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Issue Alert - 13-04-02

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Date:

Apr 15, 2013

Program Area:

State Emergency Relief Program (SER)

Issue Summary:

The Department of Human Services (DHS) added a statement to BEM and BAM that groups applying for SER benefits are disqualified if a member is a fugitive felon. This is not new policy, but the clarifying statement is new.

Persons Affected:

Applicants for State Emergency Relief benefits.

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

Michigan’s State Emergency Relief program (SER) technically operates under its own policy known as the State Emergency Relief Manual (ERM).  The link to that policy is http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/ER/Public/ERM/000.pdf.  Bridges Eligibility Manual (BEM) lists the programs covered by it and Bridges Administrative Manual (BAM). That list does not include SER, however, the programs under BEM/BAM and SER under ERM are sometimes cross-referenced.  As DHS administers these programs, overlap does occur.   

 

As a state program, governed by state law (MCL 400.6 and MCL 400.14), and state administrative code (MAC R 400.1 et seq), there does not seem to be statutory or administrative authority for DHS SER policy, ERM 202 that says at page 2:  “Fugitive felons are not eligible, their presence disqualifies the group.”  It is worth noting that this change took place on 10-1-11 and was published in State Emergency Relief Bulletin ERB 2011-006. 

What's Happening?

DHS’s Bridges Policy Bulletin BPB 2013-008, dated 5-1-2013, notes an addition to BEM 203 and BAM 811 for purposes of clarification that “Fugitive felons are not eligible for SER, and their presence disqualifies the group”.  Although BEM and BAM do not govern SER, this added statement appears to serve as a reminder to DHS staff and others who refer frequently to BEM and BAM and may not look carefully at ERM for SER program policy, that persons identified as fugitive felons will prevent their household or group from being eligible for state emergency funds.

CCJ has been unable to find any legal authority for ERM 202’s provision stating that fugitive felons are not eligible and their presence disqualifies the entire group. 

 

For a detailed discussion of the definition of fugitive felon for purposes of DHS policy (BEM and ERM), see Issue Alert 13-01-06.

What Should Advocates Do?

1.    Educate clients and community organizations about the fugitive felon issue and its application to State Emergency Relief program eligibility and funding.

2.    Refer to Issue Alert 13-01-06 for comprehensive discussion regarding fugitive felon status and data matching issues, improper notices, etc.

3.    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, if you can assist clients with faxing the notice to CCJ, that would be helpful too.

4.    Help clients request hearings if their cases or benefits are wrongfully denied for having a fugitive felon status. PLEASE CONSULT WITH CCJ BEFORE CLIENTS REQUEST HEARINGS IN THESE CASES.

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

What Should Clients Do?

1.   Seek an advocate or legal advice if you are sent a Notice that your state emergency relief application is going to be denied due to fugitive felon status criminal justice disqualification. 

2.   Call CCJ if you get an improper Notice.  You can call our toll-free Helpline at (800) 481-4989.

3.   Communicate with your caseworker, either directly or through an advocate, to find out more about the fugitive felon status. The caseworker should be able to tell you the law enforcement agency, county or local prosecutor, or court where the charges or warrant are pending.  This will give you a chance to resolve the matter.  The charges do not have to be dismissed for you to receive benefits.  You just have to take steps to have an outstanding warrant or parole/probation violation resolved. 

4.   Read your Notices carefully.  If your application is denied, 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).  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.
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