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Issue Alert - 13-02-01

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Date:

Feb 12, 2013

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

DHS issued new 60-month Time Limit Policy effective March 1, 2013 and instructions for warning new applicants about the policy

Persons Affected:

All FIP groups that include an adult who has received 60 months or more of TANF-funded FIP since October 1996 except those receiving temporary extensions in limited “grandfathered” groups, and FIP applicant groups that are approaching the 60 month limit

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

60 MONTH LIMIT ON USE OF TANF

In general, federal law prohibits Michigan from using Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds to pay for a FIP grant to a family that includes an adult who has received TANF-funded cash assistance for 60 months or more. 42 U.S.C. 608(a)(7)(A).  However, the state can provide TANF for more than 60 months to up to 20% of its average monthly TANF caseload under hardship exemptions defined by the state.  42 U.S.C. 608(a)(7).   Child-only grants are not affected by the 60 month limit on use of TANF funds.

 

FEDERAL CLOCK-STOPPERS

Federal law excludes from the 60 month count any months that the individual received TANF-funded cash assistance as a minor child who was not a head of household or married to a head of household, as well as any months the individual was living in certain “Indian Country” or a Native Alaskan village with unemployment over 50%.  42 USC 608(a)(7)(B) and (D). 

 

MICHIGAN’s 60 MONTH CLOCK and EXEMPTIONS

The Department of Human Services (DHS) began using TANF funds for all or part of the FIP program in October 1996, thus starting the 60-month “clock” on the use of TANF funds for certain FIP cases.  From October 1996 until October 2011, DHS used the 20% hardship exception to continue using federal TANF funds for families who meet Michigan FIP eligibility requirements but contain an adult who has received 60 months of TANF-funded FIP.

DHS amended Michigan TANF State Plan in October 2011 to eliminate hardship exemptions.  However, Michigan has paid for FIP payments to some families with State funds only.  These State-funded months on FIP do not count toward the 60 month clock.

 

STATE COURT INJUNCTION

In March 2012, Genesee County Circuit Court issued an injunction prohibiting DHS from denying or terminating FIP to anyone who had not accumulated 48 countable months of receiving FIP, excluding months before October 2007, under MCLA 400.57p and .57r.

DHS allowed families to continue receiving FIP – or to reapply and have FIP reinstated- pursuant to the injunction.   FIP benefits paid under the injunction are paid for with state funds, not TANF.


 

 

 


 

What's Happening?

The Michigan Legislature passed a law in late 2011 that implements a 60 month lifetime limit.   As a result of the new law,   the Supreme Court has dissolved the state court injunction to the extent that it conflicts with the new law.   DHS has sent out notices to thousands of affected FIP groups,  including those who received benefits under the Court injunction,  notifying  them that their FIP benefits will end in March 2013.  

DHS has issued policy, in Bridges Policy Bulletin 2013-006 (available online at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/exf/BP-2013-006.pdf in the Future Policy Manuals section on the DHS Website, which can be accessed via the link to DHS policies at mplp.org.).

WHO IS EXEMPT?

The BPB 2013-006 states that any group with an adult who received 60 months or more of TANF-funded FIP is ineligible for FIP unless they fall into the one-time short term exception discussed below.  Months of TANF-funded FIP are counted beginning October 1996.

The Exception applies ONLY to groups in which

(1)  the individual with 60 or more months was deferred by DHS from participation in PATH (formerly called JET) on January 9, 2013 (the effective date of the new law), because of

·         Domestic violence

·         Establishing incapacity

·         Incapacity expected to last 90 days or more

·         Age 65 or older

·         Care of a spouse with disabilities

·         Care of a child with disabilities

(2)  The individual currently is deferred from FIP based on one of the above reasons

(3) The group meets all other eligibility factors for FIP

Note that the exception stops if the individual is no longer deferred.  The exception does not apply to any adult who was not receiving FIP or was not deferred from PATH on January 9, 2013. Any adult who was not receiving FIP AND deferred on that date is not eligible for an extension now or in the future, no matter the family’s circumstances. 

HOW ARE FAMILIES BEING NOTIFIED?

DHS has done a Mass Update to terminate families under this new policy effective March 1, 2013. We believe several thousand cases will receive notice of case closure based on the Mass Update.    DHS materials indicate there are 784 families that include an adult who has received 60 or more months of TANF-funded FIP but could not be terminated through the Mass Update who will be reviewed and possibly terminated by their DHS caseworker.  Caseworkers will have to review the case to determine whether the person falls into  the Exception explained above.

Bridges will not be programmed to automatically close or deny FIP benefits for other FIP groups until the next Bridges Update (it appears this will occur some time in March - CCJ is trying to verify this).  Caseworkers have been instructed to check the Time Limit Screen in Bridges as well as the “grandfathered list” when processing FIP applications.  

WHAT MONTHS DO NOT COUNT TOWARD THE LIMIT?

Months that do NOT count toward the 60 months are:

1.   MONTHS THE FAMILY’S FIP IS STATE FUNDED, which include months in which the only child in the household was age 19 and completing high school and months in which the FIP group includes

(a)         2 parents

(b)         A parent or caretaker exempt from work participation due to disability lasting more than 90 days (CCJ is checking to verify if this includes individuals in “establishing incapacity” status)

(c)         Parent(s) whose children are all in foster care who are receiving FIP in anticipation of the child(ren)’s return to their care

(d)        A caregiver who is not related to the child who was placed with the caregiver by children services

2.   MONTHS IN WHICH THE INDIVIDUAL WAS A MINOR CHILD WHO WAS NOT A HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD

Note that deferral from PATH/JET does not mean the months are state funded unless the deferral was based either on a longer term (90 days or more) disability.  Other disability-based deferrals (short term disability, disability of child or spouse) do NOT result in state funding of the case. 

DHS also has instructed caseworkers to warn families about the 60 month time limit if they apply for FIP and have a count of 58 or 59 TANF-funded months, and give them an opportunity to withdraw their application.  

IS THE 48 MONTH LIMIT STILL IN EFFECT?

Yes. The 48 month time limit discussed in Issue Alert 11-10-1 ALSO remains in effect and applies to state-funded FIP benefits as well as TANF-funded benefits.  Families who started receiving benefits more recently may be cut off under that limit before they have 60 months.  Contact CCJ if you have questions about the 48 month time limit.

 

What Should Advocates Do?

1.    Educate clients and community organizations about the new time limit policy

2.    IMPORTANT:  Be aware that individuals’ deferrals from work participation programs (including  JET or Work First) may not always be coded correctly in Bridges and that Bridges may not always calculate countable months correctly.  In cases where there appear to be an error, clients should request a hearing and seek legal assistance.

3.    Help clients request and present information at administrative hearings when appropriate.

Email information to CCJ about families that are being harmed by time limits, especially those that include a parent or child with serious disabilities who do not meet the exception criteria explained above; or families where the parent was working and complying with work participation program requirements.  Please send emails to jdoig@ccj-mi.org.  CCJ will use the information in advocacy to change the law and policy.

What Should Clients Do?

1.       Seek legal advice if you are told you have – or are about to -- reached a time limit on FIP.

2.       Carefully consider whether you want to keep your cash assistance case open if your FIP grant is small, particularly if you have “used up” many of the months that count toward your 48 or 60 month limit unless you are among the few groups who are exempt from time limits.  If you get work and are given “EFIP”,  which is a $10 per month automatic 6 month post-employment extension of FIP, DHS says the extra months also count against your time limit.  Talk to an advocate about whether it is to your advantage to keep the EFIP or whether you should ask for it to be closed. Seek legal advice if necessary.

3.       Read your notices carefully.  If your FIP is ending, you have the right to request a hearing.  If DHS receives your hearing request within the deadline given in your notice, you will continue to receive FIP at your current level (but if you lose, will owe DHS any assistance you were not entitled to). 

Seek legal advice 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.