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General Assistance - Article VI
Determination of Eligibility
Section 6.1—Recognition of Dignity and Rights
Any determination or investigation into an applicant’s eligibility will be conducted in a manner that will not violate the applicant’s privacy or personal dignity or violate his or her individual rights.

Section 6.2—Determination; Redetermination
The administrator will make an individual, factual determination of eligibility each time a person applies or reapplies for general assistance. The administrator will make a redetermination of eligibility at least monthly but may do so as often as necessary to administer the program efficiently and meet the needs of the applicants. Upon any application, the administrator will determine the applicant’s eligibility on the basis of a 30-day prospective analysis, but may elect to disburse that applicant’s assistance periodically, e.g., weekly, throughout a 30-day period of eligibility pursuant to that initial eligibility determination.

The administrator may redetermine a person’s eligibility at any time during the period he or she is receiving assistance if the administrator is notified of any change in the recipient’s circumstances that may alter the amount of assistance the recipient may receive. Once a recipient has been granted assistance, the administrator may not reduce or rescind the grant without giving prior written notice to the recipient explaining the reasons for the decision and offering the recipient an opportunity to appeal the decision to the fair hearing authority (22 M.R.S.A. § 4309).

Section 6.3—Verification
Eligibility of applicant; duration of eligibility. The overseer shall determine eligibility each time a person applies or reapplies for general assistance.  The period of eligibility will not exceed one month.  At the expiration of this period applicants/recipients may reapply for assistance and the person's eligibility will be redetermined.
Applicant's responsibilities. Applicants and recipients for general assistance are responsible for providing to the overseer all information necessary to determine eligibility. If further information or documentation is necessary to demonstrate eligibility, the applicant must have the first opportunity to provide the specific information or documentation required by the overseer. When information required by the overseer is unavailable, the overseer must accept alternative available information, which is subject to verification.
Each applicant and recipient has the responsibility at the time of application and continuing thereafter to provide complete, accurate and current information and documentation concerning his/her:
·       Need
·       Income
·       Employment
·       Use of income
·       Expenses
·       Assets & liabilities
·       Use of available resources
·       Household composition
Initial Applicants.  A person who has not applied for assistance in this or any other municipality are considered initial applicants and must have their eligibility determined solely on the basis of need.  Initial applicants are not subject to eligibility conditions placed on repeat applicants (see below).  However, such applicants are still responsible for providing the GA administrator with reasonably obtainable documentation adequate to verify that there is a need for assistance.  In addition, initial applicants must also comply with both lump sum and relevant work rules (i.e. job quit).
Repeat Applicants.  All applicants for general assistance that are not initial applicants are repeat applicants.  The eligibility of repeat applicants must be determined on the basis of need and all other conditions of eligibility established by law and this municipal ordinance.
The administrator will require documentation of a repeat applicant’s income, use of income, assets and resources plus actual bills and receipts for rent, utilities, fuel, telephone, medical services and other basic necessities.  In addition, repeat applicants instructed to seek employment shall verify their work search results, e.g., provide a list of the employers contacted, the date and time of the application contact, and the name of the employer representative contacted, as required by the GA administrator.

Repeat applicants are also responsible for providing any changes of information reported on previous applications including changes in his/her household or income that may affect his/her eligibility.
Unforeseen Repeat Applicants.  Unforeseen repeat applicants are applicants who have not applied for assistance within the last twelve months and who have been regularly employed or receiving support from a public benefit or private source who have unexpectedly become unemployed through no fault of their own or whose income and/or benefits (e.g., through an available resource) have ceased through no fault of their own.  Such unforeseen repeat applicants may be considered initial applicants for purposes of verification requirements and misspent income if the administrator finds that imposing the general verification requirements and misspent income rules imposed on repeat applicants would be unreasonable or inappropriate.
Overseer's responsibilities. In order to determine an applicant's eligibility for general assistance, the overseer first must seek information and documentation from the applicant. Once the applicant has presented the necessary information, the overseer is responsible for determining eligibility. The overseer will seek verification necessary to determine eligibility. In order to determine eligibility, the overseer may contact sources other than the applicant for verification only with the specific knowledge and consent of the applicant, except that the overseer may examine public records without the applicant's knowledge and consent.
Appropriate sources, which the overseers may contact, include, but are not limited to:
·       DHHS and any other department/agency of the state or non-profit organizations
·       financial institutions
·       creditors
·       utility companies
·       employers
·       landlords
·       physicians
·       persons with whom the applicant/recipient is a cohabitant
·       legally and non-legally liable relatives

Assistance will be denied or terminated if the applicant is unwilling to supply the overseer with necessary information, documentation, or permission to make collateral contacts, or if the overseer cannot determine that eligibility exists based on information supplied by the applicant or others.
Redetermination of eligibility. The overseer may redetermine a person's eligibility at any time during the period that person is receiving assistance if the overseer is informed of any change in the recipient's circumstances that may affect the amount of assistance to which the recipient is entitled or that may make the recipient ineligible, provided that once a determination of eligibility has been made for a specific time period, a reduction in assistance for that time period may not be made without prior written notice to the recipient with the reasons for the action and an opportunity for the recipient to receive a fair hearing upon the proposed change.

Penalty for Refusing to Release Information. ~Any person governed by 22 M.R.S.A. §~4314 who refuses to provide necessary information to the administrator after it has been requested must state in writing the reasons for the refusal within 3 days of receiving the request. Any such person who refuses to provide the information, without just cause, commits a civil violation and may be subject to a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $100 which may be adjudged in any court of competent jurisdiction. Any person who willfully renders false information to the administrator is guilty of a Class E crime (22 M.R.S.A. § § 4314(5), 4314(6), 4315).

Section 6.4—Fraud
It is unlawful for a person to make knowingly and willfully a false representation of a material fact to the administrator in order to receive general assistance or cause someone else to receive general assistance (22 M.R.S.A. § 4315). False representation shall consist of any individual knowingly and willfully:
a)      making a false statement to the general assistance administrator, either orally or in writing, in order to obtain assistance to which the applicant or the applicant’s household is not entitled;
b)      concealing information from the general assistance administrator in order to obtain assistance to which the applicant or applicant’s household is not entitled; or
c)      using general assistance benefits for a purpose other than that for which they were intended.
No person may be denied assistance solely for making a false representation prior to being given an opportunity for a fair hearing.

Period of Ineligibility. When the general assistance administrator finds that a person has knowingly and willfully misrepresented material facts for the purpose of making himself or herself eligible for general assistance, the administrator shall notify that applicant in writing that he or she has been disqualified from receiving assistance for 120 days. For the purpose of this section, a material misrepresentation is a false statement about eligibility factor in the absence of which some or all of the assistance would not be or would not have been granted.

The notification of ineligibility issued by the administrator shall inform the applicant of his or her right to appeal the administrator’s decision to the fair hearing authority (FHA) within 5 working days of receipt. The period of ineligibility shall commence on the day following the end of the period covered by the grant of assistance fraudulently received or upon the date of notification of ineligibility, whichever is later.

Right to a Fair Hearing. ~Any applicant who is denied assistance for making a false representation will be afforded the opportunity to appeal the decision to the fair hearing authority (FHA) in accordance with Article VII of this ordinance. No recipient shall have his or her assistance reduced or revoked during the period of eligibility before being notified and given the opportunity to appeal the decision. Any person who is dissatisfied with the decision of the FHA may appeal that decision to the Superior Court pursuant to Rule 80-B of the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure (22 M.R.S.A. § 4309(3)).

Reimbursement. If a recipient does not appeal the decision or if the fair hearing authority determines that a recipient did make a false representation, the recipient will be required to reimburse the municipality for any assistance received to which he/she was not entitled.

Dependents. ~In no event will the ineligibility of a person under this section serve to disqualify any eligible dependent in that 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 the entire household income will be considered available to them.

Section 6.5—Period of Eligibility
The administrator will grant assistance to all eligible persons for a period that is sufficient to meet their need but in no event may a grant of assistance cover a period in excess of one month (22 M.R.S.A. § 4309). Upon receiving a completed and signed application the administrator will determine the applicant’s eligibility on the basis of a 30_day prospective analysis.

When an applicant submits an incomplete or unsigned application, due to the 24-hour decision requirement placed on the GA administrator, the GA administrator shall render a notice of “ineligibility” and advise the applicant that he or she has a right to reapply as soon as he or she has the necessary information and/or as soon as is practicable for the applicant.  

Although eligibility is determined on a 30-day basis, for reasons of administrative efficiency the administrator may elect to disburse an applicant’s assistance for shorter periods of time, such as weekly, throughout the 30-day period of eligibility. When the administrator elects to disburse general assistance for a period of time less than 30 days, subsequent grants of assistance during that 30-day period may be issued pursuant to the initial determination of need unless the applicant’s financial situation changes substantially enough to warrant a redetermination of eligibility.

Section 6.6—Determination of Need

The period of time used to calculate need will be the next 30-day period from the date of application (22 M.R.S.A. § 4301(7)). The administrator will calculate applicants’ expenses according to the actual expense of the basic necessity or the maximum levels for the specific necessities allowed in section 6.8, whichever is less. The sum of these expenses, as calculated for a prospective 30-day period, is the applicant’s 30-day need. ~Applicants will not be considered eligible if their income and other resources exceed this calculation except in an emergency (22 M.R.S.A. § 4308(2)) (see section 4.9 of this ordinance).  

Applicants will also not be considered in need of general assistance if their income, property, credit, assets or other resources available to provide basic necessities for their household are greater than the applicable overall maximum level of assistance set forth in the beginning of section 6.8 (22 M.R.S.A. § § 4301(10), 4305(3-B)). The difference between the applicant’s income and the overall maximum levels of assistance established by this ordinance is the applicant’s deficit.

Once an applicant’s deficit has been determined, the specific maximum levels of assistance for each basic necessity (see Appendixes A-H of this ordinance) shall be used by the administrator to guide the distribution of assistance for which the applicant is eligible. The specific maximum levels of assistance for each basic necessity are intended to be reasonable and sufficient to help recipients maintain a standard of health and decency (22 M.R.S.A. § 4305(3-A)).  

Income for Basic Necessities. Applicants are required to use their income for basic necessities. Except for initial applicants, no applicant is eligible to receive assistance to replace income that was spent within the 30-day period prior to an application for assistance on goods and services that are not basic necessities. All income spent on goods and services that are not basic necessities will be considered available to the applicant and combined with the applicant’s prospective 30-day income for the purposes of computing eligibility (22 M.R.S.A. § 4315-A). Applicants who have sufficient income to provide their basic necessities but who use that income to purchase goods or services which are not basic necessities will not be considered eligible for assistance. Persons who exhaust their income on basic necessities and who still need assistance with other basic necessities will be eligible, provided that their income does not exceed the overall maximum level of assistance.

Use-of-Income Requirements. The administrator may require that anyone applying for general assistance provide documentation of  his or her use of income. This documentation can take the form of cancelled checks and/or receipts which demonstrate that the applicant has exhausted all household income received over the last 30-day period. Except as is deemed appropriate by the GA administrator for “unforeseen” repeat applicants (See Section 6.3 of this ordinance), repeat applicants may be required to verify that expenditure of income was for basic necessities.  Income expended that cannot be verified will generally be considered available and in such case will be added to the 30-day prospective income.  

Allowable expenditures include reasonable shelter costs (rent/mortgage); the cost of heating fuel, electricity, and food up to the ordinance maximums; telephone costs at the base rate if  the household needs a telephone for medical reasons, the cost of nonelective medical services as recommended by a physician which are not otherwise covered by medical entitlement, Hospital Free Care or insurance; the reasonable cost of essential clothing and non-prescription drugs, and the costs of any other commodity or service determined essential by the administrator.

Items not considered to be basic necessities and thus will not be allowed in the budget computation include:  
·       Internet services
·       Cable or satellite television
·       Cellular phones
·       Cigarettes/alcohol
·       Gifts purchased
·       Pet care costs
·       Costs of trips or vacations
·       Paid court fines
·       Repayments of unsecured loans
·       Legal fees
·       Late fees
·       Credit card debt.

The municipality reserves the right to apply specific use-of-income requirements to any applicant, other than an initial applicant, who fails to use his or her income for basic necessities or fails to reasonably document his or her use of income (22 M.R.S.A. §~4315-A). Those additional requirements will be applied in the following manner:

1)      The administrator may require the applicant to use some or all of his or her income, at the time it becomes available, toward specific basic necessities. The administrator may prioritize such required expenditures so that most or all of the applicant’s income is applied to housing (i.e., rent/mortgage), energy (i.e., heating fuel, electricity), or other specified basic necessities;
2)      The administrator will notify applicants in writing of the specific use-of-income requirements placed on them;
3)      If upon subsequent application it cannot be determined how the applicant’s income was spent, or it is determined that some or all of the applicant’s income was not spent as directed and was also not spent on basic necessities, the applicant will not be eligible to receive either regular or emergency general assistance to replace that income; and
4)      If the applicant does not spend his or her income as directed, but can show with verifiable documentation that all income was spent on basic necessities up to allowed amounts, the applicant will remain eligible to the extent of the applicant’s eligibility and need.

Calculation of Income and Expenses. ~When determining eligibility, the administrator will subtract the applicant’s net income from the overall maximum level of assistance found at the beginning of section 6.8. If income is greater than the overall maximum level of assistance, the applicant will not be eligible except in an emergency (see section 4.9). If income is less than the overall maximum level of assistance, the applicant has a deficit.

The municipality will provide assistance in an amount up to the deficit to the extent the applicant also has an unmet need and is in need of basic necessities. The municipality will not grant assistance in excess of the maximum amounts allowed in section 6.8 of this ordinance for specific basic necessities except in an emergency or when the administrator elects to consolidate the applicant’s deficit, as provided immediately below.

Consolidation of Deficit. As a general rule and to the extent of their deficit, applicants will be eligible for assistance for any basic necessity up to, but not exceeding, the maximum amount allowed for that necessity in this ordinance or the actual 30-day cost of the necessity, whichever is less. Under certain circumstances, however, and in accordance with the following conditions, the administrator may consolidate the applicant’s deficit and apply it toward a basic necessity in an amount greater than the ordinance maximum for that necessity.

1)      The practice of consolidating the deficit and applying it toward a basic necessity in amounts greater than the ordinance maximum shall be the exception rather than the rule;
2)      The total general assistance grant cannot exceed the total deficit unless the applicant is in an emergency situation; and
3)      The need for the application of the recipient’s consolidated deficit toward a basic necessity was not created by the recipient misspending his or her income or resources in violation of the use-of-income requirements of this ordinance.

Section 6.7—Income
Income Standards. ~Applicants whose income exceeds the overall maximum level of assistance provided in section 6.8 shall not be eligible for general assistance except in an emergency. The administrator will conduct an individual factual inquiry into the applicant’s income and expenses each time an applicant applies.

Calculation of Income. To determine whether applicants are in need, the administrator will calculate the income they will receive during the next 30-day period commencing on the date of application, and identify any assets or resources that would alleviate their need. For all applicants other than initial applicants, the administrator will also consider as available income any income that was not spent during the previous 30-day period on basic necessities, as well as any income that was spent on basic necessities in unreasonable excess of the ordinance maximums for specific basic necessities. If a household’s income exceeds the amount of the household’s need for basic necessities, up to the maximum levels contained in section 6.8, applicants will not be considered in need.

Exceptions will be made in emergency situations, which may necessitate that the maximum levels be exceeded (22 M.R.S.A. § 4308) (see section 4.9 of this ordinance). To calculate weekly income and expenses, the administrator will use actual income received or actual anticipated income.

Types of Income. Income that will be considered in determining an applicant’s need includes:
a)      Earned income. Income in cash or in kind earned by the applicant through wages, salary, commissions, or profit, whether self-employed or as an employee, is considered earned income. If a person is self-employed, total income will be computed by subtracting reasonable and actual business expenses from gross income. When income consists of wages, the amount computed will be the income available after taxes, social security and other payroll deductions required by state, federal, and local law. Rental income and profit from produce that is sold is considered earned income. Income that is held in trust and unavailable to the applicant or the applicant’s dependents will not be considered as earned income.

~Note: Actual work-related expenses such as union dues, transportation to and from work, special equipment or work clothes, and child care costs will be deducted from an applicant’s income (22 M.R.S.A. § 4301(7)).

b)      Income from Other Assistance or Social Services Programs. State/federal categorical assistance benefits, SSI payments, Social Security payments, VA benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, and payments from other government sources will be considered as income, unless expressly prohibited by federal law or regulation. Federal law prohibits Food Stamps and fuel assistance payments made by the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP and EPIC) from being considered income. The value of the food stamps or fuel assistance will not be used to reduce the amount of general assistance the applicant is eligible to receive. Although applicants may have only a limited or reduced need for general assistance for heating fuel or electricity if a recently received HEAP/ECIP benefit has sufficiently credited their account or otherwise prevented the fuel-related costs for the prospective 30-day period.

The administrator’s obligation is to always compute the heating needs of an applicant who has received HEAP or ECIP as if that applicant paid for his or her total fuel costs. Accordingly, in such cases, the administrator will budget for the household’s heating energy needs according to actual usage, up to the ordinance maximums, but the administrator may, with written notice to the applicant, hold in reserve the heating energy portion of the applicant’s deficit until such a time during the period of eligibility that the applicant has a demonstrable need for the disbursement of heating energy assistance; that is, the applicant’s fuel tank can accept a minimum fuel delivery or the applicant no longer has a positive credit balance with his or her utility company. The municipality is not obligated to divert any recipient’s heating energy allowance toward non-heating purposes solely on the basis of the recipient’s receipt of HEAP/ECIP.

Other programs whose income cannot be counted for purposes of GA eligibility include:
·       Family Development Accounts (22 M.R.S. § 3762)
·       Americorp VISTA program benefits (42 USCS § 5044 (f))
·       Property tax rebates issued under the Maine Residents Property Tax Program (so-called “Circuitbreaker” program) (36 M.R.S.A. § 6216)

c)      Court-Ordered Support Payments. Alimony and child support payments will be considered income only if actually received by the applicant. The general assistance administrator will refer cases where support payments are not actually received to the State Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Support Enforcement Unit.  In order to be eligible for future GA, applicants being referred to DHHS for such enforcement services shall be required to follow-through with such services.  Because child support payments are considered a resource, applicants must make a good faith effort to secure such payments.

d)      Income from Other Sources. ~Payments from pensions and trust funds will be considered income. Payments from boarders or lodgers will be considered income as will cash or in-kind contributions provided to the household from any other source, including relatives (22 M.R.S.A. § 4301(7)).

e)      Earnings of a Son or Daughter. Earned income received by sons and daughters below the age of 18 who are full-time students and who are not working full-time will not be considered income. The unearned income of a minor in the household will be considered available to the household.

f)      Income from Household Members. ~Income from household members will be considered available to the applicant, whether or not the household member is legally obligated for the support of the applicant, if the household members pool or share their income and expenses as a family or intermingle their funds so as to provide support to one another.

g)      The Pooling or Non-Pooling of Income. When two or more individuals share the same dwelling unit but not all members of the household are applying for general assistance, the administrator shall make a finding under a rebuttable presumption that the entire household is pooling income (22 M.R.S.A. § 4301(12-A)).

One or more applicants for assistance can successfully rebut the presumption that all household income is being pooled by providing the administrator with verifiable documentation affirmatively demonstrating a pattern of non-pooling for the duration of the shared living arrangement. Such documentation would include evidence of the entire household expenses as well as bank statements, cancelled checks, receipts, landlord statements or other vendor accounts clearly supporting a claim that the applicant has been and is presently solely and entirely responsible for his or her pro-rata share of household costs.

If the applicant is unable to successfully rebut the municipality’s presumption that all household income is being pooled, eligibility of the entire household will be determined based on total household income. If the applicant successfully rebuts the municipality’s presumption that all household income is being pooled, the applicant’s eligibility will be determined on the basis of his or her income and his or her pro-rata share of actual household expenses.

h)      Lump Sum Income. A lump sum payment received by any GA applicant or recipient prior to the date of application for general assistance will be considered as income available to the household.  However, verified required payments (i.e., any third party payment which is required as a condition of receiving the lump sum payment, or any payments of bills earmarked for the purpose for which the lump sum payment was made) and any amount of the lump sum payment which the applicant can document was spent on basic necessities, as described below, will not be considered available income.
Where a household receives a lump sum payment at any time prior to the date of application for general assistance, the administrator will assess the need for prorating an applicant’s eligibility for general assistance according to the following criteria (22 M.R.S.A. § 4301(7), (8-A)):
1)      identify the date the lump sum payment was received;
2)      subtract from the lump sum payment all required payments;
3)      subtract from the lump sum any amount the applicant can demonstrate was spent on basic necessities, including all basic necessities as defined by the general assistance program such as:  reasonable payment of funeral or burial expenses for a family member; any reasonable travel costs related to the illness or death of a family member; repair or replacement of essentials lost due to fire, flood or other natural disaster; repair or purchase of a motor vehicle essential for employment, education, training or other day-to-day living necessities.  Repayments of loans or credit, the proceeds of which can be verified as having been spent on basic necessities; and payment of bills earmarked for the purpose for which the lump sum is paid must also be subtracted.  (22 M.R.S.A. § 4301(7), (8-A));
4)      add to the remainder all income received by the household between the date of receipt of the lump sum payment and the date of application for general assistance; and
5)      divide the sum created in subsection (4) by the greater of the verified actual monthly amounts for all of the household's basic necessities or 150% of the applicable federal poverty guidelines. 22 M.R.S.A. §~4305(3-B)
This dividend represents the period of proration determined by the administrator to commence on the date of receipt of the lump sum payment. The prorated sum for each month must be considered available to the household for 12 months from the date of application or during the period of proration, whichever is less.

The household of an initial applicant that is otherwise eligible for emergency assistance may not be denied emergency assistance to meet an immediate need solely on the basis of the proration of a lump sum payment. (22 MRSA §~4308)

Section 6.8—Basic Necessities; Maximum Levels of Assistance
Overall Maximum Levels of Assistance. Notwithstanding any of the maximum levels of assistance for specific basic necessities listed in Appendices B-H of this ordinance, an applicant’s eligibility for general assistance will be first determined by subtracting his or her income from the overall maximum level of assistance designated in Appendix A for the applicable household size (22 M.R.S.A. § 4305 (3-B)). The difference yielded by this calculation shall be the applicant’s deficit.

Applicants will be eligible for general assistance up to the calculated deficit to the extent the applicant is unable to otherwise provide the basic necessities essential to maintain themselves or their families. Applicants with no deficit shall be found ineligible for general assistance unless they are in an emergency, in which case eligibility for emergency general assistance will be determined according to section 4.9 of this ordinance.
Maximum Levels of Assistance for Specific Basic Necessities. The municipality will grant assistance to eligible applicants for basic necessities according to the maximum levels for specific types of assistance set forth below. The administrator, in consultation with the applicant, may apply the amount of the applicant’s deficit toward assistance with any one or combination of necessities not to exceed the total deficit. These maximum levels will be strictly adhered to unless the administrator determines that there are exceptional circumstances and an emergency is shown to exist, in which case these absolute levels will be waived in order to meet immediate needs. In all cases either the actual expenses the applicant incurs for basic necessities or the maximum amount allowed in each category, whichever is less, will be used in determining need.
In roommate situations, the applicant’s need for common living expenses for rent, fuel, electricity, etc., will be presumed to be reduced by an amount equal to the other household members’ proportionate fair share of the common living expenses. No applicant will be allowed to claim a need for any expense which has been or will be paid by another person. In addition, as a general rule the municipality will not provide a benefit toward a basic need by paying a bill that is issued to a person not living with the applicant’s household or that has otherwise been incurred by a person who has not been found eligible to receive assistance.

Temporary exceptions to this general rule may be made by the administrator in the following circumstances: (1) a recent, unplanned separation has occurred in the household resulting in the sustained or permanent absence of a former household member in whose name the bill was customarily issued; (2) the applicant and members of the applicant’s household were or will be the sole recipients of the commodities or services covered by any bill to be paid or partially paid with general assistance; and (3) the applicant will make a good faith effort to direct the vendor to issue future bills in the name of the applicant or other responsible person residing in the household.

A)      Food. The administrator will provide food assistance to eligible persons up to the allowed maximum amounts designated by the U.S.D.A. Thrifty Food Plan for the appropriate household size.

For this purpose, the municipality hereby incorporates by reference the U.S.D.A. Thrifty Food Plan, as distributed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on or about October of each year.  See Appendix B of this ordinance for the current year’s food maximums.

In determining need for food the administrator will not consider the value of the food stamps an applicant receives as income (22 M.R.S.A. § 4301.7(A); 7 U.S.C. §2017(b)). The municipality will authorize vouchers to be used solely for approved food products.

The administrator will exceed the maximums when necessary for households having members with special dietary needs. The administrator may require a doctor’s statement verifying there is a special dietary need requiring an expenditure for food that is greater than the ordinance maximums.

B)      Housing. The administrator will provide assistance with rent or mortgage payments that are reasonable and/or within the allowed maximum levels. See Appendix C of this ordinance for the current year’s housing maximums.  It is the applicant’s responsibility to find suitable housing, although the administrator may help the applicant find housing when appropriate. The administrator will inform the applicant of the allowed housing maximums to assist the applicant in his or her search for housing. The allowed maximum for any applicant will be the categorical housing maximum representing the minimum dwelling unit space necessary to adequately shelter the applicant household. Applicants requesting assistance for housing that contains more bedrooms than are necessary for the number of household members will be provided assistance according to the maximum level for the number of rooms actually needed.

Rental Payments to Relatives. The municipality may elect to not issue any rental payment to an applicant’s relatives unless the rental relationship has existed for at least three months and the applicant’s relative(s) rely on the rental payment for their basic needs. For the purpose of this section, a “relative” is defined as the applicant’s parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, parent’s siblings, or any of those relative’s children (22 M.R.S.A. § 4319(2).

Rental Payments to Non-Relatives. When applicants are living in private homes with the owner or sharing dwelling units with people who are not pooling income or who are not legally liable relatives, the amount allowed as the applicant’s shelter expense will be the applicant’s pro rata share of the actual, total shelter cost, up to the ordinance maximum (22 M.R.S.A. § 4301(6)).

Any housing assistance issued to a recipient in such a circumstance will be issued, whenever reasonably possible, to the landlord or property owner with the most superior interest in the property; i.e., to a landlord before a tenant, or to a mortgagee before a mortgagor.

When the municipality issues in aggregate more than $600 in rental payments to any landlord in any calendar year, a 1099 form declaring the total amount of rental payments issued during the calendar year will be forwarded to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) pursuant to IRS regulation (see section 6041(a) of Internal Revenue Code).

Any landlord wishing to regularly receive rental payments from the municipality on behalf of applicants renting rooms from the landlord’s own residence must, at a minimum, make a good faith effort to obtain a lodging license from the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Health Engineering, pursuant to 10-144A Code of Maine Regulations, Chapter 201, as a condition of that landlord receiving future general assistance payments on behalf of his or her tenants.

Mortgage Payments. ~In the case of a request for assistance with a mortgage payment, the general assistance administrator will make an individual factual determination of whether the applicant has an immediate need for such aid. In making this determination, the administrator will consider the extent and liquidity of the applicant’s proprietary interest in the housing. Factors to consider in making this determination include:
(1)     the marketability of the shelter’s equity;
(2)     the amount of equity;
(3)     the availability of the equity interest in the shelter to provide the applicant an opportunity to secure a short-term loan in order to meet immediate needs;
(4)     the extent to which liquidation may aid the applicant’s financial rehabilitation;
(5)     a comparison between the amount of mortgage obligations and the anticipated rental charges the applicant would be responsible for if he/she were to be dislocated to rental housing;
(6)     the imminence of the applicant’s dislocation from owned housing because of his or her inability to meet the mortgage payments;
(7)     the likelihood that the provision of housing assistance will prevent such dislocation; and
(8)     the applicant’s age, health, and social situation.

These factors shall be considered when determining whether the equity in the shelter is an available asset which may be substituted for the assistance the municipality would otherwise be required to provide.

The administrator shall consider issuing a benefit in response to the applicant’s request~ for mortgage assistance to the extent the applicant is otherwise eligible for general assistance if after reviewing the above criteria the administrator determines that:
(1)     the monthly mortgage obligation is in accordance with the maximum levels of assistance available for housing appropriate to the applicant’s household size;
(2)     there is no capacity in the accumulated equity in the property, when considered in the context of the applicant’s borrowing capacity with the mortgagee or the general lending community, to suspend the mortgage obligation temporarily or reamortize the mortgage in such a way as to suspend or reduce the mortgage obligation; and
(3)     the failure to provide a mortgage payment in a timely manner could jeopardize the applicant’s continued right of possession of the property.

If a mortgage payment is necessary, the administrator will pay the actual amount due, up to the amount allowed according to the maximum levels listed below. After an initial application, assistance with such payments will be given only after the applicant has made all reasonable efforts to borrow against the equity of his or her home. If there is not sufficient equity in the home with which to secure a loan, and if the monthly mortgage payments are not realistically in line with the rental rates for similar housing in the area that could meet the applicant’s needs, the administrator will inform the applicant that he/she is responsible for finding alternative housing within his or her ability to pay and will be obligated to make all reasonable efforts to secure such housing.

Liens. The municipality may place a lien on the property in order to recover its costs of granting assistance with mortgage payments In addition, a municipality may claim a lien against the owner of real estate for the amount of money spent by it to make capital improvements to the real estate.  (22 M.R.S.A. § 4320). No lien may be enforced against a recipient except upon his or her death or the transfer of the property. Further, no lien may be enforced against a person who is currently receiving any form of public assistance, or who would again become eligible for general assistance if the lien were enforced.

If the municipality determines that it is appropriate to place a lien on a person’s property to recover its costs of providing general assistance for a mortgage payment or capital improvement it must file a notice of the lien with the county registry~of deeds where the property is located within 30 days of making the mortgage payment. That filing shall secure the municipality’s or the state’s interest in an amount equal to the sum of that mortgage or capital improvement payment and all subsequent mortgage or capital improvement payments made on behalf of the same eligible person, plus interest and costs.

Not less than 10 days prior to filing the lien in the registry, the municipal officers must send notice to the owner of the real estate, the general assistance recipient, and any record holder of the mortgage by certified mail, return receipt requested, that a lien on the property is going to be filed with the registry. This notice must clearly inform the recipient of the limitations upon enforcement plus the name, title, address and telephone number of the person who granted the assistance. The municipal officers must also give written notice to the recipient each time the amount secured by the lien is increased because of an additional mortgage payment. This notice must include the same information that appeared on the original intent-to-file notice sent to the recipient.

The municipality may charge interest on the amount of money secured by the lien. The municipal officers will establish the interest rate not to exceed the maximum rate of interest allowed by the State Treasurer to be charged against delinquent taxes. The interest will accrue from the date the lien is filed.

Property Taxes. ~In the event an applicant requests assistance with his or her property taxes, the administrator will inform the applicant that there are two procedures on the local level to request that relief: the poverty abatement process (36 M.S.R.A. § 841(2)) and General Assistance. If the applicant chooses to seek property tax assistance through General Assistance, or if the applicant is denied a poverty tax abatement, the administrator may consider using general assistance to meet this need only if:
a)      the property tax in question is for the applicant’s place of residence;
b)      there is a tax lien on the property which is due to mature within 60 days of the date of application;
c)      as a matter of municipal policy or practice, or on the basis of information obtained from the applicant’s mortgagee, if any, it is reasonably certain that a tax lien foreclosure will result in subsequent eviction from the residential property; and
d)      the applicant, with sufficient notice, applies for property tax relief through the Maine Resident Property Tax Program, when available.

Housing Maximums. The maximum levels of housing assistance contained in this ordinance have been derived either from a locally accomplished fair market rental survey or the fair market rental values developed by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If the maximum levels of housing are derived from the HUD values made effective as of every October 1, and adjusted to disregard the current and averaged utility allowances as developed by the Maine State Housing Authority, those levels are hereby incorporated by reference.~See Appendix C of this ordinance for the current year’s housing maximums.

If and when the maximum levels of housing contained in this ordinance are derived from a locally developed fair market rental survey, a record of that survey will be submitted to the DHHS, General Assistance Unit, and the maximum levels of housing assistance will be incorporated into this ordinance pursuant to the ordinance adoption and amendment procedures found at 22 M.R.S.A. § 4305.

C)      Utilities. ~Expenses for lights, cooking, and hot water will be budgeted separately if they are not included in the rent. Applicants are responsible for making arrangements with the utility company regarding service, including entering into a special payment arrangement if necessary.

Assistance will be granted to eligible applicants on the basis of their most recent bill. The municipality is not obligated to pay back bills or utility security deposits. Exceptions may be made in emergency situations pursuant to section 4.9.

Disconnection of utility service will not be considered an emergency in all cases. The administrator will make an individual, factual analysis to determine if the termination of utility service constitutes an emergency. The administrator will consider the household composition, the time of year, the age and health of the household members, and other appropriate factors in reaching a decision. Applicants who had sufficient income, money, assets or other resources to pay their utility bill when it was received, but who spent all or part of their income on items which were not basic necessities, will not be eligible to receive general assistance to replace those funds.

Applicants have the burden of providing evidence of their income and use of income for the applicable time period (22 M.R.S.A. § 4308(2)) (see section 4.9 and 6.3). The administrator will notify applicants in writing that they must give the administrator prompt notice if their utility service is to be terminated or if their fuel supply is low. It is the applicant’s responsibility to attempt to make arrangements with the utility company to maintain their service and to notify the administrator if assistance is needed with a utility bill prior to service being terminated.

Electricity Maximums for Households Without Electric Hot Water. See Appendix D of this ordinance for the current year’s electricity maximums.

Electricity Maximums for Households that Use Electrically Heated Hot Water. See Appendix D of this ordinance for the current year’s electricity maximums.

Non-Electric Utilities. ~The allowed amount for water and sewer utility service will be budgeted at a 30-day reasonable usage rate.

D)      Fuel. ~Expenses for home heating will be budgeted according to the actual need for fuel during the heating season (September through May) provided such expenses are reasonable, and at other times during the year when the administrator determines the request for fuel assistance is reasonable and appropriate.

Assistance will be granted to eligible applicants on the basis of their most recent bill. The municipality is not responsible for back bills except in an emergency as provided in section 4.9. Applicants are responsible for monitoring their fuel supply and requesting assistance prior to depleting their fuel supply. When applicants who have been informed of this responsibility run out of fuel nonetheless, and can show no just cause for failing to give the administrator timely notice of their need for fuel, the administrator shall find that the emergency was not beyond the applicants’ control, and process the emergency request accordingly, pursuant to section 4.9 of this ordinance.

See Appendix E of this ordinance for the current year’s fuel maximums.

E)      Personal Care and Household Supplies. Expenses for ordinary personal and household supplies will be budgeted and allowed according to the applicant’s actual need for these items, up to the maximums below. Personal and household supplies include: hand soap, toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream, deodorant, dish detergent, laundry supplies and costs, household cleaning supplies, razors, paper products such as toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, garbage/trash bags light bulbs and supplies for children under 5 years of age.  See Appendix F of this ordinance for the current year’s personal care and household supplies maximums.

F)      Other Basic Necessities. Expenses falling under this section will be granted when they are deemed essential to an applicant’s or recipient’s health and safety by the general assistance administrator and, in some cases, upon verification by a physician. Assistance will be granted only when these necessities cannot be obtained through the utilization of available resources.

1)      Clothing. ~The municipality may assist a household with the purchase of adequate clothing. Before assistance will be granted for clothing, the general assistance administrator must be satisfied that the applicant has utilized all available resources to secure the necessary clothing. In some circumstances, clothing will be a postponable item. Exceptions to this would be, for example, if fire, flood or unusually cold weather makes extra clothing an immediate necessity, special clothing is necessary for the applicant’s employment, or a household member is without adequate clothing.

2)      Medical. The municipality will pay for essential medical expenses, other than hospital bills (see below), provided that the municipality is notified and approves the expenses and services prior to their being made or delivered. Medical expenses include prescriptions, devices, treatments, or services that are determined to be ‘medically necessary’ by a licensed physician. The municipality will grant assistance for medical services only when assistance cannot be obtained from any other source and the applicant would not be able to receive necessary medical care without the municipality’s assistance. The applicant is required to utilize any resource, including any federal or state program, that will diminish his or her need to seek general assistance for medical expenses. The municipality will grant assistance for non-emergency medical services only if a physician verifies that the services are essential. Provided there is no cost to the applicant, the administrator may require a second medical opinion from a physician designated by the municipality to verify the necessity of the services.

Generally, the municipality will issue general assistance at the established Medicaid rates for all medical services, prescriptions, or other medical commodities. Before authorizing general assistance for any medical expenses, the administrator will inform the pharmacy or medical service provider of the municipality’s intention to pay for the medical service at the Medicaid rate, and ask to be billed accordingly.

Ordinary medical supplies/non-prescription drugs will be budgeted at the actual amount when the applicant can demonstrate a need for such items. Allowable supplies include bandages, aspirin, cough syrup, and other generic brand, non-prescription medicines. In addition, the basic monthly rate for telephone service will be budgeted when a telephone is essential to the health and safety of the household. In order for telephone service to be considered an allowable expense the applicant must provide a written statement from a physician certifying that the telephone is essential.

3)      Hospital Bills. In the event of an emergency admission to the hospital, the hospital must notify the administrator within 5 business days of the admission. Notification must be by telephone, confirmed by certified mail, or by certified mail only. If a hospital fails to give timely notice to the administrator, the municipality will have no obligation to pay the bill.

Any person who cannot pay his or her hospital bill must apply to the hospital for consideration under the Hospital’s Free Care Program as provided in Title 22 M.R.S.A. § 396-F(1). Anyone who is not eligible for the hospital’s free care program may apply for general assistance. Applicants must apply for assistance within 30 days of being discharged from the hospital and provide a notice from the hospital certifying that they re not eligible for the hospital’s free care program.

Before the administrator will consider whether to allow a hospital bill as a necessary expense, the applicant must enter into a reasonable payment arrangement with the hospital. The payment arrangement will be based upon the Medicaid rate. In determining an applicant’s eligibility, the municipality will budget the monthly payment to the hospital the applicant has agreed to pay. The applicant’s need for assistance with a hospital bill will be considered each time he/she applies by including the amount of the bill in the applicant’s monthly budget, but the recipient will be responsible for making any necessary payments to the hospital pursuant to the use-of-income requirements found at section 6.6 of this ordinance.

4)      Dental. The municipality will pay for medically necessary dental services only. As is the case with medical services generally, the municipality will issue general assistance for dental services at the established Medicaid rates for those services, and before authorizing the general assistance benefit for dental services, the administrator will inform the dentist or dental surgeon of the municipality’s intention to pay at the Medicaid rate. If full mouth extractions are necessary, the municipality will pay for dentures provided the applicant has no other resources to pay for the dentures. The applicant will be referred to a dental clinic in the area whenever possible. The administrator will expect the applicant to bear a reasonable part of the cost for dental services, including extractions and dentures, taking into account the applicant’s ability to pay.

5)      Eye Care. ~In order to be eligible to receive general assistance for eyeglasses, an applicant must have his or her medical need certified by a person licensed to practice optometry. The general assistance administrator will provide assistance for eyeglasses to eligible persons only after the applicant has exhausted all other available resources and generally only at the Medicaid rate.

6)      Telephone Charge. A payment for basic telephone will only be allowed if a telephone is necessary for medical reasons as verified by a physician.  At the discretion of the GA administrator, minimum/basic telephone services may be allowed for households with children, for households where job search or job related reasons exist and/or for any other reasons the administrator deems necessary.

7)      Work-Related Expenses. ~In determining need, reasonable and actual work-related expenses will be deducted from earned income. These expenses include childcare costs, work clothes, supplies and transportation at the actual costs not to exceed the ordinance maximum (see Appendix G for this year’s maximum mileage allotment).  The applicant is required to provide documentation substantiating the costs and that the expenses were necessary.  

8)      Travel Expenses. In determining need, necessary travel which is not work-related will be budgeted if the applicant can satisfy the administrator that the prospective need for travel is necessary. For applicants in rural areas, weekly transportation to a supermarket will be considered, as will any medically necessary travel.~See Appendix G for the current rate at which such necessary travel will be budgeted. This rate shall be construed to subsidize all costs associated with automobile ownership and operation, including gas/oil, tires, maintenance, insurance, financing, licensing/registration, excise tax, etc.

9)      Burials, Cremations. ~Under the circumstances and in accordance with the procedures and limitations described below (see section 6.9), the municipality recognizes its responsibility to pay for the burial or cremation of eligible persons. See Appendix H for the current maximums.

10)     Capital Improvements. The costs associated with capital improvements/repairs (e.g., heating/water/septic system repair) will generally not be budgeted as a basic necessity. Exceptions can be made only when the capital improvement/repair has been pre-approved by the administrator as a necessary expense and the monthly cost of the capital improvement/repair has been reduced as far as reasonably possible; for example, by means of the applicant entering into an installment payment arrangement with the contractor. The administrator may grant general assistance for capital improvements when:
1)      the failure to do so would place the applicant(s) in emergency circumstances;
2)      there are no other resources available to effect the capital repair; and
3)      there is no more cost-effective alternative available to the applicant or municipality to alleviate an emergency situation.

In some cases, the entire immediate cost of the capital improvement can be mitigated by the applicant entering into an installment payment arrangement with a contractor. The municipality reserves the right to place a lien on any property pursuant to 22 M.R.S.A. § 4320 when general assistance has been used to effect a capital improvement. The lien process shall be accomplished in the same manner as for mortgage payments, as described in subsection (B) “Liens”, above.

Section 6.9—Burials; Cremations
Funeral Director Must Give Timely Notice. In order for the municipality to be liable for a burial or cremation expense, the funeral director must notify the administrator prior to the burial or cremation or by the end of the next business day following the funeral director’ receipt of the body, whichever is earlier (22 M.R.S.A. §4313(2)). This contact by the funeral director shall begin the process of developing an application for burial/cremation assistance on behalf of the deceased. It is the funeral director’s responsibility to make a good-faith effort to determine if the family or any other persons are going to pay all or part of the burial expenses. If family members or others are unable to pay the expenses, and the funeral director wants the municipality to pay all or part of the expenses, the funeral director must make timely contact to the municipal administrator. In addition, the funeral director may refer legally liable relatives to the administrator so that a timely determination of financial capacity may be accomplished.

Application for Assistance Shall be Calculated on Behalf of the Deceased. For the purposes of determining residency, calculating eligibility and issuing general assistance for burial or cremation purposes, an application for assistance shall be completed by the administrator on behalf of the deceased.

With regard to residency, the municipality of responsibility for burial expenses shall be the municipality in which the eligible deceased person was a resident at the time of death as residency is determined under section 4.10 of this ordinance.

Although legally liable relatives may be asked to provide information regarding their income, assets, and basic living expenses, that information will not be construed as an application for general assistance inasmuch as living persons are not eligible for burial assistance. To clarify this point of law, although legally liable relatives have a financial responsibility to pay for the burial or cremation of their relatives, that financial responsibility only exists to the extent the legally liable relatives have a financial capacity to do so. Therefore, legally liable relatives who are eligible for general assistance, by virtue of their eligibility, have no legal obligation to pay for the burial or cremation of their relatives. For these reasons, all general assistance issued for burial or cremation purposes shall be issued on behalf of, and in the name of, the deceased.

The Financial Responsibility of Certain Family Members. ~Grandparents, parents, siblings, children and grandchildren of the deceased, who live in Maine or own property in Maine, are financially responsible for the burial or cremation of the deceased to the extent those relatives, individually or as a group, have a financial capacity to pay for the burial or cremation either in lump sum or by means of a budgeted payment arrangement with the funeral home. Accordingly, at the request of the administrator, all legally liable relatives must provide the municipal administrator with any reasonably requested information regarding their income, assets, and basic living expenses.

Consideration of the Financial Responsibility of Family Members. Generally, when the administrator can make a finding that one or more of the deceased’s legally liable relatives have an obvious and demonstrable financial capacity to pay for the burial or cremation, by lump sum payment or by means of a reasonable payment arrangement, the municipality will not grant the requested burial or cremation assistance. When the administrator is unable to make such a finding, the following proration of familial responsibility will be implemented.

Proration of Familial Responsibility. A proration of familial financial responsibility will be used when no legally liable relative possesses an obvious and demonstrable capacity to pay for the burial or cremation, but one or more of the financially liable relatives is found to have a financial capacity to make a partial financial contribution, or the administrator is unable to determine the financial capacity of one or more of said relatives.

Under these circumstances, each legally liable relative is considered to be responsible for his or her pro rata share of the total municipal contribution that would exist if no legally liable relatives had a financial capacity to contribute. Furthermore, and as long as all other eligibility factors have been satisfied, the municipality will provide as a burial or cremation benefit the aggregate of all pro rata shares less the share of any legally liable relative who refuses to cooperate with the administrator by providing information or documentation reasonably necessary to determine that relative’s financial capacity, and less any share or part of a share attributable to a legally liable relative who can financially contribute or partially contribute toward the burial or cremation to the extent of that relative’s share.

Ten Days to Determine Eligibility. ~The administrator may take up to 10 days from the date of contact by the funeral director to issue a written decision regarding the amount of the municipal contribution toward the burial or cremation. The 10-day eligibility determination period from the date of contact by the funeral director shall be used as necessary to make third-party collateral contacts, verify the listing of legally liable family members and determine their respective financial capacities to contribute to the burial or cremation, contact the personal representative of the deceased’s estate, if any, and other related administrative tasks. The administrator shall not use this 10-day period allowed by law to unreasonably delay the municipality’s decision.

The Municipal Obligation to Pay When Legally Liable Relatives or Others Can Contribute. The figures provided in this section are the maximum benefits provided by the municipality when no contributions toward the burial or cremation are available from any other source. To the extent any legally liable relatives of the deceased have a financial capacity to pay for the burial or cremation, that financial capacity shall be deducted from the maximum burial costs allowed by this section. In addition, any other benefits or resources that are available, such as Social Security burial benefits, veterans’ burial benefits, or contributions from other persons, will be deducted from the maximum amount the municipality will pay, except there will be no deduction from the municipal benefit level with respect to any contribution provided for the purpose of publishing an obituary notice up to an aggregate contribution limit for this purpose of $75 when a paid receipt demonstrating the purchase of an obituary notice is provided to the administrator.

Burial Expenses. ~The administrator will respect the wishes of family members with regard to whether the deceased is interred by means of burial or cremated.  See Appendix H for the maximum levels of assistance granted for the purpose of burials.

Cremation Expenses. ~In the absence of any objection by any family members of the deceased, or when neither the administrator nor the funeral director can locate any family members, the administrator may issue general assistance for cremation services. See Appendix H for the maximum levels of assistance granted for the purpose of cremations.

Section 6.10—Notice of Decision
Written Decision. ~The administrator will give a written decision to each applicant after making a determination of eligibility each time a person applies. The decision will be given to the applicant within 24 hours of receiving a completed and signed application (22 M.R.S.A. § 4305(3)) (see Article IV, section 4.6).

When an applicant submits an incomplete or unsigned application, due to the 24-hour decision requirement placed on the GA administrator, the GA administrator may decide to render a notice of “ineligibility” and provide the applicant with another application to submit as soon as is practicable for the applicant.  

In order to ensure that applicants understand their rights, it is the responsibility of the general assistance administrator to explain the applicants’ right to a fair hearing in the written notice of decision.

Contents. ~After an application has been completed, applicants will be given written notice of any decision concerning their eligibility for assistance. In addition to the contents of a written decision listed in section 4.6 of this ordinance, the notice will state that applicants:
a)      have the right to a fair hearing and the method by which they may obtain a fair hearing and;
b)      have the right to contact the DHHS if they believe the municipality has violated the law. The decision will state the method for notifying the department.

Disbursement of General Assistance. Except when determined impractical by the administrator, all general assistance will be provided in the form of a voucher or purchase order payable to a vendor or through direct municipal payment to a provider of goods or services. General assistance will not be issued in the form of a cash payment to an applicant unless there is no alternative to making such a cash payment, in which case the administrator shall document the circumstances for issuing general assistance in the form of cash (22 M.R.S.A. § 4305(6)).