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Issue Alert - 03-05-01

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Date:

May 01, 2003

Issue Summary:

Additional energy-assistance funds available to local Family Independence Agency (FIA) offices.

Persons Affected:

Individuals who need emergency help to pay for utilities, but who have already received their fiscal year limit of help from State Emergency Relief (SER).


Background

State Emergency Relief (SER)

What's Happening?

The Family Independence Agency has sent an "L" letter (L-03-067)to local offices clarifying the availability of emergency funds. Additional exception funds are available to local offices, which means local offices are more able to help individuals who have already received their fiscal year cap of SER help.SER Exception fundsLocal offices may use these funds to provide SER to individuals who have already received their fiscal year limit of SER help to pay for utility shut-offs (also called “overcap exceptions”). See Issue Alert 02-09-09 for more background information on overcap exceptions. FIA has already issued local offices their standard allocations of exception funds for this fiscal year, but FIA now has additional, unallocated funding available for local office exceptions. Local offices have been informed that they may spend more than their fiscal year 2003 allocation of exception funds and will be notified if there is a new limitation on local office expenditures. Low-Income Energy Efficiency Funding (LIEEF)Michigan also has additional LIEEF to help families pay their utility bills. FIA can use these funds until the end of June 2003. These funds are allocated through the standard SER program, with all related requirements and limitations.Emergency Services (ES)Local offices can use ES funds to meet local needs that the SER program does not cover. FIA states that “homeless prevention and transition services are the first priority for using ES funds.” Because the SER program has so many requirements – including housing affordability and required payments – ES funds may be able to help families who are at risk of losing their home when SER would not otherwise be able to help.

What Should Advocates Do?

This clarification letter was sent out to local offices on May 1, 2003. Advocates working with clients who have recently been denied overcap exceptions through SER, or who have not applied for SER because they have already reached their fiscal year cap, should advise their clients to reapply for SER (for an overcap exception) or appeal the denial. Local offices have guidelines regarding the allocation of exception payments. Advocates should request a copy of those guidelines from their local office and assist clients in applying for an exception payment or appealing a denial. When talking with caseworkers, advocates may want to remind caseworkers of the availability of ES funds when advocating for clients who do not meet the requirements for standard SER assistance, but who need assistance to prevent homelessness or to maintain employment. A copy of the L letter is available from CCJ and in the Public Benefits Reference materials on the MPLP web site (http://www.mplp.org/PublicBenefits_areas.shtm).

What Should Clients Do?

Clients who have recently been denied SER assistance because they have already reached their fiscal year cap should apply for an overcap exception at their local FIA office. Since local offices were just alerted that they may spend more than their allotment of exception funds, you may be granted an overcap exception even if you were recently denied.

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 LawHelp website (http://www.MI.LawHelp.org) or look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738