§9-9-11. Breach of contract; notice; sanctions.

(a) The department may terminate cash assistance benefits to an at-risk family if it finds any of the following:

(1) Fraud or deception by the beneficiary in applying for or receiving program benefits;

(2) A substantial breach by the beneficiary of the requirements and obligations set forth in the personal responsibility contract and any amendments or addenda to the contract; or

(3) A violation by the beneficiary of any provision of the personal responsibility contract or any amendments or addenda to the contract, this article, or any rule or policy promulgated by the secretary pursuant to this article.

(b) In the event the department determines that benefits received by the beneficiary are subject to reduction or termination, written notice of the reduction or termination and the reason for the reduction or termination shall be deposited in the United States mail, postage prepaid and addressed to the beneficiary at his or her last-known address at least thirteen days prior to the termination or reduction. The notice shall state the action being taken by the department and grant to the beneficiary a reasonable opportunity to be heard at a fair and impartial hearing before the department in accordance with administrative procedures established by the department and due process of law.

(c) In any hearing conducted pursuant to the provisions of this section, the beneficiary has the burden of proving that his or her benefits were improperly reduced or terminated and shall bear his or her own costs, including attorneys' fees.

(d) The secretary shall promulgate emergency rules and propose for legislative promulgation legislative rules, pursuant to article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, setting forth the schedule of sanctions to be imposed when a beneficiary has violated any provision of this article, of his or her personal responsibility contract or any amendment or addendum to the contract, or any applicable department rule. In developing these rules, the secretary is directed to make those sanctions graduated and sufficiently stringent, when compared to those of contiguous states, so as to discourage persons from moving from such states to this state to take advantage of lesser sanctions being imposed for the same or similar violations by the secretary. The secretary shall also promulgate legislative rules setting forth what constitutes de minimis violations and those violations subject to sanctions and maximum penalties.

(e) The department shall provide an annual report regarding the sanctions relating to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program , including their relative stringency when compared to those of contiguous states, frequency of imposition and the overall success of those sanctions at deterring individuals from taking advantage of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program and accomplishing the overall purposes of the program, to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability on January 1 of each year. Copies of that report shall also be furnished to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House.