Proposed Rulemaking

All DHHS rules posted on or after January 5, 2023 are available on the DHHS Rulemaking page.

SNAP Rule #223P - Omnibus Rule Change 2022

Rule - Track Changes (Word) | Rule - Clean (Word)  | MAPA 3 (Word)   

Concise Summary:

This rule change proposes to implement many changes required by state statute or federal regulation. It proposes to align Maine policy with various federal waivers and options. It proposes to make non-substantive changes to improve the readability and inclusivity of the manual and reduce the use of stigma inducing language. Consistent with multiple extensions of SNAP Waiver 2055 received from Food and Nutrition Services, the Department proposes to extend the waiver of most interview requirements through December 31, 2022. Should additional extensions be approved prior to the adoption of this rule, the adopted rule will reflect the new date. These changes to Sections 222-4(2)(A), 444-5(2)(B)(4)(a), and 666-9(1)(C)(1) would be retroactive to January 1, 2022. 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. Maine exercises an option for Broad Based Categorical Eligibility under 7 C.F.R. 273.2(j)(2) which has included a 185% Federal Poverty Level (FPL) test. This figure is not included in the figures updated each federal fiscal year per 7 C.F.R. 273.9(a)(4), it is updated as soon as the the FPLs are published. This year's FPLs were published at https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines on January 19. See also, Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines, Federal Register 87:14 (January. 21, 2022) p. 3315, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2022-01-21/pdf/2022-01166.pdf. The Department proposes to incorporate these figures effective January 12, 2022. Further, the Department proposes to increase this income limit from 185% of the FPL to 200% as permitted under 7 C.F.R. 273.2(i)(2)(ii)(A) and required by 22 M.R.S. 3104(13) effective July 1, 2022. Retroactive rulemaking is permissible under 22 M.R.S. 42(8) as these changes afford this benefit to more residents of the State of Maine and do not adversely impact applicants, participants, beneficiaries, or providers. These changes to Section 444-8(2) and Section 999-3 Chart 4 would make SNAP benefits and the related SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) services available to more Maine households. The Department proposes to implement 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 Memos FY2022 issued August 9 and 16, 2021 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. Retroactive rulemaking is permissible under 22 M.R.S. 42(8) as these changes afford this benefit to more residents of the State of Maine and do not adversely impact applicants, participants, beneficiaries, or providers. These changes to Section 999-3 would make SNAP benefits and the related SNAP E&T services available to more Maine households and increase the benefit amounts for some. The Department proposes to update the open sections consistent with the recent change of the terms "Food Supplement" and Food Supplement Program to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and, by extension, their associated abbreviations to SNAP or other substitutable terms. 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. Further, P.L. 2021 c. 398 Part OO made this change throughout Maines revised statutes. This change would be reflected in 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 would be removed from all section numbers. Similarly, references to coupons would be updated to benefits as coupons are no longer issued. The Department proposes the following changes to improve the readability of the manual and improve the ease of making references and citations within the manual. Where practical, phrases would be converted to active voice. To the extent possible, text would be rephrased to provide an objective set of rules rather than instructions to Department staff. Some text would be moved within a section to consolidate information, reduce redundancies, or improve the flow. Some terms would be eliminated for consistency. (E.g. the term agency would be replaced with Department when referring to Maines Department of Health and Human Services.) Gender specific terms would be converted to gender neutral terms in the interest of inclusivity. The enumeration of paragraphs, subparagraphs and so on, and the representation of numbers would be updated as part of an ongoing, office-wide effort at standardization and clarity. Outdated abbreviations, such as JTPA, would be eliminated or updated. Stigma inducing language would be updated. (E.g. alcohol treatment centers would be changed to centers for the treatment of Substance Use Disorders.) The Department proposes to change all references to recertification form to renewal form consistent with the renaming of this document in print and online. The Department proposes to add consistency to the language related to the submission of applications, renewals, and six-month-reports, and meeting interview requirements. These forms can, now, be submitted on paper, electronically, or telephonically. Further, interviews may be completed in person, by phone, or, in some cases, through Department established video conferencing sites. Language that referenced showing up for an interview or submitting a form in a specific medium would be updated accordingly. The Department proposes to provide more clarity around questionable information (which would require verification) and unclear information (which sometimes triggers the need for an interview). Instances of questionable in the sections being reviewed for this rulemaking would be replaced with language specifying contradictory to information known to or received by the Department. The definition of questionable information would be modified to use contradictory to rather than inconsistent with in the same context. It is necessary to retain the definition as some sections not being reviewed as part of this rulemaking use the term questionable information. A definition of unclear information would be added. The Department proposes to clarify that a parent can be a separate household from their child(ren) for the duration of a court order granting a third-party guardianship of the child(ren). This change would reduce confusion for applicants, participants and Department staff as the current rule does not specify a timeframe. The Department proposes to update language related to job quit penalties to clarify that not all work registration exemptions apply to job quit. Further edits would clarify the minimum job characteristics to remedy a job quit disqualification and remove any language that could be interpreted to apply the disqualification to the entire household. These changes are intended to reduce confusion for applicants, participants and Department staff. The Department proposes to clarify that disqualifications for noncompliance with another means tested program are applied based on the policy in effect at the time of the infraction. Further, language would be added, consistent with 7 C.F.R. 273.11(j), articulating that SNAP benefits may not be increased based on a decrease in other means tested benefits that results from noncompliance. Per 7 C.F.R. 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(E), the Department proposes to use standard utility allowances (SUA) for all households with qualifying expenses. Further, the Department proposes to apply each SUA in full to any household paying a portion of the qualifying expenses. This standardization would reduce confusion for applicants, participants, and Department staff; reduce the burden on many households, including those with self-employment, to provide documentation; and increase benefit amounts for many households. In addition to the other modifications detailed in this document, the Department proposes the following updates to Section 444-2, Self-employment, Migrant Farm Workers, and Contract Employees. Language would be clarified and standardized to largest income source anticipated for the 12 month periods rather than the less specific and insconsistent terms major source of support, supplements, etc. Clarification would be added that verification is not only for income, but for self-employment related assets and expenses as well. The allowable expense for child or adult care meals would be updated consistent with 7 C.F.R. 273.11(b)(3)(i). Clarification would be added that the application of shelter expenses in the case of business use of the home is at the households discretion. The method of determining business use of the home expenses would be clarified. Clarification would be added related to when rental income is treated as earned or unearned income. Although this clarification is redundant to information in Sections 555-2 and 555-3, the Department believes it warrants reiteration.. The formulas for determining business use of the home expenses in rental situations would be made more precise. Each of these changes would add to the clarity of this section and streamline the process for applicants, participants and Department staff. Relatedly, a definition of Roomer would be added to Section 999-1 to distiguish this situation from other rental income. In addition to the other modifications to Section 444-8 detailed in this document, the Department proposes to remove references to the publication of the 130% and 100% Federal Poverty Level figures. These figures are not adopted upon publication in the Federal Register, but are adopted at the start of the Federal Fiscal Year consistent with their adoption by Food and Nutrition Services. In addition to the other modifications to Section 555-4, Excluded Income, detailed in this document, the Department proposes to remove the reference to the SCSEP program being administered by the ABLE network. As ABLE does not, currently, administer this program. In addition to the other modifications detailed in this document, the Department proposes the following updates to Section 555-5, Deductions. A summary, introductory paragraph would be added. A description of the reason for some standard deductions would be added. The exclusion of premiums paid for Office for Family Independence health policies from the excess medical deduction would be eliminated consistent with 7 C.F.R. 273.9(d)(3). The paragraph on Dependent Care Deductions would be significantly reworked to add clarity without making substantive changes. Clarification would be added as to what expenses related to service animals are deductible. When expenses related to a live-in attendant could be applied either as a medical or a dependent care expense, they would be counted as a dependent care expense as that application is to the recipients benefit. Verification requirements for Excess Medical Deductions would be simplified consistent with 7 C.F.R. 273.2(f)(8)(i)(A). Each of these changes would add to the clarity of this section and streamline the process for applicants, participants, and Department staff. The Department proposes to update language around reporting of unissued benefits to comport the timelines with those in 7 C.F.R. 273.17(a)(1). This change would increase the amount of time participants have to notify the Department of issuance problems. Further, Section 777-4, Replacement of Benefits would be simplified as follows: Reference to benefits being destroyed would be removed as that language was specific to physical coupons and does not apply to electronic benefits; and separate processes related to a disaster declaration would be eliminated as the disaster declaration would constitute the verification required in the general process.

Comment deadline past Comment Deadline: December 30, 2022 | Posted: December 1, 2022

TANF Rule # 119 - Expansion of Transitional Transportation, and Adjustments to TANF budgeting

Rule - Track Changes (Word) | Rule - Clean (Word)  | MAPA3 (Word)   

Concise Summary:

This Rulemaking would provide clarity in Chapter III on the treatment of one-time cash assistance such as that provided by the Build HOPE Project. This rulemaking would amend Chapter III to clarify the exclusion of certain non-recurring payments as assets. This rulemaking would update Chapter III Section (B) to increase the excluded gift threshold in recognition of inflation since the original figure was established. This Rulemaking would update Chapter V Section B to incorporate changes required by P.L. 2021 ch. 1 N-1 which amended the Transitional Transportation Program to extend this benefit to working families with income below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL) even if they did not participate in ASPIRE-TANF, or lost TANF for a reason other than employment. Additionally, P.L. 2021 ch. 1 N-1, restricted eligibility for this group to $1,400,000 per year. This rule would update Chapter V Section B and change the window to apply for Transitional Transportation based on TANF closure from 12 months to three months and allows families to receive a full 18 months of Transitional Transportation benefits to align with the new eligibility category. It would also make clarifications regarding the application process including requirements for applicants to provide requested information and for the Department to issue decisions. This rulemaking would make changes related to Chapter V Sections B(4) and (5) regarding the payment of Transitional Transportation supports. It would apply the $20 daily cap uniformly to all months rather than reduce it to $15 for the second six months. It would clarify that the benefit is available so long as a transportation expense is incurred regardless of the mode of transportation. These increases would provide additional support for working families and reduce the complexity of the program for them and Department staff. Chapter V(B)(6)(a)(v) would be amended to clarify that households only need to report increases in income that put them over the applicable limit. Appendix Charts page 1, The Table of Percentages for First Month Payment, would have the rate for the 31st day of the month corrected from 3.20 percent to 3.23 percent consistent with the formula used for other days. It would make minor changes such as correcting typographical errors, making enumeration and formatting changes necessitated by the more substantive changes, adding clarifying language, and reducing the use of stigma inducing language as well as modernizing the asset type list to include crypto currency. All the above proposed changes would be effective upon adoption. Additionally, this rule proposes to make retroactive changes. It would change Chapter V Section B(4) to increase the reimbursement rate to 46 per mile consistent with the rate afforded to those covered under the Maine State Employees Association contract. This change would be effective October 1, 2022, consistent with the contractual change. 22 M.R.S. 3769-C(1)(D) requires that the Department increase Appendix Charts page 2, Standard of Need and Maximum Grant, each October based on the Cost of Living Increase used by the Social Security Administration. This rulemaking would apply these changes for federal fiscal year 2023. To comply with 22 M.R.S. 3762(8)(C), Appendix Charts page 3, Worksheet For Calculating TCC Parent Fees and Subsidy Payments, would be updated based on Federal Poverty Level (FPL) figures published in the Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines, Federal Register 87:14 (January 21, 2022) p. 3315. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/01/21/2022-01166/annual-update-of-the-hhs-poverty-guidelines. The Department is proposing to adopt this provision with a retroactive application to February 1, 2022. 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.

Comment deadline past Comment Deadline: October 10, 2022 | Posted: September 7, 2022

General assistance Rule #24 - Recovery Residences

Rule - Track Changes (Word) | Rule - Clean (Word)  | MAPA3 (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 proposes to comply with those requirements by- making edits to the definitions of "Household" and Pooling of Income and the addition 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 would be applied retroactively. The Department regularly reviews rules for clarity and accessibility. Throughout these sections, modifications would be made to use gender neutral language. Uses of similar terms (such as individual, applicant, and recipient) were reviewed and changes proposed to provide clarity and specificity. Language would be modernized. E.g., references to Food Supplement would be updated to SNAP. Citations were reviewed and would be updated for accuracy, specificity, and consistency of format. The enumeration of some subsections, paragraphs, etc. would be updated for clarity and ease of reference. Within Section II, the following modifications are proposed to enhance the clarity of the chapter. The definition of available resources would be modified to more explicitly distinguish them from potential resources. A definition of Department of Health and Human Services would be 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 would be added to specify what income fits each category and that all income fits one of these categories. Clarification would be 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 would be simplified to avoid discrepancies as the statutory definitions are updated. The definition of federal poverty level would be removed as that term is no longer used in this chapter. The definition of homelessness would be modified to include individuals who do not have a permanent residence upon exiting an institution. The definition of misspent income would be moved from Section IV to Section II for consistency and ease of reference. A definition of rehabilitation facility would be added to help distinguish between this type of facility and a recovery residence. The definition of Resident would be 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 would be added. Within Section IV the following modifications are proposed to enhance clarity. Subsection A(2) would be modified to clarify that recipients are not required to reapply every 30 days unless they are seeking further assistance. In Subsection B reiterations of definitions provided in Section II would be removed for brevity and to avoid potential future conflicts. In Subsection F, reiterative language would be removed. Furthermore, in light of current health insurance laws and regulations, Paragraph 1(b) would be 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) would have language added clarifying that each municipality sets their mileage rate cap. Language would be 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 would be added to Subsection I(6)(b)(i) specifying that the greater of the state or federal minimum wage would be used in the calculation of the value of workfare hours (consistent with Subsection L(4)). Subsection J(1) would be broken into two paragraphs to more clearly articulate the financial responsibilities of parents and spouses as it relates to General Assistance budgeting. Subsection K was modified to clarify that a minor does not need to be pregnant or a parent to be eligible. Subsection L(5) would be reworded to use language more consistent with the rest of the section and more immediately state the circumstances under which this paragraph would apply. Furthermore, Paragraph 13 would have language added 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 would be 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) would be clarified to the date of the disqualification determination. Additionally, Paragraph 4 would be amended to specify that the disqualification would only apply to a member of a recipient household. Paragraph 5 would, also, be amended to specify that the process to appeal a decision is by requesting a fair hearing. Section VI(B)(5) would be amended to cover all applicants experiencing homelessness.

Comment deadline past Comment Deadline: July 11, 2022 | Posted: June 8, 2022

MaineCare Rule #300 - Changes to Post-Partum Coverage, and Coverage for Young Adults

Rule - Track Changes (Word) | Rule - Clean (Word)  | MAPA3 (Word)   

Concise Summary:

P.L. 2021 Ch. 461 amended 22 M.R.S. 3174-G to incrementally increase the period of time an individual can receive postpartum coverage. P.L. 2022 Ch. 519 adjusted the timeframe of those extensions to comply with 42 U.S.C. 1396a(e) and 1397gg(e)(1) as amended by P.L. 117-2, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This rulemaking would incorporate those extended timeframes to Part 2 13.1(III) and Part 3 2.3(I) effective August 1, 2022. P.L. 2021 Ch. 461 further amended 22 M.R.S. 3174-G to provide MaineCare coverage to non-citizens during their pregnant/postpartum period or under the age of 21 to the extent allowable under federal law. This rulemaking would incorporate that coverage in Part 3 2.3(III). Consistent with amendments made by P.L. 2022 Ch. 519, these changes would also be effective August 1, 2022. P.L. 2021 Ch. 398 Part DDD established 22 M.R.S. 3174-FFF to provide state-funded MaineCare and CubCare to non-citizens under age 21 who would be eligible for the federally-funded program if not for their immigration status. This rulemaking would incorporate that program in the definitions of "Cub Care" and Coverage for Noncitizens Under Age 21 in Part 2 1, Part 3 2.1(V), and Part 5 3(C) effective July 1, 2022 consistent with the timeframe in law. Consistent with 8 U.S.C. 1612(b)(2)(G) as established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, P.L. 116-260, 208, this rulemaking proposes to extend MaineCare coverage to otherwise eligible non-citizens with Compact of Free Association (COFA) status. This addition of Subparagraph P to Part 2 3.4(I) would be effective December 27, 2020. The Department proposes to adopt the preceding changes retroactively to the dates indicated. Retroactive rulemaking is permissible under 22 M.R.S. 42(8) as these changes afford benefits to more residents of the State of Maine and do not adversely impact applicants, participants, beneficiaries, or providers. The following changes would not be adopted retroactively. This rulemaking proposes to clarify the requirements in Part 2 3.1(III) and (IV), 3.2(VIII), 3.3, and 3.4(II) for applicants and the Department as they relate to non-citizen eligibility. These requirements are consistent with 42 U.S.C. 1320b-7 and 42 C.F.R. 435.956(a). The Department proposes to update Part 2 11, and Part 5 1, 9, and 10 to reflect online application avenues that have changed or will be changing soon. The Department proposes to remove language from Part 3 2.4 and Part 5 3 that was necessary immediately after the adoption of other rule changes, but no longer applies. The following additional updates would be made to Part 2. Section 7.1 would be amended to include a more accurate list of programs that do not require cooperation in obtaining medical support from a non-custodial parent. Redundant language would be removed from Section 12.2. Additionally, general verification requirements in Section 12.1 would be modified to specify that the Department must use electronic verifications systems when available. Only if eligibility cannot be determined based on those systems would verification be required of the individual. These changes are necessary to comply with 42 C.F.R. 435.949. Section 13.1 would be amended to more clearly articulate that while a child may be eligible for continuous coverage for 12 months, the category of eligibility may change. Section 13.3 would be reworded to be more consistent with other sections that address change reporting. Ambiguous language would be removed from Section 13.4. Clarity would be added to Section 15 related to the types of computer matches that require timely noticing. The following additional updates would be made to Part 3. Section 1 adds definition of Federal Poverty Level. Removes unnecessary redundant definition in Section 2.1. Section 2.2 would be corrected to indicate an individual would still be considered to live with their parent or caretaker if they attended the Governor Baxter State School for the Deaf if services cannot be found in their home community. Section 2.3(II) would be amended to clearly state that providers must communicate a decision to the Department as a whole, not to a specific regional office. It would further be amended to clarify that Presumptive Eligibility ends the earlier of the date the Department renders a decision or the end of the month following the month the provider renders a decision. Section 4.1.1 would be amended to more clearly state which coverage groups may move to Transitional MaineCare. Section 4.2.2 would be amended to reflect that recipients who are no longer employed must request a good cause determination before the Department can establish one. Redundant language would be removed from Part 5 Section 9. Finally, some non-substantive changes would be made for clarity and inclusivity. Where possible, similar terms that may have carried stigma or are now out of date would be replaced with noncitizen. The Department proposes to use person first language except where it would create inconsistency in terminology used in other parts of the manual. Language would be rendered gender neutral where possible. The Department proposes to convert some language to the active voice for clarity. Some instances of bulleted items would be converted to a more consistent outline style. Citations and cross references would be updated as needed for accuracy, clarity, and consistency of format. Minor corrections to punctuation, grammar, and spelling would be made. Whole numbers zero through ten would be represented in word form with all other numbers being represented numerically (consistent with the method being applied to all Office for Family Independence Manuals). Date format would be made consistent throughout these parts. Part 2 8 would be reorganized. These changes would improve the readability of the manual without changing its meaning.

Comment deadline past Comment Deadline: July 5, 2022 | Posted: June 1, 2022

SNAP Rule #224P - March 2022 Standard Utility Allowance Updates

Rule - Track Changes (Word) | Rule - Clean (Word)  | MAPA3 (Word)   

Concise Summary:

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 proposes to make 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 (maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=puc-pressreleases&id=6112651&v=article088, and maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=puc-pressreleases&id=6040934&v=article088) and attested to by various media outlets (thedenverchannel.com/news/national/with-rising-heating-cost-more-people-are-expected-to-ask-for-assistance-with-bills-this-winter, pressherald.com/2021/11/09/mainers-to-face-double-digit-shock-in-electricity-supply-rates-next-year, and mainepublic.org/business-and-economy/2021-11-16/maine-utility-regulators-are-warning-electricity-customers-to-brace-for-a-big-rate-hike).

Comment deadline past Comment Deadline: April 19, 2022 | Posted: March 16, 2022