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Issue Alert - 02-04-01

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Date:

Apr 10, 2002

Issue Summary:

Family Independence Agency (FIA) and Department of Career Development (DCD) Issue Final Policies on New “Up To 40 Hour” Participation Requirement, Effective April 1, 2002

Persons Affected:

Persons applying for or receiving FIP cash assistance and who are not deferred from Work First

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 (989) 755-3120, (800)724-7441 Fax: (989) 755-3558E-mail: info@ccj-mi.org


Background

Family Independence Program (FIP)

What's Happening?

The Michigan Family Independence Agency (FIA) and the Department of Career Development (DCD) have issued policies for implementation of the changes to the state law governing the Family Independence Program (FIP) and Work First that were enacted in Senate Bill 817 (SB817), which became effective April 1, 2002. This alert discusses the “up to 40 hour” participation requirement.Prior to April 1, 2002, Michigan required persons who receive FIP cash assistance, who are not deferred to meet federal work activity participation requirements as a condition of receiving cash assistance benefits. Federal law requires single parents of children 6 or older to participate 30 hours per week and single parents of a child under 6 years to participate 20 hours per week. Two parent families must participate 35 or 55 hours per week, depending on whether the family receives a child care subsidy. Federal participation requirements will continue to apply in Michigan; however, effective April 1, 2002, FIA may also require non-deferred FIP recipients to participate in work, Work First activities, education and training, community service or other self-improvement activities for up to 40 hours per week. Note: Implementation in some counties, particularly larger counties, may not be immediate. According to DCD policy, local FIA offices must refer to Work First all non-deferred adult FIP recipients who are not “meeting the state’s newly established work participation requirements” by September 30, 2002. See DCD Policy Issuance 02-05 (attached). Under FIA policy, all FIP recipients who are not deferred will be referred to Work First, no matter how many hours they are working. See PEM Item 230A. Who determines actual participation requirements, FIA or DCD?Under state law, FIA is responsible for setting the types of activities that will be required of the parent, as well as the number of hours a parent must participate in each. FIA should initially assesses a family’s “individual needs and abilities” and determine what level and type of participation is appropriate. For example, an FIA caseworker could determine that because a family is receiving preventive services, a 40-hour work requirement is not appropriate, but rather that only 20 hours of work/Work First would be required, allowing the parent time to participate in preventive services, such as family counseling. In this example, when the caseworker referred the parent to Work First she would indicate on the referral that this particular individual had a 20-hour per week Work First participation requirement. If the caseworker decided to require the parent to participate in additional, non-work/Work First activities, such as family counseling, the amount and type of those activities, if any, would be written into the parent’s Personal Responsibility Plan and Family Contract.Under the FIA policy, however, it does not appear that FIA caseworkers will be permitted to exercise the discretion FIA is given by the state law. The one exception to this rule is parents who caring for a child or spouse with a disability. Final policy, found in PEM Item 230A, states that all individuals referred to Work First “are expected to participate 40 hours per week on average, unless [the caseworker] determine[s] that limited participation is allowed according to this item.” The policy allowing limited participation (i.e. less than 40 hours) applies only to parents who are disabled or have a short term medical condition, or who care for a disabled child or spouse. (See Issue Alert 01-04-03: Family Independence Agency (FIA) Issues Final Policy on Assessment and Deferral Procedures for FIP recipients who have a disability or who care for a family member with a disability.)Despite the significant discretion accorded FIA caseworkers in SB 817, the message communicated to caseworkers and to clients appears to be a strict 40-hour work requirement. What Happens Once FIA Refers a Parent to Work First?Assuming the FIA caseworker has not set a more limited participation requirement, once a parent is referred to Work First, she or he will be required to work or participate in Work First activities for 40 hours per week. The single exception to this rule is enrollment in approved education and training. If a parent is enrolled in approved education and training, her total work/Work First requirement will be 30 hours per week. For example, if a parent enrolls in 10 hours per week of GED preparation classes, she would be required to work an additional 20 hours per week, for a total of 30 hours. Single parents with a child under the age of 6 may have to work additional hours even if they are in approved education, because they previously had to meet only a 20 hour per week participation requirement. Single parents without a child under age 6 will continue to have a 30 hours participation requirement if they are in approved education. The FIA and DCD policies which limit the education and training that may be approved have not changed. See DCD Policy Issuance 01-38 Change 3. FIA hopes that the “up to 40 hour” requirement will further reduce the number of families who receive FIP. Some parents, particularly those with smaller families, will become ineligible for FIP before they actually reach 40 hours per week of work. For example, a single parent with 2 children who lives in Wayne County and who earns $7.50 an hour will become ineligible for FIP once she is working 26.5 hours per week, on average. Larger families will require higher wages and/or more hours before they become ineligible for FIP. What if a Parent Cannot Find a 40-Hour per Week Job?Work First providers report a shortage of full time jobs for FIP recipients. In an economy in which many working parents have had their hours cut from 30-35 hours per week to 10-15 hours per week, it is unlikely that parents will find full time work at a single job. It is not yet clear what, exactly, Michigan Works Agencies and local Work First providers will do when full time work is not available at one job.Despite assurances by state agency personnel that parents would not be required to work multiple jobs, there is no provision in the final policy that protects parents from being forced to look for and accept multiple part-time jobs. The shortage of available full time jobs may also force Work First providers to look more carefully at available education and training options. Unfortunately, the definition of approved education and training programs remains extremely narrow. See DCD Policy Issuance 01-38 Change 3.Do Good Cause Criteria Apply to the New Participation Requirements?YES! Good cause provisions for failure to comply with Work First or employment rules have not changed. Good cause provisions for not complying with work/Work First rules include:- Domestic violence- Employment causes the family a net loss of income- Debilitating illness or injury- Family member’s illness or injury requires participant’s in-home care- Adequate, affordable child care not available within reasonable distance of home or work - Disability – Work First contractor, Michigan Works Agency or employer fails to make reasonable accommodations for the participant’s disability, or for needs relating to the disability of a child or spouse.- Transportation not available at reasonable cost- Unplanned event or factor that prevents or interferes with participation /employment- Commuting time is more than 2 hours a day (or 3 including time to child care)- Employment or participation involves illegal activity- Physically or mentally unable to perform the job- Illegal discrimination- Quit to obtain comparable job- Must move to accommodate another household member’s employment or education/training (food stamps only)- Interferes with approved education/training and the individual is meeting the work requirement.What Should Individuals Affected by the New Rules Do?- Keep a record of what FIA and/or Work First asks you to do. - If you, your child or another family member has a disability or medical condition that requires special consideration, and FIA or Work First has not met those special needs, seek legal help immediately. (See “Finding Legal Help” in the box below.)- If new work rules are affecting your ability to complete education or training, seek legal advice. (See “Finding Legal Help” in the box below.)

What Should Advocates Do?

- Monitor implementation of the new “up to 40 hour” policy in your county or district- Document successes and problems and share these with other advocates.- Communicate successes and concerns to agency policy makers and to legislators, to ensure that local agencies appropriately exercise the discretion given to them. - Because both FIA and DCD policies and practices affect parents receiving FIP cash assistance, advocates should be sure to explore advocacy opportunities that might be available through both local FIA offices and the Michigan Works/Work First system. Between now and the end of September, many local FIA offices, Michigan Works Agencies and Work First contractors will be meeting to determine how to handle implementation of the new rules. To the extent you can influence local implementation of the new rules, you may significantly reduce the burdens placed on families participating in Work First. - Help educate parents on FIP about the 30 hour participation requirement for persons in approved education and training, and the types of education and training that may be approved by Work First- Contact the Center for Civil Justice if you have additional questions, or if:- you are working with a parent with a disability or a parent caring for a child or family member with a disability and the parent is referred to Work First- you are working with a parent whose education and training program has been or will be affected by the new policy, or - you are working with a parent who cannot find full time work at one job.

Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services office handle these type of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate the "free" legal services or legal aid office that serves your county on the Michigan Legal Assistance Network website (http://www.mlan.net/locate.html) or look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738