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Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Public Housing

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Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Public Housing

Nancy Lindbloom
Georgia Legal Services Program
Last Revised: August 2002

Q: How does the lifetime limit on TANF benefits affect me in public housing?
In Georgia, people who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) have a 48 month (4 year) lifetime limit on benefits. Recipients may use their months consecutively or they may receive benefits on and off for a total of 48 months. If TANF recipients are no longer receiving assistance under the program, it is important that they notify the PHA so that any changes to the amount of rent or to the amount of annual income can be made.

Families who pay income-based rent are automatically subject to re-examination of their annual incomes at least once a year, and the proper adjustments are made after verification and consultation with the family. However, a family may request an interim re-examination of annual income. For recipients who go off of TANF because of either, the expiration of the lifetime limit or because of obtaining employment, the proper change can be made once the PHA is notified in writing. The amount of annual income may increase, in the case of obtaining employment, or it may decrease, in those cases where the time limit has expired and the family member is not working. In either situation the recipient should notify the PHA and make a request for an re-examination of the family's income. The PHA must conduct an interim re-examination within a reasonable time after the family request that it do so.

Q: Are PHAs required to charge tenants a minimum rent?
Yes, PHA's are required to charge a minimum rent which can be set between $0 and $50. Some PHA's charge minimum rents of $0 and some charge $50 minimum rent. Each tenant must pay at least the minimum rent, even if they have no income. A tenant may request not to pay the minimum rent if they are unable to pay it due to long-term financial hardship such as:
* where the family has lost eligibility for welfare benefits or is waiting on an eligibility decision
* the family would be evicted because it is unable to pay the minimum rent
* death in the family
* income decreases due to change in circumstance
* other circumstances as established by the PHA.

When a tenant request not to pay the minimum rent , the minimum rent should be suspended the following month. Even if the request is not granted, the tenant should not be evicted for the next 90 days because they fail to pay the minimum rent. After ninety days, the minimum rent can be charged and the tenant will have to enter into a repayment agreement to pay the minimum rent due during the 90 days. If the request not to be charged the minimum rent is denied, the tenant ca use the greivance procedure established by the PHA to challenge the denial.

Q: If I receive a TANF sanction for failure to participate in a work activity, how does that affect my public housing rent?
It is important for a public housing tenant who receives TANF benefits to know that the first time sanction of a 25% reduction in benefits will not cause his or her rent to decrease for the length of the sanction.

If you live in public housing and your TANF is reduced due to a sanction for fraud or noncompliance with the work activity requirement, your rent will not be reduced. The amount of your TANF reduction, although not actually received, will be treated as income. You have the right to request a hearing from DFCS to challenge the sanction, but you must do so within 30 days.

Families whose TANF benefits are reduced for the following reasons should have their rent reduced:
* expiration of the lifetime or other limit on benefits
* family member is unable to obtain work even though there has been compliance with Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) work activities requirements
* family member sanction for non- complied with other requirements not related to work
* TANF sanction was imposed while the resident was not residing in Section 8 or public housing.

If your TANF benefits are reduced because of a sanction, the PHA will act as if your TANF was never reduced. The PHA will count as income to you the TANF you would have received but are not receiving because of the sanction. The amount of TANF you do not received but which the PHA counts as income is called "imputed welfare income".

Imputed welfare income can be reduced by the amount of income received from other sources after the sanction has been imposed. When the amount of income received from another source equals the amount that was imputed due to the sanction, the imputed welfare income is reduced to zero and has no affect on the annual amount of income or rent.

Q: Who determines the TANF sanction?
DFCS, not the PHA, is ultimately responsible for imposing the TANF sanction. However, the PHA does have the responsibility to make the necessary inquiries to DFCS regarding any welfare sanction that has been imposed. The inquiry should include the reason for the reduction, the term of the reduction, and any subsequent DFCS determination affecting the amount or term of a specified reduction.

Q: What if there is a dispute concerning the amount of "imputed welfare income"?
If a public housing tenant disputes the PHA's calculation of the amount of imputed welfare income, and her request for a recalculation or modification is denied, the PHA is required to provide the tenant with written notice of the denial and an opportunity for a hearing under the appropriate grievance procedures. The notice must include a brief explanation of the basis for the PHA determination and calculations. The tenant is not required to deposit an amount equal to the disputed amount into an escrow account as a condition for his or her grievance hearing.

EXAMPLE: Beth is a TANF recipient with two young children and a resident of public housing. She has been recently sanctioned by DFCS for the first time for failing to participate in the required work activities of TANF. As a result of her sanction, her TANF benefits have been reduced by 25% for up to 3 months. Beth already receives the maximum amount allowable for a family of three, which is $280. Therefore, due to her 25% reduction in benefits she will receive $210 a month.

The PHA will calculate her income as if she is actually receiving the full amount of TANF benefits, $280. This is imputed welfare income, and for Beth that means that $70 will be imputed to her as income although she is not receiving that amount.

If Beth receives additional income from another source (for example, employment) she will be able to offset the amount of her imputed income, dollar for dollar, with that amount. For Beth that means that $70 of employment income will not be included in her annual amount of income due the off setting affect of the welfare sanction.

On the other hand, as a resident of public housing the TANF sanction will not affect Beth at all in public housing if:
* the sanction was imposed before she began residing in public housing
* the sanction is imposed for reasons other than work related activities
* the sanction was imposed, but now she is no longer receiving benefits due to employment.
Right to a Hearing:
* TANF: If there is a dispute over a sanction being imposed you should contact your local DFCS office to request a hearing within 30 days of the adverse action. There are good cause reasons for not complying with TANF requirements, such as, death or serious illness or lack of child care.
* Public Housing: If there is a dispute over the amount of imputed welfare income then you should contact your local PHA and request a hearing. The request may be oral or in writing, but it must be made before a hearing is granted. For legal representation with a TANF hearing contact your local Georgia Legal Services Office.

Nancy Lindbloom
Georgia Legal Services Program
Last Revised: August 2002

Last Review and Update: Aug 29, 2002