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Issue Alert - 13-01-03

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Date:

Jan 14, 2013

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

Effective 01/01/2013, there is a mandatory 21-day Application Eligibility Period (AEP) of work-related activities that FIP applicants must successfully complete in order for their FIP application to be approved, unless they are exempt from work requirements. Issue Alert 13-01-02 discussed DHS’ administration of the AEP. This Issue Alert discusses Workforce Development Agency – State of Michigan’s (WDASOM) administration of the AEP.

Persons Affected:

All FIP applicants

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 320 S. Washington, 2nd. Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 Phone: 989-755-3120, 1800-724-7441 Fax: 989-755-3558 Email: info@ccj-mi.org Michigan Poverty Law Program 611 Church St., Ste. 4A Ann Arbor, MI 48104 Phone: 734-998-6100 Fax: 734-998-9125


Background

On 01/01/2013, the name for the work participation program for non-exempt Family Indepenceprogram (FIP) applicants and recipients  was changed from the Jobs, Education and Training (JET) to Partnership. Accountability. Training. Hope. (PATH).  Also beginning on 01/01/2013,  DHS policy BEM 229 requires that FIP applicants successfully complete PATH orientation and activities during a 21-day Application Eligiblity Period (AEP), in order to be eligible to receive FIP benefits.

Under the previous policy, “orientation” was different among the MWAs.  This meant that some FIP applicants were required to attend orientation for one day, while other FIP applicants were required to attend for multiple days – up to one week – before they were eligible for FIP.  CCJ is analyzing whether the new AEP requirement is authorized by the Social Welfare Act.

This Issue Alert is based on November 2012 policy and instructions issued by the Workforce Development Agency - State of Michigan (WDASOM) to the Michigan Works! Association (MWA) regarding the AEP. These materials can be found on the WDASOM's Web site:  http://web.michworks.org/OWD/index_wp.htm.  They can also be found on CCJ’s Web site: www.ccj-mi.org.

 

                                                                         

What's Happening?

Beginning on 01/01/2013, DHS policy BEM 229 requires that FIP applicants successfully complete a 21-day Application Eligiblity Period (AEP) at MWAs in order to be eligible to receive FIP benefits.  During the AEP, the MWAs must assess, evaluate, and prepare FIP applicants to (1) more effectively attain stable employment, (2) meet Federal work participation requirements, and (3) work toward self-sufficiency.  FIP applicants and recipients who are referred to PATH must be provided with employment-related services, training, and supportive services to obtain and retain stable employment.  MWAs are required to serve all FIP applicants and recipients who are referred to PATH. 

The 21-day AEP period is comprised of three weeks of assignments that must be customized for each applicant’s needs, although they also may be based on a standard curriculum.  The weekly assignments are contained in documents called Weekly Assignment Plans.  WDA policy states that the MWAs and FIP applicants jointly develop and agree to Assignment Plans using Individual Service Strategies (ISS), assessments and evaluations,

work readiness instruction/activities, activities to resolve identified barriers, and appropriate Core and Non-Core Allowable Activities.   FIP applicants are required to sign each of the 3 weekly plans.

The AEP is part of the PATH orientation.  Upon the applicant’s successful completion of the AEP, s/he will begin participating in PATH, and the applicant will become eligible for FIP during the pay period that her/his FIP application becomes 30 days old and s/he has completed all eligibility criteria, including the AEP.  This means that if completion of the AEP is delayed because of delays in starting the AEP or because the applicant proved “good cause” reasons for extending the time to complete the AEP (medical reasons, for example), the recipient may not be eligible to receive FIP for the pay period in which the application becomes 30 days old.

Former FIP recipients who were previously terminated from FIP who have reapplied for FIP are required to complete the AEP.  If, during the AEP, the applicant is found to be ineligible for FIP for another reason (besides not completing the AEP), the AEP period will end and the applicant will not be required to continue participating in the AEP. 

MWAs are required to do all of the following during the AEP: assess applicants’ competencies, skills, and interests; identify barriers and begin barrier resolution (AEP participants are eligible for the supportive services available through PATH and are allowable cost expenditures); meet weekly (either in person or over the phone) with applicants; develop, update, and sign Weekly Assignment Plans; determine the need for, and provision of, supportive services; monitor and document progress, as well as define achievements; and record weekly outcomes and AEP completion.

The AEP begins on the day that the applicant attends her/his scheduled orientation at the MWA.  The AEP is counted in calendar days, including weekends and holidays.  If an applicant attends her orientation on a Wednesday, the AEP week #1 is from that Wednesday through the following Tuesday and the AEP weeks continue thereafter:

January 2013

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

*Orientation

*AEP begins

10

*AEP week #1 begins

11

è  

12

è  

13

è  

14

è  

15

*AEP week #1 ends

16

*AEP week #2 begins

17

è  

18

è  

19

è  

20

è  

21 (holiday)

è  

22

*AEP week #2 ends

23

*AEP week #3 begins

24

è  

25

è  

26

è  

27

è  

28

è  

29

*AEP week #3 ends

30

*PATH participation begins

31

è  

 

 

 

 

AEP Weekly Assignment Plans:

During the 21-day period, FIP applicants are assigned certain activities/tasks that the applicant must complete within each assignment week.  For AEP, the requirement is the completion of the weekly assignments, NOT the number of hours the applicant spends completing the assignment(s).  Applicants are not included in Michigan’s measurement and reporting of TANF work participation requirements. However, the WDA policy states that the MWA should assign activities that will take roughly the number of hours per week that the applicants will be required to complete in the PATH program if s/he is approved for FIP.

·         AEP Curriculums for Assignments and Workshops:  MWAs are suggested to have standard curriculums and estimated hours to complete values for each weekly assignment.  However, recall that the completion standard for the AEP is the completion of the weekly assignments, not the completion of a specified number of hours.  The WDA has provided some suggested or model curricula for MWAs.  Depending on the applicant’s specific case, during the first week or two, the Plans include activities that address assessment or barriers and removeal of those barriers (like child care and transportation).  Once the applicant’s barriers have been addressed, the Plans include assignments such as finding community service opportunities, etc. 

·         Documentation of completion of weekly assignments:  Applicants are responsible for documenting their completion of the weekly assignments. This is done by using PATH Participation Forms for activity logs, outside job search contact logs, education logs, etc.  Additional/supplemental documentation, such as letters, appointment schedules, payment notices, receipts, office visit records, etc. is encouraged, especially for barrier resolution assignments.

·         Applicant’s failure to complete assignments:  If the MWA thinks that the applicant did not complete a weekly assignment, the MWA must do all of the following:

o   Explain the failure on the Weekly Assignment Plan,

o   Inform the applicant that s/he failed to complete the week’s assignments,

o   Keep the original finished detailed Weekly Assignment Plan in the applicant’s file, and

o   Provide the applicant with a finished copy of the detailed Weekly Assignment Plan.

Applicants who disagree with the MWA’s determination of “did not complete” must be given the opportunity to speak with an MWA supervisor for managerial review.

·         Incomplete assignments:  If an applicant failed to finish assignments within weeks #1 or #2, the MWA may allow the applicant to finish the assignments during the next week.  Assignments that are carried over to the next week are additional assignments and must be completed with that week’s regular assignments. 

·         Unsigned Weekly Assignment Plans:  If an applicant refuses to sign a Weekly Assignment Plan, s/he must be given the opportunity to speak with a supervisor for managerial review.  If, after speaking with a supervisor, the applicant continues to refuse to sign the Weekly Assignment Plan, the applicant is deemed to have not satisfactorily completed the assignments, and thus, does not complete this AEP.  As a result of not completing the AEP, the applicant is ineligible for FIP. 

·         Moving ahead in Weekly Assignment Plans:  Applicants may move ahead in her/his assignments (if s/he complete the assignments early, etc.).  The applicant may complete assignments early, but that will not have any effect on when the AEP ends. 

Weekly Review Meetings:  Weekly review meetings between MWAs and applicants are required.  The meetings may occur at the end of a completed week or the beginning of the next week.  The meetings may be in person or over the phone.

·         Applicants must submit their documentation and/or verification of completed assignments at/during these weekly review meetings.

·         The MWAs determine whether the applicant completed the week’s assignments during these Review Meetings.

o   MWAs document the completion of the assignments on the Weekly Assignment Plan.

o   The original finished detailed Weekly Assignment Plan is kept in the applicant’s file.  The applicant must receive a copy.

 

Applicant misconduct:  When applicant misconduct occurs, the applicant is immediately deemed to have failed to complete the AEP and is, as a result, ineligible to receive FIP.  “Misconduct” is defined as:

·         Threatening anyone who is conducting or participating in an employment and/or self-sufficiency-related activity,

·         Physically abusing anyone who is conducting or participating in an employment and/or self-sufficiency-related activity, or

·         Falsifying documentation related to the 21-day AEP assignments.

The MWA’s grievance procedure is applicable to the AEP. 

Applicant’s non-compliance:  If an applicant is non-compliant during the AEP, the applicant is not sent to triage.  If non-compliance occurs, the applicant is deemed  to have not completed the AEP, and is, therefore, ineligible for FIP.  The MWA’s grievance procedure is applicable to the AEP. 

Applicant’s inability to complete the AEP due to medical reasons:  Applicants may present “medical documentation” from their medical provider which supports the applicant’s inability to complete the AEP for more than 14 days.  When this happens, the applicant’s AEP participation ends.  MWAs must notify the applicant’s local DHS office that the applicant needs a deferral determination.

Extentions for AEP completion:  Applicants may be unable to participate at all for 14 days or less due to unforeseen circumstances.  Unforeseen circumstances include temproary medical emergencies of the applicant, her/his spouse, or her/his dependents; death in the applicant’s family, or immediate relocation of the applicant’s primary residence.  MWAs may offer the opportunity for extensions for seven days for the first requested extention and an additional seven days for the second requsted extension.  Applicants may request an extension in person or over the phone.

 

What Should Advocates Do?

1.      Educate clients and community organizations about this change.

2.      Provide information to CCJ about families who are being harmed by these policies.  Please call CCJ at the number at the top of this document to find out how to communicate information to CCJ.

3.      When appropriate, help clients request and present information at administrative hearings, if they are denied FIP.  Assist with MWA grievances if assignments are inappropriate ir services are denied.

4.      Be aware of the above-mentioned unanswered questions, such as whether the AEP requirement is authorized by the Social Welfare Act.

5.      Share information with CCJ and other advocates about the effects of these new policies.

 

What Should Clients Do?

1.      Always ask your DHS caseworker and  PATH case manager for help if you do not understand what you are required to do, what information is needed, or if you need help or additional time.  If you cannot reach your DHS caseworker, you should contact the caseworker’s supervisor.  If you do not know your caseworker’s or supervisor’s name or phone number, you can call DHS’ Customer Service center, ASK MICH, for help.  Their phone number is 1-855-275-6424.

2.      Keep all notices and envelopes that you receive from DHS so that you know the date the notice was actually mailed.  Write the date that you received the correspondence on the outside of each envelope.

3.      Get legal advice if you are told that your FIP application has been denied or that your FIP case will close or has already closed. 

4.      Read your notices carefully.  If your FIP application has been denied, or if your FIP case is closing or has already closed, you have the right to request a hearing.  If DHS receives your request by the deadline given in the notice, you will continue to receive your FIP benefits at the same level until the judge issues a Hearing Decision.  (But, remember that if you lose at the hearing, you may have to pay DHS back any/all money that you got but were not supposed to.)

5.      If you need legal advice, you should contact an attorney.  If you need help finding an attorney, you can call Michigan Lawyer Referral.  They help you find an attorney in your area who may be able to help you.  Their phone number is 1-800-968-0738.  Also, some legal aid offices handle cases involving these sorts of issues.  You can find your local legal aid office by visiting the Michigan Legal Aid Web site.  The site address is michiganlegalaid.org.

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.