About the Handbook

Revised on: September 20, 2021

WorkFirst program staff at Economic Services Administration (ESA) of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) primarily wrote this handbook. Others contributing to the contents of this handbook include:

  • Employment Security Department (ESD)
  • The State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC)
  • The Department of Commerce (Commerce)
  • Workforce Development Councils (WDC)
  • Tribal Governments and other partners
Handbook chapters cover the following topic areas:
Tools The tools we use to process cases (such as Individual Responsibility Plans and eJAS screening/evaluation)
Supports The supports we provide to participants (such as child care and support services)
Engaging Participants in WorkFirst  How we introduce participants to the WorkFirst program
The Pathways

The pathways participants may take to self-sufficiency include:

  • Career Scope – provides services to help participants find jobs
  • Community Jobs – paid work activity that help a participant prepare for work
  • Community Works – unpaid work activity that help a participant prepare for work
  • Education & Training – education and training programs that help participants build knowledge and skills needed for work
  • Employment - Services and requirements for employed participants
  • LEP – services provided to limited English proficiency participants
  • Issue Resolution - Working with issues that interfere with participants’ ability to work (like family violence)
  • Exempt – provides services to participants who may take alternative routes to self-sufficiency (like SSI)

Using the WorkFirst Handbook

Each section of the WorkFirst Handbook may have:

  • A legal reference list and key principles at the top;
  • The body of text in the center with special requirements, examples or activities notated in special fonts or colored boxes; and
  • A list of resources at the bottom.

The use of participant and parent/caregiver are interchangeable throughout this handbook. 

The use of WorkFirst staff is used interchangeably throughout the WorkFirst Handbook to refer to either Case Planners or Social Service Specialists, as many major program components are supported by both roles. For situations when a program component is handled solely by the Social Service Specialist, the term Case Manager is used.

Desk Aids

This page contains useful desk aids.  Policy and procedure changes will result in revisions to this information.

Recent Updates and Memos for Staff

Latest Policy & Handbook Updates

*Contact Sarah Garcia at Sarah.Garcia@dshs.wa.gov for any revisions prior to January 2021.


Chapter Title

Chapter Revision


 3/25/24 Participation While Resolving Issues  6.3.11  Adding new section 6.3.11 Coordinated Entry 
 3/15/24  Support Services   2.2.1  Adding reference to OAR program
 3/7/2024  Participating While Resolving Issues  6.3 Updating language removing for Case Planner and Case Manager, updated FCS language. 
 3/7/2024   Time Limit Extensions  3.6.1 Updating language removing WFPS and updating developing FVSP
 3/7/2024  Time Limit Extension Reviews  3.6.2 Updating language removing WFPS and updating developing FVSP
 2/1/2024  About the Handbook, Comprehensive Evaluation, Pathway Development Tool  About the Handbook, WFHB 3.2.1, WFHB 3.2.3   Updating changes to support transition for WorkFirst reorganization 
 1/01/2024 2.1.2 Supports Overview WFHB 2.1.2 Expanding Transitional Food Assistance to sanctioned families.
 11/1/2023  7.2 Vocational Education  WFHB 7.2  Updated HWHD step by step
 10/18/2023 What are the time limit extensions categories?   WFHB  Update examples of mixed households, ineligible parent and recipient parent
 10/2/2023   6.5.12 What is the Address Confidentiality Program   WFHB 6.5.12  Updates information related address confidentiality program. 
 9/8/2023 Time Limit Extensions  WFHB  Updating examples related to no longer qualifying for a TLE
 9/1/2023  3.2.1 Comprehensive  Evaluation  WFHB, WFHB 1.6.4  Updating partner access note for PDT. 
 8/8/2023  3.5.1 Entering NCS  WFHB  Updating lack of childcare clarification
 8/7/2023  3.5.1 Entering NCS  WFHB,,  Mandatory text on staffing results letter
 7/31/2023   2.2 Support Services  WFHB 2.2.10, 2.2.17,  2.2.18  Updates to remove BOA card process
 7/25/2023  3.6.1Time Limit Extensions  WFHB  Clarifying information on letter for individuals that waived TLE notice
 7/21/2023  3.5.1 Entering Non-Compliance Sanction (NCS)  WFHB   Adding information related to undefined hardships that would reasonably prevent participation

3.6.1 Time Limit Extensions

3.6.2 Time Limit Reviews

 WFHB 3.6.1, WFHB 3.6.2  Removing time limit requirements for ineligible parents. 
 5/18/2023  6.2 Assessments  WFHB 6.2.2, 6.2.3  Assessments for In Loco Parentis caregivers
 5/1/2023  3.6.1 Time Limit Extensions  WFHB 3.6.1  Updating the new high unemployment TLE and sup approval process
 5/1/2023  3.6.2 Time limit Reviews  WFHB 3.6.2  Updating the new high unemployment TLE and sup approval process
 4/7/2023  2.2 Support Services  WFHB 2.2.11 - 2.2.15  Updating support services, removing Pearson Vue and DOL
 3/30/2023 6.8 WorkFirst Exemptions   WFHB 6.8.1, 6.8.9, 6.8.10, 6.8.11  Updating WorkFirst exemptions and mandatory activities
 2/1/2023   1.2 Required Participation & 6.8 Exemptions  WFHB 1.2.9. 6.8.8  DVR Referrals
 1/1/2023  2.2 Support Services  WFHB  Support service audits


4.1 Career Scope Phases and Processes

WFHB 4.1.12, 4.1.13, 7.3.6

Strategies for Success Update


5.1 Pregnancy to Employment


WFHB 1.4.6,, 5.1

Home Visiting Expansion


5.2 Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Pathway

WFHB 5.2.4

Update PU from PRUCOL to Lawfully Residing Individuals


3.2.3 Pathway Development Tool

WFHB 3.2.3

Clarification on completing the PDT


1.2 Required Participation

WFHB 1.2

Updating Sentencing Alternatives …

Desk Aid Name


Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Pathway

WFHB 5.2

Updated RCA time limit reference from 8 to 12 months.


Children with Special Needs

WFHB 6.4

Clarification based on staff feedback.


Time Limit Extensions

WFHB 3.6.1, 3.6.2

Extension of Post-Pandemic TLE through 06/30/23


Ineligible Parent Time Limit

WFHB 3.6.1, 5.2

Survivors of Certain Crimes


Support Services

WFHB 2.2

End of TI and expansion of PETSS statewide, increase of annual support services limit to $5000


Time Limit Extensions

WFHB 3.6.1, 3.6.2

TLE Supervisory/Designee Review Process Automation


IE/TE Counter

WFHB 5.1

IE/TE counter updates, but TE counter not functional.


Personal Pathway Tool

WFHB 3.1, 3.2.2,

Suspension of the use of the PP tool until further notice


PDT and Integrated Interview


WF Reengagement

WFHB About the Handbook, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 3.1, 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.3, 3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.5.1, 3.5.2, 3.5.3, 3.6.1, 3.6.2, 3.7.2, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.7, 7.2, 7.3, 9.3

Implementation and launching of the Pathway Development Tool and the Integrated Interview


Return to pre-COVID participation requirements


Non-Compliance Sanctions

WFHB 1.2, 1.6.3, 3.1, 3.2.1, 3.5.1, 3.5.2, 3.5.3, 3.5.4,, 5.1, 7.6.2, 8.4.2, 9.4.6

Implementation of 2441 effective 07/1/21.


Time Limit Extensions

WFHB 3.6.1, 3.6.2

Implementation of 6478 (McKinney-Vento) and Post-Pandemic TLE through 06/30/22


Support Services

WFHB 2.2

Expanding DOL online services statewide & mailing of BOA


Career Scope Phases and Processes

WFHB 4.1

Updates to RB Process


Disabilities (physical, mental & learning disabilities.)

WFHB 6.6

Updated Medical Evidence Documents

(no changes to chapter text)