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Issue Alert - 08-10-10

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Date:

Oct 15, 2008

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

Policy on avoiding disqualification penalties for first noncompliance with work- or self-sufficiency-related activities has been clarified effective October 2008

Persons Affected:

FIP recipients who dispute the Department of Human Services (DHS) decision that they have been noncompliant without good cause

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 (734) 998-9125 Fax


Background

Under the Social Welfare Act, MCLA 57g(14), FIP recipients will not be disqualified from receiving FIP (and, for some clients, FAP) if they cure their first instance of noncompliance (after March 31, 2007) without good cause, by (1) meeting with their DHS and Jobs Education and Training (JET) caseworkers to discuss the noncompliance and (2) verifying that they have come into compliance with their assigned activities within 10 business days of the meeting.  

If an individual uses the opportunity to cure a first instance of noncompliance, the noncompliance remains on the individual’s record and counts in the future if DHS is determining the length of the disqualification from FIP.   Thus, although the individual is not subject to a penalty for a first instance that is “cured” or “excused”, it may adversely affect them at a later time.  When a family reaches their third instance of noncompliance, the disqualification increases from 3 to 12 months.  DHS policy requires the individual to sign an agreement (DHS 754) that explains the compliance requirements and the fact that the first instance will count even if the penalty is excused.    DHS Program Eligibility Manual (PEM) 233A, p. 10-11.

NOTE:  For purposes of determining the length of an individual’s disqualification from the Food Assistance Program (FAP), an instance of noncompliance is counted only if the noncompliant individual is subject to a FIP penalty (and does not have good cause or meet deferral criteria under the FAP good cause and deferral criteria).  PEM 233B p. 2.

The DHS PEM is available online at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/pem/pem.pdf.

 

What's Happening?

Beginning October 1, 2008, DHS has clarified the process that should be followed for a first instance of noncompliance when an individual does not agree with the DHS decision that he or she has been noncompliant without good cause.   The DHS caseworker must help the individual submit a hearing request.  The DHS caseworker also must explain to the individual that s/he will have an opportunity to sign an agreement to come into compliance to “cure” the noncompliance if s/he loses at the hearing. 

If the individual loses at the hearing, DHS will send a new negative action notice and a new letter setting a triage meeting to discuss the noncompliance, at which the individual may agree to comply in order to avoid the 3-month penalty.  This is stated clearly in Program Policy Bulletin (PPB) 2008-013 p. 6; it is somewhat less clear in PEM 233A p. 11.

What Should Advocates Do?

Ensure the new policy is applied correctly.  

Educate clients about the importance of attending the triage meeting, claiming and verifying good cause, pursuing their hearing rights if DHS does not find good cause, and using the opportunity to “cure” if they do not have good cause or lose their hearing.

What Should Clients Do?

Seek legal advice immediately if you are denied or terminated from FIP.   

Do not sign the agreement to come into compliance in order to cure a first instance of noncompliance if you disagree with the decision that you were noncompliant without good cause.

Request a hearing within 90 days if you believe the decision to terminate your FIP  is incorrect.  Assistance will continue at current levels if DHS receives your original, signed hearing request BEFORE the date the FIP is supposed to terminate (usually 12 days after the date DHS issues the termination notice).

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.