Personal tools

Issue Alert - 13-01-02

Document Actions
Date:

Jan 14, 2013

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

Effective 01/01/2013, the JET program has been renamed “PATH,” there is a new standard of promptness for running the FIP Eligibility Determination Group (EDG), and there is a mandatory 21-day Application Eligibility Period (AEP) that clients must successfully complete in order for their FIP application to be approved. This Issue Alert discusses DHS’ administration of the AEP. Issue Alert 13-01-03 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 (989-755-3120) (1-800)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

In order to be eligible to receive Family Independence Program (FIP) benefits, MCLA 400.57 requires FIP applicants who are not deferred from work requirements to attend PATH orientation and cooperate with employment and training activities.  CCJ is analyzing whether the AEP requirement is authorized by the Social Welfare Act.  Under the former policy, “orientation” requirements were different in different MWAs, so that some applicants were required to attend orientation for one day, while other applications were required to attend for multiple days – sometimes for up to one week or so - before being eligible to receive FIP benefits.

This Issue Alert summarizes changes in Department of Human Services (DHS) policy announced in Bridges Policy Bulletin (BPB) 2013-001 available on DHS’ Web site at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/html/ and contained in January 1, 2013 versions of the following DHS policies: BAM 110, 115, 300, and 600; BEM 100, 201, 218, 229, 230A, 230B, 232, 233A, 233B, 234, 345, 519, and 800.  This Issue Alert covers three areas that are referenced in BPB 2013-001, as which are discussed in detail under the “What’s happening?” section below in this Issue Alert:

1.      JET named has been changed to “PATH”:  Pursuant to DHS policy, the work participation program name has been changed from Jobs, Education and Training (JET) to Partnership. Accountability. Training. Hope. (PATH).

2.      New standard of promptness for FIP Eligibility Determination Group (EDG):  Pursuant to BAM 115, the DHS specialist (caseworker) must run a client’s FIP Eligibility Determination Group (EDG) in Bridges within five days of the client’s application date.  CCJ thinks this means that the applicant’s case will begin to be processed sooner.  This also means that, if not deferred from work requirements, applicants will begin participating in PATH sooner.   

3.      New application requirements during 21-day Application Eligibility Period (AEP):  Pursuant to BEM 229, all FIP applicants must successfully complete a 21-day Application Eligibility Period (AEP), which is part of orientation, in order for their FIP application to be approved.  Successful completion of the AEP includes:

a.       Begin the AEP by the last date to attend, as indicated on the DHS-4785 (PATH Appointment Notice).

b.      Complete PATH AEP requirements, which typically require 21 days (3 weeks) of activities.

c.       Continue to participate in required PATH activities after the completion of the AEP and prior to opening of the FIP case. 

BEM 229 directs caseworkers to deny an applicant’s FIP application if the applicant does not complete all of these requirements.

Several deadlines for clients have been shortened. Pursuant to BEM 230A, the last date to attend the AEP is changed from 20 to 15 days and the mailing time frame has changed from 10 days to 6 days.  The notice that the applicant receives tell the applicant that s/he must attend PATH, but CCJ thinks that the notice does not tell the applicant that s/he must specifically participate in the AEP.   

What's Happening?

1.      JET named has been changed to “PATH”:  For all DHS programs, the name of the work participation program has been changed to “Partnership. Accountability. Training. Hope.” (PATH).

2.      New standard of promptness for FIP EDG, which triggers assignment to PATH:  The DHS caseworker must run a client’s FIP Eligibility Determination Group (EDG) in Bridges within five days of the client’s application date.  Once the FIP EDG has been run, a DHS-4785, PATH Appointment Notice, will be generated and mailed to the client, unless the client has been exempted (deferred) from PATH.  This means that the DHS-4785 should be generated and mailed to the client within five days of the client’s FIP application.  The standard of promptness for approval or denial of the FIP application has not changed, and remains 45 days from the date of application.  BAM 115, page 10, “Standard of Promptness,” “FIP only.”

3.      21-day Application Eligibility Period (AEP):  Pursuant to BEM 229, the AEP is part of the PATH orientation.  The AEP is an eligibility requirement for approval of the FIP application.  The specifics contained in BEM 229 are discussed below:

a.       Jobs and Self-Sufficiency Survey (BEM 229, page 1):  At application, the registration support staff must provide clients with a DHS-619, which is the Jobs and Self-Sufficiency Survey.  (Clients who applied via MI Bridges will have already answered these questions at application.)  Caseworkers must do all of the following:

                                                              i.      Do an intake interview with each client and make a barrier assessment to determine the client’s readiness for the referral to PATH. 

                                                            ii.      Identify and provide “direct support services” (DSS) as needed (see BEM 232).  DSS are goods and services provided to help families achieve self-sufficiency.  DHS is responsible to, and must, help clients who present with these barriers before requiring the client’s PATH attendance. 

                                                          iii.      Open/edit that Family Self-Sufficiency Plan (FSSP) and enter the client’s strength and barrier information. 

                                                          iv.      Temporarily defer a client who has identified barriers until the barriers are removed.  Because the new AEP requires applicants to actively participate in the AEP/PATH before the applicant is approved for FIP benefits, it is very important that DHS defers applicants who are unable to participate in the AEP due to barriers/limitations (due to disability, etc). 

                                                            v.      Temporarily defer a client who has identified barriers that require further assessment/verification before a decision about a longer deferral is made. 

The policy specifies that a client should not be referred to orientation and the AEP until it is certain that barriers to participation have been removed, possible reasons for deferral have been assessed and considered, and disabilities have been accommodated.  (Emphasis added.)

b.      Work and Self-Sufficiency Rules (BEM 229, page 2):  Caseworkers must explain all of the following to clients at FIP application using the DHS-1538.  Caseworkers must ensure that the client understands her/his responsibility to participate in employment-related activities.  Additionally, the DHS-1538 must be signed by all of the following applicants and member ads: adult members, minor parent grantees, deferred and potentially-deferred adults, and ineligible grantees.

c.       Timing of PATH Referral (BEM 229, page 3):  Mandatory PATH participants are referred to PATH at application for FIP, when a client’s deferral ends, or when a member add is requested.  No other clients should be sent to PATH at application, unless the client volunteers to participate.  All PATH referrals are sent by Bridges using the DHS-4785, PATH Appointment Notice.  This subsection of the policy details precisely when the DHS-4785 is generated. 

                                                              i.      Clients Losing Referral (BEM 229, page 4):  When a client no longer qualifies for a deferral, the caseworker checks to ensure the client is eligible and, if so, certifies the case in order for a DHS-4785 to be generated by Bridges.  Bridges mails the DHS-4785 on the first business day of the calendar month after the client’s deferral ends. 

d.      Referrals Already Active on MIS (Management Information System) (BEM 229, page 4):  Generally, the One-Stop Management Information System (OSMIS) will accept a referral for a client who is already active on OSMIS.  Activation of the new referral is handled by the one-stop service center.

e.       FAST and FSSP Notice (BEM 229, page 4):  Bridges issues a FAST FSSP notice (DHS-1536) to all work eligible and non-work eligible individuals upon completion of the intake interview and after EDBC in Bridges.  (See BEM 228.)

f.       PATH Appointment Notice and Attendance Requirements (BEM 229, page 5):  Bridges will automatically generate the DHS-4785, PATH Program Appointment Notice at application, member add, or when a client loses a deferral.  When assigned to PATH, client must engage in and comply with all of the AEP requirements, as this is a condition of FIP eligibility.  If a client fails to comply, the client’s FIP application will be denied.  Clients must be active FIP and FAP on the date of noncompliance in order for DHS to apply a penalty to the client’s FAP case.

                                                              i.      Extending the Last Date to Attend Orientation (BEM 229, page 5):  Either DHS or the one-stop service center may extend the last day the client has to attend AEP/orientation when necessary.   

                                                            ii.      FIP to EFIP to FIP Referrals (BEM 229, page 6):  When there is a change in a client’s income which causes the client’s eligibility to move from FIP to EFIP, Bridges and OSMIS automate the referral process and, therefore, no caseworker action is required.

CCJ thinks that the timeline from the point of referral to PATH through the 21-day AEP is very close to the 45-day standard of promptness that DHS has in which to process FIP applications, which may pose problems if there are delays in the FIP case.  Additionally, CCJ has some practical questions about the implementation of the AEP and the AEP’s effect on how the AEP works with Michigan law requiring that FIP be paid starting the 30th day after application, if the applicant is eligible.  For example, if an applicant begins PATH on the 15th day from the date of her/his referral, does that mean that s/he will not receive FIP on the 30th day because s/he has not completed the 21-day AEP?  Do the notices that applicants receive specifically address this issue?   

 

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.

4.      Be aware of the unanswered questions in the section above. 

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

What Should Clients Do?

1.      Tell your worker about any barriers or problems you have to participating in  AEP activities or other PATH activities.  If possible, make a record of what you’ve said. 

2.      Always ask your DHS caseworker or PATH case manager for help if you do not understand what information is needed, or if there is not enough time to get the requested information before it is due back at DHS or PATH.  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.

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

4.      Get legal advice if you are told that your FIP application has not been approved or that your FIP case will close or has already closed. 

5.      Read your notices carefully.  If your FIP application has not been approved, 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.)

6.      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.