THIS IS FROM OUR COLLEAGUES AT MAINE EQUAL JUSTICE PARTNERS:
New legislative proposals would cause thousands of very low income Mainers to lose access to General Assistance (GA)-our State's safety net of last resort.
Please help us oppose these proposed changes to the GA program and protect this vitally important support for Maine families.
The public hearing on the GA proposals that are in the Governor's latest supplement budget is scheduled for next Thursday starting at 2:30 PM in room 228 at the State House in Augusta.
Please note: There is another proposal to cut GA in a separate bill - LD 1862 - and the public hearing has not been scheduled yet, but that should happen in the next two weeks. We will update you when that public hearing is scheduled.
Here is a summary of these proposals:
The newest Proposed Supplemental Budget for 2012-2013 introduced this week would make the following cuts in the GA Program:
PUBLIC HEARING: Thursday March 22nd-starting at 2:30 PM in Room 228 of the State House (Appropriations Committee)
Ø TANF families would no longer be eligible for GA. The proposed budget makes any family that is currently receiving TANF benefits ineligible for General Assistance. The maximum TANF benefit for a family of 3 is only $485 a month (or $585 if the family's rent costs more than 75% of its income). Many TANF families do not have enough income to pay the rent or make ends meet and must rely on help from GA. Without GA to help them get through an emergency, like an eviction, these families could face homelessness.
Ø GA for housing would be limited to only 90 days a year- even in emergencies. The proposed budget would prevent a family or individual from getting assistance with housing for more than 90 days in a year. Housing is the biggest cost in a family's budget and it's the reason most people go to GA for help. Many people without income-like those applying for SSI-need to rely on GA for longer than 90 days. Without this help they will likely become homeless.
Ø State reimbursement to cities and towns that spend the most on GA would be cut drastically. Municipalities like Portland, Bangor, Lewiston, and some others will lose a large amount of the financial help they currently get from the State to pay GA benefits. These are the cities and towns that provide the most GA in the State. The State currently provides a 50% match for General Assistance until a town expends a certain amount on GA. Once these municipalities hit this amount, state reimbursement is 90%. The budget would cut the match for all GA expenditures to 50%. While this should not cause a direct cut in GA for those who need help right away, it will put financial pressure on these municipalities that are already struggling to meet their GA budgets. This may result in less staff to take applications, or even benefit cuts in some locations.
Another bill proposed by a legislator - LD 1862- called "An Act to Limit Eligibility under the Municipal General Assistance Program" would make any family that loses TANF because of the new TANF time limit ineligible for GA.
PUBLIC HEARING: Not yet scheduled. The hearing should happen in the next two weeks.
This would mean that any family that loses TANF because they have reached their 60-month time limit could not get help from the GA program, even in an emergency. Many families that reach the 60-month limit include members with physical or mental health conditions that limit their ability to work. Many more are unemployed and cannot find a job in this economy. While some TANF families may qualify to have their benefits extended, right now TANF rules have strict limits on those extensions that are inadequate to protect families facing serious hardships.
This bill would leave families who have lost their income without any access to GA. It would mean that many poor families with young children, children with disabilities, or disabled adults will be exposed to homelessness, lack of heat and hunger.
If you have relied on GA in the past, or know and care about people who have, legislators need to hear from you as they are considering these serious cuts to the program.
Please come testify at the public hearings, or share your story with us even if you are not able to testify. You can also contact your legislators to urge them to oppose these proposals that will harm thousands of Maine families.
If you are interested in getting involved you can contact us by replying to this email OR by calling us at (207)626-7058 or (866)626-7059 (toll free), ext. 205 for Crystal Bond.