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In re Ali

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 3, 2019

In the Matter of Cindi Ali.

          Scott County Community Development Agency

          Christopher Scott, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., St. Paul, Minnesota (for relator Cindi Ali)

          Robert A. Alsop, Kennedy & Graven, Chartered, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent Scott County Community Development Agency)

          Considered and decided by Cochran, Presiding Judge; Hooten, Judge; and Reyes, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Only amounts paid by a state agency to offset monetary expenses for services or equipment incurred by a family to keep a developmentally disabled family member living at home are excluded from the calculation of the family's annual income under 24 C.F.R. § 5.609(c)(16) (2018).

          OPINION

          COCHRAN, JUDGE

         In this certiorari appeal, relator challenges the decision of the Scott County Community Development Agency (Scott County) to include certain funds that she received as part of a state government program in its calculation of her family's annual income under 24 C.F.R. § 5.609 (2018) for purposes of determining eligibility for the Section 8 housing choice voucher program. Relator further argues that Scott County violated her due-process rights because the Scott County hearing officer who considered the issue consulted with a third party about the state government program after relator's hearing. Because Scott County correctly interpreted 24 C.F.R. § 5.609, and because relator does not assert any prejudice from the alleged due-process violation, we affirm.

         FACTS

         Relator Cindi Ali participates in the Section 8 housing choice voucher program (the Section 8 program), a federal program administered by Scott County. The Section 8 program subsidizes housing for families who meet certain income criteria. Scott County calculates Ali's income on an annual basis to determine her eligibility for the Section 8 program and the amount of benefits that she receives.

         Ali also participates in a state government program known as the Consumer Direct Community Support (CDCS) program. The Minnesota Department of Human Services administers the CDCS program. The program provides an annual budget to families to assist in keeping developmentally disabled family members in their homes rather than in institutions. Ali is eligible for the CDCS program because she has a developmentally disabled child. From September 1, 2017, through August 31, 2018, the CDCS program provided Ali's family $73, 248.20 in benefits.

         Under the CDCS program, families are assigned a total lump sum budget. The family decides how to allocate the total budget. Ali allocated part of her CDCS benefits to pay herself for care that she provides for her child. Ali's budget called for her to be paid $16.75 per hour for 36.75 hours per week for her care for her child, for an annual total of $32, 009.25. Ali only receives these payments if she files a timesheet tracking her weekly hours. Ali pays income taxes on these payments. Ali's budget allocated most of the remaining funds to pay for respite staff and support staff to come into the home for a total of 48 hours per week.

         In late 2017, Scott County determined that the money that Ali receives from the CDCS benefits for care that she personally provides for her child (the parent-allocated portion) must be included when calculating her family's annual income under 24 C.F.R. § 5.609 for the purposes of the Section 8 program, but that the rest of the CDCS benefits are excluded under 24 C.F.R. § 5.609(c)(16). Ali disagreed with Scott County's interpretation of the federal regulation, arguing that Scott County should exclude the entire CDCS benefits package when calculating her family's annual income, and she requested an informal hearing on the issue.

         During the hearing, Scott County and Ali each presented their arguments as to whether the parent-allocated portion of the CDCS benefits constitutes annual income under 24 C.F.R. § 5.609. Following the informal hearing, the hearing officer contacted an individual who works with the CDCS program to obtain further clarification on Ali's benefits. The individual told the hearing officer that Ali had multiple options for how to allocate the CDCS benefits and chose to keep a portion "as a wage for taking care of her child."[1] The hearing officer determined that the parent-allocated portion of the CDCS benefits constitutes annual income under 24 C.F.R. ...


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