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Issue Alert - 10-01-02

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Date:

Jan 05, 2010

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

DHS policies on assigning, distributing, and counting child support are changed for families that begin receiving FIP after September 30, 2009, as required by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005

Persons Affected:

Families that begin receiving FIP after September 30, 2009 and are owed child support for periods

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

 

Applicants for TANF-funded cash assistance, such as Michigan’s Family Independence (FIP) program, cannot receive FIP unless they give to the state (“assign”) some of their rights to child support collected for children in the FIP group.  Effective October 1, 2009, the family no longer assigns child support owed for a period before the family began receiving FIP.  This support is called “Non-FIP Arrears” or “Pre-assignment arrears”.

 

Under federal law, states also have the option of modifying assignments that were made before October 1, 2009 so that they no longer would give the state the right to collect payments on “Non-FIP Arrears” or “Pre-assignment arrears”.

What's Happening?

 

DHS has changed its policy to comply with the federal requirement.  Families that begin receiving FIP on or after October 1, 2009 will not assign their right to child support payments on “Non-FIP Arrears” or “Pre-assignment arrears”.

In addition, Child Support payments for “Non-FIP Arrears” or “Pre-assignment arrears” are not counted in determining eligibility or payment amounts for FIP.  However, they are considered income for other DHS-administered programs.   (Note:  this is different than the $50 child support participation payments that some families on FIP receive.  Child support participation payments are not counted as income in any DHS-administered programs.)

 

It appears that Michigan has NOT opted to modify previous assignments.  Therefore, families that began receiving FIP prior to October 1, 2009 will not receive child support collected on their “Non-FIP Arrears” or “Pre-assignment arrears” unless the family closes and re-opens their FIP case after October 1, 2009.    (Note this will mean the loss of at least one month of FIP and current delays at DHS make it likely that the family will experience significant delays in getting FIP re-opened. Most families will NOT benefit from closing their FIP.) The new policy is contained in BEM 255  http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/bem/255.pdf, and BEM 503 p. 6 http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/bem/503.pdf.

What Should Advocates Do?

 

1.     Inform clients about the new policy

2.     Help clients determine which (if any) child support payments they should be receiving while they are receiving FIP.

Help clients ensure that their FIP eligibility is not affected by child support collected for “Non-FIP Arrears” or “Pre-assignment arrears”.

What Should Clients Do?

 

1.      Let DHS know if you receive child support payments directly if you are not sure whether they should be received by you or by the state.

Seek legal help if DHS counts child support income that you believe should be excluded. See below for information about finding legal help.

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.