Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

Last updated: August 2013

Statutes and Regulations
The Department of Human Services
TANF Program
          Child-Only Grants
          Parent/Relative Grants with Children
Conditions of Eligibility
          Minor Children
          Single Filing Unit
          Minor Parents
Non-Financial Eligibility Criteria
The Responsibility and Services Plan
          Good Cause
Work and Training Requirements for TANF Adults
           Required Hours and Activities
           Care of Child Under Age One (1)
           Child Who is Not a Parent
           Adult Age 60 or Older
Barriers to Work and Training
           Medical Condition
           Home and Community-based Care Waiver Child
           Family Care
           Care of Others
           Domestic Violence Exclusion
           Crisis Assistance
Lifetime Limits for the Receipt of TANF
Exceptions to the 60-month Limit
Relation of TANF to Other Programs
          Disability Income
          Foster Children
Financial Eligibility Criteria
               Exempt Income
               Step-parent/Grandparent Income
               New Baby: Family Cap Rule
               Budgeting of Income
               Earned Income
               Lump Sums
Participation Requirements Redetermination
Child Support Enforcement
School Attendance Initiative

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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is designed to temporarily provide help while a family moves to self-sufficiency. It replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. It is administered by Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and funded jointly by the state and federal governments. The goal that IDHS has set for TANF is to address the strengths and needs of the entire family for moving to sustained self-sufficiency. It is welfare, so there are financial requirements to prove "need." There are also non-financial eligibility requirements and provisions that require recipients to undertake certain activities in return for the benefits.

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Statutes and Regulations

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The Department of Human Services

The administering agency, DHS, provides an array of state human services in one department. The DHS is the result of the merging of The Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Illinois Department of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the community services of the Illinois Department of Public Health, the child care and youth services of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and the field operations, income assistance, employment and training, food stamps, child care, and social services block grant administration in the Department of Public Aid.

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TANF Program

The Illinois TANF Program provides cash benefits to certain eligible families.

Child-Only Grants

The first group who can receive TANF, under child only assistance, include children who are living with a parent or relative but none of these adults are eligible or, with a nonparent relative, opts not to be included in the assistance unit. These families are not subject to time limits and work requirements but are subject to child support enforcement rules. Children who are living with non-relative caretakers are not eligible for TANF, but may be eligible for cash assistance under the Transitional or General Assistance Program.

Parent/Relative Grants with Children

Temporary assistance for families serves families with at least one eligible adult who participates in or is exempt from work activities.

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Conditions of Eligibility

Minor Children

Families are eligible to receive TANF but must contain at least one eligible child under the age of 18, or under the age of 19 if attending secondary school full-time, and may contain no more than two adult caretakers who are related to the children.

Single Filing Unit

All siblings residing in the home, including half siblings of children included in the assistance unit, must be included in the assistance unit. (PM 04-01-00)

Minor Parents

Unmarried parents under the age of 18 and their children living with them are assisted only if residing with their parent, legal guardian or other adult relative, or in an adult supervised arrangement. Wards of the Department of Children and Family Services participating in the DCFS Independent Living Program under the supervision of a case manager are living in an adult supervised arrangement and may qualify for TANF if they have a child. Some exceptions that apply to this requirement include single parents where the spouse is dead or unable to be found, and where the minor or a child’s physical or emotional health or safety is in danger. (PM 14-06-00 and 14-06-02)

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Non-Financial Eligibility Criteria


  • The non-financial eligibility criteria can be found at PM 03-01.

  • Everyone in the family must have or apply for a social security number.

  • The family must reside in Illinois. A permanent residence is not required. Residence is where one functions – not an apartment or a house – so homeless families are eligible. (PM 03-02-00)

  • TANF in Illinois is available to citizens of the United States as well as to people legally admitted for permanent residence before August 22, 1996; people legally admitted for permanent residence on or after August 22, 1996, who have resided in the United States for five years since their date of entry; refugees and asylees as defined by the Immigration and Naturalization Act; parolees of at least one year who entered the United States before August 22, 1996; parolees of at least one year who entered the United States on or after August 22, 1996; parolees of at least one year who entered the United States on or after August 22, 1996, and have resided here for five years; and veterans and those currently on active duty. (PM 03-01-00)

  • Dependent child(ren) must live with a specified type of relative, including blood relatives, step-relatives, adoptive relatives, and spouses of blood-relatives. "Living with" means that the relative must exercise primary responsibility for the care and supervision of the child(ren). (The child or the caretaker relative may be temporarily absent from the home, but still meet the "living with" requirement.) (PM 03-05-00)

  • Families on strike are not eligible for TANF.

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    The Responsibility and Services Plan

    All adults and minor parents are required to sign a Responsibility and Services Plan and follow through with its provisions. PM 02-09-00

    The plan will be periodically updated and staff will monitor the family’s progress and compliance. The plan will address child immunization, appropriate school attendance, family well being, and economic self-support goals. Any noncompliance with the plan can result in sanctions.

    Supportive Services: Assistance is provided for a client whose approved plan requires such services. Supportive services include child care, transportation, books, fees (e.g., lab or registration), supplies, initial employment expenses, job retention expenses, and a $20 per month payment to individuals in Work First or work experience to help cover additional expenses. Supportive services of transportation, initial employment expenses, costs of books and fees will be provided to clients in accordance with their plan. Child Care is provided via the Child Care and Developmental Fund. Any child care co-payment for clients who are not employed can also be offset as a TANF supportive service cost.


    Sanctions for failure to cooperate with employment or child support activities will be applied to families participating in the Illinois TANF Program.

    Reconciliation is the process for persons who disagree with the activities included in their RASP or who are accused of failure to comply with requirements and are facing sanctions. It can resolve differences about the plan, they can claim good cause or valid reason for not complying, or show compliance. This process must begin within 14 days after the person disagrees with the plan or fails to satisfy a requirement.

    First stage of reconciliation examines is good cause exists for failure to cooperate – if yes then the person is given the chance to cooperate; if no then it moves to the second stage.

    Second stage of reconciliation may include a mediator. Cases involving a dispute (not good cause) begin at this stage. The goal is to resolve the dispute at this level. If an agreement is reached it is written up in a reconciliation agreement. The recipient is given the opportunity to perform the reconciliation agreement. If she fails to perform without good cause, the sanction is imposed.

    The first instance of non-cooperation without good cause results in the assistance payment being reduced by 50% until the cooperation requirement is satisfied or three months of reduced payments have been issued. If cooperation has not occurred at the end of three months, the entire assistance payment is discontinued.

    The second instance of non-cooperation without good cause results in the assistance payment being reduced by 50% for a minimum of three months. If cooperation has not occurred at the conclusion of three months, the entire assistance payment will be discontinued.

    The third instance of non-cooperation without good cause results in the payment being discontinued for a minimum of three months and will not be resumed until cooperation has occurred.

    Individuals who are sanctioned will be contacted at least one time per month to attempt to re-engage the client back into the program. Individuals are expected to continue to participate in employment activities even while sanctioned; supportive services will continue to be paid while in sanction status as long as the individual continues participating.

    Finally, when a sanction has been imposed, that sanction will not affect receipt of Medical Assistance, unless it is a child support sanction, which results in the non-cooperating person losing Medical Assistance, unless she is pregnant. Food stamps will continue during a sanction, but they may not be increased to reflect a loss of benefits.

    Good Cause PM 02-09-01-e

    Good cause includes the failure of DHS to make available a supportive service agreed upon in the Plan. Good cause also includes but is not limited to temporary illness for its duration; family crisis; child care is necessary for the participation, or employment and such care is not available for a child under age 13; or the individual is homeless.

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    Work and Training Requirements for TANF Adults

    Required Hours and Activities PM 21-01-01-a  

    One parent case:

    A client in a one parent case who is required to be in a work, training, or other self-sufficiency activity must participate an average of at least 30 hours per week. Participation hours include hours the applicant or client works and hours they participate in a work, training, or other self-sufficiency activity.

    A young parent under age 20 who has not completed their high school education must participate in Teen Parent Services.

    Two parent cases:

    One or both parents in a case may be required to work or take part in a work activity, depending upon the family situation. The combined hours must total at least 35 per week. Participation hours include hours the applicants or clients work and hours they participate in a work, training, or other self-sufficiency activity. One parent in a two parent case must work or take part in Work Experience or another work activity for at least 30 hours per week.

    (If one adult is exempt or has a barrier, then the case is considered a one parent case "04").

    Clients Exempt from Work and Training Activities

    An exempt client is not required to include work and training activities in their plan. If an exempt client agrees to participate as part of their Responsibility and Services Plan, they cannot be sanctioned.

    An applicant or client who meets one of the following reasons is exempt from work and training activities.

    Care of Child Under Age One (1) PM 21-01-03-a

    An applicant or client is exempt if personally providing care for a child under age 1 living in the home. The person must be the parent or another adult relative living in the home. Only one person in a case can use this exemption.

    A minor parent under age 20 who has not completed high school or earned a General Educational Development (GED) certificate cannot claim an exemption for the care of a child under age 1. The minor parent is required to attend school full-time or complete other approved activities, unless they have a child under age 12 weeks.

    Child Who is Not a Parent PM 21-01-03-b

    A child who is not a parent is exempt.

    Adult Age 60 or Older PM 21-01-03-c 

    A person age 60 or older is exempt.

    Barriers To Work and Training

    Some individuals will not be required to participate in work and training activities due to certain barriers.  These include:

    Medical Condition PM 21-01-04-a

    An applicant or client with a temporary or chronic medical condition may have an illness or injury serious enough to prevent the person from working or participating in activities. When a determination of a medical barrier is pending or is under appeal, a client is not required  to participate in a work or training activity.

    Activities relevant to establishing the medical barrier (e.g., keeping medical appointments, obtaining medical information, etc.) must be included as part of the client’s RSP. Self-sufficiency activities other than work and training activities (e.g., parenting classes) that are appropriate to the client, may be included in the RSP as long as the client’s barrier does not prevent the client from participating in them. A sanction may be imposed based on failure to participate in other self-sufficiency activities if the client does not have good cause.

    The Client Assessment Unit (CAU) decides whether or not the person has a temporary or chronic medical barrier.

    Home and Community-based Care Waiver Child PM 21-01-04-b 

    A client automatically has a barrier to participation in work, training, or other self-sufficiency activities when they have a child living with them who is approved under the Home & Community-based Care Program (see PM 06-11-01).

    Family Care PM 21-01-04-c 

    A client has a barrier to participation in work, training, or other self-sufficiency activities when they are approved to provide full-time care to a related child under age 18 or spouse living in the home, due to that person's medical condition.  The Client Assessment Unit (CAU) makes this determination. Participation in work and training activities is not required while the determination is pending or is under appeal.

    Care of Others PM 21-01-04-d 

    If a client cannot participate in work or training because they must care fore someone who is not a related child under age 18 or spouse, the client should be referred to the Office of Rehabilitation Services (ORS) or the Department on Aging (DoA). Care of others includes persons such as related children age 18 and over,parents, grandparents, unrelated persons of any age, etc. Clients are not required to in work and training during the referral process, while ORS or DoA makes a decision.

    Domestic Violence Exclusion PM 21-01-05 

    A person may be excused from participating in work and training activities with a Domestic Violence Exclusion if:

    • they are experiencing a domestic violence crisis such that it is hard for them to participate in work and training activities for 30 hours per week; or
    • it is determined it is unsafe for them to participate in work and training activities.

    A person does not have to be receiving services from a domestic violence service provider to qualify for the exclusion.

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    Applicants for TANF who do not have a barrier or are not exempt from Work and Training Activities may be required to participate in activities while their application is pending.  These individuals must be given a Family Assessment before being assigned to an activity.  Supportive services, such as child care and transportation should be provided by a Front Door partner.

    TANF applications must be processed within 30 days.  Benefits are payable from the date of application. Individuals eligible for Crisis Assistance are eligible for benefits within five workdays days.

    Crisis Assistance

    Crisis Assistance payments may be provided when:

    • A family is homeless (or in danger of becoming homeless) due to:

    - a fire, flood, or other natural disaster; or
    - an eviction or court order to vacate the home for any reason.

    • A caretaker and child, now homeless, who left their home because of physical abuse by a person who still occupies the home.
    • A family lacks needed items of furniture, clothing, and/or household supplies due to fire, flood, or other natural disaster.
    • A family lacks food because of fire, flood, or other disaster; thedisaster does not render the family homeless and the need cannot be metthrough the Food Stamp Program. (Food cannot be approved to replace lost or stolen food stamps.)
    • A family is deprived of food or needed clothing because of lost or stolen cash. The amount issued for lost/stolen cash cannot exceed the amount that was lost and can never exceed the amount of the Payment Level.

    PM 06-03-00 - 06-03-01

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    Lifetime Limits for the Receipt of TANF

    There are time limits relevant to the Illinois program:

    1. No family may receive TANF if one or both adults have received 60 months of TANF benefits which include Federal Block Grant Funds. Beginning July 1, 1997, all months of TANF benefits are counted against the 60, including those received in other states, and in noncontinuous months. Months that do not count against the 60 month clock:

    • a month in which the person is under age 18.
    • from 7/97 to 9/98, a month in which earnings are budgeted for work which averaged 20 or more hours per week.
    • from 10-98 to 9/99, a month in which earnings are budgeted for work averages 25 hours or more per week in a single parent household.
    • OR a month in which earnings are budgeted for work averages 35 hours or more per week in a two parent household.
    • from 10/99 on a month in which earnings are budgeted for work averages 30 hours or more per week in a single parent household.
    • OR a month in which earnings are budgeted for work averages 35 hours or more per week in a two parent household.
    • Beginning in January of 1999, any month that the adult is a full-time student in a post-secondary degree program maintaining a 2.5 grade average. During the student's first semester, the clock does not stop.
    • Beginning 9/01 any month where the client is unable to work due to an approved family care barrier.
    • Starting 7/02 any month when the local office approves a domestic violence exclusion.

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    Exceptions to the 60-month Limit

    Certain families can receive benefits beyond the 60- month limit.

    When an adult reaches the 60-month limit, the adult is ineligible for TANF benefits, unless an adult in the case qualifies for an exception reason. When the ineligible adult is a parent, their children who live with them are also ineligible for cash benefits as children. If a child is a minor parent, the child is eligible as an adult in a separate case with their child. If a child whose parent is ineligible due to the time limit goes to live with another relative and the parent is not in the home, the relative may receive TANF for the child. The relative may also be included in the case if they have not reached their 60-month limit and are otherwise eligible.

    Exception policy may apply any time a person or family would be ineligible due to the 60-month limit on receipt of TANF. A client may qualify for an exception at the end of the 60 months or when reapplying for TANF at a later time. When a client qualifies for an exception, the family receives TANF benefits as though there were no time limit. The rest of TANF policy continues to apply.

    To be approved for an exception, the family must meet one or more of the following exception reasons:

    • application for SSI Disability pending and determined probably eligible by CAU (if on appeal, must have representation, when available);
    • medical condition that prevents full-time work;
    • receiving services through a program that prevents full-time work (includes DCFS, domestic violence, homeless services, mental health,substance abuse, and vocational rehabilitation programs);
    • in an approved education or training program to be completed within 6 months after time runs out;
    • family care barrier;
    • child approved for Home and Community-based Care waiver.

    If there are 2 adults in the case, only one of them has to meet an exception reason for the entire family to receive cash assistance. If one adult’s counter is over 60 and the other adult’s counter is under 60, either person can qualify for the exception.

    PM 03-06-05

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    Relation of TANF to Other Programs

    Disability Income

    SSI. There is a special relationship between TANF and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits (SSI). SSI recipients may not receive TANF. They are not part of any TANF assistance unit, nor are their income or assets counted against any TANF unit. But a SSI recipient is taken into consideration for purposes of whether a TANF unit meets the "living with" requirement or any other non-financial factor of eligibility. For example, consider a mother and child where the child receives SSI. The presence of the child establishes that the mother and child meet the non-financial eligibility requirements to be considered a TANF assistance unit: the child "lives with" a specified caretaker relative. For financial purposes, however, the child is "invisible": the unit receives the standard TANF payment for a family consisting of one adult and no children (rather than one adult and one child), and the child’s SSI payment will not count to reduce the mother’s TANF grant. Note that all income and assets of an SSI recipient are exempt from TANF consideration. If the child in the example received Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) benefits in addition to the SSI, they would be exempt, too, even though OASDI benefits are usually not otherwise exempt from TANF consideration.

    Other Disability Payments - Disability payments from other government disability programs (i.e. OASDI, Railroad Retirement, Black Lung and Veterans (100% disability) are exempt up to the amount of the current SSI amount, currently $552.

    Foster Children

    Children who are wards of the state are eligible to receive foster care board payments from DCFS, if the home they are placed into has a foster care license. If that foster home receives TANF, then the foster child and her foster care payments are excluded from the TANF grant. DCFS sometimes places a ward into a home that does not have a foster care license, if the home consists of relatives of the child. In that case, the foster child is eligible to receive a TANF payment that is higher than normal TANF, but less than the full foster care payment. The home must apply for this payment at the IDHS office. If the home itself receives TANF, then the ward is added to that case.

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    Financial Eligibility Criteria

    Assets PM 07-01 

    There are two financial factors: assets and income.

    Assets are cash and other property the client owns. As of August 1, 2013, assets generally will not be counted for initial or ongoing eligibility determinations or for re-determinations.

    If assets are counted, there are exemptions from assets – meaning that the exempt items do not "count" in determining eligibility – including personal and household effects, homestead property, one motor vehicle of any value, children’s savings accounts accumulated from their earnings, business equipment and inventory, prepaid burials up to $1,500 per person, and other property, including cash on hand and in the bank, up to $3,000. (PM 07-01-00)

    Income PM 08-01 

    The income budgeting process relies on the Payment Level , because countable income is subtracted from the appropriate Payment Level to determine an assistance unit’s monthly payment. There is one chart of the monthly assistance payment levels that include payments to units with one adult and units that include only children (such as where the children live with a relative who is not their parent and not in the assistance unit, or where they live with a parent but the parent receives SSI). The "Payment Level" is the amount of money DHS pays each month to a particular size and type until. (PM 08-01-00).

    Payment levels can be found at:

    I Got a Job - Work Pays - DHS 3022

    Exempt Income

    Income from certain sources does not reduce a TANF payment.

    • In-kind (non-cash) contributions to the unit, payment of bills directly to third-parties, and loans from persons other than legally responsible relatives.
    • The value of Food Stamp benefits.
    • Any payment received under the uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970.
    • Any compensation provided individual volunteers under the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program.
    • Social Security death benefits expended on a funeral and/or burial.
    • Supportive service payments.
    • Up to $30.00 of inconsequential income per recipient per calendar quarter.
    • Any payment provided under the Family Assistance vendor payments provided by a local government public assistance program.
    • Any disaster relief payment made by federal, state, or local government or by a disaster assistance group.
    • Any payment provided under the Family Assistance Program for Mentally Disabled Children.
    • Earmarked child support payments received by the client for the support of a child not included in the assistance unit.
    • Earnings of full-time students receiving assistance as children.
    • Earnings as a part-time student receiving assistance as a child who is not full-time employed.
    • The first $50 of child support each month.
    Step-Parent/Grandparent Income

    Some of the income of step-parents or grandparents who live with the unit but are not included in it, is counted as income to the assistance unit. Depending on whether they are included in the assistance payment, this step-parent or grandparent income is then used to reduce the family’s TANF payment. Some of the income of sponsors of aliens is also counted as income to the assistance unit and is used to reduce the family’s TANF payment.

    New Baby: Family Cap Rule

    If an existing TANF recipient family has a new baby, that family’s payment level does not go up to the next family size level. To be exact, assistance payments to families do not increase when a child is born nine calendar months following the month of application; however, the payment increases if the family did not receive AFDC prior to July 1, 1997 or TANF for nine consecutive months any time following the conception. This rule applies to all families on TANF unless the baby is the first child of a child in the assistance unit or the conception occurred as a result of documented incest or forcible rape. The family is eligible for Food Stamps (and other nutrition benefits) for the baby, and the baby is covered by Medicaid.

    Note: This rule no longer applies to babies born on or after January 1, 2004.

    Budgeting of Income PM 10-01-03

    Budgeting is done in two steps. The first step uses income data anticipated for the month in which payment will be made (called the "payment month"). This step determines financial eligibility. The second step determines the actual payment amount.


    The first step of the budgeting process is the eligibility step. This step is only used for applicants who do not have an ongoing TANF case. For applicants, gross earned income minus $90, plus all non-exempt unearned income, is compared to the appropriate Payment Level for the unit. If the income is less than the Payment Level, proceed to step two. If the income is more, there is no eligibility.

    Payment Amount

    The second step of the budgeting process – the grant amount step – applies to both current TANF recipients and applicants who pass the first eligibility step. Two-thirds of the client’s gross earned income is disregarded. One-third of gross earned income, plus nonexempt, budgetable income, is subtracted from the Payment Level to arrive at the actual TANF payment amount for the relevant month.

    Earned Income

    Earned Income is reported each quarter. Under the quarterly budgeting and reporting system, those receiving temporary assistance for working families will file a report of earned income and copies of their pay stubs four times a year for designated months. Reports are due by the 7th of the month following the designated month. The report will be used as a basis to forecast monthly earnings for the following quarter and to determine the amount of earnings to be considered for reducing the assistance payment. The monthly countable earnings projected will not be changed in the quarter unless the family’s total monthly income falls below the assistance payment level. Should the income drop below the monthly assistance payment level, a supplementary payment will be made to bring total income to the assistance payment level, if it is requested in writing.

    Lump Sums

    Lump sum payments such as retroactive Social Security payments, lottery payments, inheritances, settlements, etc. are considered nonexempt unearned income for the month of receipt.  Any amount remaining is considered an asset for the following month.

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    Participation Requirements Redetermination PM 19-02-01

    Periodically, IDHS calls every case into the local office to conduct a redetermination of eligibility. If there is a problem with the mail or if the caretaker relative cannot attend the meeting or if the family is already homeless and out of touch with the caseworker, the redetermination will not take place. The case will be cancelled. Prompt filing of an appeal can usually remedy this situation. The Department usually simply conducts the redetermination and then reinstates assistance, rather than going through the appeal process. If this is not the immediate result, however, then, whether or not an appeal is filed, the client should reapply for benefits.

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    Child Support Enforcement

    Recipients must cooperate with efforts to identify the fathers of children on assistance, obtain paternity adjudications, and obtain and enforce child support orders. PM 24

    The client may claim good cause for noncooperation with the child support process when:

    • the child was conceived as a result of incest or rape;
    • there is a possibility the child is going to be adopted out;
    • there may be emotional harm to the client or the child;
    • there is a fear of domestic violence

    Individuals who do not cooperate, and do not have good cause, are subject to sanctions.  A reconciliation conference must be offered first to allow the client to demonstrate good cause or to agree to cooperate.

    The amount and length of the cash benefit reduction is based on the sanction level.  See sanctions above for the amounts.

    In addition, the noncooperating client is ineligible for medical benefits until they cooperate, unless they are pregnant or within 60 days postpartum. When the entire cash benefit stops due to the sanction, medical assistance continues for the rest of the family. Food stamps are not affected by the sanction, except that they cannot increase due to the reduction in the cash benefit.

    PM 24-04-04

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    School Attendance Initiative

    Recipients must also cooperate with this initiative which is a partnership among IDHS, Community-based Organizations (CBO), and local elementary and middle schools, that choose to participate. The schools define initial indicators of truancy and refer the family to a CBO for services designed to improve the child’s attendance. If the family fails to participate in the CBO program or attendance fails to improve or if the truant behavior is not corrected within three months, the family is subject to sanctions. PM 03-22-00)

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