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The design and delivery of public assistance programs comprise some of the biggest consumer protection issues facing low-income households today. Low-income consumers can be harmed in three ways: through an overall design flaw within the program, by specific rules and regulations within the program shown to be irrational or unreasonable (either facially or on application), or by program mismanagement.

Program design and implementation decisions are often made in response to budget constraints. In addition, state and federal agencies often respond to program challenges by claiming that it would be fiscally impossible to provide the requested remedies. Fiscal impossibility defenses to program challenges must be carefully reviewed.

FSC work on public benefits includes:

Designing federal home energy assistance components

Reviewing utility allowances for public and assisted housing
Assessing the impact of "cash for clunkers" programs on low-income consumers
Critiquing the determination of TANF "needs" in Tennessee
Supporting the challenge to Food Stamp exclusion of depreciation expenses from the determination of self-employment income
Supporting the challenge to TANF auto asset limitations
Calculating damages to the Native Hawaiian Homelands Trust from mismanagement of the trust fund designed to provide homesteads to native Hawaiians
Calculating damages to individual native Hawaiians who were denied homesteads due to mismanagement of the Homelands trust fund

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A Case Study in Environmental and Poverty Conflict: "Cash for Clunkers" as a Clean Air Strategy

Problems with the Current Procedure for Determining the Standard of Need in Tennessee's AFDC Program
Affidavit of Peter Fisher challenging exclusion of depreciation as an expense in the generation of self-employment income for food stamp eligibility determinations
An Economics Analysis of the HHS Rule Eliminating AFDC Benefits to Families with Motor Vehicle Assets over $1,5000
Homestead Creation for Native Hawaiians
Integrating Government-Funded and Ratepayer-Funded Low-Income Energy Assistance Programs
Measuring the Outcomes of Low-Income Energy Assistance Programs Through a Home Energy Insecurity Scale
Public Housing Utility Allowances for the Gallia (OH) Metropolitan Housing Authority
Outreach Strategies for Iowa's LIHEAP Program: Innovations in Improved Targeting

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