60 Month Lifetime Limit on FIP Benefits
After 60 months, a person's FIP benefits will end unless the person is exempt from the limit due to a hardship. This article deals with the 60-month (five year) lifetime limit. It explains the laws on asking to extend FIP benefits for six more months.
People may ask for a six-month FIP extension if they meet certain hardship criteria. More than one six-month extension may be available for those who qualify.
What Counts Toward the 60 Months of Benefits?
Any month an adult head of household gets FIP benefits will count toward the 60-month limit. Under federal law, any TANF payment (welfare) a person gets in any state counts toward the 60 months. The 60-month limit does not apply where the FIP child's only parent in the home is on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, for any month when both parents of the FIP child are in the home, but only one parent is on SSI, the month counts toward the 60-month limit.
For example: Sally Doe and her two children get FIP. The whole family will be ineligible when Sally has received FIP for 60 months.
Another example: Mr. Smith and Ms. Smith are married and have two children. Ms Smith is disabled and has been getting SSI. The family has received FIP since January of 2007. The family will be subject to the 60-month limit since one of the parents was on the FIP grant and not on SSI. If the family was only Ms. Smith and her two children, the family would not be subject to the 60-month limit.
Which Household Members Can Receive Benefits Past the 60 Months?
In cases where the children do not live with parents, only the needy specified relative becomes ineligible at the end of the 60-month period. FIP for the children may continue.
For example: Jack Doe gets FIP for himself and two grandchildren. At the end of the 60-month period, only Jack Doe will be removed from the grant. He may continue to receive FIP for his grandchildren. His grant would go from $426 for a three-person household to $361 for just the two grandchildren.
Does the 60-Month Limit Only Count if I Received FIP for 60 Months in a Row?
The total limit of 60 months does not have to be 60 months in a row. Any FIP benefits after January 1, 1997, will count as part of the total. Assistance from before January 1, 1997, is not counted. Even though someone gets FIP for just part of a month, it still counts as a full month.
To figure the number of months a family got FIP, the Department will not consider toward the 60-month limit any month the family did not get a FIP check. This includes when:
- all FIP is suspended for the month;
- no FIP is issued for the month because the family was eligible for less than $10 in benefits;
Also, the Department will not count as part of the 60-month limit some cases that include a minor who is a parent who lives with an adult who is on FIP. DHS will also not count as part of the limit certain relatives who may be taking care of a child but do not get FIP for themselves.
Are There Exceptions to the 60-Month Limit?
A family may get FIP for more than 60 months if it qualifies for a hardship exemption. DHS defines "hardship" as things that prevent a family from being self-supporting. DHS is to take into account a family's safety if FIP benefits are terminated. DHS will not accept a request for hardship exemptions before the first day of the family's 59th month on FIP. This lets a family ask for a hardship exemption two months before they will be cut off FIP.
A hardship may be granted if a person can provide evidence of domestic violence, lack of employability, lack of suitable child care, medical or mental health issues, housing situations that make it difficult to work, substance abuse issues, and having a child whose circumstances require a parent to be in the home. The rules to decide whether to grant a hardship exemption should be applied to the family's circumstances present at the time they apply for the hardship exemption. For example, if domestic violence took place three years ago but does not impact the family's ability to become self-sufficient, it may not meet the hardship criteria.
DHS rules provide that families with an adult who is an alien and not permitted to work cannot get more than 60 months of FIP. This is the only group of people who cannot ask for an extension.
The final item on the DHS list is "other circumstances which prevent the family from becoming self-supporting." This is a very broad provision. It may be used to ask for a hardship exemption if a family does not fit into any other category, but you believe that benefits should be continued.
How Do I Ask for an Exemption?
The form to use is called "Request for FIP Beyond 60 Months (Form 470-3826)." You can get it at any DHS or Promise Jobs office, and it should be sent to you as you near the end of your 60 months of FIP benefits.
You must also provide supporting evidence of the hardship barrier and the impact of that barrier on your ability to leave FIP. For example, if you have experienced domestic violence, you could provide copies of police reports or protective orders. DHS should advise you about how to obtain the necessary documents to prove your hardship, and upon your request, DHS must help you to obtain the documents if you are not able to obtain them on your own. Examples of supporting evidence are:
- Court, medical, criminal, child protective services, social services, psychological, or law enforcement records;
- Statements from professionals with knowledge of the hardship barrier;
- Statements from vocational rehab or other job training professionals;
- Statements from other individuals with knowledge of the hardship. Note that statements from friends and relatives alone will likely not be sufficient, but could be used to support other evidence;
- Court, criminal, police records or statements from domestic violence counselors. Living in a domestic violence shelter will not automatically qualify you for a hardship exemption, but would be considered strong evidence;
- Actively pursuing verification of a disability through the Social Security Administration may not be sufficient to grant hardship status, but may be used to support other evidence.
If DHS requests that you submit additional information, they must notify you in writing and allow you ten days to supply the requested information.
Important Note for Hardships Due to Domestic Violence
The form does not give much detail on what is considered domestic violence. "Domestic violence" means that the family includes someone who has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty. It includes:
- Physical acts that resulted in, or are threatened to result in, physical injury to the individual;
- Sexual abuse;
- Sexual activity involving a dependent child;
- Being forced as the caretaker relative of a dependent child to engage in nonconsensual sexual acts or activities;
- Threats of, or attempts at, physical or sexual abuse;
- Mental abuse;
- Neglect or deprivation of medical care.
When Do I Find Out if My Request is Granted?
Your income maintenance worker will look at the reasons you give to DHS in support of your request for an exemption. He or she will determine if you should be exempt from the 60-month limit due to a hardship. The decision shall be made no later than 30 days after the Department of Human Services gets a written request. A written notice of decision will be issued by the next working day after a decision on eligibility for hardship is made.
If your request is granted, you will be eligible to receive benefits for six months. There is no limit on the number of hardship exemptions a family may get over time. However, for each six-month extension, the family must negotiate and sign a new Family Investment Agreement (FIA).
If Your Request Is Denied, You Have the Right to Appeal
If a request for hardship exemption is denied by the Income Maintenance Worker, you have a right to appeal the decision by filing an appeal with the local office. If you get a notice of denial, you have 30 days to file an appeal. If you file the appeal within 10 days and request that your benefits continue, the FIP benefits will continue until DHS issues a final decision. However, those benefits are subject to repayment if you end up losing the appeal.
Know When Your Benefits Will End and Think About What You Will Do
Under the law, most households will be denied FIP payments when the 60-months are reached. This could have very serious results for children and adults with little other than food stamps to support themselves. It is very important to know when you will be reaching the 60-month limit. If you believe you need continued benefits and would meet one of the hardship exemptions, make sure you apply and send in any supporting records when you reach the 59th month. Asking for the exemption as soon as possible helps make sure you will have enough time to find out if you will be able to continue to get benefits. It is a good idea to check with your income maintenance worker to see how many months of benefits you have that count toward your 60-month limit.
How to Get Help
Iowa Legal Aid can represent people with FIP problems. If you feel that you need help in filing your application for hardship exemption, contact Iowa Legal Aid. You may also want to ask for help to appeal a denial of your hardship exemption, or negotiating a new Family Investment Agreement. Call any Iowa Legal Aid office to ask for assistance.
You or family members may want to know more about the 60-month limit and how to request a hardship exemption. To request assistance from Iowa Legal Aid, call 1-800-532-1275. Hours for telephone intakes are from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. You may also want to check with your local Iowa Department of Human Services office, Promise Jobs office, or local domestic abuse program if you are a survivor of domestic violence.