Summary of Other Available Resources
It is important for GA administrators to be aware of other benefit programs and resources available to their clients. This is important for several reasons. First, an obvious reason, if the administrator can direct a GA applicant to apply for benefits outside of GA, this will reduce the applicant's need for GA. It is also important because these programs can help improve the overall well being of the GA applicant. GA applicants often require a host of services and as a result GA administrators should not only provide GA but should also be prepared to guide clients to additional programs.
The following is a partial list and summary of the most common programs available statewide (also refer to Appendix 10 for links from MMA’s website):
1. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Known as TANF (previously AFDC), this program provides cash (or in the case of a minor parent, a voucher) benefit to low-income eligible families with children (usually single parent households, or those where one parent is disabled, or where parent(s) are working fewer than 100 hours). The amount of benefits a family receives is set by the state and depends on the number of people in the household and whether the family has any other source of income.
Deductions from earned income are applied before it is used to determine benefit levels. Households also may be sent some of the child support collected for the family by the state. This allowance is called the "Gap."
Furthermore, the TANF program in Maine includes a "Housing Special Needs Program," which provides an additional benefit of up to $50 monthly to those households that are facing housing costs (mortgage/rent, property tax, insurance) greater than 75% of the household's income.
This program contains a work requirement that recipients must fulfill or be sanctioned. Recipients are required to take part in the ASPIRE (Additional Support for People in Retraining and Employment) program. ASPIRE can help recipients to reach the goal of self-sufficiency by providing some support services.
NOTE: Refer to Appendix 18 for the dates that the TANF and PAS allotments are available through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT).
2. TANF-Unemployed Parent Program (TANF-UP)
This program is often referred to as the UP program. Unlike the basic TANF program, TANF-UP provides benefits to families where both parents are in the household but the principal wage earner is unemployed or underemployed.
3. Parents As Scholars (PAS)
Parents As Scholars (PAS) is a state-funded program through DHHS, which follows the same eligibility and support guidelines as those of TANF and ASPIRE (see below). The purpose of this program is to encourage secondary education in effort to promote financial independence. An ASPIRE case manager is assigned to the recipient and determines whether the ASPIRE program is appropriate for the household. In order to be eligible for PAS, the recipient must meet all the eligibility factors for TANF and must also be enrolled in a 2-year or 4 year post secondary degree program. The program is limited to 2,000 participants.
4. TANF-Emergency Assistance Program (EA)
Also administered through DHHS, Emergency Assistance, formerly known as “Family Crisis,” supplements the TANF program under certain emergency circumstances. People are allowed to receive this assistance only once in a calendar year to relieve an emergency situation. Households eligible for Emergency Assistance include any household with children under 21 that are facing an emergency situation and that have an income at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty level. The crisis situations that create eligibility for Emergency Assistance, along with the maximum amount of assistance for each circumstance are as follows:
Natural disasters, fires, floods, storm damage, etc
up to $350
Inadequate, broken, worn or failed well, chimney,
up to $500
Past due rent or security deposit for eviction or potential
up to $250
Utility disconnection due to a broken payment arrangement
up to $150
Inability to perform daily living functions due to physical
up to $250
There is a maximum cap on an Emergency Assistance grant of $600, if more than one crisis is present. It should be noted that the Department of Health & Human Services will distribute application forms to municipalities upon request. Municipalities should consider having this form in the town office to expedite the application process.
5. Food Stamps
This is a Federal program that is intended to help low income people increase their food-buying power and thus achieve a more nutritious diet. Despite the fact that food stamps are used like money to purchase food, federal law prohibits food stamps from being considered as income to the recipient. The amount of Food Stamps a person receives must never be counted as income when determining a person’s eligibility for GA. Food Stamps can be used to buy food or seeds to grow food; they cannot be used for non-food items such as paper products, soap, pet food, cigarettes, and alcoholic beverages.
Please Note: The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program is now in place. This means that there are no longer paper Food Stamp coupons and TANF checks. The recipient has a card which looks and functions like a regular bank debit card that is used at a bank, an ATM, or a Point of Service (grocery store) to retrieve cash from their TANF account and/or pay for food items at grocery stores.
6. Child Support
Administered by DHHS, the Division of Child Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) staff establishes and enforces child support orders, locate non-supporting parents, establishes paternity and distributes child and spousal support collections. DSER services are available to all parents/spouses regardless of whether they receive welfare benefits. Because child support promotes a self-supporting family GA administrators should always direct parents to DSER if they are aware of a non-supportive parent and/or spouse situation. Child support should always be treated as an available resource for purposes of GA. (Contact telephone #1-800-442-6003).
7. Hospital Free Care
Under rules promulgated by the Maine Health Care Finance Commission (CMR 90-460-370), all regulated hospitals in Maine must have a charity (free) care program that at a minimum provides free care to any person whose income falls below the federal poverty level. To calculate eligibility, hospitals generally review an applicant’s income retroactively, and it is therefore possible for a person to be found ineligible for free care but entirely eligible for General Assistance. Administrators should also note that the free care provisions govern hospital–related services only, and so the free care applicant may still face doctors’ bills and bills for outpatient services in addition to prescriptions even after being found eligible for free care. GA administrators may find it necessary to contact the hospital for specific rules and obligations regarding free care.
8. Community Health Centers
Community health centers provide medical services to people on a sliding fee scale. The clinics do not have their own prescription drug program, but they may be able to provide samples of the medication. Most clinics will assist patients enroll in existing patient assistance programs provided by drug companies (see below).
9. Drug Company Patient Assistance Program
Many drug companies have special programs to help people who cannot afford the cost of their brand name prescription drugs. Physicians often know about these programs and should be asked about the availability of drug assistance through such private companies. Because these are not public benefit programs, acceptance is entirely up to the drug company. These programs do not cover generic drugs. Two helpful websites are:
· www.needymeds.com which has up-to-date information about patient
programs, a list of drugs that are covered, and a list of the drug companies and;
· www.freemedicinefoundation.com/application_form.html assists patients who may qualify to enroll in one or
more of the many patient assistance programs available providing prescription
medicine free of charge to individuals in need, regardless of age, if they meet the
10. Maine Low-Cost Drug Program
The Maine Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly or Disabled Program helps eligible citizens get certain prescription drugs at a low cost. Eligible persons will receive a card (a "drug card") that is brought to pharmacist when purchasing prescriptions. To qualify for the Low Cost Drug Program a person must be: a Maine resident, at least 62 years old, or 19 years old or older and disabled according to the standards of Social Security, and have a household income of less than 185% of the federal poverty level for your household size ($1,385/month for one; $1,869/month for two in the year 2003). If a person spends 40% or more of their household income on prescription drugs, the income limits are 25% higher. (Contact telephone # 1-800-432-7846).
11. Home Energy Assistance Program
This program, commonly referred to as "HEAP,” provides assistance to low- income people to help them purchase fuel or electricity to heat their homes. It is operated according to federal law and state regulation and is administered by the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) through the eleven local Community Action Program (CAP) offices in Maine. (The names and addresses of Maine's CAP agencies are found at the end of this Appendix). Assistance can be issued directly to the fuel supplier or to the household if fuel is included as part of the rent.
The level of benefits varies depending on the amount of money budgeted for this program each year by the federal Congress. In recent years a typical HEAP benefit has been between $350 and $450 a heating season. Applications for HEAP fuel assistance are accepted by the CAP agencies from October through April. All General Assistance applicants should routinely be informed of their potential eligibility for fuel assistance, and encouraged to apply at the CAP agency as early as possible in the heating season. It should be noted that fuel assistance is similar to Food Stamps in that it cannot be counted as income.
12. Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP)
In addition to HEAP above, MSHA, through the 11 CAP agencies, operates an emergency program: The Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP). ECIP is a one-time-per-heating season program intended to avert an emergency suc h as the disconnection of electricity, or a fuel or weatherization emergency. By 1992 regulation, ECIP applications are taken by the CAP agencies between October 1 and March 30, and the maximum grant for emergency fuel deliveries or utility emergencies is $200. An applicant must be income eligible for HEAP in order to be eligible for ECIP.
13. Central Heating Improvement Program (CHIP) & Weatherization Program
The CAP agencies also operate the Central Heating Improvement Program (CHIP), which can provide significant assistance toward furnace repair or replacement provided the existing heating system has become non-functional in addition to a weatherization program which helps people make their homes more energy efficient, as well as the. There is typically a waiting list for both these programs.
14. Temporary Housing Assistance Program (THAP)
MSHA and the various CAP agencies also administer the Temporary Housing Assistance Program (THAP). THAP money comes from a state appropriation and is provided to HEAP/ECIP eligible households that are in need of shelter or are in danger of becoming evicted. The maximum TRAP benefit is $400 annually, and can be used for security deposits, rent arrearages, forward rent payments, or payments to prevent mortgage foreclosure.
15. MaineCare & Cub Care
This is a welfare health benefit program authorized by federal law as part of the Social Security Act. There are strict eligibility criteria based on income and assets. MaineCare provides direct payments to medical providers for eligible services. People who are eligible generally belong in one of 3 categories:
There are two additions to MaineCare since July 1, 1998, Expanded Medicaid has been available for children when the family’s income is below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. Beginning later in 1998, Cub Care started to provide benefits for children in families with income between 150% and 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. Cub Care has a small monthly premium to pay. The premium is between $10 and $40 per month based on the family size and income. Children do not qualify if they have health insurance already or qualify for Maine State Employee’s Health Insurance. Pregnant women are eligible for Cub Care if the family income is below 185% of the Federal Poverty level. (Contact telephone # 1-877-543-7669).
"Cub Care" Summary
(Excerpt from PTLA web site)
Cub Care offers health care coverage to children whose family income is too
high for the Medicaid program.
Children who are not eligible for Medicaid may be eligible for the "Cub Care"
Program. Children in families with incomes under 200% of the poverty level may
qualify for Cub Care.
To determine eligibility for Cub Care, compare the gross family income to the
dollar amounts on the last row of the chart below under family size.
Medicaid and Cub Care Income Eligibility Guidelines (2003)
|Maximum monthly family income for children 1 - 18 for Medicaid||$1,869||$2,353||$2,837||$3,321||$3,805||$4,289||$4,773|
family income for Cub Care
If you have wages from work, you can take some deductions before comparing
your income to the chart.
Medicare is a health insurance program for people 65 years of age and older; some people with disabilities, under 65 years of age; people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant). Medicare has Two Parts: Part A (Hospital Insurance)—most people do not have to pay for Part A. Part B (Medical Insurance)—most people pay monthly for Part B. It is important to note that generally, Medicare does not cover prescription drugs. However, Medicare does cover some drugs in certain cases such as immunosuppressive drugs (for transplant patients) and oral anti-cancer drugs. (Contact telephone # 1-800-633-4227). Starting in 2004, there will be a part D to cover prescriptions.
17. Social Security
This is a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration. It is funded through Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and people who are self-employed. It does not have eligibility criteria based on income or assets. It is available to people who retire at age 65 (reduced benefits are available to those who retire at 62 years of age; some have to be older based on birthdate); or who have become totally disabled prior to retirement age and have reached a "fully insured status." Certain dependents are eligible under specific situations, including a dependent minor child whose parent died, or a widow(er) caring for the deceased worker's minor child. The disability Social Security program may also be referred to as "OASDIII, or "Title II."
18. Supplemental Security Income
The federal government primarily funds this program, although some state funds supplement SSI benefits in Maine. It is an income maintenance program for low-income people who are aged, blind, or disabled and who have little or no other income or resources. In order to qualify due to a disability the person must show that she/he is unable to return to her/his former work and is unable to do any other type of work. The disability must be expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. (See Appendix 12, “A Desktop Guide to SSI Eligibility Requirements” for further information).
NOTE: Municipalities should familiarize themselves with this program since it is set up with a reimbursement provision (lien) for municipalities that provide interim GA to a client awaiting SSI benefits. GA applicants must sign appropriate forms in order for this reimbursement to occur. Municipalities should contact DHHS at 1-800-442-6003 for information and forms necessary to file a lien on a GA recipient’s SSI benefits.
19. Unemployment Compensation
To be eligible for Unemployment Compensation benefits people must have worked a certain amount of time in the previous year and earned a base amount of money in each of two calendar quarters in the year prior to the quarter in which they apply. People must be unemployed at least one week prior to applying for Unemployment Compensation. If a person qualifies, she/he must fulfill certain eligibility conditions in order to continue to receive benefits. These include being "able and available for work," and registering for work at an unemployment office. People who quit work without just cause, were discharged for misconduct connected with their work, refuse to accept suitable work, knowingly make false statements in order to receive the benefits, or who are out of work due to a strike or other labor dispute are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
20. Utility Payment Arrangements & Winter Disconnect Rule
The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) adopted the Winter Disconnection Rule (Rule) in 1980. The purpose of the Rule is to establish a special disconnection process for protected utility users which must be followed by electric and gas utilities during the period of November 15 to April 15. The rule requires that eligible customers be provided an opportunity to enter into a “Special Payment-Arrangement” when they are having obvious problems paying their utility bills, and the Rule strictly regulates disconnection of residential service to protected customers during the winter period for health and safety reasons.
The Rule allows customers to enter into either a “Special Payment Arrangement” or a “Regular Payment Arrangement.” A Special Payment Arrangement is a negotiated winter rate where the customer will pay whatever she/he can "reasonably afford" during the winter disconnection period, and pay whatever amount remains unpaid after the end of the disconnection period. What a person can "reasonably afford" usually means an amount that the customer can pay without depriving the household of basic necessities needed for health or life. Usually people are required to pay the balance in equal amounts from May through November in addition to the amount owed for their current bill. For example, if Mr. Doyle’s bill for the winter was $1000 and he managed to pay $580, he would owe $420. The $420 balance would be divided into 6 equal monthly payments ($70) which must be paid May through October in addition to his regular monthly bill.
A Regular Payment Arrangement is generally an arrangement whereby the customer agrees to pay both the past due and projected service on a leveled, installment basis.
Individuals can apply to the utility company to be considered eligible for the protections of the Rule. Applicants are presumed to be eligible if they qualify for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), if they receive SSI or if their income does not exceed 150% of federal Poverty Guidelines. Individuals who enter into a payment arrangement are expected to comply with the agreement. If they do not, the utility company may be able to disconnect service if it receives the permission of the PUC. Generally, the PUC oversees all disconnections in the winter, except in recent years both the Bangor Hydro-Electric Company and the Maine Public Service Company have been granted special waivers by the PUC which somewhat relax the amount of PUC supervision over wintertime disconnections in those respective service areas.
The PUC has a Consumer Assistance Division whose responsibilities include negotiating the Special Payment Arrangements if neither the customer nor company can agree, determining whether a utility should be given permission to disconnect service, and general help to consumers who have problems with their utilities. The Consumer Assistance Division can be contacted at 1-800-452-4699.
21. Electricity Lifeline Program (ELP) (CMP customer areas)
The Electricity Lifeline Program (ELP) was developed in 1992 for the purpose of providing assistance to Central Maine Power Company's residential customers who qualify for the HEAP program and have household incomes at or below 75% of the federal poverty level. The fundamental eligibility determinations are made by the customer's local CAP agency.
Customers who are eligible for ELP benefits are required to pay no more toward their electric bills than a certain percentage of their income, running from 5% to 10% depending on the level of electricity usage in the household. Eligible participants agree to a levelized 12-month payment arrangement, based on an estimate of annual usage, and a credit is provided toward each monthly installment to cover the amount of the bill over and above the customer's predetermined, percentage-of-income co-payment. Any General Assistance recipient facing high electric bills in the CMP area should be advised to contact either CMP or the local CAP agency to apply for ELP benefits.
Other utility companies e.g., Bangor Hydroelectric Company and the Maine Public Service Company have similar programs. Please contact other utility providers directly for programs they may have in place to assist low-income customers with their electric bills.
22. Miscellaneous Tax Relief Programs
In addition to municipal tax relief through “poverty abatements” (see Appendix 9), municipal officials can provide residents with information regarding other types of property tax relief programs. There are several available programs that, either in addition to the poverty abatement process or in tandem with it, may offer relief to a taxpayer. These other programs include:
Community Action Agencies
|Aroostook County Action Program
Connie Sandstrom, Executive Director
PO Box 11 16
Presque Isle, ME 04769
|People's Regional Opportunity Program
Grant Lee, Executive Director
510 Cumberland Avenue
Portland, ME 04101
Coastal Economic Development Corporation
Jessica Hamar, Executive Director
39 Andrews Road
Bath, ME 04530
Tel: 442-7963 (ext. 215)
|Waldo County Committee for Social Action
Joyce Scott, Executive Director
PO Box 130
Belfast, ME 04915
Coastal Community Action Program
Nancy Fritz, Executive Director
PO Box 808, 4 Union Street
Rockland, ME 04841
Tel.: 596-0361 (ext. 105)
|Washington-Hancock Community Agency
Sandra Prescott, Executive Director
PO Box 280,
Milbridge, ME 04658
Community Concepts, Inc.
Charleen Chase, Executive Director
PO Box 278
South Paris, ME 04281
|Western Maine Community Action
Fenwick Fowler, Executive Director
PO Box 200
East Wilton, ME 04234
Kennebec Valley Community Action Program
Ray Richard, Executive Director
97 Water Street
Waterville, ME 04901
|York County Community Action Corporation
Thomas Nelson, Executive Director
11 Cottage Street, PO Box 72
Sanford, ME 04073
Tel: 324-5762 (ext. 9015)
Penquis Community Action Program
Charles R. Newton, Executive Director
262 Harlow Street
Bangor, Maine 04401
Important Phone Numbers:
Maine Municipal Association 1-800-452-8786
Department of Health & Human Services
General Assistance Unit 1-800-442-6003
The DHHS General Assistance Unit answers questions about the program for both clients and municipalities. This is also the number dissatisfied GA applicants call to complain about GA decisions. For questions about TANF and Food Stamps, it is advisable to call the local regional Department of Health & Human Services office listed in this manual and in the phone book.
Public Utilities Commission—Community Assistance Division 1-800-452-4699
The staff can answer questions about utility practices and will negotiate with the utility and consumer in certain cases.
Legal Services for the Elderly 1-800-750-5353
LSE has four offices (Augusta, Brewer, Portland, Presque Isle). Augusta is
the main office with 4 programs:
1. Long Term Care Ombudsman
2. Advocacy Medicare Payments
3. Elderly Legal Aid Hotline
4. General Legal Services for the Elderly.
LSE does a good deal of work in the area of establishing guardianships.
Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc. (see Appendix 15, for locations and
Add your own Important Contact Numbers: