2. Outreach and Goal-Setting
3. Case Management / Coaching
4. Increasing Earnings
5. Building Financial Capability
6. FSS Infrastructure
2. Outreach and Goal-Setting
When a new participant begins the FSS program, he or she completes two related documents:
Let’s take a closer look at each of these documents.
The Contract of Participation (HUD-52650) describes the rights and responsibilities of the FSS participant and the organization administering the FSS program. FSS program coordinators should walk through each section of the Contract of Participation with FSS participants to ensure they understand all of the provisions and program requirements and benefits. The Contract is then signed by both parties and records the commitments made by the resident and the program to work together to achieve identified goals. Once signed, a Contract of Participation is effective for five years, beginning the first of the month following the day it was executed.
The Contract lists, upon admission to the program, the family’s annual income, earned income, and the Family Rent, defined as 30 percent of the monthly adjusted income for Housing Choice Voucher participants or the Total Tenant Payment for public housing residents. Calculations of monthly escrow deposits will be based on increases from the family’s starting earnings and Family Rent, and so it is important to have current income information for new FSS participants. If the FSS participant is signing a contract more than 120 days after the household’s most recent income certification, HUD requires a new income reexamination be conducted. The “120-day rule” is only found in the instructions on the FSS Contract of Participation in the section “FSS Escrow Account” in form HUD-52650. Please click on the picture to the left for the highlighted reference.
The Contract of Participation, and other documentation families provide to the FSS program, contains information that is considered sensitive and is protected by The Privacy Act of 1974. FSS program staff should handle participant information with care and maintain appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the security and confidentiality of program participants’ records.
Here are a few tips to keep to participant information secure.
PIH Notice 2015-06 provides further guidance on PHAs’ responsibilities for safeguarding personally identifiable information.
The Individual Training and Services Plan (ITSP) is part of the Contract of Participation and is where the goals identified by the participant are recorded. The ITSP includes:
While the Contract of Participation must be signed by the Head of Household, other adult family members can establish their own FSS goals. Each participating adult family member should complete his or her own ITSP.
Learn more about the goals and objectives of the ITSP in this video.
FSS © 2017 | U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
All participants must include two goals in their ITSP:
Participants can set other, additional goals in their ITSP, so long as they can reasonably be achieved within the program period. Each of these goals must be achieved before a household can graduate and receive its full escrow savings.
Flexibility is an important feature of the FSS program, and FSS participants and coordinators may modify the ITSP at any time if allowed in their FSS Action Plan. There are several reasons why participants may modify their FSS goals, including:
HUD encourages FSS program coordinators to be flexible and understanding of participants’ changing needs, a best practice used by these FSS practitioners who stress the importance of flexibility in ITSP goal setting.
FSS participants are eligible to graduate from the program and receive the full amount that has accrued in the escrow account when one of these two situations occurs:
The following tips may be useful to consider when working with participants approaching FSS program graduation:
When a family’s participation in the FSS program ends before completion criteria have been met, the participant loses accrued escrow funds. FSS programs may end a family’s participation for several reasons, including:
Policies for termination from the FSS program must be included in the FSS Action Plan, and must include grievance procedures if a family disagrees with the decision to terminate the contract.
As of December 29, 2014, HUD no longer permits housing assistance to be terminated or withheld as a consequence of failing to complete the Contract of Participation. (PIH Notice on Waivers and Alternative Requirements for the Family Self-Sufficiency Program). Note that the current form for the Contract of Participation (HUD-52650) has not yet been updated to reflect this change, and provision (3) under the heading “Corrective Actions for Failure to meet Family Responsibilities” on this form, stating that assistance can be terminated for families participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program, is no longer valid. Program coordinators should disregard or strike this line in the form.
It is not unusual for families to exit the FSS program without graduating. FSS programs can determine whether to permit these families to re-enroll based on a number of factors, including:
Some FSS programs also allow FSS graduates to re-enroll. Policies on re-enrollment for FSS graduates or previous participants should be reflected in the PHA's or owner's Action Plan.
This video explains that FSS re-enrollment is a local policy decision.
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