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Issue Alert - 13-01-05

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Date:

Jan 14, 2013

Program Area:

Food Assistance Program (FAP) and Family Independence Program (FIP a/k/a cash assistance)

Issue Summary:

If a recipient of BOTH FIP and FAP fails to comply with FIP PATH (employment and training) or work requirements, continuing eligibility for FAP is based on FIP good cause reasons which are different from FAP-only good cause reasons.

Persons Affected:

All recipients with BOTH FIP and FAP who fail to comply with FIP PATH or work requirements.

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 320 S. Washington, 2nd. Floor 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 48104-3000 Phone: 734-998-6100 Fax: 734-998-9125


Background

Bridges Policy Bulletin BPB 2013-001 includes several significant program changes and there are several issue alerts discussing the changes.  This issue alert discusses the “good cause” reasons for failing to comply with the PATH employment and training program or work requirements for individuals who receive BOTH FAP and FIP. 

 

DHS policy is confusing and sections relevant to this issue are listed below.  The policy for FIP cash assistance (BEM 230A and BEM 233A) is different and more demanding than for FAP food assistance (BEM 230B and BEM 233B). 

 

-      BEM 230A covers employment and/or self-sufficiency related activities for FIP

-      BEM 230B covers employment related activities for FAP

-      BEM 233A covers failure to meet employment and/or self-sufficiency-related requirements for FIP and includes a list of reasons considered to be valid or “good cause” for not complying with the requirements of BEM 230A. 

-      BEM 233B covers failure to meet employment requirements for FAP and includes a list of reasons considered to be valid or “good cause” for not complying with the requirements of BEM 230B . 

 

-      Note:  With respect to RCA or Refugee Cash Assistance, BEM 230 C covers employment and/or self-sufficiency related activities and BEM 233C covers failure to meet employment requirements and includes a list of reasons considered to be valid or “good cause” for not complying with requirements of BEM 230C.  Policy Bulletin BPB 2013-001 does not mention RCA but new language inserted in BEM 233B does so, adding to the confusion. 

 

If the recipient has not complied with the work-related requirements in BEM 230A and B, termination of benefits should not occur if “good cause” for noncompliance is established.  Generally, FAP work requirements are less burdensome than those for FIP.  And FAP policy generally has more good cause reasons for noncompliance with the work-related requirements than the FIP policy has.

 

Side note:  The name of the education and training program administered by Michigan Workforce Development Agency has been changed from JET (Jobs, Education and Training) to PATH which stands for Partnership.  Accountability.  Training.  Hope. This change was effective 1-1-13 and was included BPB 2013-001.  See Issue Alert 13-01-02.

What's Happening?

Bridges Policy Bulletin BPB 2012-001, issued 1-1-2013 listed a change in good cause reasons for FAP when a recipient has active FIP and FAP cases.  The bulletin says:

 

“If a participant is active FIP and FAP at the time of FIP noncompliance, determination of FAP good cause is based on the FIP good cause reasons outlined in BEM 233A.  For the FAP determination, if the client does not meet one of the FIP good cause reasons, determine the FAP disqualification based on FIP deferral criteria only as outlined in BEM 230A, or the FAP deferral reason of care of a child under 6 or education. No other deferral reasons apply for participants active FIP and FAP.”

 

Similar language is included in BEM 233B, p. 2, which also adds reference to RCA that is not included in the bulletin and that appears to be inconsistent. 

 

In addition, the same page in BEM 233B continues to include, inconsistent,  pre-existing policy, which says,

 

“Determine FAP good cause separately from the FIP/RCA based on FAP good cause reasons defined later in this item. If a good cause reason is selected for FIP/RCA it also applies to FAP. If the client does not meet one of the FIP/RCA good cause reasons in the drop down list, but does meet one of the FAP only good cause reasons, select the FAP only good cause reason to avoid client disqualification on FAP. Bridges makes both determinations simultaneously.”

 

In addition to poorly drafted and confusing policy language, this policy may conflict with federal law and regulations.  CCJ has submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to DHS for additional information and documentation and will continue analyzing this policy.  We will be updating this Issue Alert when appropriate. 

What Should Advocates Do?

1.          Educate clients and community organizations about this change. 

2.          Look for notices that do not adequately explain the reason for changes in benefits and/or do not reference the correct section of DHS policy.  Ask clients to keep all envelopes the notices come in.

3.          Help clients to understand and to establish good cause for FIP noncompliance as it will affect FIP and FAP.

4.          Let CCJ know about cases where this is occurring and how the case is managed by DHS including notices and meetings to make good cause determinations.  Please call or refer clients to CCJ at our Flint office Helpline if they receive inadequate notices.  The Helpline number is (800) 481-4989.  CCJ will want to see the Notice the client received, so assisting clients to fax the notice to CCJ would be helpful.

5.          Help clients request hearings if their cases or benefits are wrongfully denied or terminated.

Help clients find legal advice if they request a hearing (see below).

What Should Clients Do?

1.            Be aware that failure to comply with employment and/or self-sufficiency related activities for FIP/cash assistance is likely to affect FAP/food assistance under the new policy.

2.            Be sure to attend all scheduled meetings and appointment with DHS, including the “triage” meeting that will be scheduled if DHS thinks you failed to comply with PATH requirements.  Explain your good cause and bring papers showing the good cause reason if possible.

3.            Keep the envelope that all notices or letters relating to noncompliance, deadline for establishing good cause or termination of benefits come in .  It is important to know the date it was actually mailed.  (Remember to keep the correspondence itself also.)  Write on the envelope the date that you actually received it.

4.            Seek an advocate or legal advice if you receive notice that you are non-compliant or that your FAP case is closing because of noncompliance with FIP work requirements now named PATH. 

5.            Call CCJ if you have questions about your notice or FAP benefits.  You can call our toll-free Helpline at (800) 481-4989.

6.            Read your Notices carefully.  If your benefits are ending, you have the right to request a hearing.  Be sure to submit your hearing request within the deadline given in your Notice (90 days from the date the notice was sent).  In some cases you will be able to keep your current level of benefits if you request a hearing before an early deadline stated in the letter (usually 10 to 12 days from the date the Notice is sent).  However, if you lose at the hearing, you might owe DHS any benefits you were not entitled to.  Seek legal help if you request a hearing.

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.