WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

DSHS Support Services for WorkFirst Participants

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
Read this in:
Russian / Pусский

DSHS may provide goods and services for WorkFirst participants to help them look for work, prepare for work, or keep work.


Download | Printer-friendly

Read Online

What are DSHS support services?

They are goods and services DSHS buys for WorkFirst participants to help you look for, prepare for, or keep work. DSHS only pays for a support service if it decides you need it to help you participate in a WorkFirst job activity on your Individual Responsibility Plan (IRP).

*The laws about this info are at the end of this publication.

The laws about this information are at the end of this publication.

Who can get support services?[1]

  • WorkFirst participants

  • Sanctioned participants during the two weeks after they start participating again

  • Unmarried or pregnant minors eligible for TANF living in a DSHS-approved living situation AND meeting school requirements or actively working with a social worker to meet them

  • TANF applicants who need help to attend the required WorkFirst orientation

  • American Indians who receive a TANF/SFA cash grant and have specific needs due to location or work

What kinds of support services does DSHS pay for? How much does it pay for each service?[2]

The chart on the next page shows a list of support services available to WorkFirst participants. There is a $3,000 limit per person, per program year (July 1st to June 30th). Remember:

  • You might not get a supportive service. DSHS must believe it directly relates to your success in WorkFirst activities.

  • Amounts for individual services are subject to approval. DSHS may pay less than a full reimbursement.

  • DSHS often experiences a lack of funds for support services. WorkFirst case managers and social workers must sometimes limit approval based on available funds. Each DSHS office decides how to handle a lack of funds. Some stop giving vouchers for diapers and personal hygiene or cut back on clothing vouchers. They probably will not approve high-cost items like car repairs, especially if public transportation is available.

  • If DSHS denies a support service you believe you need for your participation, ask to speak with a supervisor. You may ask for an administrative hearing also (or instead).





Specialized equipment for persons with disabilities needed to work AND not available from another source.  Examples: special chair, large letter computer screen, ramps. Must have documentation from a medical professional.

Car Repair

Repair of vehicle registered to participant needed to make it operable. Examples: brakes, water pump, timing belt, batteries, chains, lights, tires. Must have no access to transit, OR use of transit must cause hardship. Must get two written cost estimates (except when not possible, such as an inoperable vehicle). Licensed business must perform work, except battery change. May include fees for computer diagnostics. Towing included for car repair only.

Child care

See our publication called Working Connections Child Care

Clothing for employment

Uniform, protective devices, undergarments, special shoes, or other apparel needed to seek, accept, or keep a job or take part in an IRP activity.


Professional counseling and classes such as anger management and self-esteem. Does not count toward yearly limit.


Diapers, wipes, diaper cream, and ointments for child to go to day care, allowing the parent to seek, accept, or keep a job or take part in an IRP activity.

Education expenses

Expenses related to training or education in participant’s IRP. Examples: tuition, books, GED tests, uniforms and specialized clothing, tutoring, tools/kits. Must try for other sources of payment first (examples: grants, work-based tuition assistance). Class must not be free in community or technical colleges. Must try no-cost tutoring first (examples: high schools, community colleges, community-based organizations).

Employment License and Fees (Professional, Trade Association, Union Dues, Bonds, Certification Costs)

Union dues paid for the first month of employment. Testing needed to get a license or certification, but not included in a license fee. Examples: food handler’s card, nursing licenses or renewals.  


Payment for gas for any privately owned vehicle.


Haircut or to return hair to natural color needed to get or keep a job.

License/Fee/Liability Insurance for vehicles registered to client

Allowed for vehicle license plates/tabs, license fees, title transfers, and emissions testing. Not allowed for outstanding warrants, traffic tickets, taxes, penalties, or payment to collections agencies.

Lunch/Short-term Lodging and Meals

Purchase of participant’s lunch at all-day DSHS-, ESD-, SBCTC-, or OTED- sponsored events such as a job fair. Must be a working lunch for all participants. State employee rate.


Participant must travel to site for job interview or test, beyond normal commuting distance OR participant is moving to a new place to take a job. For interviews, requires confirmation of: interview, test, or job. Expenses covered generally for four days’ duration or less. State employee rate Examples: referral to interview in another part of the state where job may be accepted; state board or other exam required for employment.

Medical Exams/Services

Exams/services needed to accept job or take part in an IRP activity AND not paid for by Apple Health or offered at free clinics. Includes but is not limited to diagnostics for: Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, medical exam for commercial driver’s license.

Mileage reimbursement

Reimbursement for participant’s gas cost for use of a privately owned vehicle. Must complete mileage reimbursement form. State employee rate.

Personal hygiene

Items needed to maintain personal appearance to take part in or accept a job. Examples: soap, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, laundry supplies, shaving supplies, hair color, makeup, cleaning supplies, feminine hygiene supplies.

Public transportation costs

Transportation for non-privately owned vehicles. Examples: bus, van pool, train, ferry.


Expenses needed to allow participant to accept or keep full-time unsubsidized work or part-time work, if the pay gets participant off TANF. Examples: cost of rent and deposit associated with relocation; cost of commercial carrier (need two written estimates); common carriers (need receipts); cost of moving equipment; cost of moving truck/van; hand trucks/dollies; fuel; mileage reimbursement for use of participant’s privately owned vehicle. May not be used for pet or utility deposits. Must have actual offer of work and written confirmation of start date and wages from employer.

Testing - diagnostic

Testing must not be provided by WorkFirst or available from free or low-cost sources. May include, not limited to literacy level, aptitude, skills proficiency.

Tools for Employment

Tools or equipment required by employer. Must have employer statement regarding tool requirement. Must need tools to accept an actual offer of work or keep job. All other employees must have same requirement for tools. The tools or equipment cannot be weapons.

Transportation-Related License Fees

Expenses needed to take part in or accept employment. Includes, but not limited to driver’s license. Restricted to adults or teen heads of household. Examples: vehicle license plates/tabs, license fees, title transfersemissions testing.

Liability insurance is limited to vehicles registered to participant only. Must be authorized by written Exception to Rule (ETR).   
Transportation Initiative Expansion is from September 1, 2016 to June 30, 2019, based on available funding.

Must be authorized by written ETR for these traffic-related expenses only: outstanding warrants, traffic tickets, fines, penalties, collection agencies.  If a current payment arrangement is already in place, participant is not eligible.

How do I get the support services I need?

*The case manager may forget to tell you that you can get these services. You must ask the case manager specifically for what you think you need.

  • Tell your case manager the specific problem or need that will help you get or keep a job. Ask to discuss the support services you believe are right for you. Ask your case manager to include important support services on your Individual Responsibility Plan (IRP). The back of the IRP lists some support services.

  • The case manager may ask you for proof of your need. Example: You need a car repair. You might need two car repair estimates in writing. Do not get the car repaired and then ask DSHS to pay the bill! Get approval first.

  • When the case manager gets the verification they need from you, DSHS will decide whether to approve the support service.

  • If DSHS approves support services, it may pay the provider directly OR give you a payment voucher. Some support services require your case manager to ask for an exception to policy. This may take longer. Exception to Rule (ETR): DSHS Programs has more info.

  • If DSHS does not tell you within a reasonable time if it approves the support service, ask your case manager about it.

  • If there is still no response from your case manager, ask for an administrative hearing on the failure to provide needed support services. You may also ask to speak to your case manager’s lead worker or supervisor. See below on how to ask for an administrative hearing.

How much will DSHS pay in total support services for me?

The limit is $3,000 per person per year for support services. The year starts on July 1 and ends on June 30.

What do support services funds not cover?

  • Employment placement fees

  • Services normally provided by state employees

  • Weapons

  • Purchase of a motor vehicle

  • Court-imposed fines (non-traffic related)

  • Installment payments, such as loan payments

What if DSHS refuses to pay for the support service or services I believe I need?

  • Contact your case manager’s lead worker or supervisor.
  • If you do not get a satisfactory response, ask for an administrative hearing. Fill out a Hearing Request at your local DSHS office OR write to Office of Administrative Hearings, P.O. Box 42488, Olympia, WA 98504. You can also ask for a hearing verbally. Tell your case manager or the Hearing Coordinator in the local DSHS office that you want an administrative hearing.



1. Relevant Law – from the Washington Administrative Code (WAC), online or at the library:
WAC 388-310-0800 (1)


This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of February 2018.

© 2018 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)


Last Review and Update: Feb 02, 2018