To be eligible for the Food Assistance Program (FAP) you must meet certain requirements. Some of those requirements deal with employment. These are known as “work rules.” There are special work rules for some adults who live in households with no children. These are different from the general work rules for FAP. To learn more about general work rules for FAP, read The Food Assistance Program (FAP, or Food Stamps) Work Rules.
The Three−Month Rule
There are special FAP work rules for all able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD). You will be considered an ABAWD if all of the following are true:
- You are at least 18 years old, but have not turned 50 yet;
- You do not have a disability;
- You do not live in a household with a child under the age of 18;
- You do not live in a household with a pregnant woman (including yourself).
If you are an ABAWD, you must follow special work rules in order to get FAP benefits every month. If you do not follow the work rules, you can only get FAP for three months during a three-year period. The three-year periods are:
- Initial Period: January 1, 2017, through December 31, 2019
- Current Period: January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2022
- Next Period: January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2025
Months that you follow the work rules and get food stamps do not count towards the three-month limit.
Sometimes people get a deferral, which means they are excused from following the work rules. Other times someone may have good cause (a good reason) for not following the rules. To learn more about deferrals, read “Time Limit Deferrals” below. To learn more about good cause, read “Good Cause” below.
Every month that you do not follow the work rules, and you do not have good cause or a deferral, counts towards your three-month FAP limit. FAP benefits from other states can also be counted towards the limit.
Starting April 1, 2020, the following counties will not be subject to the three-month rule:
- Presque Isle
Time Limit Deferrals
You could be deferred (excused) from the three-month time limit. This means the time limit wouldn’t apply to you. These are reasons why you could be deferred:
- A minor lives in the household and shares food with you, even if the minor is not eligible for or disqualified from getting FAP;
- You are pregnant, or live with a pregnant woman and buy and prepare food with her;
- You qualify for a general work rules deferral (to learn more about general work rule deferrals, read The Food Assistance Program (FAP, or Food Stamps) Work Rules;
- The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) determines you cannot work.
These are the reasons why MDHHS would determine you cannot work:
- You have a disability;
- You are a survivor of domestic violence;
- You have been homeless for at least 12 months;
- You are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction.
If you believe you should get a deferral, speak with your caseworker about it. Your local legal services office may also be able to help you. If you qualify for free legal help from your local legal services office, the Guide to Legal Help will give you their contact information.
Satisfying the Time Limit Work Rules
If you don’t get a deferral, you can follow the time limit work rules so that you can get more than three months of FAP in a three-year period. The months you satisfy the work rules won’t count towards the three-month limit. You need to do one of the following to satisfy the rules:
- Work or volunteer at least 80 hours a month
- Participate in a Michigan Works! Agency (MWA) Employment and Training program for at least 80 hours a month
- Combine work hours and MWA work hours to get at least 80 hours a month
- Participate in MWA-assigned workfare
Sometimes things happen that prevent you from satisfying the work rules. Good cause means you have a good reason for not satisfying the work rules. If you are an ABAWD getting FAP, you have good cause if all of the following are true:
- You did not satisfy the work rules for reasons beyond your control;
- The situation is only temporary;
- You still have your job, MWA employment and training slot, workfare slot, or community service position.
Some examples of things that might count as good cause are:
- Being sick
- The death or illness of a household member that requires you to stay home
- No transportation was available to you
- Lack of work available
- Household emergency
- You are temporarily unfit for work
You may need proof of the reason why you weren’t able to follow the work rules, such as a doctor’s note.
If you have good cause, MDHHS will treat it as if you satisfied the work rules for that month.
If you believe you have good cause, speak with your caseworker. Your local legal services office may also be able to help you. If you qualify for free legal help from your local legal services office, the Guide to Legal Help will give you their contact information.
Appealing an MDHHS Decision
If you don’t agree with a decision MDHHS makes about work rules and your benefits, you have a right to request a hearing. If you request the hearing within 10 days of the date on the notice, you can ask to continue getting your benefits until the hearing decision is made. You may need to repay those benefits if MDHHS decides that you were not entitled to them. You might be eligible for retroactive benefits if you request a hearing within 90 days of the negative action and you win. This means you could get a payment on your Bridge Card to make up for your benefits that MDHHS did not pay you, but should have.
If MDHHS made a wrong decision about your case, request a hearing. You can use the Do-It-Yourself MDHHS Hearing Request tool to complete your request. Make a copy of the form to keep for your records.
You can mail or drop off your hearing request in person. If you choose to mail your request, you may want to send it by certified mail. Be sure to direct it to the Hearing Coordinator, not your caseworker. If you drop off your request, sign the log book in the office lobby (if available). If you have a phone, take a picture of your signature in the log book for your records. You could also ask the person who takes the request to stamp your copy as proof of when you dropped it off.
If you have questions about retroactive benefits, your local legal services office may be able to help you. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find a legal services office near you.