- SNAP Rule #224A - March 2022 Standard Utility Allowance Updates
- General Assistance Rule #24A - Recovery Residences
- HOPE Rule #101A - Internet Access, Updates to Eligible Careers and Degree Programs, Increased Program Participant Cap, and Additional Updates
- SNAP Rule #212A - 2021 Omnibus rule change
|SNAP Rule #224A - March 2022 Standard Utility Allowance Updates||Rule - Track Changes (Word)||Rule - Clean (Word)|
Concise Summary: This rule implements increases to the standard utility allowances. As a result, SNAP benefits will increase for some households.
Each state agency is charged with determining standard utility allowances and having those approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Each year, Maine proposes figures based on the best available data in July for implementation in October. The utility allowance values for Federal Fiscal Year 2022 were calculated to increase using The Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 240.778% for June 2021 published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor, and were submitted to and approved by the USDA. Between June and October 2021, the CPI increased another 11.88 percentage points. This increase is indicative of an additional $2 per month in phone expenses, an additional $14 per month in utility expenses for households without a heating or cooling expense, and an additional $42 per month in utility expenses for households with a heating or cooling expense. To accurately reflect the expense of Maine families, the Department has submitted and the USDA has approved updated standard utility allowances for the remainder of Federal Fiscal Year 2022. These same changes were incorporated into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Rules, in emergency rule making number 2022-031. This rulemaking makes those changes permanent to ensure that SNAP benefits are issued appropriately and accurately taking into account the high utility expenses experienced by Maine residents as verified by the Maine Public Utilities Commission and attested to by various media outlets .
This rule will not have an adverse impact on municipalities or small businesses.
Effective Date: May 30, 2022
|View Comments: Summary of Comments (Word)||Posted: May 18, 2023|
|General Assistance Rule #24A - Recovery Residences||Rule - Track Changes (Word)||Rule - Clean (Word)|
Concise Summary: P.L. 2021 Ch. 472 sets requirements and limits on municipalities related to the use of housing assistance for individuals living in Recovery Residences. The Chapter further required the Department to establish in this manual appropriate maximum housing assistance levels for said individuals. Based on a survey of actual expenses for Recovery Residences, the Department has set this level at 75% of the one-bedroom allowance. This rulemaking complies with those requirements by- making edits to the definitions of "Household" and Pooling of Income and the adding of a definition of Recovery Residence in Section II, adding Subsection O to Section IV, adding Paragraph 4 to Section V(D), and making edits to Section VI(B)(3)(b)(ii).
Consistent with P.L. 2021 Ch. 472, the changes listed above are to be applied retroactively to July 1, 2022. Retroactive rulemaking is permitted under 22 M.R.S. 42(8). None of the changes below are being applied retroactively.
The Department regularly reviews rules for clarity and accessibility. Throughout these sections, modifications are being made to use gender neutral language. Uses of similar terms (such as individual, applicant, and recipient) were reviewed and changes made to provide clarity and specificity. Language is being modernized. E.g., references to Food Supplement are updated to SNAP. Citations were reviewed and are being updated for accuracy, specificity, and consistency of format. The enumeration of some subsections, paragraphs, etc. is being updated for clarity and ease of reference.
Within Section II, the following modifications are being made to enhance the clarity of the chapter. The definition of available resources is modified to more explicitly distinguish them from potential resources. A definition of Department of Health and Human Services is added to clarify that uses of this term, DHHS, and The Department throughout the manual are references to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Definitions of earned income and unearned income are added to specify what income fits each category and that all income fits one of these categories. Clarification is added to the definition of eligible person to specify that the 24-month limit applies only to those pursuing a lawful process to apply for immigration relief. The definitions of Family Development Accounts and household is simplified to avoid discrepancies as the statutory definitions are updated. The Department is removing the definition of federal poverty level as that term is no longer used in this chapter. The definition of homelessness is modified to include individuals who do not have a permanent residence upon exiting an institution. The Department is moving the definition of misspent income from Section IV to Section II for consistency and ease of reference. A definition of rehabilitation facility is added to help distinguish between this type of facility and a recovery residence. The definition of Resident is clarified to include individuals who intend to keep a particular town as their permanent residence even if they are temporarily absent. A definition of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is added.
Within Section IV the following modifications are being made to enhance clarity. Subsection A(2) is modified to clarify that recipients are not required to reapply every 30 days unless they are seeking further assistance. The Department is removing from Subsection B reiterations of definitions provided in Section II for brevity and to avoid potential future conflicts. In Subsection F, reiterative language is being removed. Furthermore, in light of current health insurance laws and regulations, Paragraph 1(b) is modified to acknowledge that all employer offered health and dental insurances are considered cost effective for the purposes of General Assistance budgeting. Additionally, Paragraph 2(b) has additional language clarifying that each municipality sets their mileage rate cap. Language is added to Subsection H Paragraph 4 (parallel to the language used in the preceding paragraphs) to spell out that it addresses the verification of expenses. Language is added to Subsection I(6)(b)(i) specifying that the greater of the state or federal minimum wage is used in the calculation of the value of workfare hours (consistent with Subsection L(4)). Subsection J(1) is broken into two paragraphs to more clearly articulate the financial responsibilities of parents and spouses as it relates to General Assistance budgeting. Subsection K is modified to clarify that a minor does not need to be pregnant or a parent to be eligible. Subsection L(5) is reworded to use language more consistent with the rest of the section and more immediately state the circumstances under which this paragraph applies. Furthermore, language is added to Paragraph 13 specifying that piece work standards are set by employers and that General Assistance administrators will adopt good cause determinations made by the Department of Labor, not apply their standards. Subsection M is amended to clarify that Emergency General Assistance is a subset of General Assistance, not a separate benefit. Furthermore, the start date of 120-day disqualification period in Paragraph 3(b) is clarified to the date of the disqualification determination. Additionally, Paragraph 4 is amended to specify that the disqualification only applies to a member of a recipient household. Paragraph 5 is, also, amended to specify that the process to appeal a decision is by requesting a fair hearing.
Section VI(B)(5) is amended to cover all applicants experiencing homelessness.
Effective Date: September 1, 2022
|View Comments: Summary of Comments (Word)||Posted: August 31, 2022|
|HOPE Rule #101A - Internet Access, Updates to Eligible Careers and Degree Programs, Increased Program Participant Cap, and Additional Updates||Rule - Track Changes (Word)||Rule - Clean (Word)|
Concise Summary: This rule provides a necessary support for HOPE participants required to engage in remote learning and provides clarification on eligibility requirements and limits for certain supports already being applied. Department staff will continue to determine eligibility for the HOPE Program and all supports according to current guidance.
The original HOPE rules did not anticipate the need to provide Internet access when establishing the support service funding cap on technology supports. In the interest of public health, Maine's institutions of higher learning suspended their in-person activities during the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to provide education and career training programs online. Some of Maines most vulnerable people did not have sustained access to Internet connections necessary to avail themselves of those programs. This rule change allows funding of Internet access for HOPE participants when other cost-effective Internet options are not feasible. Furthermore, the Department regularly reviews policies for clarity, and applicability.
P.L. 2021 Ch. 149 amended 22 M.R.S. 3790-A(2)(C) so that the reference to acceptable target jobs more closely matches the language used by the Maine Department of Labor, and relaxed the criteria for acceptable post-secondary degree programs. This rule change brings the manual in compliance with those changes. These changes include the addition of definitions of "Adequate Job Outlook," Career Pathway, Substantial Improvement in Earnings and Benefits, and Universally Recognized and Accepted; the removal of the term Average Job Outlook; and related modifications to eligibility and verification criteria (the updates to the third sentence of Section 2, Section 3(A)(10)(b)(iv), and Section 7 Subsections B(1)(e) and E(1)(i)(vi) and the addition of Section 7(E)(1)(i)(v)). Although Subsection 1 of 22 M.R.S. 3790-A was not amended, the Department has decided to move forward with rule making as it has determined that the passage of this amendment is an implied repeal of the inconsistent language contained there. [T]he legislature cannot be supposed to have intended that there should be two distinct enactments embracing the same subject matter in force at the same time, and that the new statute, being the most recent expression of the legislative will, must be deemed a substitute for previous enactments, and the only one which is to be regarded as having the force of law. State v. Taplin, 247 A.2d 919, 921-22 (Me. 1968). These changes are effective Monday, October 18, 2021, the effective date of the legislation. Retroactive rulemaking is permissible under 22 M.R.S. 42(8) as the change affords this benefit to more residents of the State of Maine and does not adversely impact applicants, participants, beneficiaries, or providers.
P.L. 2021 Ch. 398 Part BBB amended 22 M.R.S. 3790-A to expand the number of individuals who may be enrolled in the HOPE program from 500 to 800. This rule change brings the manual in compliance with that change effective Thursday, July 1, 2021. Retroactive rulemaking is permissible under 22 M.R.S. 42(8) as the change affords this benefit to more residents of the State of Maine and does not adversely impact applicants, participants, beneficiaries, or providers.
The following changes are not being implemented retroactively:
In Section 1, Definitions, a number of terms are added or have their definitions updated. The definition of Application is updated to allow for electronically signed submissions. This change improves access especially at times that in-person contact is discouraged for health reasons. A definition of Credential is added to clarify this term as distinct from High-Value Credential. The definition of Matriculation is simplified and standardized. This change is necessitated by the vast spectrum of definitions of Matriculation used by various institutions, and the fact that some do not use the term at all. It is further amended to allow for test preparation courses when a HOPE participant has graduated from their primary Training or Education program but is using such a course to prepare for an exam necessary to achieve the related credential. A definition of Outstanding Tuition and Fees is added to help clarify what bills can and cannot be paid by HOPE supports. A definition of Specified Relative is added for consistency with other TANF funded OFI programs. A definition of Stackable Credential is added to facilitate a lifelong education, training, and employment program that leads to improved employability or increased earnings potential in a specific job sector. The definition of Working Age is simplified to avoid a potential conflict should the CWRI change its definition in the future.
In Section 3, Eligibility, the following items are clarified. Paragraphs 6, 8 and 10 of Subsection A are changed to provide more clarity and specificity to the eligibility criteria for Participants, Institutions, and Programs. A list of TANF programs that do not include cash payments is added to A(6). A(8) is modified to clarify that the individual must have aptitude for the career not just the training or education program. The standards of accreditation are added to A(10)(a)(i). In addition to modifications related to P.L. 2021 Ch. 149, A(10)(b) is amended to expand the criteria for cost effectiveness of a training or education program. Amendments to Subsection B(2) clarify the treatment or exclusion of certain income types.
In Section 4, Services, the following items are amended. Subsection B(1)(a) is amended to clarify that the Outstanding Tuition and Fees support does not apply to student loan payments or prior payments made to payment plans entered into before HOPE enrollment. The mileage reimbursement rate in Subsection B(3) is increased from 44 to 45 cents per mile consistent with the MSEA rate at https://www.maine.gov/osc/travel/mileage-other-info and the rate used by other OFI supports such as the Additional Support for People in Retraining and Employment (ASPIRE), Food Supplement Employment and Training (FSET) and Transitional Transportation programs. Paragraphs 3 and 7 of Subsection B are amended to specify that these supports are available only for vehicles being operated in accordance with Maine law. Subsection B(5) is amended to clarify that Technology and Software supports are only considered necessary if the Participant does not have sustained access to Technology and Software at their home. Subsection B(6) is added to allow funding of Internet access for HOPE participants who do not have other available, cost-effective Internet resources.
Section 7, Policies and Procedures, has the following modifications. Subsection B(1) is amended to allow for electronically signed submissions. Subsection B(1) is amended to clarify that applicants can have their denial reconsidered if they provide verifications within the month of denial or the month following. Finally, Subsection B(1) is amended to allow the same timeframe for waitlisted applicants to be reconsidered. These changes provide improved access. Subsections C and D are amended to clarify the end date of eligibility for supports. Subsection C(2) is amended to clarify that a change to an eligibility factor expected to last at least 30 days or a change to HOPE funded services expected to last at least 14 days needs to be reported. Subsection D is corrected to reflect the location of the caps for Supports as Section 4(B). Subsection D(3) is amended to clarify the timeframe during which Participants can request reimbursements. This change reduces the administrative burden on Participants and the Department. Subsection E is amended to reflect the clarifications made to Section 3(A)(6), (8), and (10) detailed above including detailing the acceptable verifications for the clarified eligibility criteria. Subsection E(1)(g) is amended for greater consistency with the terminology and requirements in Section 3(A)(9). Subsection E(1)(i)(v) is further amended to allow other documentation similar to those specified as evidence of acceptability of an online program.
Other changes are part of a standardization of practice across all OFI rules. Enumeration and lettering of subsections, paragraphs, etc. is updated as part of a general effort to make these systems consistent throughout OFI rules and as necessary to accommodate the addition and deletion of material. References to Maine law or regulations are reformatted for standardization within the document and consistency with the conventions detailed in Uniform Maine Citations by Michael D. Seitzinger, Charles K Leadbetter, and Sara T.S. Wolff. (https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/uniform-maine-citations). References to various website URLs are updated to reflect instances where the owner of the information changed the URL. Some references to other parts of this manual are corrected for clarity. Changes include using gender inclusive pronouns. Other grammatical and typographical errors are corrected. Redundant terms are removed. References to Caretaker Relative are changed to Specified Relative for consistency with other TANF funded Office for Family Independence (OFI) programs.
As proposed, this rule would only have authorized technology and software supports if they were not available to the participant. As a result of public comments, the adopted version of this rule clarifies that these supports are authorized if the participant does not have access to them at their home.
As a result of comments, clarification was added related to employability aptitude. The adopted rule specifies that verification of employability aptitude will only be requested if the Department receives information that the individual would not meet the standards defined by the professional licensing or regulatory board for the individuals chosen industry and provides added specificity as to what documentation is acceptable.
On the advice of the OAG, information was added on how to acquire the current income standards from the Department.
Effective Date: April 25, 2022
|View Comments: Summary of Comments (Word)||Posted: April 27, 2022|
|SNAP Rule #212A - 2021 Omnibus rule change||Rule - Track Changes (Word)||Rule - Clean (Word)|
Concise Summary: This rule change implements many changes required by state statute or federal regulation. It aligns Maine policy with various federal waivers and options. It makes non-substantive changes to improve the readability and inclusivity of the manual, reduce the use of stigma inducing language, and update the names of programs such as WIOA and TANF. It corrects various citations.
The Department is changing the terms "Food Supplement" and Food Supplement Program to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and, by extension, their associated abbreviations to SNAP. This change is consistent with the terminology used in federal law and regulation as well as signage and other materials seen throughout the state and nation. Furthermore, P.L. 2021 c. 398 Part OO made this change throughout Maine's revised statutes. This change is reflected in the name of the chapter itself and all uses of the terms and abbreviations in sections included in this rulemaking (unless they refer only to a time prior to the statutory change). The FS is removed from all section numbers.
The Department is using person first language wherever feasible and replacing terms intended to convey the same meaning with Substance Use Disorder. These changes are consistent with P.L. 2017 c. 407 Part B, P.L. 2021 c. 348, and generally accepted best practices. There are occasional exceptions to this effort where it was determined best to keep the language consistent with the relevant federal statute.
The Department is converting some phrases to active voice and simplifying the representation of numbers as part of an ongoing, office-wide effort at standardization and clarity.
The Department is adding clarity to Section 111-1 related to standards and process for determining separate household status.
This rule change aligns the chapter with the approved waiver submitted under the requirements of 22 M.R.S. 3104 (17) (as amended by P.L. 2019, c. 492, 1). This waiver allows residents of state or county correctional facilities to submit an application for SNAP up to 30 days prior to release, and for the filing date of the application to be the date of release.
The Department is removing references to an application needing to be dated. This change aligns the chapter with 7 C.F.R. 273.2(c)(1)(iii).
The Department is amending the chapter to eliminate disqualifications based on non-compliance with child support orders. This policy was in place as part of a state option authorized under 7 C.F.R. 273.11(q). The Department is choosing to no longer exercise that option. This change is effective December 1, 2021. Retroactive rulemaking is permissible under 22 M.R.S. 42(8) as the change affords this benefit to more residents of the State of Maine and does not adversely impact applicants, participants, beneficiaries, or providers.
The Department is aligning the disqualification periods for Quality Control noncompliance with those found in 7 C.F.R. 273.2(d)(2).
The Department is clarifying, in Section 222-5, that a reasonable opportunity to resolve discrepancies is 10 days.
The Department is amending the chapter to eliminate the asset limit for all households effective January 1, 2022. This change is required by P.L. 2021 c. 115 and improves access for residents with low income.
The Department is removing language from Section 333-1 excluding the assets of ineligible students, non-citizens, alien sponsors as it is redundant to language in 444-4.
The Department is making a number of changes to the sections on assets. This rule change updates the asset and income lists to reflect new technologies such as non-fungible assets and crypto-currency. It further amends the language related to assets and income excluded by federal statute to reflect the fact that new statutes may be passed excluding certain resources not on the existing list. These resources are often of a temporary nature, such as those created through various legislation associated with COVID-19. To add and remove them from the chapter each time there is a federal law change would be an unnecessary administrative burden and duplicative of action already taken by Congress. Additionally, the acceptable verifications of a good faith effort to sell real property are updated to conform with 7 C.F.R. 273.8(e)(8).
The Department is aligning the look back period for certain felonies with the one required by 7 C.F.R. 273.11(s)(3).
The Department is limiting comparable disqualifications related to disqualifications from other means tested programs to instances where the individual has been found by a court or administrative hearing to have committed an intentional program violation (IPV) or has signed an IPV waiver. Maine is one of only 13 U.S. states or territories to apply comparable sanctions for non-compliance with other programs requirements. This change aligns Maine with the majority of other SNAP agencies. This policy was in place as part of a state option authorized under 7 C.F.R. 273.11(k). Under that same authority, the Department is choosing to less fully exercise that option.
The Department is amending the work requirement for post-secondary students to allow for weekly hours to be averaged over the month. This change aligns this requirement with other work requirements in the chapter while remaining consistent with 7 C.F.R. 273.5(b)(5).
A more detailed description of the Resource Guide for Families is added to Section 444-5.
The Department is updating Section 555-6 to more clearly and accurately describe the budgeting process. Accordingly, the budgeting worksheet in Section 555-7 that is redundant to the budgeting process outlined in 555-6 without adding clarity is eliminated.
The Department is clarifying that, if there is an interruption in or delay of benefits as a result of household action or inaction, benefits for the month the situation is resolved will be prorated to the date of compliance. This change is required as part of Maines reinstatement waiver approved August 16, 2021 and guidance provided in Food and Nutrition Services memo index number 88-04.
The Department is cleaning up language in Section 666-6 that was applicable prior to the statewide conversion to simplified reporting. This language is no longer relevant and could reduce the clarity of the current requirements.
The Department is clarifying the reporting requirement related to household income exceeding 130% of the federal poverty level. This change is necessary to align the chapter with the requirements at 7 C.F.R. 273.12(a)(5)(v).
The Department is clarifying the verification requirements at annual eligibility review. This change is necessary to align the chapter with the requirements at 7 C.F.R. 273.2(f)(8). They improve access for households and reduce the administrative burden for the Department.
The Department is delaying the changes to the expungement deadline adopted as part of Food Supplement Rule Making #218A from September 1, 2021 to September 1, 2022. This change is necessary to comply with changes to 7 C.F.R. Part 274 detailed in the Federal Register Vol. 86 No. 143. These changes at the state and federal level are necessary as the national EBT vendor could not make the technology changes necessary to implement the change prior to the original deadline while, at the same time, making the changes necessary to support the various COVID-19 related initiatives.
The Department is adding a definition of public institution to add clarity to the application process in certain circumstances.
The Department is implementing various budgeting figures as required by 7 C.F.R. 273.9(d). It requires that SNAP income and asset limits, maximum and minimum allotments, standard deductions, maximum shelter deductions, homeless shelter deductions, standard utility allowances (SUAs) and income change reporting thresholds be updated each year, effective October 1. This year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) COLA Memo FY2021 provided more generous income limits, maximum and minimum allotments, standard deductions, maximum shelter deduction, homeless shelter deduction, asset limits, and income change reporting thresholds. Each state agency is charged with determining standard utility allowances and having those approved by USDA. The utility allowance values were calculated to increase using The Consumer Price Index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor, and were submitted to and approved by USDA. These updates were made in Food Supplement Emergency Rulemaking #222E. This rulemaking continues these changes beyond December 30, 2021.
As proposed, Section 444-8(6) of this rulemaking would have eliminated the $0 benefit starting March 1, 2022 and implemented over a 12-month period. Upon further review, the Department recognizes that these households benefit from SNAP Employment and Training supports. Therefore, the $0 benefit will be retained.
A typographical error in the proposed rulemaking would have the Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2021 and 2022 figures in Chart 8 overlap. This error has been corrected by updating the end date of the FFY 2021 figures to September 30, 2021.
Effective Date: December 30, 2021
|View Comments: Summary of Comments (Word)||Posted: December 23, 2021|