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The Choices program assists applicants, recipients, nonrecipient parents, and former recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance to transition from welfare to work through participation in work-related activities, including job search and job readiness classes, basic skills training, education, vocational training, and support services.
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Choices provides services to two populations:
Choices is Texas’ TANF Employment and Training Program that operates under a Work First service model. One or both adults in a two-parent household are responsible for meeting the family's mandatory work requirement. From the point of applying for cash assistance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) through the delivery of benefits and employment services, Choices individuals receive a consistent message:
Both state and federal welfare reform legislation emphasizes personal responsibility, time-limited cash assistance benefits, and the goal of work instead of welfare. To support these mandates, TWC and Workforce Development Boards developed a service delivery model with the goal of employment at the earliest opportunity for applicants and recipients of cash assistance.
The Workforce Orientation for Applicants (WOA) is an introduction to Workforce Solutions office services. TANF applicants are required to attend a WOA as a condition of eligibility, unless HHSC exempts them. Once certified for benefits, TANF recipients must attend an Employment Planning Session (EPS).
During an EPS, Choices staff meets with TANF recipients to introduce them to Choices services, develop an in-depth assessment, and develop a Family Employment Plan (FEP). Following the FEP, Choices participants are generally expected to participate in work activities (30 hours minimum for single parents, 35/55 hours for two-parent families depending upon their receipt of subsidized child care). Participation for most recipients will include job readiness activities and job search activities as a means of testing the labor market and locating employment at the earliest opportunity.
Employment services for Choices participants give priority to unsubsidized employment appropriate to each individual's educational and functional literacy level. If the Choices participant does not obtain employment, then subsidized employment, community service, or other work activities designed to provide the recipient with the skills necessary for employment are required. Services will vary based upon local service strategies. Teenagers who are heads of household are encouraged to finish high school or achieve their General Educational Development (GED) before entering employment activities.
Initial activities that assist Choices participants with finding employment include job readiness and job search. Job readiness activities include but are not limited to the following:
Almost all Choices individuals participate in structured job search activities, with the goal of unsubsidized employment at the earliest opportunity. Recipients are responsible for making a designated number of employer contacts per week. In addition, Workforce Solutions office staff makes job referrals and provides job development activities to assist recipients in their job search.
Choices participants who cannot obtain immediate employment are subject to mandatory community service requirements. A mandatory Choices participant, excluding teens in school, must be scheduled to participate in community service if not enrolled in one of the following activities after four weeks:
Support services are available to assist Choices participants who are actively looking for work or who become employed. Support services include:
Active Choices participation is a basic requirement. Failure to participate without good cause results in an immediate sanction that discontinues all of the family’s TANF cash benefits, the adult family member’s Medicaid benefits, and support services.
Post-employment services are a continuum in the Choices service strategy to support an individual's job retention, wage gains, career progression and progression to self-sufficiency. Workforce Solutions offices offer post-employment services to:
Key post-employment strategies may include:
The State must submit an annual TANF State Plan to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). In addition, the State is required to submit a TANF Work Verification Plan that details the allowable work activities and the documentation/verification of those activities as changes occur.
Program oversight for the TANF/Choices program rests with TWC’s Workforce Development Division and the Workforce Development Boards.
TANF/Choices services are funded through a combination of state and federal funds. The federal TANF block grant was created with the passage of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that eliminated Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the long-standing federal cash assistance program. TANF was reauthorized in February 2006 as part of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act.
Other federal and state laws and regulations include:
Links to helpful publications or web sites for working with the TANF/Choices program.
Other state and federal resources.
Last Verified: November 16, 2012
Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.
Deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-impaired customers may contact Relay Texas: 800-735-2989 (TDD) and 711 (Voice). Equal opportunity is the law.
Texas Workforce Commission Values: Community, Responsibility, Innovation, Accountability, Commitment to Excellence and Partnership.