An Act To Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families Today
Sec. 1. 22 MRSA §3109 is enacted to read:
§ 3109. Promoting accountable public programs that reduce child poverty and increase sustainable employment for low-income families with children
The department shall implement a system of accountability to measure the performance of certain programs administered by the department under this subtitle by examining the outcomes of participating families with children on an annual basis. The department shall establish benchmarks to measure, over time, the extent to which these programs have helped to alleviate poverty and hardship among families with children through increased employment, earnings, education and training and the provision of individualized services for those with barriers to employment.
(1) The number and percentage of families with earnings in the month of TANF exit and the number and percentage of exiting families with earnings that are below 100%, at least 100% but not more than 150%, at least 151% but not more than 200% and in excess of 200% of the federal poverty level;
(2) The number and percentage of families with earnings in excess of $5,000 per quarter in the 2nd quarter and in the 4th quarter after the quarter of exit from TANF; and
(3) The mean and median amount of earnings for families in the 2nd quarter and in the 4th quarter after the quarter of exit from TANF;
Sec. 2. 22 MRSA §3737, sub-§4 is enacted to read:
Sec. 3. 22 MRSA §3762, sub-§3, ¶B, as amended by PL 2015, c. 267, Pt. RRRR, §2, is further amended to read:
(1) To continue the pass-through of the first $50 per month of current child support collections and the exclusion of the $50 pass-through from the budget tests and benefit calculations;
(2) To provide financial assistance to noncitizens legally admitted to the United States who are receiving assistance under this subsection as of July 1, 2011. Recipients of assistance under this subparagraph are limited to the categories of noncitizens who would be eligible for the TANF programs but for their status as aliens under PRWORA. Eligibility for the TANF program for these categories of noncitizens must be determined using the criteria applicable to other recipients of assistance from the TANF program. Any household receiving assistance as of July 1, 2011 may continue to receive assistance, as long as that household remains eligible, without regard to interruptions in coverage or gaps in eligibility for service. A noncitizen legally admitted to the United States who is neither receiving assistance on July 1, 2011 nor has an application pending for assistance on July 1, 2011 that is later approved is not eligible for financial assistance through a state-funded program unless that noncitizen is:
(a) Elderly or disabled, as described under the laws governing supplemental security income in 42 United States Code, Sections 1381 to 1383f (2010);
(b) A victim of domestic violence;
(c) Experiencing other hardship, such as time necessary to obtain proper work documentation, as defined by the department by rule. Rules adopted by the department under this division are routine technical rules as defined by Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A; or
(d) Unemployed but has obtained proper work documentation, as defined by the department by rule. Rules adopted by the department under this division are routine technical rules as defined by Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A;
(3) To provide benefits to certain 2-parent families whose deprivation is based on physical or mental incapacity;
(4) To provide an assistance program for needy children, 19 to 21 years of age, who are in full-time attendance in secondary school. The program is operated for those individuals who qualify for TANF under the United States Social Security Act, except that they fail to meet the age requirement, and is also operated for the parent or caretaker relative of those individuals. Except for the age requirement, all provisions of TANF, including the standard of need and the amount of assistance, apply to the program established pursuant to this subparagraph;
(5) To provide assistance for a pregnant woman who is otherwise eligible for assistance under this chapter, except that she has no dependents under 19 years of age. An individual is eligible for the monthly benefit for one eligible person if the medically substantiated expected date of the birth of her child is not more than 90 days following the date the benefit is received;
(6) To provide a special housing allowance for TANF families whose shelter expenses for rent, mortgage or similar payments, homeowners insurance and property taxes equal or exceed 75% 50% of their monthly income. The special housing allowance is limited to $200 $300 per month for each family. For purposes of this subparagraph, "monthly income" means the total of the TANF monthly benefit and all income countable under the TANF program, plus child support received by the family, excluding the $50 pass-through payment;
(6-A) Beginning October 1, 2017, to provide housing assistance in the form of a voucher provided directly to the landlord, lessor or other housing provider for TANF families whose shelter expenses equal or exceed 50% of their monthly income. This housing assistance must be administered through the Maine State Housing Authority and provided with funds from the TANF federal block grant or federal maintenance of effort funds. The department shall provide a reasonable administrative fee to the Maine State Housing Authority for the cost of administering the housing assistance program. The following conditions apply to the provision of housing assistance under this subparagraph:
(a) A TANF family may receive housing assistance under this subparagraph if the family's rental cost meets the fair market rent standards published by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development pursuant to 24 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 888.115 for the area in which the family's housing is located and meets any housing quality standards adopted by the Maine State Housing Authority;
(b) A TANF family receiving housing assistance shall pay the same portion of the family's income toward rent as required by the formula used by the housing choice voucher program administered by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Public and Indian Housing, Office of Housing Choice Vouchers;
(c) A TANF family who receives housing assistance under this subparagraph is not eligible to receive the special housing allowance under subparagraph (6);
(d) Any otherwise eligible TANF family who receives housing assistance under this subparagraph remains eligible notwithstanding receipt of this assistance; and
(e) A TANF family who is ineligible for or who cannot accept a housing choice voucher under this subparagraph and whose shelter expenses for rent, mortgage or similar costs and homeowner's insurance and property taxes equal or exceed 50% of the family's monthly income is eligible to receive a special housing allowance provided under subparagraph (6).
The department shall adopt routine technical rules, as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A, to implement the provisions of this subparagraph;
(7) In determining benefit levels for TANF recipients who have earnings from employment, the department shall disregard from monthly earnings the following:
(a) One hundred and eight dollars;
(b) Fifty percent of the remaining earnings that are less than the federal poverty level; and
(c) All actual child care costs necessary for work, except that the department may limit the child care disregard to $175 per month per child or $200 per month per child under 2 years of age or with special needs;
(7-A) In determining eligibility and benefit levels, the department may apply a gross income test only to applicants and not to recipients;
(8) In cases when the TANF recipient has no child care cost, the monthly TANF benefit is the maximum payment level or the difference between the countable earnings and the standard of need established by rule adopted by the department, whichever is lower;
(9) In cases when the TANF recipient has child care costs, the department shall determine a total benefit package, including TANF cash assistance, determined in accordance with subparagraph (7) and additional child care assistance, as provided by rule, necessary to cover the TANF recipient's actual child care costs up to the maximum amount specified in section 3782-A, subsection 5. The benefit amount must be paid as provided in this subparagraph.
(a) Before the first month in which child care assistance is available to an ASPIRE-TANF recipient under this paragraph and periodically thereafter, the department shall notify the recipient of the total benefit package and the following options of the recipient: to receive the total benefit package directly; or to have the department pay the recipient's child care assistance directly to the designated child care provider for the recipient and pay the balance of the total benefit package to the recipient.
(b) If an ASPIRE-TANF recipient notifies the department that the recipient chooses to receive the child care assistance directly, the department shall pay the total benefit package to the recipient.
(c) If an ASPIRE-TANF recipient does not respond or notifies the department of the choice to have the child care assistance paid directly to the child care provider from the total benefit package, the department shall pay the child care assistance directly to the designated child care provider for the recipient. The department shall pay the balance of the total benefit package to the recipient;
(10) Child care assistance under this paragraph must be paid by the department in a prompt manner that permits an ASPIRE-TANF recipient to access child care necessary for work; and
(11) The department shall adopt rules pursuant to Title 5, chapter 375 to implement this subsection. Rules adopted pursuant to this subparagraph are routine technical rules as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A . ; and
(12) Beginning October 1, 2017, the department shall establish rates for child care that are at least equal to the 75th percentile of local market rates for various categories of child care and higher rates for children with special needs.
Sec. 4. 22 MRSA §3762, sub-§8, ¶G is enacted to read:
(1) A family who loses eligibility for TANF as a result of increased earnings or an increase in the number of hours worked or a family in which one or both adults are working and who, although the family remains financially eligible for TANF benefits, requests that the family's benefits be terminated and:
(a) Whose shelter expenses equal or exceed 50% of the family's monthly income notwithstanding any receipt of housing assistance under this section;
(b) Whose income does not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family lives; and
(c) Who is participating in a work activity that may be counted in accordance with 45 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 261.31 except for temporary periods of unemployment that may not exceed 4 months.
Housing assistance under this paragraph must be administered by the Maine State Housing Authority in the same manner as provided for in subsection 3, paragraph B, subparagraph (6-A). The family's percentage of rent must increase relative to the family's earnings in the same manner as the housing choice voucher program administered by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Public and Indian Housing, Office of Housing Choice Vouchers.
A transitional TANF family that is ineligible for or cannot accept a housing choice voucher under this paragraph and whose shelter expenses for rent, mortgage or similar costs and homeowner's insurance and property taxes equal or exceed 50% of the family's monthly income is eligible to receive a special housing allowance provided under subparagraph (6) as long as the family is otherwise eligible in accordance with this paragraph.
Sec. 5. 22 MRSA §3763, sub-§8, as amended by PL 2005, c. 522, §1, is further amended to read:
The department shall provide applicants with the names and contact information for vendors approved in its vendor payment system, and advise applicants of how a vendor may gain department approval to receive vendor payments to facilitate prompt provision of aid under this subsection.
Sec. 6. 22 MRSA §3769-C, sub-§1, as amended by PL 2001, c. 439, Pt. CC, §1 and PL 2003, c. 689, Pt. B, §6, is further amended to read:
Sec. 7. 22 MRSA §§3769-E to 3769-H are enacted to read:
§ 3769-E. TANF reserve
§ 3769-F. Working Cars for Working Families Program
There is established the Working Cars for Working Families Program, referred to in this section as "the program," to help families with children obtain or retain sustainable employment by providing them with access to reliable, affordable transportation. The program provides eligible families, as determined under subsection 4, with loans to purchase vehicles or with donated vehicles as described in subsection 7.
After reviewing the evaluation, the committee may introduce legislation, including emergency legislation, to continue or modify the program established under this section.
§ 3769-G. Addiction prevention and family stabilization
§ 3769-H. Increased affordability; reduced energy use for low-income homeowners with children
Sec. 8. 22 MRSA §3790, sub-§3-A is enacted to read:
Sec. 9. 36 MRSA §5219-S, as amended by PL 2015, c. 328, §8, is further amended to read:
§ 5219-S. Earned income credit
Sec. 10. Funding. Any administrative, technological or other costs associated with the purposes of this Act for families eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF, program must be funded by using the federal block grant funding allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services within the state family assistance grant of the TANF program or existing state maintenance of effort funds, which may be replaced with federal block grant funds at no additional cost to the General Fund, except that funds for the purposes related to amendment of the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 22, section 3737, subsection 4 must be funded using the federal block grant funding allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services within the child care development block grant.
Sec. 11. Rulemaking. By October 1, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services shall adopt routine technical rules, as defined in the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A, to implement the provisions of Title 22, sections 3769-F and 3769-H, including a rule defining good cause for purposes of Title 22, section 3769-F, subsection 5.
This bill makes the following changes to the laws governing public assistance. The bill is intended to help alleviate poverty and hardship among families with children through increased employment, earnings, education and training and the provision of support and individualized services for those with particular barriers to employment. The bill:
1. Requires the Department of Health and Human Services to collect data to measure the status of child and family economic security and establish benchmarks on an annual basis to monitor year-to-year improvement in the well-being of families with children in the State;
2. Directs the Department of Health and Human Services to increase access to high-quality child care services by establishing rates that are equal to the 75th percentile of local market rates for various categories of child care and higher rates for children with special needs for services provided through the child care development block grant and the temporary assistance to needy families block grant;
3. Establishes a voucher program to improve housing stability and reduce risk of homelessness through the Maine State Housing Authority. The voucher program provides housing assistance in the form of a voucher to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF, families and TANF transitional families whose shelter expenses equal or exceed 50% of their monthly income;
4. Amends the alternative aid provisions to help families facing an emergency that threatens their ability to get or keep a job by extending program eligibility to 2-parent families, requiring that assistance be provided more promptly and modifying the amount of aid that may be available to address an emergency;
5. Provides an increase in the monthly TANF maximum benefit. It requires that Maine's TANF benefit equal the average TANF benefit in other New England states;
6. Establishes a pilot program that provides access to reliable transportation for working low-income families with children or those engaged in a training program directly leading to employment;
7. Establishes a program that increases heating affordability and reduces energy use among low-income homeowners with children;
8. Establishes a TANF reserve fund using accrued but unobligated and unliquidated funds from the TANF federal assistance grant to maintain eligibility and services when adequate funding is not otherwise available;
9. Allows the Department of Health and Human Services to accept referrals from educational institutions and similar programs in the State for eligible parents for the Parents as Scholars Program;
10. Increases the value of the state earned income credit for working families whose incomes are below 150% of the federal poverty level;
11. Ensures that funding to provide the eligibility and services established by this bill will come from the state family assistance grant and the child care development block grant; and
12. Establishes the Addiction Prevention and Family Stabilization Program.