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Family Independence Temporary Assistance (FITAP)

What is FITAP?

The Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP) is a public assistance program that provides financial aid for children in their own homes who are in need because they do not have sufficient financial support from parents. The overall goal of FITAP is to decrease the long-term dependency on public assistance by promoting job preparation and work. Public assistance is no longer a lifetime benefit but an opportunity to become independent after a financial crisis.

FITAP is authorized by the Social Security Act as amended by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Effective January 1997 FITAP is funded by the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Block Grant. The Department of Health and Human Services is the federal agency responsible for its administration. The program is administered at the state level by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).


FITAP Benefits

 
Louisiana is increasing the cash benefit amounts available through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for the first time in more than two decades. The increases will effectively double cash assistance through FITAP beginning in January 2022.
 
 
Household Members Current Benefit Amount January 2022 Benefit Amount
1 $122 $244
2 $188 $376
3 $240 $484
4 $284 $568
5 $327 $654
6 $366 $732
7 $402 $804
8 $441 $882
9 $477 $954

Who is Eligible?

 

To be eligible for FITAP, the family must meet all the conditions listed below:

  • the client must be living in the state, must intend to make a home here and the stay cannot be temporary.
  • the client must be a U.S. citizen, a non-citizen national, or a qualified alien.
  • a family must be considered financially needy to be eligible. This means that the income available to care for the child does not meet his needs.  DCFS has standard amounts based on the number of persons included in the grant.  Income is subtracted from these amounts to determine need.
  • all applicants or recipients must provide or apply for a Social Security number for each member of the assistance unit.
  • children must be under the age of 18 to be eligible or 18 years of age and enrolled full-time in a secondary school or in the equivalent level of vocational or technical training.
  • in order to receive FITAP assistance for a child, an individual must be a qualified relative by meeting certain relationship requirements, i.e., must be related by blood, marriage or adoption.
  • it must be verified that the child actually lives in the same home with the qualified relative.
  • the client must assign any child support and medical support rights to the state and must cooperate with the agency's Child Support Enforcement Services in establishing paternity and obtaining child support and medical support from the absent parent(s) unless good cause has been established.
  • monthly countable income, both earned and unearned, cannot exceed the flat grant amount for the number of persons in the assistance unit. Total countable income is subtracted from the flat grant amount to determine the client's grant amount. The allowable earned income deductions are:   
    • Standard earned income deduction of $120 for each employed member.  
    • Dependent care deductions may be allowable for each employed member.  Certain requirements must be met to qualify for this deduction.
    • Time-limited deduction of $900 for six months for each employed member.
  • Work eligible applicants and recipients must participate in the Strategies to Empower People (STEP) Program unless exempt under criteria established by the agency. 
  • sufficient evidence of immunity or immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases according to the Office of Public Health schedule or evidence that such an immunization program is in progress, must be provided for each recipient under the age of 18.
  • each applicant/recipient who is pregnant or has a child under the age of one must attend parenting skills training.
  • the family is ineligible to receive assistance if a parent or either parent in a two-parent family has received benefits for 24 of the prior 60 months. There is a 60-month lifetime limit if the assistance unit includes a parent/caretaker relative.
  • minor unmarried parents and their children must reside in the home of a parent, legal guardian, other adult relatives, or in an adult-supervised living arrangement in order to qualify for assistance.
  • Applicants/recipients age 18 and over must cooperate in screening for the use of illegal drugs, and, if necessary, drug testing, education and rehabilitation.

How Do I Apply?

 
  • A qualified relative applying for the child can apply online through the Louisiana CAFÉ Self Service Portal (www.dcfs.la.gov/cafe).

    Click here for a video tutorial on how to upload documents to CAFÉ. Other helpful How-To videos about CAFÉ can also be found at http://dcfs.la.gov/page/cafe-video-tutorials.

    Applications may also be submitted at a local DCFS community partner. Click here for a statewide list of community partners.
     
  • When applying for FITAP benefits, there are several documents you need to provide – either by uploading them in CAFÉ when you apply or by emailing/mailing/faxing them to us. Uploading these documents in CAFÉ when you apply will help reduce the time it takes to process your FITAP application. Please gather these documents and save them to your computer or mobile device before you start the application process so you will have them ready to upload when you apply. CAFÉ can accept scanned PDF documents, as well as GIF, JPG and PNG photos. Click here for a list of what kinds of documents can be used as proof.

    If someone applies on the applicants' behalf, additional information is needed to establish the child’s relationship to the applicant.

    DCFS must conduct an interview and obtain other verifications to determine if the child is eligible.
     
  • Income from all sources must be taken into account in the determination of eligibility and the amount of grant. This includes income from Social Security, veteran’s benefits, railroad retirement, or wages, and any other regular income. However, the law exempts certain income.
     
  • When you apply, be sure to give all of the facts concerning your situation.
     
  • If you withhold information, misrepresent facts in any way, or fail to report changes as required, you may be prosecuted under the law or asked to repay the amount of assistance you received illegally.
     

The person who receives the benefits must notify DCFS of any changes in address, residence, living arrangements, and income according to the requirements of the reporting system to which they are assigned.


Your Right to a Fair Hearing

 

If you believe the action on your case is not correct, or that a decision was not rendered on your application with reasonable promptness, you may request and obtain a fair hearing. The local office will present the evidence on which its decision was made, and you will be expected to present evidence to support your claim at the hearing.

If you wish to request a fair hearing, you should follow the instructions on the back of the notice you receive from the agency or contact the local office. Requests for fair hearings are mailed to the DCFS Bureau of Appeals, P. O. Box 2944, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70821. The request must be made within 30 days after the local office decision.

Civil Rights
 

If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, or on the basis of religion or political beliefs, you may email your complaint to DCFS.BureauofCivilRights@LA.GOV or obtain a Civil Rights Complaint form at any local DCFS Office. You may also write to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Regional Office for Civil Rights, 1301 Young Street – Suite 1169, Dallas, TX 75202.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Can I contact my caseworker through CAFÉ?

Yes, FITAP clients can contact their caseworkers through the upgraded CAFÉ Self-Service Portal at www.dcfs.la.gov/cafe.

  • Log into your CAFÉ account.
  • Click on “Check My Cases” on your My Account page.
  • Click on the “Details” link next to the case you are asking about (for example, “FITAP Details” next to your FITAP case) under “Case Summary.” This will take you to the Case Details page.
  • On the Case Details page, scroll down to the section labeled “Questions About Your Case?”
  • Select your question or topic from the drop-down menu (for example, “I would like to reschedule my interview” or “Why did my case close or benefit amount change?”)
  • Click the “Submit Now” button to notify your caseworker of your question.

A message will then be sent to your caseworker for a response. Please note that the response can take up to two business days.

When your caseworker responds, you will receive a Notification in your CAFÉ account Inbox. Please check your CAFÉ account regularly.

How can I get personal assistance with my FITAP benefits?

Call the LAHelpU Customer Service Center at (888) 524-3578. The regular hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., M-F. Or, email the center at LAHelpU.DCFS@la.gov with a brief explanation of your reason for writing.

If you are a current FITAP recipient, please include your full name as it appears in our records, all of your contact information and your case identification number (the smaller number below the 16-digit number on the front of your EBT card).

If you are not a current FITAP recipient, please include your full name as it appears in our records, all of your contact information, your date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number.

How can I access my benefits once approved?

The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card is a method of delivering governmental benefits to recipients electronically. The card, which is referred to as the Louisiana Purchase Card, enables recipients to access benefits at ATM’s and point-of-sale (POS) machines.

Cash benefits are posted to recipient accounts during the first five days of the month. Recipient benefits are accessible by 5:00 a.m. on the morning after they are posted. Benefits are posted on the same date every month, regardless of the day of the week. Holidays and weekends do not affect the date of benefit availability.

Benefits are secure and accessible only to persons authorized by the recipient. The Personal Identification Number (PIN) is selected by the recipient and must be correctly entered in order to successfully complete all electronic transactions. As purchases or cash withdrawals are made at grocery store checkout lanes and ATM’s, recipient accounts are debited and the recipient is given a receipt which provides the remaining account balance.

In addition to the transaction fee of $1.00 for each cash withdrawal which is assessed at all ATMs, a surcharge fee may also be assessed. A surcharge is the amount some ATMs charge you each time you withdraw your cash benefits, and this surcharge is deducted from your available balance. The following list of surcharge-free ATM owners provide you access to your cash benefits without being surcharged by the ATM:

  • ASI Federal Credit Union
  • Bankcorp South Bank
  • Whitney Bank
  • Regions Bank

How can I report the misuse of FITAP benefits?

The agency relies on retailers and the public to report the misuse of benefits. Individuals are encouraged to call DCFS' toll-free hotline at 1-888-LAHELP-U (1-888-524-3578) and select option 7 from the main menu or by filling out the online form.

To report a complaint to the Fraud & Recovery Unit, retailers and the public may call the 1-888-LAHELP-U (1-888-524-3578), email the complaint to DCFS.Fraud@LA.GOV, fax the complaint at (225) 219-1663 or mail the complaint to: Fraud and Recovery Unit, P.O. Box 91147, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-9147.

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