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Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Case – Treating Source Rule

MPLP Summer 2008 Public Benefits Section Newsletter Article

                Issue 36, Summer 2008

Denial of State Emergency Relief Based on Food Assistance Sanction


State Emergency Relief (SER) is a cash assistance program run by the Department of Human Services (DHS) that seeks to prevent serious harm to individuals and families. According to DHS, SER assists applicants with safe, decent, affordable housing and other essential needs when an emergency situation arises. ERM 101.  The manuals for regulating the SER program can be found online in the State Emergency Relief Manual  The acronym for this manual is not SER, but ERM – Emergency Relief Manual. 


A common reason given by DHS for denying applications for SER is Client Caused Emergency.  ERM 204.  A client-caused emergency is when an SER group fails to pay required payments for the six month period prior to the month of application.  Clients may request a good cause exception to this rule based on lack of income or unexpected expenses.  If DHS determines that the group had adequate resources to meet its obligations but failed to do so, the SER application will be denied.


One area where many applicants get denied on the basis of a client-caused emergency is when the group’s benefits are being reduced because of a DHS sanction.  If an application group has reduced income because of a sanction, the SER application will be denied.  However, a sanction based on a violation of the Food Assistance Program (FAP) should not be treated the same as a sanction from a cash-assistance program such at Family Independence Program (FIP).  Michigan’s SER administrative rules state that a client shall agree to take all feasible action to make potential resources available before emergency relief is issued.  AR 400.7019.  "Potential resource" means an asset or income that may be available to a client if action is taken to make the asset or income available.  AR 400.7005(e) "Income" means all earned or unearned monies that are received by a client. Rule 400.7006(e) It does not include Food Assistance.  AR 400.7021 goes on to say that an assistance group shall not be eligible for relief under SER program if a member of the group has been denied assistance under any of the following programs for failure to comply with a procedural requirement of those programs:

(a) The aid to families with dependent children program administered by the department (now known as FIP)

(b) The state disability assistance (SDA) program administered by the department.

(c) The state family assistance program administered by the department.

(d) The supplemental security income (SSI) program administered by the Social Security Administration. 

Clearly, the Food Assistance Program is not listed here and therefore a group serving a sanction for an FAP violation should not be denied SER on this basis.  Unfortunately, DHS has again started to deny SER on this basis, despite advocates attempts to education them.  If you have a client that is being denied SER on this basis, please request an administrative hearing and contact the Michigan Poverty Law Program.

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