Adopted Rulemaking

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
 
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
 
TANF Rule #117A - FFY 2022 COLA, application process updates, and Post TANF services budgeting updates. Rule - Track Changes (Word)  Rule - Clean (Word) 
Concise Summary: This rule is promulgated to comply with Maine statute 22 M.R.S. 3769-C(1)(D), which requires the Department to increase the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) maximum benefit on an annual basis by the amount of the cost of living allowance as determined by the Social Security Administration. The statute also requires the Department to make a related increase to the standard of need, provided the funds are available. The Department is updating the introductory text to simplify language, pertaining to the receipt of assistance that is counted toward the 60-month lifetime limit. Additionally, the TANF and MaineCare application processes are being disentangled. The TANF manual specified that all applications for TANF benefits were to be treated as an application for MaineCare. 22 M.R.S. 3790(3-A) as amended by H.P. 1261 - L.D. 1774 6 newly requires the Department of Health and Human Services to accept referrals from an educational institution or program that is part of the University of Maine System; the Maine Community College System; Jobs for Maine's Graduates; an adult education program; or the career centers as an application for the Parents as Scholars Program with limited conditions. This newly required process conflicted with Maines Medicaid State Plan. As such, the Department removed reference to treating the Public Assistance application as a MaineCare application from this chapter. The previous requirement for Applicants and Participants to appear in-person for interviews and orientation meetings created an unnecessary burden for them, and an administrative burden for the Department and the Departments contractors. While these in-person meetings may expedite the application process for those able to visit an office in-person, the requirement for most slowed or reduced access. Furthermore, at times of community transmission of illnesses or diseases such as Corona virus or Influenza, or hazardous traveling conditions due to weather, these in-person requirements can pose a risk to the health of Applicants, Participants and staff. These in-person interactions have not been proven to increase program integrity. As such, these requirements were recently reduced in rules TANFC19E, and TANF114A. Recognizing the benefits of these adjustments, and not having experienced a demonstrable detriment, the Department removed all remaining in-person requirements from the manual. To strengthen program integrity and reduce confusion, the Department is adding language to Chapter V(A) clarifying those children who are eligible for Transitional Child Care (TCC), and the reporting requirements for child care providers receiving TCC payments. The Department is clarifying language regarding TCC overpayment responsibility and recovery procedures as well. As the result of comments received additional terminology has been updated for clarity. A small business impact statement regarding this change can be obtained by contacting the agency person listed below. Furthermore, the mileage reimbursement rate for Transitional Transportation Participants is updated to align 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 Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment (HOPE) programs. Similarly, in compliance with 22 M.R.S. 3762(8)(C), the Chart of Parent Fees and Subsidy Payments is updated based on Federal Poverty Level (FPL) figures published in the Annual Update of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Poverty Guidelines, 86 Fed. Reg. 7,732 (February 1, 2021) https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/02/01/2021-01969/annual-update-of-the-hhs-poverty-guidelines. The Department is adopting this provision with a retroactive application to February 1, 2021. Retroactive rulemaking is authorized by the Legislature in accordance with 22 M.R.S. 42(8) because this rule provides a benefit to recipients or beneficiaries and does not have an adverse financial effect on either providers or beneficiaries or recipients. A clarification of good cause as it pertains to cooperation with child support requirements is being added to Chapter I(D)(2)(iii). The Department is updating the text describing the legal foundation for the Alternative Aid program to reflect the current authority and requirement to administer said program. The Department is updating and adding various cross references for clarity. The Department is updating the Table of Contents as a result of all proposed changes. Finally, various changes are being made to formatting, punctuation, and word choice, that do not alter the meaning of the text, but enhance readability and inclusivity.
Effective Date: October 1, 2021
View Comments: Summary of Comments (Word)  Posted: September 30, 2021
 
Food Supplement Rule #220A - ABAWD FFY 2022 Rule - Track Changes (Word)  Rule - Clean (Word) 
Concise Summary: 7 CFR 273.24 provides that no individual shall be eligible to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a member of any household if the individual received program benefits for more than 3 months during any 3-year period in which the individual was subject to but did not comply with the ABAWD work requirement. 7 C.F.R. 273.24(f) provides that, upon the request of the State agency, the Secretary may waive the applicability of the 3-month ABAWD time limit for any group of individuals in the State if the Secretary makes a determination that the geographic area in which the individuals reside has an unemployment rate of over 10 percent, or does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for the individuals. This rule making implements ABAWD geographic state-wide waiver 2190025 approved April 28, 2021 pursuant to 7 C.F.R. 273.24(f)(2) and Section 6(o) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008. This waiver excludes all Maine residents from ABAWD requirements, for the period October 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022. Reference to past exemptions under expired authority is removed. The Department pursued and Food and Nutrition Services approved the waiver based on the Department of Labor Trigger Notice No. 2020-38, effective October 4, 2020, showing that, state-wide, Maine qualified for extended unemployment benefits. This rule change enhances nutritional stability and consistency for thousands of Maine households at a time of financial and health uncertainty.
Effective Date: October 1, 2021
View Comments: Summary of Comments (Word)  Posted: August 11, 2021
 
Food Supplement Rule #216A - Interview Waivers Rule - Track Changes (Word)  Rule - Clean (Word) 
Concise Summary: This rule change aligns Maine's policy with practice approved under P.L. 116-159 and the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) waiver serial number 2190019 approved on October 21, 2020. P.L. 116-159 4603(a)(1)(A)(iii) allows states to adjust interview requirements consistent with the adjustments provided in the Food and Nutrition Services March 26, 2020, blanket approval for adjusting interview requirements. Consistent with FNS guidance at the time, on March 27, 2020 the State of Maine notified the Secretary of Agriculture of its determination to exercise the option to not require a household to complete an interview prior to application approval or recertification through June 30, 2021, provided the applicants identity has been verified and all other mandatory verifications in 7 C.F.R. 273.2(f)(1) have been completed. On April 30, 2021, FNS released a memo extending this option. Subsequently, the State of Maine notified FNS of its determination to adopt that extended time frame. This option was approved on May 26, 2021, and extended the interview waiver to the earlier of December 31, 2021, or the end of the month after the month in which the public health emergency (PHE) declaration related to COVID-19 is lifted by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Waiver 2190019 allows the Department to recertify households with no earned income, in which all adult members are elderly or disabled without conducting an interview. This process has been determined effective and efficient by both Maines Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the federal Food and Nutrition Services. The current waiver is set to expire May 31, 2022. At this time the Department plans to seek an extension. References to "appearing for" or attending an interview are changed to complete to reflect the fact that when interviews are conducted, they may not be in person. This change is consistent with Maines approved state plan and current practice. This rule change reduces the administrative burden on Department staff and increases access to Food Supplement benefits for some of Maines most vulnerable residents. It improves food security for these individuals and decreases the likelihood that these particularly vulnerable residents would come into a DHHS office during a public health crisis. The Department is adopting this rule with a retroactive application to December 1, 2020. Retroactive rulemaking is authorized by the Legislature in accordance with 22 M.R.S. 42(8) because this rule provides a benefit to recipients or beneficiaries and does not have an adverse financial effect on either providers or beneficiaries or recipients. The following additional changes are being made to modernize the manual and enhance readability. 1) References to recertification and redetermination are clarified to either recertification form when referring to the document, or eligibility review when referring to the overall process. 2) Minor corrections are made to typographical errors. 3) Numbering and lettering of Subsections, Paragraphs, etc. is added or standardized as part of an ongoing effort to standardize them not only within this manual but across OFI manuals and facilitate easier citations and cross references. 4) Several terms that had been used interchangeably are consolidated to consistent terms with preference given to terms that are defined within the manual. E.g. client and participant have been stricken and replaced with one or more of the following terms- household when referring to a group defined as such in FS 111-1, applicant when referring to an individual defined as such in FS 999-1 as amended by this rulemaking, recipient when referring to an individual collecting a benefit, or resident when referring to someone who lives in a particular facility. The use of each of these terms has also been reviewed to ensure the correct meaning is conveyed in each instance. Likewise, the term individual has been replaced with one of the defined terms when a more precise term is appropriate. 5) FS 222-4 is updated to eliminate the option for Department staff to require a face to face interview for Food Supplement applications and annual eligibility reviews. 6) Whole numbers through ten are represented only by writing out the word. All other figures are represented, only, in numerical form. This change is part of an Office wide standardization effort to improve the flow of the manual by not representing each figure twice. 7) In FS 222-4(3), language is added specifying that the Department shall notify the household of its rights and responsibilities annually even if no interview is conducted. 8) In FS 222-4(4), references to issue resolutions are changed to clarifying questionable information. This change shifts the language to a term defined within the manual and provides greater clarity. 9) Wording changes are made throughout to active voice when possible to aid in readability and to phrase the manual as objective standards, not an instruction manual for OFI workers. 10) In FS 444-2 references to drug addiction or alcoholic rehabilitation are updated to Substance Use Disorder treatment. 11) In FS 444-2, a redundant reference to a work requirement exception was removed as it is addressed in FS 111-5. 12) Language is added to update the names of Departments and Agencies referenced. 13) Gender specific pronouns are replaced with gender neutral ones as part of an Office wide effort toward inclusivity. 14) A requirement that the household provide necessary verifications is added to Section FS 666-9(1) for clarity. 15) Clarification is added throughout Section FS 666-9 that the Department may make a determination that the household is ineligible or still eligible, and, for what benefit level, rather than implying that following the process will always result in continued eligibility. 16) Redundant language is removed where possible to enhance the readability of the manual. 17) Several terms in Section FS 999-1 are removed or reworded based on how or if they are used elsewhere in the manual. a) Alcohol & Drug Centers is changed to Centers for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders. The definition is modernized. Other terms that refer to these centers, in portions of the chapter that have not been updated as of this rulemaking are added and reference this definition. b) Case Name is removed. c) In the definition of Mass Changes the outdated reference to AFDC is updated to TANF. d) Mixed Funded Household is removed. e) Prospective Budgeting is removed. f) Shelter for Battered Persons is added as an alternative to Shelter for Battered Women and Children. Battered Persons is the preferred term, is consistent with federal regulations, and is gender neutral. However, not all instances have been updated in the manual through this rule change. g) The definitions for both Shelter for Battered Persons and Shelter for the Homeless are modernized. h) The definition of Six-Month Report is updated to reflect some of the terminology changes above and to allow for one during the certification period following the initial application. i) Timely Notice is removed. (Advance Notice is used consistently throughout the manual.) 18) The definition of Applicant is updated to clarify that it is the individual for whom benefits are requested, regardless of whether any benefits are actually issued. 19) A definition of Assistance Group is added. 20) The definition of Documentation is modified in two ways. First, to reflect not only documentation made by Department staff in the case record, but documentary verifications provided by individuals, as both uses of the term permeate other sections of the manual. Secondly, to expand documentation to not only include written documents, but electronic media such as audio recordings, digital photographs, and the like that are commonly provided as verification.
Effective Date: August 15, 2021
View Comments: Summary of Comments (Word)  Posted: August 11, 2021
 
Food Supplement Rule #218A - Updates to Card Replacement and Benefit Use and Expungement Rule - Track Changes (Word)  Rule - Clean (Word) 
Concise Summary: This rule change has three components: expungement, purchasing options and card replacement. None of these changes increase the administrative burden on the Department, or participants. The changes to purchasing and replacement will, in fact, reduce the burden. A rule change is necessary to remain in compliance with 7 U.S.C. Ch. 51 2016(h)(12)(C) as amended by P.L. 115-334 4006 and subsequent amendments to 7 C.F.R. 274.2(i). Each has reduced the threshold for expungement of unused benefits to nine months after issuance or immediately (without notice) if the Department has verified that all household members are deceased. Expungement of benefits for households in which all members are deceased will be implemented upon adoption of this rule. Expungement of benefits for households that must be given notice will be implemented as soon as possible allowing for noticing requirements. The basic process of noticing and expungement continues. The notice will now be sent after 240 days rather than 90, and the expungement will take place after 274 days instead of 365. Expungement will take place more rapidly when the Department has verified that all household members are deceased and the benefits will be rendered inaccessible immediately upon verification. Additionally, purchasing power is extended to online purchases including delivery or curbside pick-up when a physical point of sale "swipe" of the card is not the best option. The Department is modifying this section to reflect the ability of participants to use EBT accounts to purchase approved foods, seeds, and seedlings from online platforms. This contactless purchasing expands access and supports the overall safety and well-being of Food Supplement recipients especially at times when travel may be challenging or impossible, or there is a heightened risk of illness such as a national public health emergency. Initially, Maine will be participating as a demonstration project under 7 U.S.C. 2016(k)(4) with the intent of full participation under paragraph 1 of the same. Changes are also being made to card replacement. The process of requesting replacement cards will be unchanged other than participants will be able to secure their third and fourth replacement cards with the same ease as the first and second in a 12-month period. Previously, three replacement cards in a 12-month period were determined excessive. The Department is increasing that threshold to five cards in a 12-month period consistent with 7 C.F.R. 274.6(b)(5). This increase improves access to benefits for individuals and reduces the administrative burden on the Department and its vendor. This change is being made retroactively to April 23, 2020 to coincide with the expiration of Food and Nutrition Service's Waiver number 2180009. Retroactive rulemaking is authorized by the Legislature in accordance with 22 M.R.S. 42(8) because this rule provides a benefit to recipients or beneficiaries and does not have an adverse financial effect on either providers or beneficiaries or recipients. No fees will be charged for any replacement cards. This rule change removes any reference to collecting a fee for card replacement consistent with current practice. The cost of implementing a fee collection procedure is anticipated to exceed any savings that would result from such collections. Additionally, references to contacting a local office are being generalized to contacting the Office for Family Independence (OFI). This change reflects the statewide processing and accessibility of OFI staff and removes a geographic burden for those requesting replacement cards. Finally, the following stylistic and grammatical changes are being made to modernize the manual and enhance readability. 1) Minor corrections are being made to typographical errors. 2) Numbering and lettering of subsections, paragraphs, etc. is being added or standardized as part of an ongoing effort to standardize them not only within this manual but across OFI manuals and facilitate easier citations and cross references. 3) Several terms that had been used interchangeably are being consolidated to consistent terms with preference given to terms that are defined within the manual. 4) Whole numbers through ten are represented only by writing out the word. All other figures are represented, only, in numerical form. This change is part of an Office wide standardization effort to improve the flow of the manual by not representing each figure twice. 5) Some sentences are being modified to spell out responsibilities and responsible parties instead of reading like an instruction manual for Department staff. 6) Gender specific pronouns are being replaced with gender neutral ones as part of an Office wide effort toward inclusivity. 7) Redundant language is removed where possible to enhance the readability of the manual.
Effective Date: August 2, 2021
View Comments: Summary of Comments (Word)  Posted: July 28, 2021