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Issue Alert - 08-10-12

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Date:

Oct 12, 2008

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

Parents and kinship caregivers may be disqualified from receiving FIP for one month if they fail to report that a child in their care has been or is expected to be absent for 30 days or more, within 5 days after it becomes clear that the absence will exceed 29 days

Persons Affected:

FIP recipients

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

Federal law provides that Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funding (which is used in Michigan to pay for Family Independence Program (FIP) cash assistance) cannot be used to provide assistance to a child who has been absent from the home for 45 days or more, or for a state-specified period of 30 to 180 days.  42 USC 608(a)(10)(A).  Michigan has set the period at 30 days and created some exceptions to the general rule, as allowed by federal law. Department of Human Services Program Eligibility Manual (PEM) 210 p. 2.

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

Federal law also provides that TANF cannot be used to provide assistance to a parent or other caretaker relative who fails to report that a child receiving assistance has been or will be absent for the specified period, within 5 days after it is clear to the parent or caretaker relative that the child will be absent for that period of time.  42 USC 608(a)(10)(C). 

What's Happening?

Effective October 1, 2008, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has implemented the federal law by stating in PEM 210 p. 8-9.  The new policy states

“A caretaker must notify the Department of a child’s absence from the home within five days of the date it becomes clear to the caretaker that the child will be absent for at least 30 days. If the child’s absence reason and/or duration do not meet the criteria to be considered still living in the home, the caretaker who fails to notify the Department within five days is disqualified for one month.”

 

REMAINING QUESTIONS:

When Does the Disqualification Occur?

The policy does not specify in which month the disqualification will apply.  (For example, it could be applied in the month in which the person should have reported, the month after the absence should have been reported, the month after the failure to report timely is discovered by DHS, etc.)

How do parents and caretaker relatives find out they are required to report?

The Information Booklet that accompanies the DHS Assistance Application tells individuals that they must report changes within 10 days, including when a person moves in or out of their home.   It is not clear how an individual will know about that 5 day reporting requirement for children who are expected to be absent form 30 days or more. 

CCJ has requested answers to these questions and will update this issue alert when additional information is available.


What Should Advocates Do?

Educate clients about the 5 day reporting requirement.

Challenge disqualifications that are applied to parents or other caretaker relatives who were never informed about the 5 days requirement. 

What Should Clients Do?

Report to DHS if a child in your home is, or is expected to be, absent from your home for 30 days or more.

Seek legal advice immediately if you receive notice that

o          you are being disqualified from receiving FIP or

o          you have been overpaid FIP.

 Request a hearing within 90 days if you believe a decision to reduce or 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 be reduced or 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.