State Exemptions and Waivers for Temporary Census Workers Who Receive State Benefits

1/31/2020

Census worker - photo from U.S. Census Bureau

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau hires temporary workers to fill positions such as office personnel and census enumerators. In 2010, some states waived income gained from census work for people who receive state benefits when the bureau hired 850,000 temporary workers. For the 2020 Census, the bureau expects to hire 500,000 temporary workers.

States are again addressing how income earned from temporary employment with the bureau could affect eligibility for state-level health coverage and other benefits. To help meet the need to recruit, the White House issued a memo to help incentivize workforce participation and expand recruitment for the 2020 census. The memo encourages states to disregard census income when determining eligibility for public assistance benefits.

States have several options on how to protect temporary census workers from losing their public assistance benefits. This webpage explains the ways states may choose to exclude temporary income, such as income from the census, when determining eligibility for public assistance benefits, including Medicaid, CHIP, TANF and SNAP:

  • Exemptions by state, code, statute or rules
  • Exemptions by state plans and amendments
  • Exemptions by waivers

Exemptions by State Code, Statute or Rules

In some states, temporary employment of any kind already is excluded when determining eligibility for public assistance benefits or the state openly mentions the exclusion of census income. When that is the case, no specific action is required to exempt census income. Examples:

Colorado

Income from all short-term employment such as temporary and subsidized employment (90 days or less) is exempt. The exempt income is not considered when determining eligibility for Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. (9 Colo. Code Regs. § 2503-6)

 

New Jersey

Income earned as a result of temporary employment is exempt. Exempt income is not considered in determining initial and continued eligibility for assistance or in computing the amount of Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) cash assistance payments. (N.J. Admin. Code § 10:90-3.19)   

 

Iowa

Census earnings and related travel expense reimbursements received by temporary workers from the Census are exempt. The income will not be considered in determining initial and continuing eligibility in family investment programs and family medical assistance programs. (Iowa Admin. Code r. 441-41.27, 441-170.2, 441-75.57)

 

Exemption by State Plans and Amendments

In joint federal-state programs, such as Medicaid, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sets broad requirements for the program, while leaving the states the authority and flexibility to implement and administer them. The states specify and describe the nature and scope of these programs through their state plans. A state plan is a formal, written agreement between a state and the federal government. A few states include an exemption for census income in their plans:

Exemptions by State Waivers

State waivers allow income from temporary census employment to be excluded from certain benefit eligibility requirements. The waiver process allows states the option to protect temporary census workers from losing their public assistance benefits. The federal agencies have encouraged state agencies that administer Medicaid, CHIP, TANF and SNAP benefits to adopt this process. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows states to submit a letter to their regional FNS office to request a waiver.

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that is available only to certain low-income people and families who fit into an eligibility group that is recognized by federal and state law. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health coverage to eligible children, through both Medicaid and separate CHIP programs. CHIP is administered by states, according to federal requirements. Both Medicaid and CHIP programs are funded by the federal government and each state.

The following states have excluded temporary census income for some Medicaid and/or CHIP recipients:  Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides financial assistance to families with children when the parents or other responsible relatives cannot provide for the family's basic needs. The federal government provides grants to states to run the TANF program.

The following states have excluded or waived temporary census income for TANF recipients: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is the largest federal nutrition assistance program. SNAP provides financial assistance nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase food. This federal entitlement program by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is administered by state agencies. Under the Food and Nutrition Act, it gives the secretary the authority to waive and exclude temporary income from the formula determining SNAP benefits. FNS is offering the option to waiver or exclude temporary census employment income.

The following states have excluded or waived temporary census income for SNAP: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

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