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Issue Alert - 08-10-14

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Date:

Oct 15, 2008

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

DHS has revised its policy on exemptions from Jobs Education Training (JET) requirements for parents or caretakers who are caring for a spouse or child with disabilities

Persons Affected:

FIP applicants or recipients who cannot successfully participate in the Jobs Education Training (JET) program because they care for a child or spouse with disabilities.

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 section 57f of the Social Welfare Act, MCLA 400.57f(3)(i)(iii) and (iv), applicants for, and recipients of, Family Independence Program  (FIP) cash assistance are exempt from participation in the Jobs Education Training (JET) program if they are “A parent or caretaker of a child [or spouse] who is suffering from a physical or mental impairment that meets federal supplemental security income disability standards, except that no minimum duration is required”. 

Under interim final regulations that were in effect until October 1, 2008, a parent or caretaker relative needed in the home to care for a child with disabilities was considered a “work eligible individual” and counted in the state’s work participation rate if the child was attending school full time.   Beginning October 1, 2008, a parent who is needed in the home to care for a family member with disabilities is NOT a work eligible individual even if the family member is attending school full time. 45 CFR 261.02(n)(2).   

What's Happening?

Exemption from JET

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has revised its policy on exemptions (temporary deferrals) from JET, effective October 1, 2008.  Consistent with the state law described above and the federal regulations on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) that went into effect on October 1, 2008, the policy now exempts parents and caretakers from participation in JET, regardless of the child’s school attendance.  In addition, for some individuals, less verification is needed to be exempt under these provisions.

The parent or caretaker must verify that the spouse or child with disabilities is living in the home with them and

(a)   The spouse or child with disabilities is a recipient of SSI/RSDI due to disability or blindness; or

(b)   A doctor verifies all of the following in writing or by using a DHS-54A, Medical Needs form:

-  The disability of the spouse/child needing care and the extent and duration of the disability.

-  The spouse/parent is needed in the home to provide care.

-  The spouse/parent cannot engage in an employment-related activity due to the extent of care   required.

DHS Program Eligibility Manual (PEM) 230A, p. 18.  Policy previously required verification from the doctor even if the spouse or child was receiving SSI.

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

3 –and 12-month penalties still apply

Per PEM 230 A, however, a parent or caretaker relative who is a non-Worker Eligible Individual (WEI) and exempt from assignment to JET because he or she is caring for child or spouse with disabilities will be required to complete the Family Automated Screening Tool (FAST) and Family Self-Sufficiency Plan (FSSP), and will be subject to a 3- or 12-month penalty for failure to complete the FAST or the FSSP.  PEM 230A, p. 18. 

It is not clear why DHS has decided to subject this group of non-WEIs to the 3- and 12- month sanctions while not applying the 3- and 12-month penalties to other non-WEIs and parents who are deferred because they lack appropriate child care for a child under 6 (see Issue Alert 08-10-07 and PEM 233A p. 1-2 and 5).

What Should Advocates Do?

Ensure DHS exempts parents or other caretakers who are caring for a child or spouse with disabilities. 

Consider challenging 3- and 12-month penalties that are applied to these individuals for failure to complete a FAST or FSSP.

Help parents who are not exempt under this category (e.g., because the child’s disabilities do not meet the SSI standard) request any reasonable accommodations (extra help, modification of policies or requirements) they may need, because of the disabilities of their child or spouse, to ensure that they can benefit from FIP and employment and training services.

What Should Clients Do?

Seek legal advice if you are assigned to JET and are unable to successfully participate because you are caring for a child or spouse with disabilities.

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

Request a hearing if you believe the decision was incorrect.  Assistance will continue at current levels if DHS receives your original, signed hearing 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.