MFIP Sanctions

Ellen Smart, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
[email protected]
What is a sanction?
 A client’s MFIP grant is reduced by 10% to 100%
because the client is not doing something that is required.
 Two types of sanctions:
 Child support sanctions (implemented by the child support
 MFIP sanctions implemented by the employment counselor
or a financial worker
Sanction Reductions
 First sanction: 10% reduction. (Child support sanctions
start at 30% even if it’s the first one.)
 Second through sixth sanction: 30% reduction.
 Seventh+ sanction: 100% case closure. Client must cure
the sanction and reapply before the case will open again.
 A grant cannot be sanctioned more than once each month.
Effect on Grant
A family of four with no other income receives $621 in
cash and $604 in SNAP($1225 total).
 At 10%, the family’s cash drops to $498.50 (SNAP stays
at $604).
 At 30%, the family’s cash drops to $253.50 (SNAP stays
at $604).
 SNAP can also be reduced if there is not enough cash
to cover the sanction.
Child Support Sanctions
 Clients can be sanctioned for noncooperation with child
 Child support sanctions start at 30% . Minn. Stat. §
256J.246, subd. 2.
 During the sanction, the client is also cut off Medical
Assistance (MA). Minn. Stat. § 256.741, subd. 8(b)(3).
 Written notification to the client is required.
Child Support Good Cause
 Available to clients who can demonstrate that they or
their children may be harmed if a child support case is
 After the client alleges good cause, child support
collection efforts must stop while the client works on
her good cause application.
 Clients are automatically given 20 days, but that time
may be extended.
MFIP Sanctions
 Sanctions are implemented by the financial worker or
employment counselor.
 Sanctions can only be implemented by the financial
worker if the client misses the initial benefits overview.
 Client must be sent a Notice of Intent to Sanction
(NOITS) before the sanction is implemented.
Reasons for MFIP Sanctions
 Not attending an MFIP or employment services
 Failing to create/renew/follow an employment plan.
 Refusal to complete questionnaires or assessments re:
chemical health, mental health, or learning needs.
 Quitting or not accepting suitable employment.
 Not attending school. (Parents must attend school if
under 18 and can choose between school and work if
under 20.)
Notice of Intent to Sanction
 A NOITS is the notice your client must receive before an
MFIP sanction is imposed.
 Things that must be on the NOITS: date, reason for the
sanction, what the client has to do to make it right before
the sanction is imposed, a deadline, a language block, and
appeal rights (including the client’s right to a conciliation
conference with the job counselor).
 The client must be given at least 10 days to comply.
 Watch the reason for the sanction closely. Is it for failure to
do an activity on the plan? If not, is the reason valid?
Implementing a Sanction
 Once a NOITS has expired, the job counselor sends a status
update to the county imposing the sanction. The client
receives a notice from the county that they are in sanction.
 If the status update is not received or processed towards
the end of the month (usually after the 22nd), it will not be
implemented until the following month.
 If your client “cures” a sanction at the end of the month,
the next month’s grant will be reduced at first. In a couple
of weeks, a supplement will be issued for the difference.
Your Client Gets a NOITS
 What is the date on the NOITS? Appeal and/or
request a conciliation conference.
 Is the NOITS adequate?
 Did your client fail to do the activity specified on the
 What is going on with your client? Why didn’t s/he
Sanction Defenses
60 or over
Client or household member ill or disabled
Domestic violence
Personal or family crisis
Lack of transportation or child care and other good cause
Child under 12 months (Minn. Stat. § 256J.561, subd. 3)
Employment plan was not appropriate or was asking the
client to do too much
Be creative
Client meets a Family Stabilization Services (FSS) category
Employment Plan Issues
 Are the hours requirements valid? No matter how
many hours are on the plan, clients cannot be
sanctioned for doing at least this (Minn. Stat. §
256J.55, subd. 1(c)):
 87 hours/month in a one-parent household with a child
under 6
 130 hours/month in a one-parent household with no
children under 6
 55 hours/week total for two-parent households
 Does the plan meet the needs of your client? Is your
client capable of what the plan requires?
Good Cause Reasons
 Lack of transportation
 Lack of child care
 Quit because employment was unsuitable
 Client or child has to go to court
 Client has to go to child’s school because of a problem
(or client has to stay home with child who is
 Client is already in suitable work activities
 Other emergencies like funerals
 Common-sense reasons which may or may not
resonate with the job counselor.
 Client is 37 weeks pregnant, and her plan calls for 35
hours of job search per week.
 Client is the victim of identity theft, so job search is
Child Under 12 Months
 Not an exemption or good cause but useful in avoiding
 A household can be exempt from cooperating with
employment services for up to one year if there is a
child under 12 months in the household.
 Only one parent at a time can use this.
 12 months total, not 12 months per child.
Client Ill or Disabled
 Is your client unable to participate in activities for less
than 30 days? Over 30 days?
 Less than 30: A doctor’s note should excuse your client
from activities for those days.
 Over 30: Clients need a more detailed form from their
 Other: Low IQ, learning disabilities, etc.
Household Member Ill or Disabled
 Needed in the home (30 days or more)
 Severe & Persistent Mental Illness (adults) and Severe
Emotional Disorder (children)*
 Home care/waivered services*
 Temporary illnesses
* Banked months!
Domestic Violence
 If violence can explain noncompliance, the client
should develop a family violence waiver (FVW), and
the sanction should be cured.
 FVW Benefits:
 FVW clients cannot be sanctioned for failure to attend
group employment services overviews.
 The months an FVW is in place do not count towards
the 60-month limit.
 Employment plan requirements can be relaxed in terms
of activities and hours.
 Extension basis!
Family Violence Waivers
 Part of the employment plan.
 Must be written with the client, the employment
counselor, and a person trained in domestic violence
(advocate). Each county must have an advocate
 Requires proof. See Minn. Stat. § 256J.545.
 Clients cannot be required to get an OFP/HRO,
participate with court proceedings, call the police go to
counseling, or take their children to counseling.
Family Violence Waivers and
 Once a client tells the employment counselor about
domestic violence, a referral to an advocate should be
 If a client has a FVW, they should not be required to
attend a group employment services overview.b
 If domestic violence can explain noncompliance, the
sanction should be lifted for prior months, too.
Problems with Family Violence
 Client tells her job counselor about violence, and the
job counselor does nothing.
 Job counselor tells the client she have to have an OFP
to qualify or cannot live with the abuser.
 Job counselor singlehandedly makes the
determination that the violence isn’t serious, recent, or
 Renewal issues (job counselor wants additional proof
or thinks the client should be “over it by now”).
Seventh Sanction Issues
 Before implementing a 100% sanction, the job
counselor must follow certain procedures, including
attempting to meet with the client. Minn. Stat. §
256J.246, sub. 1(d).
 This is the only time job counselors must go back and
review prior sanctions even though the appeal time
has run, so use this to your advantage! Minn. Stat. §
256J.246, subd. 1(d)(3).
Other Sanction Issues
 If a client is in sanction during her 60th month, s/he is
not eligible for extensions, so it is important to identify
these cases quickly.
 Get the sanctions panel from a financial worker if you
do not know how many times your client has been
sanctioned and a time panel if your client does not
know what month s/he is in.
Family Stabilization Services (FSS)
 If the client receives FSS, there are extra steps the employment
counselor must take before imposing a sanction in Minn. Stat. §
256J.575, subd. 7(d). These are things like attempting a face-to-face
meeting and reviewing the file.
 Many of the “sanction defenses” are FSS criteria.
 If the employment counselor should know or suspects your client
qualifies for FSS before it’s been proven, your client should still get
FSS’s heightened sanction protection.
 In some cases, your client will be moved to an FSS-only employment
service provider.
FSS Criteria
 Parent applying for Social Security benefits
 Clients with family violence waivers
 Parents 60 or over
 Non-citizen who has been in the U.S. for under a year
 Client ill/incapacitated for over 30 days
 Household member who meets SED/SPMI standards or gets waivered
 Needed in the home
 Client is developmentally disabled/mentally ill/has an IQ under 80 and
has been assessed to be severely limited in ability to find or maintain
 Client is considered unemployable
Further information
 Minn. Stat. § 256J
 DHS Website (
Combined Manual
Employment Service Manuals
Appeals & Regulations Division (for appeals forms, fax number, etc.)
 (links to fact sheets and other legal
services info)
 Hennepin County’s employment services website (information
about job counselors and has links to DHS forms and manuals)

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