U.S. Code of Federal Regulations

Regulations most recently checked for updates: Mar 22, 2023

§ 205.50 - Safeguarding information for the financial assistance programs.

(a) State plan requirements. A State plan for financial assistance under title IV-A of the Social Security Act, must provide that:

(1) Pursuant to State statute which imposes legal sanctions:

(i) The use or disclosure of information concerning applicants and recipients will be limited to purposes directly connected with:

(A) The administration of the plan of the State approved under title IV-A, the plan or program of the State under title IV-B, IV-D, IV-E, or IV-F or under title I, X, XIV, XVI (AABD), XIX, XX, or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program established by title XVI. Such purposes include establishing eligibility, determining the amount of assistance, and providing services for applicants and recipients.

(B) Any investigation, prosecution, or criminal or civil proceeding conducted in connection with the administration of any such plans or programs.

(C) The administration of any other Federal or federally assisted program which provides assistance, in cash or in kind, or services, directly to individuals on the basis of need.

(D) The verification to the Employment Security Agency, or other certifying agency that an individual has been an AFDC recipient for at least 90 days or is a WIN or WIN Demonstration participant pursuant to Pub. L. 97-34, the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981.

(E) Any audit or similar activity, e.g., review of expenditure reports or financial review, conducted in connection with the administration of any such plan or program by any governmental entity which is authorized by law to conduct such audit or activity.

(F) The administration of a State unemployment compensation program.

(G) The reporting to the appropriate agency or official of information on known or suspected instances of physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or exploitation, or negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child receiving aid under circumstances which indicate that the child's health or welfare is threatened.

(ii) The State agency has authority to implement and enforce the provisions for safeguarding information about applicants and recipients:

(iii) Disclosure of any information that identifies by name or address any applicant or recipient to any Federal, State, or local committee or legislative body other than in connection with any activity under paragraph (a)(1)(i)(E) of this section is prohibited.

(iv) Publication of lists or names of applicants and recipients will be prohibited. Exception. In respect to a State plan for financial assistance under title I, IVA, X, XIV, or XVI (AABD) of the Social Security Act, an exception to this restriction may be made by reason of the enactment or enforcement of State legislation, prescribing any conditions under which public access may be had to records of the disbursement of funds or payments under such titles within the State, if such legislation prohibits the use of any list or names obtained through such access to such records for commercial or political purposes.

(v) The State or local agency responsible for the administration of the State plan has authority to disclose the current address of a recipient to a State or local law enforcement officer at his or her request. Such information is disclosed only to law enforcement officers who provide the name and Social Security number of the recipient and satisfactorily demonstrate that:

(A) The recipient is a fugitive felon (as defined by the State);

(B) The location or apprehension of such felon is within the law officer's official duties; and

(C) The request is made in the proper exercise of those duties.

(2) The agency will have clearly defined criteria which govern the types of information that are safeguarded and the conditions under which such information may be released or used. Under this requirement:

(i) Types of information to be safeguarded include but are not limited to:

(A) The names and addresses of applicants and recipients and amounts of assistance provided (unless excepted under paragraph (a)(1)(iv) of this section);

(B) Information related to the social and economic conditions or circumstances of a particular individual including information obtained from any agency pursuant to § 205.55; information obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) must be safeguarded in accordance with procedures set forth by those agencies;

(C) Agency evaluation of information about a particular individual;

(D) Medical data, including diagnosis and past history of disease or disability, concerning a particular individual.

(ii) The release or use of information concerning individuals applying for or receiving financial assistance is restricted to persons or agency representatives who are subject to standards of confidentiality which are comparable to those of the agency administering the financial assistance programs.

(iii) Except in the case of information requested pursuant to §§ 205.55 and 205.56, or in the case of an emergency situation when the individual's prior consent for the release of information cannot be obtained, the family or individual is informed whenever possible of a request for information from an outside source, and permission is obtained to meet the request. In an emergency situation when the individual's consent for the release of information cannot be obtained, the individual will be notified immediately.

(iv) In the event of the issuance of a subpoena for the case record or for any agency representative to testify concerning an applicant or recipient, the court's attention is called, through proper channels to the statutory provisions and the policies or rules and regulations against disclosure of information.

(v) The same policies are applied to requests for information from a governmental authority, the courts, or a law enforcement officer (except as provided for under paragraph (a)(1)(v) with respect to fugitive felons) as from any other outside source.

(3)(i) The agency will publicize provisions governing the confidential nature of information about applicants and recipients, including the legal sanctions imposed for improper disclosure and use, and will make these provisions available to applicants and recipients and to other persons and agencies to whom information is disclosed.

(ii) All information obtained pursuant to the income and eligibility verification requirements at §§ 205.55 and 205.56 will be stored and processed so that no unauthorized personnel can acquire or retrieve the information by any means.

(iii) All persons with access to information obtained pursuant to the income and eligibility verification requirements under §§ 205.55 and 205.56 will be advised of the circumstances under which access is permitted and the sanctions imposed for illegal use or disclosure of the information.

(4) All materials sent or distributed to applicants, recipients, or medical vendors, including material enclosed in envelopes containing checks, will be limited to those which are directly related to the administration of the program and will not have political implications except to the extent required to implement the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), Pub. L. 103-31. Under this requirement:

(i) Specifically excluded from mailing or distribution are materials such as “holiday” greetings, general public announcements, alien registration notices, and partisan voting information.

(ii) Not prohibited from such mailing or distribution are materials in the immediate interest of the health and welfare of applicants and recipients, such as announcements of free medical examinations, availability of surplus food, and consumer protection information;

(iii) Only the names of persons directly connected with the administration of the program are contained in material sent or distributed to applicants, recipients, and vendors, and such persons are identified only in their official capacity with the State or local agency.

(iv) Under NVRA, the agency must distribute voter information and registration materials as specified in NVRA.

(b) Voluntary voter registration activities. For States that are exempt from the requirements of NVRA, voter registration may be a voluntary activity so long as the provisions of section 7(a)(5) of NVRA are observed.

(c) State plan requirements for programs of financial assistance in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. A State plan under title I, X, XIV, or XVI (AABD) of the Social Security Act must meet all the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section, with the exception of paragraphs (a)(1)(i) (D) and (E), of this section, and also provide for disclosure of information concerning applicants and recipients for use by public officials who require such information in connection with their official duties. Under this requirement, such information shall be available only to public officials who certify in writing that:

(1) They are public officials as defined by State or Federal law of general applicability; and

(2) The information to be disclosed and used is required in connection with their official duties.

[45 FR 56684, Aug. 25, 1980, as amended at 47 FR 46506, Oct. 19, 1982; 49 FR 35599, Sept. 10, 1984; 51 FR 7214, Feb. 28, 1986; 51 FR 9203, Mar. 18, 1986; 54 FR 42243, Oct. 13, 1989; 57 FR 30157, July 8, 1992; 58 FR 49220, Sept. 22, 1993; 59 FR 26142, May 19, 1994; 61 FR 58143, Nov. 13, 1996]