In my last column, I promised to continue addressing the questions my staff and I are asked most frequently. Many residents of Wayne Township have asked me about the legal requirements I must follow as Trustee.
Legal requirements for all Trustees in Indiana are found in two places. Most importantly, we must make sure to follow all the laws found in the Indiana Code. These laws spell out the duties of the Trustee and the Township Board, as well as containing numerous sections outlining the administration of Township Assistance.
The second place to find legal requirements for our office is in our own Wayne Township Eligibility Standards manual. Indiana Code requires each Township Trustee’s Office to set its own specific standards for the administration of Township Assistance.
These Standards must be reviewed annually and must not violate Indiana law. This sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. Indiana Code establishes an outline Trustees must follow. Within this outline, each Trustee can set specific eligibility standards for assistance which meet the needs of his or her township.
This system is one of the great things about Township Government. The law is flexible enough to take into account the differences among the Townships within the state and even within each county.
Indiana law makes very clear that Trustees “shall” investigate and grant assistance to persons who qualify under the law and the Township Eligibility Standards. The law says Township residents will qualify for assistance when the “personal effort” of the applicant fails to provide one or more basic necessities. Basic necessities are defined as food and household essentials, shelter, medical needs, clothing and utilities.
For example, Indiana law will not allow a Trustee to pay rent (shelter assistance) for a client whose landlord is a relative living in the same home with the client. However, the law allows each Trustee to put in his or her Eligibility Standards the amount of rent that particular office will pay for clients who qualify for rent assistance.
Another example is Indiana law states that a Trustee “shall refuse” to furnish Township Assistance to an applicant, who is able to work, unless the Trustee is satisfied the applicant is “endeavoring to find work.” But, the law does not spell out how a Trustee determines that the applicant is trying to find employment.
In Wayne Township, we have established an Employment Training Center, which includes requiring clients to attend job training programs and giving the clients referrals for job interviews. If a client does not comply with our Employment Training Center, the Trustee can determine that the client is not “endeavoring to find work” and will deny him or her assistance.
Indiana law also requires Trustees to set income guidelines for clients, but does not tell Trustees what these guidelines must be. Wayne Township uses the Federal Poverty guidelines as the basis for our income guidelines.
If you have questions you would like me to address in future columns, please feel free to contact Wayne Township staff member Karen Walker at 449-7000 or e-mail her at email@example.com. She will forward your questions to me.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee