia TANF agencies to determine these agencies' compliance with Section 504 and Title II of the ADA. OCR's reviews addressed issues of identifying disabilities among TANF clients, access for individuals with physical disabilities, effective communication with individuals with hearing, speech or vision impairments and the use of vendors and contractors to provide TANF services. OCR made an initial determination that the local TANF agencies did not exclude or deny benefits to individuals with disabilities, and that VDSS policies, practices and procedures did not discriminate on the basis of disability. Prior to making a final determination of compliance, OCR requested that VDSS update and re-issue its policies to local offices regarding services for persons with disabilities. Similarly, OCR requested that the local agencies update and take certain steps, including: evaluate assessment forms to determine that they are adequate to identify a range of disabilities; conduct training for TANF staff; provide written notification to TANF clients of their rights under the ADA and Section 504; and develop written policies and enhanced practices regarding the provision of auxiliary aids to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have vision impairments.
VDSS and the local Virginia TANF agencies took several steps in response to OCR's requests. VDSS completed a comprehensive revision of policies addressing non-discrimination on the basis of disability in TANF, including policies concerning the TANF application process, screening and assessment for disability, reasonable modifications, sanctions, and time limits. VDSS revised its policy in collaboration with national experts on disability law. VDSS stated that the revised policy was based on the ADA, state law, and OCR's 2001 guidance on TANF and disability. Similarly, the local agencies that were the subject of OCR's review revised their assessment tools, trained staff, provided OCR with client notices and posters, and provided OCR with documentation of written policy and other information for staff regarding auxiliary aids and other methods to facilitate effective communication for clients with hearing and vision impairments. Based on these actions, OCR found VDSS and the local agencies in compliance with Section 504 and the ADA, and closed the reviews.