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Issue Alert - 13-12-01

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Date:

Dec 09, 2013

Program Area:

Disaster Food Assistance Program (DFAP)

Issue Summary:

Eligibility for DFAP benefits has been extended to households who were employed in the disaster area at the time of the disaster. Active FAP clients must file a DHS-601, Food Replacement Affidavit, in order to receive DFAP benefits.

Persons Affected:

Households employed and/or living in the disaster area at the time of the disaster.

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 326 S. Saginaw St Flint, MI 48502 (810) 244-8044; (800) 481-4989 (810) 244-5550 Fax 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

Disaster Food Assistance Program (DFAP) benefits are available to households who have been affected by federally declared disasters and mandatory evacuations, including tornadoes, floods, storms, and chemical spills.  A DFAP benefit is a single payment per federal disaster, which can be used to purchase or replace destroyed food.  The benefits are available to both active Food Assistance Program (FAP) clients and households who do not usually qualify for Food Assistance Program benefits.  New households must apply and demonstrate need in order to be eligible.

Michigan must request permission from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to operate a Disaster Food Assistance Program in a geographical area which has been declared a federal disaster.  Federally declared disasters are listed at www.fema.gov/disasters.  It is important that clients understand the process for applying when a disaster occurs:

1.   Within 48 hours of when Michigan is approved to operate a DFAP in a geographical area, the state will open the application period.

2.   The application period is typically seven calendar days long.  Households MUST apply within these seven days.

3.   Active Food Assistance Program/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households need to submit a DHS-601, Food Replacement Affidavit, within these seven days.  They do not need to participate in an interview or complete an application.

4.   Households who are not active FAP/SNAP clients need to complete a DHS-3220, Application for Disaster Cash and Food Assistance, within these seven days.

  • They must apply in person or through an authorized representative (who applies in person, is designated as an authorized representative in writing, and applies on behalf of the head of household). 
  • They must apply at a designated office or predetermined temporary location.
  • They must participate in an in-person interview as part of application.
  • The application date is the date that the local office receives the completed application.
  • Within three calendar days of the application date, the office must determine eligibility and issue benefits.

 

What's Happening?

Beginning December 1, 2013, there will be several changes to eligibility and application for DFAP benefits. 

 First, eligibility will be expanded to all households who lived or were employed in the disaster area at the time of the disaster.  Previously, eligibility was only available for those living in the disaster area.  After December 1, if households experience “damage to or destruction of their home or place of employment,” they are potentially eligible for DFAP benefits.

 Second, according to the language of the new Bridges Eligibility Manual provision, active Food Assistance Program (FAP) clients must complete a DHS-601 (Food Replacement Affidavit) in order to receive DFAP benefits.  This should be available from the local DHS office.  However, they do not need to participate in an interview or complete an application.

 Third, while households were previously able to apply for DFAP benefits at a local DHS office or other designated location, they will be now able to apply only at designated offices and designated locations.

 Fourth, the date of application will be the date that the local office receives the completed application.  In the past, the date of application was the date that the local office received the application with the minimum required information.

 Fifth, the new provision instructs that an applicant’s status as a “student, striker, citizen or alien, work program participant, [or] someone disqualified under the regular FAP program” cannot by itself disqualify him or her from DFAP benefits.

 Sixth, DHS now exercises the option to decrease the application period to fewer than seven calendar days, based on the circumstances.

Seventh, the DFAP may now allow a looser definition of "damage or destruction of an eligibility criterion for benefits.  The new provision instructs:  "DFAP has also been developed for other households requesting food assistance who sustain less apparent disaster damage and provided verification of the damage.  This may include water damage to furniture or essential personal items, water in the basement due to flooded sewers, and other damage".

This new policy is announced in Bridges Policy Bulletin 2013-018 and BEM 800, effective December 1, 2013.  The Bulletin is available at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/exf/BP/Public/BPB/2013-018.pdf and the policy is available at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/exf/BP/Public/BEM/800.pdf.

 

 

What Should Advocates Do?

  1. Educate clients and community organizations about these issues, especially groups who are not eligible for regular SNAP benefits, but who can get disaster SNAP (such as students, undocumented persons, disqualified persons).  Make sure that clients are aware of any deadlines and apply for disaster SNAP before they expire.
  2. Contact CCJ’s Food Helpline at 1-800-481-4989 for help understanding DFAP on behalf of your clients. 
  1. If you believe your client has suffered an adverse action in the DFAP program, help them request and present information at administrative hearings if and when appropriate.  Help clients find legal advice and assistance if they need it.

What Should Clients Do?

1.   Be informed about DFAP, and follow the application, eligibility, and participation rules exactly and timely. 

2.   Call CCJ’s Food Helpline at 1-800-481-4989 if you need to talk to an advocate about DFAP. 

    If appropriate, request and present information at an administrative hearing if you experience an adverse action with DFAP.  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.