The Vermont Statutes Online
- Subchapter 001: ELIGIBILITY AND ASSISTANCE
§ 1001. Definitions
As used in this chapter:
(1) "Able to work" means to be free of any physical, emotional, or mental condition that would prevent the individual from engaging in any combination of the work activities for at least 35 hours per week.
(2) "Able to work part time" means having a physical, emotional, or mental condition that would allow the individual to engage in any combination of the work activities for at least 10 hours per week but would prevent the individual from engaging in such activities for 35 or more hours per week.
(3) "Adult" means an individual who:
(A) is 18 years of age or older and not a dependent child; or
(B) is under 18 years of age and:
(i) is pregnant; or
(ii) is a parent who is the caretaker for a dependent child.
(4) "Assessment" means the information-gathering process, carried out by the Department's established protocol, that identifies an individual's skills, aptitudes, interests, life and work experience, and barriers, and the determination of how these factors relate to the individual's current or potential participation in the labor force and his or her family responsibilities. Where appropriate, this process includes the use of tests, other standardized measurement tools, and referrals to relevant professionals for evaluation or diagnosis. The Department shall use the information gathered as part of this process in developing the individual's family development plan, as well as, where applicable, assessing the appropriateness and feasibility of the individual's education, training, and employment goals and determining the individual's ability to work. The Department shall include a process to determine the development and well-being of the children in the family.
(5) "Barrier" means any physical, emotional, or mental condition; any lack of an educational, vocational, or other skill or ability; and any lack of transportation, child care, housing, medical assistance, or other services or resources, domestic violence circumstances, caretaker responsibilities, or other conditions or circumstances that prevent an individual from engaging in employment or other work activity.
(6) "Caretaker" means an individual 18 years of age or older who is fulfilling a parental role in caring for a dependent child by providing physical care, guidance, and decision making related to the child's health, school, medical care, and discipline.
(7) "Case management" means the services provided by or through the Department to participating families, including assessment, information, referrals, and assistance in the preparation and implementation of a family development plan under section 1007 of this title.
(8) "Commissioner" means the Commissioner for Children and Families or his or her designee.
(9) "Department" means the Department for Children and Families.
(10) "Dependent child" means a child who is a resident of this State and:
(A) is under 18 years of age; or
(B) is 18 years of age or older who is a full-time student in a secondary school, or attending an equivalent level of vocational or technical training, and is reasonably expected to complete the educational program before reaching 19 years of age or is not expected to complete the educational program before reaching 19 years of age solely due to a documented disability.
(11) "Eligible family" means a family that is determined to be financially eligible for the programs authorized by this chapter, in accordance with rules adopted by the Commissioner.
(12) "Family" means:
(A) one or more dependent children living with one or both parents or a relative or caretaker of such children; or
(B) a pregnant individual.
(13) "Living with a relative or caretaker" means living with a caretaker or relative in a residence maintained by the caretaker or one or more relatives at his or her or their home.
(14) "Parent" means a biological parent, stepparent, adoptive parent, or pregnant individual.
(15) "Participant" or "participating adult" means an adult member of a participating family.
(16) "Participating family" means an eligible family that participates in the Reach First program.
(17) "Reach Ahead" means the program established under chapter 12 of this title.
(18) "Reach First payment" means a one-time payment of cash as determined in section 1004 of this title.
(19) "Reach First services" means the service component of the Reach First program consisting of case management services, support services, and referrals provided to eligible families to assist them in becoming self-sufficient.
(20) "Reach Up" means the program established under chapter 11 of this title.
(21) "Relative" means a person related to a dependent child, as defined by the Department by rule.
(22) "Resources" means any income and property available from whatever source.
(23) "Secretary" means the Secretary of Human Services or his or her designee.
(24) "Temporary Assistance to Needy Families" or "TANF" means the block grant provided to this State and established in accordance with Part A of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act, as amended, and the regulations promulgated under the Act by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
(25) "Unable to work" means not able to work and not able to work part time.
(26) "Work activities" means the following activities limited to the extent and degree that they are allowed and countable in accordance with Part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act:
(A) unsubsidized employment;
(B) subsidized private sector employment;
(C) subsidized public sector employment;
(D) work experience (including work associated with the refurbishing of publicly assisted housing) if sufficient private sector employment is not available;
(E) on-the-job training;
(F) job search and job readiness assistance;
(G) community service programs;
(H) vocational educational training (not to exceed 12 months with respect to any individual);
(I) job skills training directly related to employment;
(J) education directly related to employment, in the case of a recipient who has not received a high school diploma or a certificate of high school equivalency;
(K) satisfactory attendance at secondary school or in a course of study leading to a certificate of general equivalence, in the case of a recipient who has not completed secondary school or received such a certificate;
(L) the provision, consistent with the Department's rules applicable to self-employment, of child care services to an individual who is participating in a community service program;
(M) attendance at a financial literacy class; and
(N) any other work activity recognized in accordance with Part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act, as amended.
(27) "Work-ready" means the participant possesses the education or skills demanded by the local job market or is capable of participating in one or more work activities at the level required by the participant's work requirement, and is not subject to any barrier. (Added 2007, No. 30, § 1, eff. May 17, 2007; amended 2021, No. 20, § 284.)
§ 1002. Purpose
(a) The purpose of the Reach First program is:
(1) to stabilize families in crisis, assess the family's strengths and needs, and orient families to the programs, services, assistance, and participant responsibilities available to improve self-sufficiency, attain economic independence, and ensure the well-being of children;
(2) to refer families without recent work histories, recognizing individual and unique characteristics, to an appropriate program available to assist the family in obtaining the opportunities and skills necessary for self-sufficiency and economic independence;
(3) to assist families with recent work histories by providing short-term financial support and support services to stabilize the family while the family transitions back to employment;
(4) to support parental responsibility and positive parental role models, both custodial and noncustodial;
(5) to improve the well-being of children by providing short-term supports to their families and referrals to appropriate programs and services;
(6) to conserve State public financial resources by operating the system of human services in a manner that is efficient and avoids federal fiscal sanctions; and
(7) to conform to the federal TANF law.
(b) The critical elements of developing a short-term stabilization, assessment, and orientation program that assists families to maintain or attain self-sufficiency are:
(1) cooperative and realistic goal-setting, coupled with individualized case management that addresses each individual's situation and barriers to self-sufficiency;
(2) a short-term monetary payment and support services of a limited duration to provide for immediate, short-term needs of the family until the family attains employment quickly, or transitions to an appropriate program to assist the family in order to ensure the family's well-being and success to reaching self-sufficiency; and
(3) clear and comprehensive information on available options and appropriate services communicated to families in a simple fashion and easy transition to programs, such as Reach Ahead, Reach Up, the Postsecondary Education Program, and any other solely State-funded or separate State-funded programs. (Added 2007, No. 30, § 1, eff. May 17, 2007.)
§ 1003. Eligibility
(a) A family shall be eligible for the Reach First program if the family's income and resources are below the limits established for the Reach Up program, and the family resides in Vermont. All applicants for programs under this chapter or chapter 11 or 12 of this title shall be provided an orientation, initial assessments, the Reach First payment, and, if appropriate for the family, in-depth assessment, a family development plan, and services through Reach First.
(b) Reach First payments and services shall be available only once every 12 months for a family, except as provided for by rule. Families who have received Reach First within the past 12 months shall be provided financial assistance and services through Reach Up, the Postsecondary Education Program, or other program appropriate for the family. Families applying for or participating in other programs may also receive Reach First assessments, payments, or services as provided for by rule.
(c) The Commissioner may use the eligibility rules for Reach Up instead of adopting new eligibility rules for this program.
(d) An adult who accepts employment after reporting as directed under section 1007 of this title may receive Reach First or Reach Up, provided that the family remains financially eligible for the program in accordance with Department rules. (Added 2007, No. 30, § 1, eff. May 17, 2007.)
§ 1004. Reach First payment
(a) An eligible family shall receive a short-term cash payment, which is the equivalent of up to 120 days of Reach Up financial assistance for the relevant family size with the same income. The family may receive the payment in installments or a lump sum, if needed to avert a crisis as determined in the initial assessment or the family development plan, during the period in which the family seeks immediate employment or participates in assessment and creating a family development plan. The Commissioner may establish by rule exceptions to the limit on the amount of the payment, as long as the exceptions are budget-neutral to the program.
(b) The Department shall offer every eligible family the option of electronic or direct payment of the family's housing or other expenses to the person providing the lodging, utilities, or other service as provided for by rule.
(c) For the purposes of calculating the payment, child support shall be treated as income, except that the first $50.00 amount of child support shall be disregarded from income. (Added 2007, No. 30, § 1, eff. May 17, 2007.)
§ 1005. Required services to participating families
(a) The Commissioner shall provide to all eligible families an orientation and an initial, up-front assessment to determine which programs, referrals, or services are appropriate. The orientation shall provide the family with information about services and referrals available to the family, and the programs established under chapters 11 and 12 of this title, including program requirements, participant responsibilities, and incentives for participation and obtaining employment.
(b) If needed by the family to improve the family's prospects for job placement and job retention, the Commissioner shall provide participating families in-depth assessments of the full range of services needed by each family, intensive case management or case consultation services, referral to any agencies or programs that provide the services needed by participating families, and transition to other programs established under chapters 11 and 12 of this title. Services or referrals for services shall include:
(1) Appropriate child care, available at times that will enable employment or participation in services indicated by the participating family's family development plan. As used in this subdivision, "appropriate child care" shall not include:
(A) child care that the Department classifies as legally exempt child care, and that a parent or caretaker determines to be unacceptable; and
(B) child care that the Department classifies as either a registered family child care home or a licensed child care facility, and that a parent or caretaker determines to be unacceptable when such determination is confirmed by the Department.
(2) Transportation which will enable employment or participation in services indicated by the participating family's family development plan.
(3) Career counseling, education, and training, and job search assistance consistent with the purposes of this chapter.
(4) Vocational rehabilitation.
(5) Medical and dental assistance.
(6) Homelessness prevention and housing assistance.
(7) Family planning education and counseling.
(8) Assistance with obtaining documentation of an apparent or claimed physical, emotional, or mental condition that reasonably can be presumed to limit or eliminate the individual's capacity to engage in employment or other work activity.
(9) Transfer to a State-funded program under subchapter 3 of chapter 11 of this title, the Reach Up program, or the Reach Ahead program.
(10) Any other services identified in the family development plan and determined by the Commissioner to be necessary and appropriate to achieve the purposes of this chapter or chapter 11 of this title. (Added 2007, No. 30, § 1, eff. May 17, 2007.)
§ 1006. Case management; family development plans; coordinated services
(a) If a family needs or requests in-depth assessment and ongoing services, the Commissioner shall provide all Reach First services to these participating families through a case management model. The case manager, with the full involvement of the family, shall recommend, and the Commissioner shall establish and modify as necessary, a family development plan for each participating family in need of ongoing services, with a right of appeal as provided by section 1132 of this title. A case manager shall be assigned to each participating family as soon as the family is determined to be eligible for this program and in need of services.
(b) The family development plan shall include:
(1) Each parent or caretaker's employment goal.
(2) An assessment of each parent or caretaker's strengths and barriers. The initial assessment shall include a literacy evaluation followed by a referral to an appropriate resource or program.
(3) An identification of the services, supports, and accommodations needed to overcome any barriers, to enable the family to achieve self-sufficiency, and to fulfill each parent or caretaker's personal and family responsibilities.
(4) An assignment of responsibilities, family development plan requirements, and activities among the case manager and family members, together with a time schedule for such responsibilities, requirements, and activities.
(c) The initial family development plan shall be completed within 30 days of the first meeting with the case manager. The case manager shall establish a schedule for periodic review of the family development plan.
(d) The Commissioner shall adopt rules, consistent with research on best practices, establishing maximum caseloads for case managers. (Added 2007, No. 30, § 1, eff. May 17, 2007.)
§ 1007. Required participation
(a) Each participating adult in a family receiving Reach First services shall participate in necessary assessments and developing a family development plan, if applicable, unless good cause exists for such noncompliance as defined by the Commissioner by rule. The Commissioner may use the same rules applicable to good cause as established in the Reach Up program.
(b)(1) If an adult does not comply with the following requirements without good cause, the Department shall initiate the conciliation process to determine the reason that the adult has not complied with the requirements and shall modify the requirements, if necessary, or provide the adult with a second opportunity to comply:
(A) The single parent or caretaker in a family who has no barriers to obtaining and maintaining a job and a recent and stable work history, including receiving wages for his or her most recent job that, when annualized, equal or exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level applicable to the family, shall report to the Department of Labor for an immediate job search within two working days of having filed an application.
(B) The able-to-work adult in a two-parent family (when the other parent is able to work part time or unable to work) who has no barriers to obtaining and maintaining a job and a recent and stable work history, including receiving wages for his or her most recent job that, when annualized, equal or exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level applicable to the family, shall report to the Department of Labor for an immediate job search within two working days of having filed an application.
(C) The adult in a two-parent family (when both parents are able to work) who is not the primary caretaker of the children shall report to the Department of Labor for an immediate job search within two working days of having filed an application.
(2) The Reach First payment may be withheld during the conciliation process and until the adult complies.
(3) If the adult does not report without good cause to the Department of Labor after the second opportunity, the adult shall be denied Reach First and Reach Up.
(c)(1) If an adult does not comply with the following requirements without good cause, the Department shall initiate the conciliation process to determine the reason that the adult has not complied with the requirements and shall modify the requirements, if necessary:
(A) Each participating adult shall participate in the development of his or her family development plan.
(B) Each participating adult who is not referred to the Department of Labor pursuant to this subsection shall report as directed by the Department for assessment and evaluation activities.
(C) Each participating adult shall begin to comply with his or her family development plan requirements as soon as possible, and not later than 10 days following identification of initial requirements at the initial family development plan meeting. Each participating adult shall continue to comply with such family development plan requirements until such time as the family is ineligible or transferred to Reach Up or Reach Ahead. If a family is transferred to another program, the rules of that program apply.
(2) If conciliation is unsuccessful, the Department may apply the Reach Up sanctions and transfer the family to the Reach Up program for further case management and other services. (Added 2007, No. 30, § 1, eff. May 17, 2007; 2021, No. 20, § 285.)
- Subchapter 002: ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS
§ 1011. Transition to other programs
(a) The Department shall transfer the family to Reach Up, a separate State program, or a solely State-funded program established under chapter 11 of this title if, after four months of receiving support in Reach First or sooner at the Department's discretion, a family is assessed to need ongoing financial assistance and the family is financially eligible for Reach Up, a separate State program, or a solely State-funded program established under chapter 11 of this title, unless the family chooses not to participate.
(b) If a family finds employment meeting or exceeding the work requirements for Reach Up for the family's size and composition, but is financially eligible for Reach Up, the Department shall transfer the family to Reach Up, unless the family chooses not to participate. A family transferring from Reach First to Reach Up shall be treated as a recipient for the purposes of income calculation.
(c) If a family finds employment meeting or exceeding the work requirements for Reach Up for the family's size and composition, is not financially eligible for Reach Up, and is eligible for the Reach Ahead program, the Department shall transfer the family to Reach Ahead, unless the family chooses not to participate. A family transferring from Reach First to Reach Ahead shall be treated as a recipient for the purposes of income calculation.
(d) A family transferring to another program under subsections (a) through (c) of this section shall not be required to complete a new application. Verification of income or other documentation may be required as provided for by rule.
(e) Transitional medical assistance of up to 36 months shall be provided to families with a working adult who leaves Reach First and is not eligible for Reach Up, as provided for in the Vermont Medicaid rule M302.21 in effect on May 1, 2007, provided that federal financial participation is available for such transitional medical assistance. (Added 2007, No. 30, § 1, eff. May 17, 2007; amended 2009, No. 67 (Adj. Sess.), § 92, eff. Feb. 25, 2010.)
§ 1012. Notice and appeal
A participant may appeal decisions in accordance with 3 V.S.A. § 3091. The Commissioner shall provide notice to each participant of the standards and procedures applicable to such appeals. All federal and Agency of Human Services rules regarding conciliation, notice, hearing, and appeal shall be followed in connection with such appeals. (Added 2007, No. 30, § 1, eff. May 17, 2007.)