Section 4.1—Right to Apply
Who May Apply. Anyone may apply for general assistance. The head of the family, any other responsible household member, or an authorized representative must apply in person, except in special emergency situations as provided in section 4.9 of this ordinance or except when the applicant is a resident of an emergency shelter and the municipality has made an agreement with that
emergency shelter to presume shelter residents to be eligible for general assistance (22 M.R.S.A. §4304(3)). In such cases, the administrator may require a representative to present a signed statement documenting that he/she is in fact authorized to apply for general assistance on behalf of the named applicant. The applicant or representative must complete a written application and any other required forms so that the administrator can determine eligibility (22 M.R.S.A. § § 4305, 4308). With notice, all members of the household receiving general assistance may be required to physically present themselves to the administrator.
Application Via Telephone. When a person has an emergency but is unable to apply in person due to illness, disability, lack of child care, lack of transportation or other good cause, and he/she cannot send an authorized representative, the administrator will accept an application by telephone. The telephone application process will include the administrator receiving written verification by mail and visiting the applicant’s home with his or her permission (22 M.R.S.A. § 4304).
Written Application Upon Each Request. ~Each request for assistance will be administered in accordance with these guidelines. The administrator will make an independent determination of eligibility for general assistance each time a person applies (22 M.R.S.A. § § 4308, 4309).
Applications Accepted; Posted Notice. ~Application forms will be available during regular business hours at the municipal office and when the general assistance administrator is conducting interviews with applicants. Notice will be posted stating when and where people may apply for assistance and the name of the administrator available to take emergency applications at all other times. In addition, the posted notice shall include the fact that the municipality must issue a written decision on all applications within 24 hours, and the DHHS toll-free telephone numbers for reporting alleged violations or complaints. Completed applications will be accepted and interviews given only during the regular hours established and posted by the administrator. In an emergency, however, the administrator or his or her designee will be available to accept applications for assistance whenever necessary (22 M.R.S.A. § 4304).
Section 4.2—Application Interview
Except when it is impractical, the general assistance administrator will interview each applicant personally before making a decision. The interview will be conducted in private, although the applicant may be accompanied by a legal representative, friend or family member.
Section 4.3—Contents of the Application
At a minimum, the application will contain the following mandatory information:
a) applicant’s name, address, date of birth, Social Security number or appropriate United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) documentation, and phone number;
b) names, date(s) of birth, and Social Security number(s) or appropriate USCIS documentation of other household members for whom the applicant is seeking assistance;
c) total number of individuals living with the applicant;
d) employment and employability information;
e) all household income, resources, assets, and property;
f) household expenses;
g) types of assistance being requested;
h) penalty for false representation;
i) applicant’s permission to verify information;
j) signature of applicant and date.
In the event an initial applicant is unable to provide identification records (e.g., Social Security card/number) because the record may have been lost, stolen or misplaced, the initial applicant may be provided a reasonable amount of time, e.g., five working days, in order to obtain copies of identification records. Provided the initial applicant makes a good faith effort to obtain the item/record sought, GA required to cure an immediate and/or emergency need shall not be withheld. In such cases the municipality may elect to provide only a prorated amount of GA, e.g., five day’s worth, while the applicant proceeds to obtain the required
Section 4.4—General Assistance Administrator’s Responsibilities at the Time of the Application
The administrator will make every effort to inform all applicants of their rights and responsibilities as well as the general program requirements associated with applying for and receiving general assistance, including application requirements, eligibility guidelines, applicant rights, and applicant reimbursement obligations.
Application Requirements. The administrator will help the applicant fill out the application form as described in the preceding section. The administrator will inform the applicant of any other information or documentation that the applicant will have to provide in order for the administrator to evaluate the applicant’s eligibility for assistance. The administrator will fully explain the purpose of any release of information form or reimbursement agreement before seeking to obtain the applicant’s signature or written
Eligibility Requirements. The administrator will inform, either verbally or in writing, the applicant of the eligibility requirements of the program, including:
· the income standard of need;
· the applicant’s ongoing use-of-income, work-related, and resource-related responsibilities, as described in the section immediately below;
· the financial reduction in assistance that is the consequence of spending household income on non-basic necessities; and
· the disqualification penalties associated with committing fraud, failing to perform work-related assignments without just cause, or failing to make a good faith effort to secure potential resources when the requirement to attempt to obtain those resources has been explained to the applicant in writing.
Applicant Rights. The administrator will inform all applicants of their rights to:
· review the municipal General Assistance ordinance and Maine General Assistance law;
· apply for assistance;
· receive a written decision concerning eligibility within 24 hours of applying for assistance;
· contact the DHHS;
· challenge the administrator’s decision by requesting a fair hearing.
Reimbursement/Recovery. The administrator will inform the applicant that he/she must reimburse the municipality for the amount of general assistance he/she has been granted in the event of a subsequent ability to pay. The municipality may also, as appropriate, contact the client’s legal representative to inform him or her of the client’s obligation to repay the municipality under the GA program. In addition to seeking repayment from a recipient, the municipality also may recover the amount of assistance granted to a recipient during the previous 12 months from any relative legally liable for the applicant’s support (spouses,
parents of persons under the age of 25, see Article VIII, “Recovery of Expenses”) (22 M.R.S.A. § § 4318, 4319). Whenever applicable, the administrator will explain the various liens a municipality may place against a recipient’s real or personal property, such as the mortgage or capital improvement lien, the Workers’ Compensation lump sum payment lien, or the SSI “interim assistance agreement” lien, as these liens are described in Article VIII, “Recovery of Expenses”.
Section 4.5—Responsibilities of the Applicant at the Time of Application
The applicant has the responsibility at the time of each application to provide accurate, complete and current household information and verifiable documentation concerning:
· Use of income
· Names and addresses of any relatives legally liable for the applicant’s support
· Any change in this information from a previous application that would affect household eligibility (22 M.R.S.A. §4309).
In addition, the applicant must accurately report and provide verifiable documentation that shows the applicant:
a) has remained employed, if previously employed, and not quit work without just cause or been discharged from employment for misconduct;
b) has been seeking employment, if previously unemployed or employed on a part-time basis, has accepted any suitable offer of employment, and has satisfactorily performed all workfare assignments or had just cause not to perform those assignments;
c) has made use of all available and potential resources when directed in writing to such a program by the administrator, including, but not limited to, other government benefit programs or the assistance of liable relatives of sufficient means; and
d) has participated in any training, retraining, educational or rehabilitative program when appropriate and when directed in writing to such a program by the administrator, in order to diminish the applicant’s need for general assistance (22 M.R.S.A. § §4316-A, 4317).
Section 4.6—Action on Applications
Written Decision. ~The general assistance administrator will give a written decision to the applicant concerning his or her eligibility within 24 hours after the applicant submits a written application. Assistance will be furnished to eligible applicants within that period except when the municipality is permitted by law (and pursuant to section 5.6 of this ordinance) to issue
assistance conditionally on the successful completion of a workfare assignment (22 M.R.S.A. § § 4305, 4316-A, 4321). A written decision will be given each time a person applies, whether assistance is granted, denied, reduced or terminated.
Content. The written decision will contain the following information:
a) the type and amount of aid the applicant is being granted or the applicant’s ineligibility;
b) the period of eligibility if the applicant is eligible for assistance;
c) the specific reasons for the decision;
d) the applicant’s right to a fair hearing; and
e) the applicant’s right to notify the DHHS if he/she believes the municipality has acted illegally (22~M.R.S.A. § 4321).
Section 4.7—Withdrawal of an Application
An application is considered withdrawn if:
a) the applicant requests in writing that his or her application be withdrawn; or
b) the applicant refuses to complete or sign the application or any other form needed by the general assistance administrator.
Section 4.8—Temporary Refusal to Accept Application
Under special circumstances, the general assistance administrator may temporarily refuse to accept applications. Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to, the following:
a) When the applicant’s conduct is abusive, disruptive, or harassing, or when the applicant is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In these situations, the applicant will be asked to leave, and if the applicant refuses to leave, the police may be summoned. The applicant will be informed that an application will only be accepted when his or her conduct is under control.
b) If the administrator believes that an applicant’s behavior presents a threat to the health or safety of the public or to a municipal employee, or if such behavior is violent, or if an applicant has engaged in abusive, disruptive or harassing behavior and has been required to leave on more than one occasion, then the applicant may be required to designate a third party to apply for assistance on his or her behalf and the applicant may be prohibited from entering
the municipal building;
c) When a third person applies for assistance on behalf of the applicant that person may be required to provide written verification that he/she has been duly authorized to act as a representative for the applicant (22 M.R.S.A. § 4308).
An emergency is considered to be any life threatening situation or a situation beyond the control of the applicant which if not alleviated immediately could reasonably be expected to pose a threat to the health or safety of the applicant or a member of the household (22 M.R.S.A. § 4301(4)). Although they may be considered otherwise ineligible to receive general assistance, persons who apply for assistance to alleviate an emergency may be granted assistance, except as provided below, if they do not have sufficient income and
resources to meet an actual emergency need and have not had sufficient income and resources to avert the emergency (22 M.R.S.A. § 4308).
A municipality may provide emergency assistance when the municipality determines that an emergency is imminent and that failure to provide assistance may result in undue hardship and unnecessary costs to either the client or the municipality.
Disqualification. ~A person who is currently disqualified from receiving General Assistance due to a violation of sections 5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 5.8 or 6.4 of this ordinance is ineligible to receive emergency assistance (22 M.R.S.A. § 4308(2)(A)). However, dependents of a disqualified person may be eligible for assistance. For the purposes of this section, “dependents” are defined as: 1) a dependent minor child; 2) an elderly, ill or disabled person; or 3) a person whose presence is required to provide care for any child under the age of 6 years or any ill or disabled member of the household (22 M.R.S.A. §~4309(3)).
In the event one or more members of a household are disqualified and assistance is requested for the remaining dependents, the eligibility of those dependents will be calculated as though the household is comprised of the dependents only, except that all household income will be considered available to them.
Assistance Prior to Verification. Whenever an applicant informs the administrator that he/she needs assistance immediately, the administrator will grant, pending verification, the assistance within 24 hours, provided that:
a) after interviewing the applicant the administrator has determined that the applicant will probably be eligible for assistance after a verification of information is completed; and
b) the applicant submits documentation when possible, to verify his or her need. The administrator may contact at least one other person to confirm the applicant’s statements about needing emergency assistance. No further assistance will be authorized until the applicant’s eligibility is confirmed (22 M.R.S.A. § 4310).
Telephone Applications. If a person has an emergency need and cannot apply in person due to illness, disability, lack of transportation, or other good cause, and if there is no authorized representative who can apply on behalf of the applicant, the administrator shall accept an application over the telephone (22 M.R.S.A. § 4304).
The administrator will not grant any assistance as the result of a telephone application if the applicant refuses to allow the administrator to verify the information either by visiting his or her home or by mail and the administrator cannot determine his or her eligibility through any other means.
Limitation on Emergency Assistance. ~Applicants are not automatically eligible for emergency assistance. If applicants had income which could have been used to prevent all or part of an emergency, but they spent that income on items which are not basic necessities, they will not be eligible to receive general assistance to replace the misspent money (22 MRSA § § 4308(2) & 4315_A).
All applicants have the responsibility to provide the administrator with verifiable documentation demonstrating that the applicant did not have sufficient income to avert the emergency situation. According to the following criteria, the administrator may limit emergency assistance to cover only the difference between the amount of money necessary for the household to avoid the emergency and the amount of income available to the household during the applicable time period.
a) The applicable time period shall be the 30 days preceding the application for emergency assistance, except in those cases where the emergency was created by a negative account balance for a commodity or service (such as rent, mortgage or utility payments), and the negative account balance was created over a longer period of time. In such cases, the applicable time period shall be the consecutive length of time the account balance has been in the negative.
b) The administrator shall seek from the applicant all information pertinent to the applicant’s ability to provide for his or her basic necessities for the applicable time period, including evidence of all income and resources received over that period of time.
c) The administrator shall calculate all costs for the household’s basic necessities during the applicable time period, per month, in accordance with the maximum levels established by this ordinance for the specific basic necessity or the actual monthly cost, whichever is less, including all costs associated with averting the particular emergency situation for which the applicant is seeking assistance.
d) From the total household costs for basic necessities during the applicable time period, the administrator shall subtract the total income and lump sum payments available to the household for the applicable time period as well as the total general assistance actually received during the applicable time period.
e) The administrator may restrict the issuance of emergency assistance to the difference yielded by the computation in subsection (d), even when such a grant will not totally alleviate the emergency situation.
f) The administrator may waive this limitation on emergency assistance in life threatening situations or for initial applicants; that is, persons who have never before applied for general assistance.
g) Nothing in these criteria may be construed as prohibiting a municipality from electing to alleviate an emergency situation in the most cost-effective manner available, provided such a determination of eligibility for emergency assistance is in conformance with general assistance law.
The administrator shall provide general assistance to all eligible persons applying for assistance who are residents of this municipality. A resident is a person who has no other residence and is physically present in this municipality and who intends to remain here and establish a household.
The municipality also recognizes its responsibility to provide assistance to eligible persons who apply here and who are not residents of this municipality or any other municipality. If a person who is not a resident of any municipality applies in this municipality first, the administrator will determine his or her eligibility and, if eligible, will grant assistance until he/she establishes a residence in another municipality (22 M.R.S.A. § 4307).
Moving/Relocating. The municipality will not consider moving or transporting an applicant or recipient into another municipality unless the person requests assistance to relocate to another municipality. If the administrator determines the applicant is eligible and grants financial assistance to help with the requested relocation, this municipality will be responsible for providing assistance to the applicant for 30 days after he/she moves provided the recipient remains eligible.
Institutions. If a resident of this municipality enters an institution located in another municipality (such as a group home, shelter, rehabilitation center, nursing home, or hospital) and requests assistance while at the institution, he/she will be the responsibility of this municipality for up to 6 months after he/she enters the institution if the conditions of 22 M.R.S.A. § 4307 and §4313 are met. The municipality thereafter retains responsibility for an applicant in an institution only if the applicant has maintained a home in this municipality to which he/she intends to return. The municipality also recognizes its responsibility for
applicants residing in an institution in this municipality if such an applicant had no residence prior to entering the institution (22 M.R.S.A. § 4307(4)).
Temporary Housing. Hotels/motels and similar places of temporary lodging are considered institutions (-above) if the municipality grants financial assistance for, makes arrangements for, or advises or encourages an applicant to stay in temporary lodging.
Note: Municipalities which illegally deny housing assistance and, as a result of the denial, the applicant stays in temporary lodging are responsible for the applicant for up to 6 months and may be subject to other penalties (22 M.R.S.A. § 4307(4)).
Disputes. When the administrator believes that an applicant is a resident of another municipality but that municipality disputes its responsibility the administrator will notify the DHHS in Augusta (287_3654 or 1-800-442-6003). If the applicant applies in this municipality first, the administrator will determine his or her eligibility and, if eligible, will grant assistance until the DHHS has concluded which municipality is responsible for providing assistance. If another municipality was responsible, the DHHS will recover the amount due from the other municipality. (22 M.R.S.A. § § 4307(5), 4307(6)).