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Issue Alert - Family Independence Program (FIP)

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Date:

Apr 15, 2013

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

Households that have reached either their 48 or 60 month lifetime limit for FIP cash assistance benefits may be eligible for the Temporary Housing Assistance program for up to three months following their FIP case closure.

Persons Affected:

All former FIP recipients who were terminated from FIP due to either the 48 month time limit or the 60 month time limit.

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 320 S. Washington, 2nd. Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 PH: 989-755-3120 1-800-724-7441 Fax 989-755-3558


Background

This Issue Alert is based on Department of Human Services’ FOA-2013-06 dated February 25, 2013 regarding the Temporary Housing Assistance Program.

Michigan has two different lifetime limits on how long people can receive Family Independence Program (FIP) cash assistance; a 48-month limit and a newly reimplemented 60-month limit.  Households that receive FIP and reach either limit may be eligible for housing assistance through the Department of Human Services (DHS) for up to three months beginning the month after the closure of their FIP case.  The program is called the Temporary Housing Assistance Pilot Program (THA).  

What's Happening?

Overview

If DHS determines that the household is eligible for the THA program, and if the household complies with all of the program requirements, DHS pays some or all of the household’s rent or mortgage payment for up to three consequtive months, beginning with the month of the household’s initial application.  The amount that DHS pays must not be more than the household’s current monthly rent or motgage expense amount, or the SER cap, whichever is less, for the former FIP group size.  The THA program is available one time only. 

DHS makes the rent/mortgage payment directly to the landlord or mortgage holder.  However, DHS will make a payment on if the landlord or mortage holder is an “enrolled providers.”  In order to become enrolled, the landlord or mortgage holder must fill out a DHS-2351X (Model Payment Provider Enrollment Reuqest/Status Notice) and turn it back in to DHS. 

Eligibility

THA applicants must meet initial eligibility requirements upon applicantion for the first month of THA benefits.  The first month clients apply, they should fill out a State Emergency Relief (SER) application.  For the second and third months, clients should fill out a Temporary Housing Assistance Pilot Program Supplemental SER Application.  Both applications should be available at the local DHS office.  Pursuant to ERM 103, DHS has 10 calendar days in which to process the application.  The clock starts running on the day that the local DHS office receives the application.  There are no adjustments for holidays, weekends, or non-business days. 

One requirement is that the the former FIP group must not have been disqualified or sanctioned at the time the group reached its lifetime limit (either the 48-month limit or the 60-month limit). 

Another requirement is that the household must submit a current, signed, lease or rental agreement or a mortgage statement.  The DHS-3688 (Shelter Verification form) is NOT sufficient.  “Lease or rental agreement” means a writing that indicates that the lease is valid on the date of the THA application.  For example, if a person applies for THA benefits on 04/01/2013, a lease for the period of 01/01/2013 – 12/31/2013 would be an acceptable “lease or rental agreement” because it indicates that the lease is valid on the date of application, that being 04/01/2013. If the household receives a subsidized housing vouchure, the household’s current rent obligation amount must be verified before DHS will authorize a payment.

Once DHS determines that the group is initially eligible for the THA program, each adult group member must actively participate in the Michigan Works! Program, unless the adult is employed.  Additionally, each unemployed adult must attend an in-person orientation program at the local Michigan Works! office and personally appear and utilize the servies of the local Michigan Works! office once per week.  Upon the person’s personal appearance at the Michigan Works! office, they receive a “ticket.”  This ticket is verification of the person’s attendance at the local Michigan Works! office.  The person then, in turn, must submit the tickets to their local DHS office.  If the DHS office does not receive all of the tickets, the household becomes ineligible for the THA program.  If the person loses a ticket, it can be replaced only if the person personally appears for a second time at the local Michigan Works! office during the week in which they lost the ticket. 

Deferrals

If a THA applicant was deferred from the PATH program at the time they reached either the 48 or 60-month time limit, they are NOT deferred from participating in the Michigan Works! program and they MUST attend.  It is unclear whether it is possible for people to be deferred from participating in the Michigan Works! program.

Hearings

Like all DHS programs, if clients disagree with a DHS decision regarding their case, they can request a hearing using the Request for Hearing (DHS-18) form.  The form is located at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/rff/18.pdf.

Concerns about the THA program

·         The program policy is vague:  The written policy is does not offer many details about the specifics of the program, which may lead to arbitrary and capricious treatment of clients.

·         The requirement of a written lease:  In Michigan, written leases are not mandatory.  Therefore, many people do not have a written lease, which would make them ineligible for the THA program.  (For example, it is quite common for people to have verbal, “month-to-month” leases.)

What Should Advocates Do?

1.      Educate clients and community organizations about this program.

2.      Provide information to CCJ about families who are being denied the benefit of this program.  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 present information at administrative hearings.

4.      Share information with CCJ and other advocates about the effects of this program. 

What Should Clients Do?

1.      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.

2.      Be sure to turn all of your “tickets” that you get at Michigan Works! in to your DHS caseworker.  If your DHS caseworker does not receive all of the tickets, your household will not be eligible for the THA program.  Before you turn in your tickets, make a copy of the tickets to keep for your records.  Be sure to sign the tickets in to the log book at DHS and get the tickets day and time stamped, if possible.

3.      Get legal advice if you are told that your application has been denied.

4.      Read your notices carefully.  If your application has not been approved, or if your 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 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.)

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.