final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
of Original Jurisdiction-Mandamus.
Florida Legal Services, Inc., and Cindy Huddleston and Kathy
Grunewald (Tallahassee); Legal Services of Greater Miami,
Inc., and Liam Joseph McGivern and James Murray Slater, for
Hinds St-Surin, Regional Legal Counsel, for respondent.
ROTHENBERG, SALTER, and SCALES, JJ.
Lucy Perry seeks a writ of mandamus requiring Respondent
Department of Children and Families ("DCF") to
provide Petitioner with the notice and opportunity for
hearing required by Florida's Administrative Procedure
Act ("APA"). We deny the petition because DCF
provided Petitioner with the required notice upon making its
substantial interest determination.
times material, Petitioner was a food assistance recipient
pursuant to Florida's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program ("SNAP"). Florida's SNAP was modified
in 2015, so that, effective January 1, 2016, SNAP recipients
designated by DCF as being Able Bodied Adults Without
Dependents ("ABAWDs") are required to participate
in a SNAP Employment and Training ("E&T")
program, operated by a local workforce services organization.
The purpose of these E&T programs is to help SNAP
recipients gain skills and work experience in order to
achieve self-sufficiency. SNAP benefits cease if an ABAWD
SNAP recipient, who is otherwise not entitled to exception or
exemption, fails to meet the work requirements. It appears
that an ABAWD SNAP recipient is excepted or exempt from work
requirements if, among other reasons set forth in federal
administrative rules, the individual has dependents, is
pregnant, is over the age of forty-nine or is physically or
mentally unable to work. See 7 C.F.R. §
273.24(b), (c) (2015). Unless exempted, an ABAWD may receive
SNAP benefits for no more than three months in any thirty
six-month period. Id.
SNAP recipients, whether or not deemed an ABAWD, are required
to undergo a continual re-application, and re-certification
of their eligibility, for SNAP benefits. On or about December
21, 2015, DCF provided Petitioner with a Notice of
Eligibility Review document reminding Petitioner of her
obligation to re-apply for benefits if she desired to obtain
SNAP benefits beyond January of 2016. This letter purported
to inform Petitioner of new guidelines applicable to those
SNAP recipients identified by DCF as ABAWDs, indicating the
possibility that Petitioner could be re-classified as an
ABAWD. To that point, Petitioner had received food benefits
since 1997, not as an ABAWD due to disability.
December 21, 2015 Notice of Eligibility Review contained a
boilerplate notice informing Petitioner that she had a right
to ask for a hearing before a hearing officer. The record
reflects that the next notice Petitioner received was a
February 9, 2016 Notification of Mandatory Participation sent
to Petitioner not by DCF, but by City of Miami Career Center,
i.e., the local workforce services organization operating the
SNAP E&T program. This notice states, in relevant part,
as follows: "You are receiving this notice because DCF
referred you to the SNAP E&T program as a mandatory
participant." While this February 9, 2016 notice advises
Petitioner, in general terms, of a right to have
"decisions about your case reviewed by a program
supervisor, " it does not provide any notice of how
Petitioner might challenge DCF's identification of
Petitioner as a time-limited ABAWD mandatory participant.
record indicates, sometime between December 21, 2015 (the
date of DCF's Notice of Eligibility Review explaining
that certain SNAP recipients would be designated by DCF as
ABAWDs), and February 9, 2016 (the date of the workforce
service organization's notice to Petitioner), DCF
designated Petitioner as a time-limited ABAWD required to
participate in the SNAP E&T program. On February 23,
2016, DCF sent Petitioner a Notice of Case Action informing
Petitioner that her SNAP benefits would end on March 31,
2016, because Petitioner did not complete the ABAWD work
requirements. This Notice of Case Action contained the same
boilerplate hearing notice that appeared in DCF's
December 21, 2015 letter. While not entirely clear from the
record, it appears that DCF terminated Petitioner's SNAP
benefits, effective April 1, 2016.
engaged counsel who sent DCF a March 31, 2016 e-mail
suggesting that DCF provide specific notice to SNAP
recipients who have been identified as ABAWDs, to allow such
time-limted ABAWD SNAP recipients, such as Petitioner, the
opportunity to challenge their ABAWD designations. The record
reflects that DCF did not respond to this e-mail, and thus
this petition seeking mandamus relief followed. Petitioner
alleges that she is unable to work, and therefore, is exempt
from the employment and training requirements applicable to
those SNAP recipients identified by DCF as ABAWDs.
supplemental briefing invited by the Court, the record
reflects that Petitioner's SNAP benefits were restored
sometime after the April 21, 2016 filing of this petition.
The record, however, also evidences that DCF, late in 2016,
sent Petitioner another notice informing her of the
eligibility requirements that are mandatory for SNAP
recipients identified as ABAWD. As of the date of oral
argument,  it was unclear as to whether DCF now