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New PATH Program to Help Those on Cash Assistance Address Challenges to Secure Employment

LANSING, Mich. Dec. 19, 2012 - Beginning Jan. 1, families applying for cash assistance through the Family Independence Program (FIP) will be referred to a new program launched by the Michigan Department of Human Services in partnership with the Work Development Agency and Michigan Works! Agencies - PATH (Partnership. Accountability. Training. Hope.) PATH replaces the Jobs, Education and Training (JET) work participation program that has been in place since 2007.

The hallmark of the new PATH program is a 21-day assessment period in which the client works one-on-one with both DHS and Michigan Works! caseworkers to identify barriers to employment and connect the client to resources addressing those challenges. Caseworkers in both agencies have long reported that the challenges many FIP applicants face pose significant roadblocks to obtaining and sustaining employment. 

"Our clients apply for cash assistance in varying degrees of job readiness," says DHS Director Maura D. Corrigan. "For many, issues ranging from transportation to literacy and childcare will make finding and keeping a job nearly impossible.  Together with our partners at Michigan Works!, we are committed to helping our clients work through these challenges by dedicating the 21-day assessment and resource allocation period necessary to be successful on their path to independence."

Under the current JET program, orientation periods are inconsistent statewide-ranging  from four hours to three days. PATH standardizes the assessment period and ensures that caseworkers are provided with enough time to identify barriers and connect clients to resources. The complexity of multiple challenges or particular circumstances makes the 21 days necessary to fully engage the clients in charting their paths to independence as well as identifying resources.

Like the JET orientation period, the PATH assessment period is an eligibility requirement. Once clients complete the 21-day assessment and resource connection, their cases will be open. If the application is denied for any reason, including lack of client participation in the assessment period, the applicant is welcome to reapply for benefits immediately.

The new program also does a better job of aligning with federal guidelines.  Under current federal regulations, the important work of connecting key resources to move beyond employment barriers is not counted toward the required employment search hours.  As such, addressing these barriers could result in the state being fined for clients not meeting work participation requirements. 

DHS and Michigan Works! will work cooperatively to track the success of the PATH program.  A metrics dashboard will be available for review and will measure performance in three key areas: work participation, barrier identification and employment opportunities. 

"The January launch of PATH is only the first phase of this program," says Corrigan. "We are working with our state and federal partners - as well as the private and non-profit sectors - to create innovative solutions to the issues that our clients face most often. We fully intend to continue enhancing this program."

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