Proposed Rulemaking

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

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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.

Submit Comments (Opens in new window) - Comment Deadline: October 10, 2022 | Posted: September 7, 2022

General assistance Rule #24 - Recovery Residences

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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

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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

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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

HOPE Rule #101 - Internet Access, Updates to Eligible Careers and Degree Programs, Increased Program Participant Cap, and Additional Updates

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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 would allow 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 proposes to bring 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. 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 would be 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 proposes to bring 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 would not be implemented retroactively: In Section 1, Definitions, a number of terms would be added or would have their definitions updated. The definition of Application would be updated to allow for electronically signed submissions. This change would improve access especially at times that in-person contact is discouraged for health reasons. A definition of Credential would be added to clarify this term as distinct from High-Value Credential. The definition of Matriculation would be 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 would be 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 would be added to help clarify what bills can and cannot be paid by HOPE supports. A definition of Specified Relative would be added for consistency with other TANF funded OFI programs. A definition of Stackable Credential would be 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 would be simplified to avoid a potential conflict should the CWRI change its definition in the future. In Section 3, Eligibility, the following clarifications are proposed. Changes are proposed to Subsection A(6), (8), and (10) 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 would be added to A(6). A(8) would be modified to clarify that the individual must have aptitude for the career not just the training or education program. The standards of accreditation were added to A(10)(a)(i). In addition to modifications related to P.L. 2021 Ch. 149, A(10)(b) was amended to expand the criteria for cost effectiveness of a training or education program. Amendments to Subsection B(2) are proposed to clarify the treatment or exclusion of certain income types. In Section 4, Services, the following amendments are proposed. Subsection (B)(1)(a) would be 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) would be 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. Subsections (B)(3) and (7) would be amended to specify that these supports are available only for vehicles being operated in accordance with Maine law. Subsection (B)(5) would be 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 disposal. Subsection B(6) would be added to allow funding of Internet access for HOPE participants with the same conditions. Section 7, Policies and Procedures, has the following proposed modifications. Subsection B(1) would be amended to allow for electronically signed submissions. Subsection B(1) would be 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) would be amended to allow the same timeframe for waitlisted applicants to be reconsidered. These changes would provide improved access. Subsections C and D would be amended to clarify the end date of eligibility for supports. Subsection C(2) would be 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 would be corrected to reflect the location of the caps for Supports as Section 4(B). Subsection D(3) would be amended to clarify the timeframe during which Participants can request reimbursements. This change would reduce the administrative burden on Participants and the Department. Subsection E would be 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) would be amended for greater consistency with the terminology and requirements in Section 3(A)(9). Subsection E(1)(i)(v) would be further amended to allow other documentation similar to those specified as evidence of acceptability of an online program. Other proposed changes are part of a standardization of practice across all OFI rules. Enumeration and lettering of subsections, paragraphs, etc. would be 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 would be 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 would be updated to reflect instances where the owner of the information changed the URL. Some references to other parts of this manual would be corrected for clarity. Proposed changes include using gender inclusive pronouns. Other grammatical and typographical errors would be corrected. Redundant terms would be removed. References to Caretaker Relative would be changed to Specified Relative for consistency with other TANF funded Office for Family Independence (OFI) programs.

Comment deadline past Comment Deadline: January 18, 2022 | Posted: December 16, 2021

SNAP Rule #212P - 2021 Omnibus Rule Change

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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, reduce the use of stigma inducing language, and update the names of programs such as WIOA and TANF. It proposes to correct various citations. The Department proposes to change 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 would be 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 would be removed from all section numbers. The Department proposes to use person first language wherever feasible and to replace terms intended to convey the same meaning with Substance Use Disorder. These changes are being proposed 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 proposes to convert some phrases to active voice and simplify the representation of numbers as part of an ongoing, office-wide effort at standardization and clarity. The Department proposes to add clarity to Section 111-1 related to standards and process for determining separate household status. This rule change proposes to align 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 proposes to remove 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 proposes to amend 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 would be 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 proposes to align the disqualification periods for Quality Control noncompliance with those found in 7 C.F.R. 273.2(d)(2). The Department proposes to clarify, in Section 222-5, that a reasonable opportunity to resolve discrepancies is 10 days. The Department proposes to amend 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 would improve access for residents with low income. The Department proposes to remove 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 proposes a number of changes to the sections on assets. This rule change would update the asset and income lists to reflect new technologies such as non-fungible assets and crypto-currency. It further proposes to amend 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 would be updated to conform with 7 C.F.R. 273.8(e)(8). The Department proposes to align the look back period for certain felonies with the one required by 7 C.F.R. 273.11(s)(3). The Department proposes to limit 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 would align 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 proposes to amend the work requirement for post-secondary students to allow for weekly hours to be averaged over the month. This change would align 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 would be added to Section 444-5. The Department proposes to eliminate the $0 benefit starting March 1, 2022 and implemented over a 12-month period. Historically, households that qualified for this benefit were considered eligible for the USDA National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program. That has not been the case since Food and Nutrition Service provided clarifying guidance in their memo dated October 25, 2011. As such, there is no appreciable benefit for households to be certified for a $0 benefit. The States option to deny or authorize a $0 benefit for these households is articulated at 7 C.F.R. 273.10(e)(2)(iii). The Department proposes to update Section 555-6 to more clearly and accurately describe the budgeting process. Accordingly, it further proposes to eliminate the budgeting worksheet in Section 555-7 that is redundant to the budgeting process outlined in 555-6 without adding clarity. The Department proposes to clarify 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 proposes to clean 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 proposes to clarify 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 proposes to clarify 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 will improve access for households and reduce the administrative burden for the Department. The Department proposes to delay the changes to the expungement deadline adopted as part of Food Supplement Rule Making #218A earlier this year 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 proposes to add a definition of public institution to add clarity to the application process in certain circumstances. 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 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 would allow these changes to endure beyond December 30, 2021.

Comment deadline past Comment Deadline: November 29, 2021 | Posted: October 27, 2021