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Introducing "Do-It-Yourself Tools," and More!
It may be summertime, but the MLH staff have been working hard! We celebrated the 4th anniversary of our launch on August 17. Happy birthday to us!
We have recently added to the website a number of new resources we expect will be of great interest to MLH visitors. Our new content includes:
- Food Stamp Calculator: People can use this tool to find out if their households are eligible for Food Stamps, and get an estimated benefit amount. The enhanced articles in the toolkit include additional information about food stamps.
- I Wasn’t Paid for My Work: Wage and Hour Claims Toolkit: The resources in this toolkit explain what a worker can do if they weren’t paid for their work, or if their employer isn’t properly paying them. It includes referrals to legal services agencies that can assist.
- I Need to Make a Will Toolkit: Interested people can use this toolkit to learn about whether they need a will, and how to create one. The toolkit includes a Do-It-Yourself Will tool for drafting a Michigan statutory will.
- Small Estates: Transferring Property When Someone Dies Toolkit: Lots of information about small estates, plus informal and formal probate of larger estates. The Do-It-Yourself Small Estates tool provides the forms that heirs need to handle small estates from start to finish.
- Two new articles about Child Protective Services: “CPS and Your Family” and “Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry.”
Many of our toolkits have recently been updated or modified. Please take some time to revisit the website and see what new resources we added!
You will notice that our forms (previously known as “Automated Online Interviews”) have been renamed “Do-It-Yourself” tools. We anticipate this will make it even easier for visitors to find the resources they need.
We want to remind you that LiveHelp is available weekdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. LiveHelp is a chat-based feature where website visitors can get assistance navigating the website. (They cannot get legal advice.) This service has been very successful: in July 2016 alone LiveHelp agents conducted 427 chats and replied to 237 after-hours emails. Just click the orange “Need Help?” button in the corner of the screen.
Thank you for using MLH!
New Food Stamps Toolkit and Calculator launched!
MLH is pleased to announce a new toolkit in the Public Benefits section all about Food Stamps. The I Need Food Stamps (FAP) toolkit has information about how to apply for food stamps, who is eligible, and additional help for people who are homeless or who are immigrants. The toolkit also has a link to the Food Stamp (FAP) Calculator, where people can find out if they are eligible for Food Stamps, and if they are, how much Food Stamps they can expect. These resources used to be found at FoodStampHelp.org, but MLH worked with Legal Services of Eastern Michigan to update them and move them to Michigan Legal Help.
MLH in the NYT
11th Self-Help Center opens in Alcona County!
We are pleased to announce the Grand Opening of our 11th Self-Help Center. On Wednesday, May 18th the Alcona County Library in Harrisville, MI welcomed partners from the courts and wider community to celebrate this new hub of legal assistance for residents of the surrounding areas, including Alcona, Oscoda, Arenac and Iosco counties.
“We are very pleased to be a part of the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center network,” said Hon. Laura A. Frawley, Chief Judge of the Alcona County Circuit Court, “The 23rd Judicial Circuit is one of the largest circuits in Michigan, and serves the residents of four rural counties: Alcona, Arenac, Iosco and Oscoda. In areas with low population and high unemployment, there are real limitations on access to legal representation or legal aid clinics and other services. By getting legal information and assistance from the Self-Help Center at the Alcona County Library, people will be better equipped to bring their cases before the court, which will improve their experiences as well as make court operations smoother.” She adds, “Individuals from any of these counties are also welcome to visit our Self-Help Center, or the one at the Oscoda County Public Library.”
“We are delighted to be working with so many community partners in Alcona County and throughout the state,” said Michigan Legal Help Program Director Angela Tripp. “The addition of the Self-Help Center of Alcona County gives us the chance to reach even more people in northern Michigan who need legal self-help tools. We are so excited about the growth in the Self-Help Center network state-wide, and about this new location in Alcona County, First of 83!”
Education Section added
The MLH site recently introduced a new content area: Education. Two toolkits, My Child Needs or Gets Special Education Services and My Child is Facing Punishment or Explusion from School deal with special education-accommodations, discipline, student rights, Limited English Proficiency students. Soon an interview will be added to allow parents to create the letters necessary to petition for these services.
New Family Law Content
Attention Food Assistance recipients and applicants
Michiganders who receive food assistance are encouraged to file for a Home Heating Credit to make sure they get the full amount of benefits they are eligible to receive.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is making Michigan residents aware of the potential effect the credit can have on federal food assistance benefits available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Some renters could qualify for increased monthly food assistance if they receive a Home Heating Credit of more than $20 in the current month or any of the previous 12 months and then notify their MDHHS caseworker.
The credit in some cases is a factor in determining the amount of food assistance for renters who don’t pay their heating costs separately.
The Home Heating Credit is available to customers who meet income requirements and own or rent a home in Michigan. Apply by filling out Form MI-1040CR-7 for 2015. It is available without filing a Michigan tax return. To get a form:
- Download the Form and Booklet from the Michigan.gov website..
- Pick up a paper copy at a public library, post office, MDHHS office or other locations where income tax forms are available.
- Call the Department of Treasury at 517-636-4486.
- If you are hearing- or speech-impaired, contact the Michigan Relay Center, 800-649-2777 or 7-1-1.
- Call 2-1-1 to find local agencies that provide assistance with completing tax forms. Michiganders should file as soon as they know their household income for 2015. The deadline is Sept. 30.
Frequently asked questions about the credit and food assistance can be found on the MDHHS website.
Two New Interviews Now Available
Divorce Process Flow Chart & New Toolkit Layout
Happy New Year! MLH is happy to announce two improvements to the website for 2016:
- The Divorce Process Flow Chart is accessible as an article in the Family Section, and also via a link in the Checklist! This guide should help plaintiffs and defendants alike in understanding the steps and timelines involved with the entire divorce process, from filing to service to hearings. Friend of the Court meetings and default/consent judgments.
- All Forms are now easier to access! We changed the Toolkit Layout to display all relevant Forms at the top pf the page and all Articles below.
Look for more Flow Charts in other content areas soon, and please tell us what you think about the changes. Your feedback helps us improve our services as we grow!
2015 End of the Year Greetings
Well, the verdict is clear: we’re doing lots of things right! The Michigan Legal Help Program is now in its third year, and the state-wide project to help self-represented litigants in Michigan is growing:
- 6.3 million page views to www.michiganlegalhelp.org since August 2012
- 23,000+ visits per week
- 276 sets of forms completed per day on LawHelp Interactive
- 10 Self-Help Center locations
As 2015 ends, we would like to share some recent highlights with you:
- This fall we improved the website design. The new toolkit layout collapses the Common Questions and makes the important, county-specific Checklists easier to find. We also updated the LiveHelp button so it floats on the screen while you search the site. Traffic on the chat service increased right away. Now it is easier for visitors to find the legal information they need and succeed with their cases. If you have any feedback about these changes, we'd love to hear it!
- As always, we continue to develop new legal content and work with our partners. The new section on Estates & Guardianships achieves both these goals. The Small Estates Toolkit: How to Transfer Property When Someone Dies explains simplified processes and informal probate proceedings. The automated interview helps people handle estates valued at $22,000 or less.
- We are also very proud that the Spanish-language version of the website, ayudalegaldemichigan.org, is complete! All content, including housing, is available en español. We will continue to translate new content as it is added to MLH.
- The Self-Help Network also grew by a lot in 2015! Services to the Detroit metro area increased dramatically. MI Supreme Court Justice Viviano came to the MLH Self-Help Center of Macomb County opening on October 22nd. Then, on November 19th, the MLH Legal Self-Help Center of Southwest Detroit opened at Family Alliance for Change. This site will complement the bilingual website and help Latino residents. This SHC is the second one in Wayne County. The original site, on the 13th Floor of the Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit, expanded its services this month! Approximately 300 hundred people per month use the six computer stations now available. Welcome to all of our new Navigators who joined this year!
We are grateful to everyone who has helped to improve and expand our project. And we are excited about what is coming in 2016! Look for a new content area on Special Education coming soon…
Happy Holidays from the MLHP Team