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Issue Alert - 02-04-04

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Date:

Apr 10, 2002

Issue Summary:

Family Independence Agency (FIA) Issues Final Policies on New Work and Work First Sanctions, 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 Family Independence Agency (FIA) has issued policies effective April 1, 2002 which implement changes in state law regarding the disqualification penalties that are applied when a parent fails to comply with work- or Work First-related activities. Under the new policies, any instance of non-compliance with work- or Work First-related requirements without good cause is punished by a full-family disqualification from the Family Independence Program (FIP) for a minimum of one month. What is “Noncompliance”?Non-deferred families applying for or receiving FIP will be punished for any of the following, unless they have good cause:- Failing or refusing to complete Orientation as required - Failing to appear for scheduled appointments with the Michigan Works Agency (MWA) or Work First contractor- Failing or refusing to participate in activities assigned by the MWA or Work First contractor- Failure to accept a job referral made by the MWA or Work First- Failure or refusal to complete a job application as required by the MWA or Work First- Failure or refusal to appear for a job interview as required by the MWA or Work First - Stating (orally or in writing) an intent not to comply with Work First requirements- Threatening, physically abusing, or behaving disruptively toward anyone conducting or participating in an employment-related activity- Refusing employment support services, thereby preventing participation in an employment-related activity- Refusing suitable employment (bona fide job offer of up to 40 hours per week of work)- Voluntarily reducing hours of work or earnings- Quitting a job (except to accept another job or engage in approved education)- Being fired for misconduct or absenteeismWhat happens when a person is non-compliant?When FIA determines that there is noncompliance (usually based on a report from the Work First contractor), the FIA caseworker will send the FIP recipient a Notice of Employment-related Noncompliance stating what the recipient has done that is considered non-compliance, advising the recipient to contact the worker to explain good cause reasons for the non-compliance, and scheduling a home call. The FIA caseworker must try to meet with the recipient at his or her home in order to identify any possible reasons for deferral and any good cause reasons for non-compliance, and to identify and help resolve any barriers to compliance. If the home call is attempted and not completed, the caseworker must document the reason and must attempt a telephone contact with the recipient. At the home call visit (or telephone contact) the caseworker also must explain the recipient’s right to re-apply for assistance if the case is closed for noncompliance, the right to begin a “willingness to comply” test, and the right to have assistance reinstated without a new application if the “willingness to comply” test is begin during the initial one month disqualification period and is completed. Under FIA policy, caseworkers also are responsible for ensuring that the recipient understand the penalty that will be applied as well as reasons for deferral and good cause reasons.What happens if FIA does not find good cause for noncompliance?-Case Closure- If the caseworker does not find that the recipient should have been deferred or otherwise has good cause for noncompliance, FIA will send a notice of case closure to the family. The family will have 10 days to request a hearing on the decision and to have benefits continued during the appeal. A hearing may be requested up to 90 days after the notice is sent, but benefits do not continue if the hearing request is received by FIA more than 10 days after the notice is sent. If a hearing is not requested during the 10 day appeal period, the FIP case will close and the family will not receive FIP for at least one month. -Willingness to Comply Test-Once the FIP case is closed for noncompliance, the family will not begin receiving FIP again unless the non-compliant person becomes deferred or completes a willingness to comply test. A willingness comply test consists of 40 hours of “FIA or Work First self-sufficiency activities” for up to 40 hours within 10 working days. These activities may include Orientation, a mandatory three-way conference with FIA and Work First (when the recipient has been re-referred to Work First the number of times that the local Work First agency has decided will trigger a 3-way conference), and classes or activiites that FIA provides through Family Support Services. FIA also may refer the recipient to Work First for Work First for activities to complete the willing ness to comply test.-Reinstatement or Reapplication-If the recipient begins the willingness to comply test within the initial one month disqualification period and completes it in the 10 working days, the families FIP must be reinstated without a new application. Otherwise, the family will have to re-apply for FIP. Note, however, that FIA policy says the standard of promptness for reinstatement is “within two months following the month of closure” whereas the standard of promptness for processing an application is 45 days. See PAM Items 115 and 205. Therefore, it is possible that the family would receive benefits sooner if the reapply, although in most cases this will not be true.Good cause and deferrals under the new policyIssue alert 02-04-03 explains changes in deferrals for parents of children with disabilities. No other changes have been made in the deferral policies at this time. Policies on good cause have not been changed. See Issue Alert 02-04-01 for a complete list of good cause reasons. FIA policy on deferrals and good cause are in PEM Items 230A and 233A.What Should Individuals Affected by the New Rules Do?- Do not ignore notices from Work First or FIA- Tell both your FIA caseworker and Work First if you have problems that prevent you from complying with work or Work First requirements. Keep track of who you talkk to and the dates of your conversations.- Get legal help right away if you are denied a deferral when you think you should be exempt from Work First or if you are threatened with a work-related penalty and you think you have good cause. (See “Finding Legal Help” in the box below.)- Request a hearing within 10 days to keep your benefits during the appeal, if you receive notice that your FIP case is closing as a penalty and you think you have been complying, or you should be deferred, or you have good cause.

What Should Advocates Do?

- Monitor implementation of the new work-related sanction 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. - Help educate parents on FIP about the new sanction policies, reasons for deferrals, and good cause reasons- 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 family is sanctioned or threatened with a sanction

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