Will I have to work 40 hours a week in order to receive cash assistance?

What every FIP applicant and recipient should know about laws that allow DHS to require “up to 40 hours” of work participation



Starting April 1, 2002, the Department of Human Services (DHS) is requiring many Family Independence Program (FIP) cash assistance recipients to work or participate in Work First “up to 40 hours” per week. This pamphlet describes some of the new DHS policies, including

  •  Who should be deferred from the work rules

  • “Good Cause” reasons for not following the work rules when they apply to you

  •  New sanction policies Under this new policy many people will be required to work 40 hours each week, but not all FIP recipients will have that requirement:

You will have no hourly work requirement
if you are “deferred.” You will have a work requirement of less than 40 hours if you 1) have medical limitations but are not totally unable to participate in work or Work First, 2) care for a child with a very severe disability, or 3) have an active Child Protective Services or foster care case with DHS.

You will have a 30-hour participation requirement if you are enrolled in an approved education or training program through Work First, including the “10/10/10” program. Some or all of the 30 hours will include education. 

For more information on the Work First program, view this resource on the site: Help To Get Ahead: Education & Training Opportunities for Parents in Work First.


Recipients who should be deferred from Work First have “good cause” for not complying with work/Work First requirements. Make sure you caseworker knows if you should be deferred. Seek legal advice if you are assigned to work or Work First when you should be deferred. You are deferred from Work First if you are:

    • Under age 16
    • Age 65 or older
    • A parent of a child under 3 months old (only 1 parent deferred for a child)
    • Unable to find adequate, appropriate, affordable childcare for a child under age 6
    • Disabled (receiving SSI or Social Security disability benefits, or applying for them without a final denial, or meeting SSI disability standards except for 12 months duration)
    • Temporarily incapacitated (condition prevents participation and is pregnancy related or is expected to last less than 3 months)
    • A victim of domestic violence (for 3 months, subject to 1 extension)
    • Experiencing a temporary critical event (such as homelessness)
    • A fulltime caregiver for a disabled spouse (see definition of disabled above)
    • A caregiver actively participating in Early On for a child in his/her care
    • A fulltime caregiver of a disabled child, if the child’s needs prevent participation.  



Even if you are not deferred, you may have “good cause” for not following the work rules, quitting or refusing work in a particular situation. If you have good cause for not following a FIP work rule, make sure you tell your caseworker about your reason! If you have good cause, you should not be sanctioned. Good cause reasons include:

    • Unplanned event or factor, e.g. domestic violence, homelessness, other crisis that prevents or interferes with job/activity
    • Job causes family a net loss of income
    • Participant has a debilitating illness or injury, or is unable to mentally or physically do the activity or job
    • Family member’s illness or injury requires participant’s in-home care
    • Adequate, affordable, appropriate childcare not available within reasonable distance · Work First or employer fails to make reasonable accommodations for needs related to disability of participant, child or spouse
    • Transportation not available at reasonable cost
    • Commuting time is more than 2 hours a day (or 3 including time to childcare)
    • The job or participation involves illegal activity, or subjects participant to illegal discrimination
    • Quit a job to obtain comparable job, or moved to accommodate a household member’s job
    • Interferes with approved education/training and the individual is meeting the work requirement.  



DHS will cut off all FIP cash assistance to your family if you don’t follow the work or Work First rules, unless you have good cause. When DHS decides that yo u have not followed a work or child support rule, the caseworker is supposed to try to figure out if you had “good cause” for not following the rule. If DHS doesn’t find good cause, your family’s FIP will stop for at least 1 month.



Contact your DHS worker immediately to explain any good cause reasons for noncompliance. If the worker is hard to reach by phone, leave a message explaining the good cause reason, and write down the dates and times of the messages. Also send a note explaining the good cause. You may have to prove that you gave this information to DHS.  Get legal advice if you are not sure if you have good cause, if you have trouble verifying good cause, or if you have other problems related to the work/Work First requirement.  Request a hearing if you think you have good cause, should have been deferred, or did not fail to comply with work or Work First. If you request a hearing within 10 days of the notice of a sanction, your benefits will continue until a decision is made on your hearing.  


 You should also seek legal advice if you have problems with any of the issues that this article covers, OR

    • Your increased work/Work First requirement interferes with your ability to attend therapy, counseling, medical appointments, parenting classes, school events, or other important activities
    • DHS or Work First fails to accommodate the disability-related needs of you or a family member when assigning you to work/Work First.    

To locate free or low cost legal assistance:

  • Visit the Michiganlegalaid.org home page and search for local assistance by entering your zip code in the box marked “Find a lawyer, organization or related service to help you with your problem.” or

  • Look under "attorneys" in the yellow pages to find your local legal aid office, or

  • Contact the Michigan State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 968- 0738. 

  • Persons age 60 or older, regardless of their income, may be able to receive free advice from the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors by calling (800) 347-5297.

This article appears courtesy of the Michigan Center for Civil Justice.