Choices Guide – A-100: Background

A-101: Federal Legislative Authority

(Revision 10/2016)

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) (Public Law [PL] 104-193) established the block grant for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) as part of a federal effort to “end welfare as we know it.” The TANF block grant replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, which had provided cash assistance to poor families with children since 1935.

PRWORA redefined the federal government’s role in administering the nation’s welfare system by providing states the flexibility to design their own systems. PRWORA offers states an opportunity to enact far-reaching changes and respond more effectively to the needs of families within each state’s unique environment. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issues regulations governing key provisions of the TANF program. 

Under the TANF block grant structure, states use the funds to operate their own programs. States can use TANF dollars to meet any of the four purposes set out in federal law:

In February 2006, the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005 (PL 109-171) reauthorized the TANF program through Fiscal Year 2010 (FY’10). DRA also changed several provisions in the law related to TANF work participation that further defined work activities and also tightened verification requirements for work activities. 

On February 5, 2008, HHS issued TANF final regulations, which addressed changes from the June 29, 2006, interim regulations, including the following:

Since 2010, TANF authorization has been extended by federal legislation through various acts and resolutions. 

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A-102: State Legislative Authority—TANF State Program

(Revision 10/2016)

The 77th Texas Legislature, Regular Session (2001), enacted House Bill (HB) 1005, creating a new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families State Program (TANF-SP) specifically for two-parent households.  The program uses Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) maintenance-of-effort (MOE) funds. Effective October 1, 2001, TANF-SP hourly work requirements are based on the hourly requirements under federal TANF regulations. Activities available to two-parent households are the same as those available to single parents.

HB 2292, enacted by the 78th Texas Legislature, Regular Session (2003), amended the Texas Human Resources Code to require a pay-for-performance model for families receiving TANFHB 2292 requires individuals to engage in work activities to receive TANF assistance and Medicaid assistance for adults.

During the 80th Texas Legislature, Regular Session (2007), the two-parent separate state program was funded with state General Revenue instead of TANF MOE funds. This was in response to DRA, which requires all separate TANF state programs funded with TANF MOE to be included in the calculation of work participation rates. 

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A-103: Choices Program

(Revision 10/2016)

The Choices program operates under a work first service model. Upon applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and throughout delivery of benefits and employment services, Choices participants receive a consistent message:

Both state and federal welfare reform legislation emphasize personal responsibility, time-limited cash assistance benefits and the goal of work instead of public assistance. To support these mandates, Texas Workforce Commission and the Boards developed a service delivery model with the goal of employment at the earliest opportunity for applicants and recipients of cash assistance.

The Choices program provides services to two populations:

On October 1, 2001, Texas created Temporary Assistance for Needy Families State Program specifically to serve two-parent households. One or both adults in a two-parent household are responsible for meeting the family’s mandatory work requirement.

In FY’12, TWC established new program parameters to provide Boards with the flexibility to design and deliver services that assist Choices customers in entering employment quickly. Under 45 CFR §261.10, states have the flexibility to define what it means to “engage in work.” For the purposes of the work participation rate, Texas considers a Choices eligible to be engaged in work when participating in unsubsidized employment, subsidized employment, on-the-job training (OJT) or educational services for Choices eligibles who have not completed secondary school or received a GED credential.

All other Choices services are available for Choices customers to use prior to participation in employment activities. However, these services will not count toward the Board’s Choices performance measure(s). Boards have until the third month after the initial date a new Choices eligible begins receiving TANF benefits to work with the individual before participation in the following activities is expected in the Board’s performance measure(s):

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A-104: Goal of Choices

(Revision 10/2016)

The goal of Choices is to end dependence on public assistance by promoting job preparation, work and marriage.

Boards are given flexibility to develop strategies that promote the prevention and reduction of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families. These strategies must support the primary goal of Choices services—employment and job retention.

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