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Issue Alert - 13-01-04

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Date:

Jan 01, 2013

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

Effective 01/01/2013, the combined FIP and FAP waiver allows some PATH participants increased hours for which they can participate in unpaid core activities in order to help Michigan meet federal work participation requirements. Also, under certain circumstances, unpaid work participation hours may be “deemed.”

Persons Affected:

All FIP recipients

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 320 S. Washington, 2nd. Fl. Saginaw, MI 48607 Phone: 989-755-3120 Phone: 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

This Issue Alert is based on DHS’ BPB 2013-001, #3 and modifications to BEM 228. 

In order to be eligible to receive FIP, all FIP recipients must complete a Family Automated Screening Tool (FAST) and a Family Self-Sufficiency Plan (FSSP) as outlined in BEM 228.  All participants who DHS considers to be “work eligible individuals” (WEIs) are required to comply with their FSSP.  If the WEI does not comply, and fails to prove good cause for her/his non-compliance, the penalties outlined in BEM 233A, 233B, and 233C may be applied.  All WEIs must participate in work-related activites for a minimum number of hours each month, and those hours count towards the state and/or federal work participation rate.

All WEIs must participate in “activities,” which are specific actions that the participant will take to reach her/his FSSP goals(s) and meet PATH requirements.  Activities are divided in to three categories: core activities, non-core activities, and other activities.  Core activites include: unpaid employment, paid private and public sector employment, work experience,

on-the-job training, job search/job readiness, community service programs, vocational education training, and providing child care for a community service participant.

In order for the WEI’s hours to meet federal participation requirements, thereby increasing Michigan’s work participation rate, the WEI must participate in a minimum of 20 hours of core activities.  Any remaining hours that the WEI is required to complete must be  in non-core activities.    

What's Happening?

Requirements of the FLSA:  In accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if a WEI’s “core activites” includes unpaid community service or unpaid work, the total number of required hours of participation in that work must be less than the WEI’s FIP grant amount divided by $7.40 (Michigan’s minimum wage). 

·         For example:  If Client receives $403/month in FIP, 53 hours/month is the maximum number of hours that Client can be required to participate in unpaid core activites because 403 divided by 7.40 equals 54, and, pursuant to the FLSA, Client’s total number of hours must be less than 54. 

 In order to meet FLSA requirements, if the WEI’s maximum unpaid work hours are not enough to meet the minimum federal work participation requirements, the WEI must engage in other core activities in order to meet the federal work participation requirements. 

Combined FIP and FAP waiver:  With the combined FIP and FAP waiver, the WEI’s FIP and FAP grant amount are combined and divided by $7.40.  In most cases, this allows the WEI increased hours in which they participate in unpaid core activities, which, in turn, increases Michigan’s work participation rate and helps Michigan reach the federal work participation rate. 

·         For example:  If Client receives a total of $803/month in FIP and FAP combined, 108 hours/month is the maximum number of hours that Client can be required to participate in unpaid core activites because 803 divided by 7.40 equals 108. 

Hours may be deemed:  If a WEI is assigned the maximum number of hours allowed by the FLSA calculation, but that number of hours is not enough to meet the WEI’s core activity requirement, the WEI’s remaining hours may be “deemed.”  This means that the WEI gets credit for particpating in unpaid core activities when, in fact, the WEI has not participated in said activities.  When the WEI’s hours are deemed, the WEI meets the work participation requirements for that month.  Note that hours may be deemded for only unpaid core activities.

·         For example:  Using the example above with Client’s 108 hour/month limit, suppose that Client has a 120 hours/month minimum federal requirement.  Due to the limitations of the FLSA, Client is 12 hours/month short.  Those 12 hours will be “deemed,” and Client will be considered to have met her work requirement for that month, when,if fact, she did not participate in work activities for those 12 hours. 

__________________________________________________________________________

 

BEM 228 states that the legal base for BEM 228 is MCL 400.57e.  MCL 400.57e is state law.  BEM 228 does not reference a legal base regarding federal law.  At this time, CCJ is working to determine what the federal legal base is and whether BEM 228 conforms with that base.  Once CCJ makes those determinations, CCJ will send out an updated Issue Alert, if necessary.

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

 

What Should Clients Do?

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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. 
  4.  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.).
  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.