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DHS could be held in contempt

Center for Civil Justice asks Genesee County Circuit Court to enforce its order and hold Department of Human Services in contempt

SAGINAW — On June 18, the Center for Civil Justice (CCJ) filed a motion asking the Genesee County Circuit Court to enforce its class action ruling that low-income families cannot be denied or terminated from cash assistance based on a 60-month lifetime limit that violates state law.

The Court issued an order directing the Department of Human Service (DHS) to appear on July 16 and show cause why it should not be held in contempt of court.

Circuit Court orders on March 27 and April 10 declared the 60-month time limit policy was unauthorized and invalid, and enjoined DHS from continuing to deny or terminate cash assistance based on the policy.

To date, only about 100 families have been approved to get back onto the Family Independence Program (FIP, cash assistance) under the decision invalidating the 60-month time limit, out of at least 6,000 eligible families who have applied in response to the court-approved notices that promised quick processing.

“These cases are not being processed in a timely manner in spite of DHS promises that they would be expedited, and families are suffering as a result,” said Jackie Doig, senior staff attorney for the Center for Civil Justice. “DHS created a slow, cumbersome process for handling class members’ applications, with the end result that they still are not receiving assistance because of the unlawful policy.”

Under DHS policy, eligible non-class members have their applications approved in 45 days or less, and attend the work program orientation as the last step before their cash assistance is paid. But class members who were illegally terminated continue to go without assistance more than 50 days after they applied and after they have been attending not only Orientation, but several weeks of work program assignments.

Charita, a 46-year-old mom, and her three children are one of the 11,000 families who were cut off FIP in November 2011. For many years Charita worked for an automobile industry supplier, but lost her job in a 2007 layoff. She has since lost her home, and she and her children have been living with family members since her unemployment benefits ran out. “My worker told me they do not have to process the applications because they are waiting for the lawsuit to finish. My family can’t wait. I can’t provide a home for my children or the basic necessities that my children need. I am willing, able and wanting to work, and have had many interviews, but no luck with being hired.”The Center for Civil Justice has received hundreds of phone calls from parents with reports similar to Charita’s: families that are eligible, complying with DHS requirements, and waiting for their benefits to be restored.

For more information, contact the Center for Civil Justice at 989.755.3120.

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