Work First Benefit Diversion

Benefit Diversion is a cash payment alternative to traditional Work First cash assistance. It is not available in all county department of social services/agencies. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) State Plan provides county agencies with the option to provide Benefit Diversion to Work First families. County agencies are required to elect if they will or will not offer Benefit Diversion to Work First applicants and provide written notification to the Division of Social Services each state fiscal year.

At application some families may be offered Benefit Diversion in lieu of Work First cash assistance. A one-time payment of up to a maximum of three months of cash assistance may be provided to families. Referrals are made to Medicaid, child support, child care assistance and other community and agency resources.

The county caseworker, based on their assessment of the family’s needs, will determine which families are most suitable for Benefit Diversion. However, the family must choose whether it is appropriate for them. Families receiving Benefit Diversion are not precluded from receiving other services such as emergency or energy assistance or one-time work-related expenses.

An ongoing cash assistance participant cannot ask for their case to be switched to Benefit Diversion. While families may apply for Work First Cash Assistance at any time, they cannot receive cash assistance until the Benefit Diversion certification period has expired.

The Purpose of Benefit Diversion

Benefit Diversion is defined as nonrecurring short-term benefits. It is:

  • Designed to deal with a specific crisis or episode of need;
  • Not intended to meet recurrent or ongoing needs; and
  • Not extended beyond three months.

If the benefit does not meet all three criteria, the benefit meets the definition of assistance, and the applicant will be subject to all the requirements associated with Work First Cash Assistance, including work participation requirements.  Therefore, Benefit Diversion would not be offered to the client.

Benefit Diversion provides an opportunity for families to receive immediate help and preserve their independence from public assistance. Benefit Diversion helps to ensure that:

  • Families have an opportunity to avoid long-term public assistance dependency;
  • Resources are quickly made available to resolve the family situation and adult family members can keep or accept jobs or access other income sources.

Benefit Diversion is intended to be a one-time service for families and can only be provided once within a 12-month period. Therefore, a caseworker must provide referrals to available agency and community resources that will help the family avoid the need for further cash assistance in the future. 

In most situations a Benefit Diversion can be authorized the same day as the initial interview. In any case, the Benefit Diversion application should be approved as quickly as possible.