3.7.1 Federal Participation Requirements

The Federal Participation Requirements section includes:

Revised February 27, 2018

  • Overview of federal requirements
  • When do the federal participation verification rules apply?
  • Who documents and reports participation every month?
  • What are the federal rules for holidays and absences?
  • How do we treat excused and unexcused absences?
  • What is the Work Verification Plan? Overview of federal requirements

The federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) requires States to report actual hours of participation and be able to show that all reported activities were countable, supervised, documented and verified according to federal specifications. States also face new federal restrictions on the types of activities we can count towards participation.

States must also have a system of internal controls in place by October 1, 2007 to ensure they accurately report participation data to the federal government. Washington's system of internal controls, WorkFirst Quality Assurance, is described in section 3.7.3.

This section describes the federal participation verification requirements, when they apply and the Work Verification Plan.

While there are many factors in determining the Work Participation Rate (WPR), the table below shows the basic federal work participation requirements for individual work participation. 

Work-Eligible TANF Recipients

Federal Work Participation Requirements

1.  Each participant unless they meet the criteria in #2-6 in this chart  

30 hrs/wk with 20 hrs/core

2.  Recipient parents in a two-parent household who qualify for the two-parent options (see 1.2.3)

Combined hours of both parents

35 hrs/wk with 3o hrs/core

3.  Single parent/caregiver with a child under 6

20 hrs/wk core

4.  Participants claiming the  Infant Exemption or who are pregnant in 3rd trimester


*Exempt when child is less than one year old if they haven’t used 365 days in their lifetime.

5. Teen head of households (age 18 or 19 years of age) that don’t have a High School Diploma or GED

Maintaining satisfactory attendance in a secondary school or the equivalent.

6. Unmarried pregnant or parenting minors  (age 17 and younger); except between infant’s birth and turning 12 weeks old

Maintaining satisfactory attendance in a secondary school or the equivalent

Please see section 1.2 for state work requirements. When do the federal participation verification requirements apply?

We monitor all participation to make sure parents are following their Individual Responsibility Plan and getting the services and activities they need to progress. Under the new federal rules, however, we will need to take additional steps for unpaid core and non-core activities to document and report that the parent participated as required.

The chart below shows the additional federal requirements for unpaid core and non-core activities.

These requirements don't apply to paid core activities: employment, self-employment, Community Jobs, Career Jump, on-the-job training, WIA paid WEX (coded as PT or FT in eJAS) and work study. The hours of paid core activities will be collected using ACES data and verified as required under the WorkFirst eligibility rules. The average weekly hours of employment will be calculated in ACES and displayed in eJAS so every WorkFirst partner will know how many employment hours we are reporting to the federal government.

Requirements for All WorkFirst Activities

Additional Federal Requirements for Unpaid Core and Non-core Activities

Set IRP requirements and record the scheduled hours of participation on the eJAS component code screen. Document, then report, how many of the scheduled hours the parent actually participated each month.
Providers/partners monitor participation. Providers/partners must document actual hours of participation in a State-approved format on a regular basis and be able to produce the documentation upon request.
Don't count non-job search travel time as participation.
Activity/Job Search Logs document on and off-site job search activities.
Providers/partners confirm the parent participated each month no later than the 10th of the following month. Providers/partners report actual hours of participation in eJAS (including non-contracted activities).
Providers/partners excuse absences if the parent is unable to attend scheduled activities. Providers with eJAS access must document and report hours of excused absence.
Providers/partners report unexcused absences immediately. Providers with eJAS access must also report hours of unexcused absence.
Parents aren't asked to make up hours missed due to absences. Parents are asked to make up missed hours, as possible, by the end of the month. Who documents and reports participation each month?

Each contractor or partner documents and reports participation for the activities they directly provide. Partners must obtain documentation and do the eJAS reporting for non-contracted activities as follows:

  • Community Jobs providers, for non-contracted activities they arrange to be stacked on top of a Community Job.
  • The WFPS or WFSSS, for any other non-contracted activities (such as counseling and some educational activities).
  • The employment counselor, for their short-term work experience (since their contractors do not have eJAS access).

DSHS staff will use the eJAS WorkFirst participation verification form to document participation in non-contracted activities. These forms will not collect information about absences and school breaks, so eJAS reporting in these areas are not required. What are the federal rules for holidays and absences?

DRA only allows States to report documented, actual hours of participation. At the same time, DRA created other rules to compensate for the "actual hour" rules. For example, since FLSA limits how many hours of community service and work experience States can require, DRA allows States to "deem" a parent's core activity requirement met as long as s/he participates the maximum allowable hours.

DRA also allows States to count excused absences and holidays as participation. WorkFirst will claim the following absences and holidays towards participation:

  • All Washington State holidays.
  • Excused absences, including absences excused in observance of a parent's religious holiday.

DRA limits the number of excused absences we can count towards participation to 10 a year, with no more than 2 absences in any given month. Many parents will likely need more excused absences than this over the course of the year.

  • Approve and report excused absences whenever parents call in as soon as they can and have a good reason for their absences.
  • Ask parents to make up excused and unexcused absences if possible.
  • Headquarters will track how many excused absences a person receives and decide whether we need to count any given excused absence towards participation. If we don't need to use the excused absence to meet the rate, we won't.

For excused absences step-by-step, please refer to Monitoring Participation - Step by Step Guide. How do we treat excused and unexcused absences?

We treat excused and unexcused absences differently. With excused absences, the determination we need to make is whether the parent is in the right activity and whether we need to negotiate a new activity. For unexcused absences, we need to follow the current good cause process to determine the reason the parent is not participating, while ensuring the parent has the opportunity to reengage quickly.

In either case, after 2 absences, the WorkFirst partner/provider (excluding ESD) will send an immediate notification to the case worker. ESD will contact the WFPS (either by phone, email, etc) and document the contact.

For Excused Absences, the WorkFirst partner/provider will then:

  • Keep the activity open, and
  • Contact the parent (if possible) and case manager as part of the Continuous Activity Planning (CAP) process to discuss next steps, including if it is appropriate to refer the client back to DSHS.

This allows the parent to remain in the activity while the service provider, case manager and parent have an opportunity to discuss if participation in this activity is appropriate. This is also consistent with current policy to have continuing conversations with parents and service providers to ensure parents are engaged in appropriate activities.

For Unexcused Absences, the WorkFirst partner/provider will then:

  • Keep the activity open, and
  • Contact the parent, if possible, and case manager as part of the Continuous Activity Planning (CAP) process to discuss next steps, including if it is appropriate to refer the client back to DSHS.

This allows the parent to remain in the activity while the service provider, case manager and parent, when possible, have an opportunity to discuss whether participation in this activity is appropriate.

If it is decided that the activity is not appropriate for the parent, the WorkFirst partner/provider will refer the parent back to DSHS.

The Case Manager will:

  • Initiate the good cause process.

Note: Immediate notification allows the activity to remain open and appointments to be rescheduled while notifying the case manager of the presenting issue that is being addressed.

For how to treat excused and unexcused absences step-by-step, please refer to section - Monitoring Participation, Step-by-Step Guide.

For more information on how ESD treats excused and unexcused absences, please refer to section 4.1.5 - What are participation requirements? Or section 4.1.11 Career Scope Services Step-by-Step Guide. What is the Work Verification Plan?

DRA requires each state to submit a Work Verification Plan describing how the State will comply with federal participation verification requirements. The plan must be approved by the federal government and amended, as needed, to reflect changes in our participation verification procedures and rules.

Washington State's Work Verification Plan describes:

  • All the WorkFirst core and non-core activities and how we will document participation for that activity.
  • How WorkFirst will verify and project forward hours of employment for up to 6 months, including when we must re-verify hours.
  • How WorkFirst applies federal limits for time-limited core activities, infant exemptions and sanctions.
  • How WorkFirst applies the federal exemption for parents caring for a disabled family member who is not a full-time student.
  • The WorkFirst holiday and excused absence policies.
  • How we calculate the monthly FLSA maximum hours and deem additional hours towards participation.
  • The WorkFirst Quality Assurance process and internal controls to assure data accuracy.

Federal auditors will read to the WorkFirst Work Verification Plan to determine if we are out of compliance with federal participation verification requirements. Failure to comply with our approved plan results in an up to five percent reduction in our federal block grant.


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