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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Social Services
State Board of Social Services
State Response When A Local Department of Social Services Fails To Provide Services [Under Development] [22 VAC 40 ‑ 677]
Action Establish Regulation for State Oversight of Local Departments of Social Services
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 3/19/2021
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2/25/21  2:22 pm
Commenter: Katie Boyle, Virginia Association of Counties

Comments regarding proposed regulation 22VAC 40-677-10

The proposed regulation authorizes the Commissioner to direct and oversee public assistance and social services programs in a county or city if that locality “fails, refuses, or is unable to provide public assistance or social services in accordance with the Code of Virginia.”  The regulation also authorizes the Commissioner to withhold the locality’s reimbursement for administrative expenditures, in whole or in part, for the period of time in which the locality fails to operate public assistance or social services programs in accordance with state laws and regulations or “fails to provide the necessary staff for the implementation of such programs.”

As noted in our public comments at the State Board of Social Services meeting in August 2019, the language of the regulation is very general and provides little guidance to local departments about when they may be deemed to be failing to provide services and how the state oversight would be implemented.  We would encourage the incorporation of procedures that would provide specificity regarding when and how this authority would be exercised.  Based on our discussions with the Department in fall 2019, we understand that the Department was developing such a set of procedures; at a minimum, the language of the regulation should stipulate that the authority envisioned in the regulation would be implemented in accordance with these procedures, which should also be vetted through the regulatory process, in order to allow stakeholder participation in their development.

We would recommend that the following elements be addressed in such a procedure:

  • Metrics through which a local department’s failure to provide public assistance and social services would be documented.  These indicators should be developed in collaboration with local departments, should reflect performance indicators that are within local control, and should take into account local financial circumstances.  These metrics should be regularly made available to local departments and there should be opportunities to correct any data errors.
  • A requirement that the Commissioner provide notice to a local department, as well as to the local chief administrative officer and the local governing body, that it is at risk of state oversight.  A local department should be afforded the opportunity to develop a corrective action plan and demonstrate improvement in compliance with the plan, and the Commissioner should intervene only when all other available mechanisms to assist a local department have been exhausted.  The corrective action plan should include commitments from the state to assist the local department in addressing deficiencies, to include potentially arranging for assistance from VDSS regional offices or neighboring departments.
  • An opportunity for the local department and the local governing body to appear before the State Board of Social Services prior to the Board’s decision to authorize state intervention in the local department.
  • An opportunity for the local governing body and the Commissioner to jointly develop and agree to a plan regarding reimbursement of the Commonwealth for expenditures incurred.  Such a plan should provide the locality with maximum flexibility in providing reimbursement so as not to stress its ability to continue providing necessary public services.  The progress reports discussed in section E of the proposed regulation should also be provided to the local governing body and its chief administrative officer.
  • Clarification regarding how the language of the regulation will be interpreted that authorizes the withholding of reimbursement for administrative expenditures in cases where a local department “fails to provide the necessary staff” for public assistance or social services programs.  Who will determine what staffing levels are necessary for the provision of public assistance and social services?

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment.  We appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Department in fall 2019 and would be glad to have further discussions at the Department’s convenience.

CommentID: 97261