The Fate of Needy Families Rests with the Michigan Supreme Court

Lansing, MI, November 15, 2012 – Thousands of families, many of whom are caring for children with severe disabilities, may be left without money to pay rent or other bills if the Michigan Supreme Court rules in favor of a Department of Human Services policy limiting cash assistance.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on a class action case today brought against DHS by the advocacy organization – Center for Civil Justice.  The Supreme Court will decide whether to accept the case and take the appeal.  The case states that families are being cut off from Family Independence Program funds under an agency-created time-limit policy that conflicts with state law.

The DHS policy terminates people getting cash assistance beyond a 60-month lifetime limit that started retroactively to 1996.  CCJ attorneys say the time limit ignores the state legislature’s intent to have a 48-month limit starting in 2007 and it’s not mandated by federal law.  On November 1, 2011 DHS terminated 11,000 families from assistance based on the 60-month time limit and DHS continued to end benefits to more families until a ruling by the Genesee Country Circuit Court in March.  The Circuit Court ruled that the lifetime limit policy was invalid and directed DHS to stop denying assistance to families under the policy.  That ruling was appealed and the issue has now made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Thousands of affected families had benefits reinstated under the Circuit Court’s decision that the time limit violated the state social welfare act and was implemented without following proper rule-making procedures.  The Court of Appeals ruled that the 60-month time limit was authorized, but held that DHS may have failed to use proper rule-making procedures when it adopted the policy.  Both sides have appealed.

If the court of appeals decision stands, thousands of families with children would lose the benefits they need to pay for basic living expenses like rent, utilities and clothing.

Source: Press Release


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