(A) The treasury offset program (TOP) allows the offset of eligible federal payments as a means of collecting delinquent food assistance program claims. Eligible federal payments include federal income tax refunds; federal salary income, including military pay; federal retirement income, including military retirement income; contractor/vendor payments; certain federal benefit payments, such as social security, railroad retirement (other than tier 2), and black lung (part B) benefits; and other federal payments, including certain loans that are not exempt from offset. The Ohio department of job and family services (ODJFS) certifies to the United States department of the treasury (treasury) a list of applicable debtors. The treasury then offsets the certified debts against applicable amounts payable to the debtors, and notifies the debtors and ODJFS of offsets which have been made.
(B) Claims referred to the TOP shall be past-due and legally enforceable. A claim is past-due when the county agency is receiving neither regular voluntary payments nor regular involuntary payments. A claim on which payment has not been received for one hundred twenty days and the debtor has not responded to notice of default is subject to referral to the TOP. A claim is not considered past-due if a state hearing decision on the issue of the claim is pending; if the thirty days allowed for the assistance group's response to a JFS 07442 "Food Assistance Repayment Agreement" (rev. 11/2008) or its CRIS-E equivalent, have not yet expired; or if the assistance group is making payments pursuant to an agreed-upon schedule of payments. In order for a claim to be legally enforceable, the case record must contain verification that the assistance group has been notified of hearing rights concerning the claim. There are five additional criteria for claims to be referred to the TOP:
(1) Only properly established claims may be submitted. The county agency shall have documentation showing that the claim was properly established.
(2) The claim balance is twenty-five dollars or more.
(3) The claim has not been discharged in bankruptcy, nor is there a bankruptcy stay in effect.
(4) The entire balance due for each individual claim shall be submitted separately. Each claim submitted shall have at least one liable adult referred for offset.
(5) Claims may not be submitted for offset unless debtors have been provided notice of this intended action and of the right to a review.
(C) Before certifying the debt to the TOP, an automated notice of intent shall be mailed to the debtor. The notice shall inform the debtor that agency records document that the debtor is liable for a specified unpaid food assistance claim balance, that the debtor had previously been notified about the claim, and that prior collection efforts have been made. The notice shall also state that the claim is past-due and legally enforceable, and that the county agency will refer the claim to the TOP unless the debtor pays the claim within sixty days of the date of the notice or makes other acceptable repayment arrangements. The notice shall include instructions about how to pay the claim and how to contact someone at the county agency to discuss the claim and the intended offset. The notice shall also advise the debtor to contact the county agency if the debtor believes that a bankruptcy proceeding prevents collection of the claim or if the claim has been discharged in bankruptcy; and that a married debtor may contact the internal revenue service before filing a joint income tax return, regarding protecting the share of the income tax refund which may be payable to a spouse who is not a delinquent debtor to the United States government.
The following information about requesting a formal review is included on the notice.
(1) The debtor is entitled to request a formal review concerning the intent to refer the debt for offset.
(2) The county agency will not conduct a formal review which is requested later than sixty days after the date of the notice.
(3) A claim for which a formal review has been requested will not be referred for offset while under review.
(4) A request for a formal review shall include evidence or documentation of the reason the debtor believes that the claim is not past-due or is not legally enforceable. A request for formal review is not considered received until such documentation is received.
(5) A request for formal review shall contain the debtor's social security number.
(6) If someone other than the debtor makes a written request for review on behalf of the debtor, it shall include a statement, signed by the debtor, authorizing the person to represent the debtor.
(D) Each county agency shall have nationwide toll-free telephone service available to TOP debtors during the agency's regular business hours. The toll-free telephone number and a mailing address for the applicable county agency shall be printed on all TOP notices to debtors.
When a debtor who has received a sixty-day notice of intent to offset contacts the applicable county agency, the agency shall verify the debtor's identifying information, access the claim case information, and discuss the case with the debtor. If the debtor wishes to make arrangement for repayment, the debtor shall be informed of repayment arrangements acceptable to prevent offset.
When the debtor contacts the county agency in writing, the county agency shall determine whether the debtor is requesting a review, and, if so, whether the request is for formal review or informal review. A request for formal review shall include evidence or documentation of the reason the debtor believes that the claim is not past-due or not legally enforceable. The county agency shall respond to all requests for review.
(E) If the notified debtor makes acceptable repayment arrangements, the claim shall not be referred for offset. For purposes of the TOP, acceptable repayment arrangements are as follows:
(1) If the applicable claim(s) balance is five hundred dollars or less, the balance shall be paid in full within sixty days of the mailing date of the sixty-day notice.
(2) If the applicable claim(s) balance is more than five hundred dollars, payment totaling five hundred dollars and written agreement to repay the balance shall be received by the county agency within sixty days of the mailing date of the sixty-day notice.
(F) Any repayment which the county agency receives in response to a debtor's receipt of a sixty-day TOP notice of intent to refer a claim for offset shall be credited to the claim which is proposed to be referred for offset. The county agency shall enter the repayment information into CRIS-E on the day that the repayment is received.
(G) The county agency shall issue a written decision within fifteen days of receipt of a debtor's request for formal review. The decision shall notify the debtor whether the claim is determined to be past due and legally enforceable.
(H) The county agency shall determine that the claim is past-due and is legally enforceable unless the individual documents that:
(1) The claim is not past-due or is not legally enforceable because it was already paid;
(2) The individual is not liable for the claim;
(3) A bankruptcy action prohibits collection of the claim because the debtor has filed for bankruptcy or the claim was discharged by the bankruptcy proceeding; or
(4) There is another documented reason that the claim is not past-due or is not legally enforceable.
(I) If the county agency determines that the claim is past-due and legally enforceable, the county agency shall notify the debtor in writing of the continued intent to refer the claim for offset. The debtor shall also be notified that the debtor is entitled to have a United States department of agriculture (USDA) food and nutrition service (FNS) review of the decision and provided instructions and time limits for requesting the FNS review. The request for an FNS review must be received by the USDA FNS midwest regional office within thirty days from the date of the state's decision letter.
(J) If the county agency determines that the claim is not past-due or is not legally enforceable, the county agency shall notify the debtor in writing that the claim will not be referred for offset, and may take any action necessary to establish and/or recover the claim or other action as may be required.
(K) ODJFS shall not refer for offset any claim for which a formal review has been requested if:
(1) The county agency determines that the claim is not past-due or is not legally enforceable;
(2) The county agency does not complete a requested formal review and notify the debtor of the results of that review at least thirty days prior to the deadline for certification of the offset file; or
(3) FNS notifies ODJFS that it has determined that a claim reviewed by FNS is not past-due or is not legally enforceable, or FNS notifies ODJFS that FNS has not completed its review of the claim.
(L) FNS notifies ODJFS and the debtor of its decision concerning any debtor's request for FNS review of a county agency review decision. If the FNS review decision is that the county agency correctly determined that the claim is past-due and legally enforceable, FNS notifies the debtor that any further appeal must be made through the courts. If the FNS review decision is that the county agency incorrectly determined that the claim is past-due and legally enforceable, FNS also notifies ODJFS about any corrective action which must be taken with respect to the claim. ODJFS will then notify the applicable county agency.
(M) When the county agency receives a written request for review, and the request is not accompanied by documentation of the reason the debtor believes that the claim is not past-due or is not legally enforceable, the county agency shall conduct an informal review addressing whether the claim is past due and legally enforceable and shall issue a written review decision to the debtor.
(N) Following the selection of a claim for potential referral, and continuing throughout the notification and offset processes, CRIS-E generates reports to each county agency and to treasury concerning cancellations and changes. After the final certification of a referral, ODJFS sends weekly update information to treasury. Changes entered into CRIS-E, such as payments received, repayment arrangements made, decreases in claim balances, reopening of food assistance program cases, and bankruptcy filings, automatically update referral data already sent to treasury.
(O) When county agency or ODJFS staff become aware that a claim referred or to be referred for offset does not meet all criteria for referral, ODJFS shall cancel the referral. If the reason for cancellation of the referral is not recognizable to CRIS-E, the county agency shall inform ODJFS of the inappropriate referral. The county agency shall submit the JFS 07430, "Offset Programs Referral Cancellation / Refund Request" (rev. 01/2004). The county agency shall submit the JFS 07430 by fax or email to ODJFS within one workday after the date of the determination that the referral shall be canceled. ODJFS shall update the referral file within one workday after the date of receipt of the JFS 07430.
(P) When an offset occurs, ODJFS shall credit the applicable claim(s) and update CRIS-E accordingly.
(Q) Promptly upon receiving notice of an offset, ODJFS shall refund to an individual any over-collection which results from the offset.
(R) ODJFS and the county agency shall safeguard internal revenue service (IRS) information from unauthorized access and use. For the purpose of the TOP, IRS information includes printed reports and on-line CRIS-E information provided to authorized personnel. This information shall be used only as needed for the administration of the TOP and collection of food assistance debt, and shall be protected from overt and inadvertent disclosure.
R.C. 119.032 review dates: 04/01/2014
Promulgated Under: 111.15
Statutory Authority: 111.15, 5101.54
Rule Amplifies: 329.04, 329.042, 5101.54
Prior Effective Dates: 8/1/1995, 7/1/96, 9/13/96, 9/1/98 (Emer), 11/1/98, 1/01/04, 4/01/09