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Issue Alert - 07-05-01

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Date:

May 22, 2007

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has issued policy effective May 1, 2007 which requires a "mini-screening" of all Family Independence Program (FIP) applicants at the time of their application interview and allows DHS to assign FIP applicants to the Work First or Jobs Education Training (JET) program before their FIP case is opened

Persons Affected:

FIP applicants

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 (989) 755-3120, (800)724-7441 Fax: (989) 755-3558 E-mail: info@ccj-mi.org

Michigan Poverty Law Program 611 Church Street, Suite 4A Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3000 (734) 998-6100, Fax:(734) 998-9125


Background

Recent rhetoric regarding welfare reform in Michigan has emphasized a commitment to thoroughly assessing barriers to participation in work or work-related activity, and to the removal of barriers before individuals are referred to Work First (WF) or Jobs Education Training (JET) programs.  However, the Department of Human Services has become alarmed by the growing FIP caseload in Michigan, which they attribute in large part to the policy of not assigning individuals to WF/JET until their FIP case is opened.

On May 18, 2007, Governor Granholm signed the 2007 Public Act 9, which amends MCLA 400.57d(1) to provide: 

"After the department makes an initial determination that an adult or a child aged 16 or older who is not attending elementary or secondary school full-time may be eligible for Family Independence Assistance and is not exempt from Work First participation under section 57f, that individual shall participate in assigned work-related activities."

 

What's Happening?

In anticipation of the statutory change, DHS issued Interim Program Policy Bulletin (PPB) 2007-008, effective May 1, 2007.  DHS bulletins and policy manuals are available online at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/html/ or by using the quick link at the Michigan Poverty Law Program (MPLP) website, http://mplp.org/.  For the bulletin, click on “Bulletin Log” under the Financial Assistance heading.   PEM will not be updated to reflect the changes until July 2007.

DHS 619 JOBS AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY SURVEY
Under the new policy, DHS will give clients a new screening form, the Jobs and Family Self Sufficiency Survey (DHS 619), when they receive an application (DHS 1171).  This form has been in use in JET counties, but it is new to non-JET counties.

However, there is no minimum disqualification period.  The client can re-apply immediately, but remember that payment cannot begin until the pay period in which the application is 30 days old (see Issue Alert 07-04-03).

 The Interim PPB specifically directs caseworkers not to sanction FAP based on the denial of FIP.  It fails to specifically direct caseworkers not to deny Medicaid on account of the FIP denial.   However, PEM 239 clearly states that employment-related disqualifications from Medicaid apply only to FIP RECIPIENTS who have an employment-related sanction (see also Issue Alert 07-04-09).

 APPLICATION OF THE POLICY
The Interim PPB states that it applies only to applications filed May 2 or later.   Note, however, that the Social Welfare Act was not amended until May 18, 2007. 

 

What Should Advocates Do?

    1. Make clients applying for FIP aware that they should assert any grounds for deferral at their initial interview with DHS.
    2. Make clients applying for FIP aware that they may be denied FIP based on noncompliance with employment and training assignments while their application is pending.
    3. Help clients with disabilities (or children with disabilities) request accommodations (special help, changes in program rules) they need to overcome disability-based barriers to participation in WF/JET.
    4. Help clients file complaints with DHS and request hearings if their disability-related needs are not accommodated.
    5. If you are working with a client whose application for FIP is denied based on noncompliance that occurred prior to May 18, 2007, consider whether there is a legal challenge to the denial. 
    6. Make sure clients understand the importance of reapplying immediately if they are denied FIP, because they cannot be paid for any pay period before the application becomes 30 days old.
    7. Contact the Center for Civil Justice if you are working with clients who are having problems with employment or self-sufficiency related requirements.  CCJ is interested in monitoring problems and assisting advocates with these cases.

    What Should Clients Do?

    1. Disclose and verify barriers that may interfere with compliance with employment or self-sufficiency related requirements.  Barriers may include medical, learning, thinking, emotional, or other problems; domestic violence; transportation problems; children’s problems at school; legal problems; problems finding child care, etc.
    2. Ask DHS and the WF/JET providers to change the rules or provide special help if you or a family member have disability-related limitations that prevent them from obtaining equal benefit from the FIP or WF/JET program without the modification or help.
    3. Seek legal help if you receive notices you do not understand, notice that accuse them of noncompliance, or notices that your FIP application has been denied or will be terminated due to  noncompliance.
    4. Request a hearing if your FIP application is denied based on failure to comply with WF/JET and you were not given the accommodations or the support services (child care assistance, transportation assistance, etc.) you needed to comply.
    Re-apply for FIP right away if your application is denied based on noncompliance with WF/JET.

    Finding Help

    Most legal aid and legal services offices handle these types of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate various sources of legal and related services, including the free legal aid office that serves your county, at MichiganLegalAid.org. You can also look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.