[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 80 (Wednesday, April 25, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 24667-24669]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-9260]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Administration for Children and Families

45 CFR Parts 262 and 265


TANF Assistance and Electronic Benefit Transfer Transactions; 
Request for Public Comment

AGENCY: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration 
for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance (OFA).

[[Page 24668]]


ACTION: Request for public comment.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) is interested in 
learning about how States deliver Temporary Assistance to Needy 
Families (TANF) assistance to beneficiaries, whether States have 
implemented policies and practices to prevent electronic benefit 
transfer transactions involving TANF assistance in liquor stores, 
casinos, gambling casinos, or other gaming establishments, and retail 
establishments which provide adult-oriented entertainment in which 
performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment; 
what the States' experiences have been in implementing such policies 
and practices; and whether States place other similar types of 
restrictions on assistance usage. OFA also is interested in learning 
about States' current approaches to ensuring that recipients have 
adequate access to their cash assistance, including policies that 
provide access to assistance with no fees or charges or current 
approaches to imposing fees or charges in connection with receipt of 
assistance, along with other information relevant to considering what 
might be minimal fees or charges. Additionally, OFA is interested in 
hearing the perspectives of vendors, consumer advocates, and any other 
individuals or entities that have information that could be relevant to 
the development and implementation of policies and procedures to 
prevent electronic benefit transfer transactions in certain 
establishments, and to ensuring access to cash assistance with minimal 
fees or charges, including opportunities to access assistance without 
fees or charges.
    The information provided will be used to inform OFA as it develops 
regulations to implement Section 4004 of the Middle Class Tax Relief 
and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-96), which, among other 
things, requires States to prevent the use of TANF assistance in 
electronic benefit transfer transactions at specified locations.

DATES: Written comments must be submitted to the office listed in the 
ADDRESSES section below on or before June 11, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons may submit written comments by any of the 
following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Email: TANFEBTTransactions@acf.hhs.gov Please include 
``Comments on EBT Federal Register Notice'' in the subject line of the 
message.
     Mail or Courier Delivery: Robert Shelbourne, Office of 
Family Assistance, Administration for Children and Families, 901 D 
Street SW., 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20447.
    Instructions: If you choose to use an express, overnight, or other 
special delivery method, ensure that delivery may be made at the 
address listed under the ADDRESSES section. We urge interested parties 
to submit comments electronically to ensure that they are received in a 
timely manner. All comments received will be posted without change to 
http://www.regulations.gov. This will include any personal information 
provided.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Shelbourne, Office of Family 
Assistance, 901 D Street SW., 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20447, (202) 
401-5150.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On February 22, 2012, President Obama signed 
the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-
96). Section 4004 of the Act requires States (but does not require 
Tribes) to prevent the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families 
(TANF) assistance in electronic benefit transfer (EBT) transactions at 
specified locations. In particular, the law requires States receiving 
TANF grants ``to maintain policies and practices as necessary to 
prevent assistance provided under the State program funded under this 
part from being used in any electronic benefit transfer transaction in 
any liquor store; any casino, gambling casino, or gaming establishment; 
or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment 
in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for 
entertainment.'' The law defines an electronic benefit transfer 
transaction as ``the use of a credit or debit card service, automated 
teller machine, point-of-sale terminal, or access to an online system 
for the withdrawal of funds or the processing of a payment for 
merchandise or a service.''
    The law imposes a new reporting requirement as well as a new 
penalty. Each State is required to report to HHS by February 22, 2014, 
on its implementation of policies and practices related to restricting 
recipients' use of EBT cards at the locations specified in the previous 
paragraph. As required by the law, HHS shall reduce a State's block 
grant if the State fails to comply with this reporting requirement or 
if, based on the information that the State reports, HHS finds that the 
State has not implemented and maintained the required policies and 
practices. Furthermore, States are required to include in their State 
plans a statement outlining how they intend to implement policies and 
procedures to prevent access to assistance through electronic fund 
transfer transactions at casinos, liquor stores, and establishments 
providing adult-oriented entertainment. The State plan also must 
include an explanation of how the State plans to ensure that (1) 
recipients of the assistance have adequate access to their cash 
assistance, and (2) recipients of assistance have access to using or 
withdrawing assistance with minimal fees or charges, including an 
opportunity to access assistance with no fee or charges, and are 
provided information on applicable fees and surcharges that apply to 
electronic fund transactions involving the assistance, and that such 
information is made publicly available.
    The Office of Family Assistance is seeking responses to the 
following questions to help inform us as we draft the regulation to 
implement the statutory requirement. We do not intend to respond to 
comments provided in response to this Request for Public Comment. 
However, in the notice of proposed rulemaking, we will provide a 
general summary of the comments that influenced our policy decisions, 
and will respond to comments submitted in response to the notice of 
proposed rulemaking when a final rule is issued.

Questions

    Please identify the question to which you are responding.

Benefit Delivery System

    1. What method or methods of delivery does your State use to 
provide TANF assistance? For example, does the State use checks, direct 
deposit into recipient checking account, Electronic Benefit Transfer 
(EBT) cards, Electronic Payment Cards (EPC) (co-branded with Visa or 
MasterCard)?
    2. For each method used, does the State currently track the site at 
which a transaction occurs? If the State is able to identify the site 
at which a transaction occurs, what process does or would the State 
need to initiate to determine if the site was a liquor store, gaming 
establishment or adult entertainment venue? Are there different issues 
for different types of venues?

Implementing EBT Restrictions

    3. For those with knowledge of what has happened in a State or 
States that have implemented some form of EBT transaction restriction:
    a. What is the nature of your restriction? Please provide as much

[[Page 24669]]

specificity as possible, including the definitions used for any 
establishment type for which TANF benefit access was restricted. If the 
State's restriction appears to differ from the EBT transaction 
restriction contained in section 4004 of the Middle Class Tax Relief 
and Job Creation Act of 2012, please describe those differences.
    b. Was the restriction put in place in response to a legislative 
mandate or by executive action without a specific legislative mandate? 
If in response to a legislative mandate, what did the legislature 
require?
    c. If your State imposes EBT transaction restrictions relating to 
liquor stores, casinos, gambling casinos, or other gaming 
establishments, or retail establishments which provide adult-oriented 
entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed 
state for entertainment, can you please indicate: which of these 
locations are subject to restriction, and what is the definition used 
to describe the restricted location?
    d. What specific method and procedures does the State use?
    e. What challenges to implementation have been encountered and how 
did the State address them?
    f. Please provide any information available concerning initial and 
continuing costs.
    g. Does the State identify locations where benefit access is to be 
restricted through a manual process, an automated process or some 
combination of the two? Please describe the process for identifying 
these locations.
    h. Has your State implemented what you consider an effective method 
of restricting access to EBT usage at specified locations? Please 
describe why you think it is effective (e.g. cost effective, achieves 
desired outcomes)?
    i. What concerns have been raised by businesses, electronic benefit 
vendors, and/or TANF recipients, relating to access, cost, or other 
issues, in relation to the restrictions? Have particular concerns been 
raised relating to rural areas of the State? If so, what are those 
concerns, and how, if at all, have those concerns been addressed?
    j. If your State passes through child support to families receiving 
TANF assistance, how, if at all, do the TANF assistance restrictions 
affect provision of passed-through child support?
    k. Are your State's restrictions limited to TANF assistance, or do 
they affect any other benefits provided electronically? If the 
restrictions are limited to TANF assistance, how, if at all, do 
restrictions on accessing TANF assistance affect access to any other 
benefits?
    l. Are there particular issues not discussed above that have arisen 
in design or implementation that could be useful for OFA to be aware of 
in the development of regulations relating to this topic?
    4. With regards to States that have not implemented EBT transaction 
restrictions, have you considered and examined issues relevant to 
implementation of such restrictions? If so, can you identify issues and 
considerations that have arisen for you as you considered such 
requirements?
    5. For any State, do you currently have information about the 
incidence of the use of TANF assistance EBT transactions in liquor 
stores, gaming establishments, and adult entertainment venues?

Access Fees or Charges

    6. With respect to any State, please describe the fees and charges 
that TANF recipients face when accessing their TANF assistance 
benefits. If the fees or charges differ based on number of withdrawals 
or where or how benefits are accessed (such as via an ATM vs. point of 
sale transaction), please describe the differences in fees under all 
relevant benefit access mechanisms.
    7. Does your State provide any mechanism that allows TANF 
assistance recipients to access benefits without facing any fees or 
charges? If so, please describe.
    8. How, if at all, does your State make information available to 
TANF assistance recipients about where to access TANF benefits, the 
fees and charges associated with accessing benefits under various 
scenarios, and how benefits can be accessed without any fees or 
charges?
    9. What, if anything, do you think should be done to reduce the 
costs of accessing TANF benefits?
    10. Please describe any access barriers, that you think TANF 
assistance recipients currently face or could face under the 
restrictions and what mechanisms, if any, you think could reduce those 
access barriers while ensuring that TANF benefits are not accessed 
through EBT transactions at those establishments for which access is 
restricted under section 4004 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job 
Creation Act of 2012.

EBT Vendor Input

    11. For companies that provide electronic benefit services to 
States with respect to TANF assistance, please describe the 
implementation issues you think States could or would face in 
implementing the restriction required under section 4004 of the Middle 
Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. Please describe 
technical issues, cost implications, and access implications as well as 
mechanisms for addressing problems identified.
    We welcome any other comments you have about the TANF EBT 
provisions contained in Section 4004 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and 
Job Creation Act of 2012.

    Dated: April 5, 2012.
Earl Johnson,
Director, Office of Family Assistance.
[FR Doc. 2012-9260 Filed 4-24-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE P