An Act To Require the State To Administer and Fund the General Assistance Program
Sec. 1. 14 MRSA §6002, sub-§1, as repealed and replaced by PL 2009, c. 171, §2, is amended to read:
If a tenant who is 7 days or more in arrears in the payment of rent pays the full amount of rent due before the expiration of the 7-day notice in writing, that notice is void. Thereafter, in all residential tenancies at will, if the tenant pays all rental arrears, all rent due as of the date of payment and any filing fees and service of process fees actually expended by the landlord before the issuance of the writ of possession as provided by section 6005, then the tenancy must be reinstated and no writ of possession may issue.
In the event that the landlord or the landlord's agent has made at least 3 good faith efforts to personally serve the tenant in-hand, that service may be accomplished by both mailing the notice by first class mail to the tenant's last known address and by leaving the notice at the tenant's last and usual place of abode.
Payment or written assurance of payment through the general assistance program, as authorized by the State or a municipality pursuant to Title 22, chapter 1161, has the same effect as payment in cash.
Sec. 2. 14 MRSA §6026, sub-§9, as enacted by PL 1983, c. 764, §2, is amended to read:
Sec. 3. 17-A MRSA §905-C, sub-§2, ¶A, as enacted by PL 2011, c. 687, §1, is amended to read:
Sec. 4. 18-A MRSA §5-604, as enacted by PL 1979, c. 540, §1, is amended to read:
§ 5-604. Nomination of public guardian or conservator
Sec. 5. 22 MRSA §3811, sub-§3, as amended by PL 2011, c. 687, §11, is further amended to read:
Sec. 6. 22 MRSA §4301, as amended by PL 2013, c. 551, §1, is further amended to read:
§ 4301. Definitions
As used in this chapter, unless the context indicates otherwise, the following terms have the following meanings.
The following items are not available within the meaning of this subsection and subsection 10:
In determining need, the period of time used as a basis for the calculation is the 30-day period commencing on the date of the application. This prospective calculation does not disqualify an applicant who has exhausted income to purchase basic necessities if that income does not exceed the income standards established by the municipality department. Notwithstanding this prospective calculation, if any applicant or recipient receives a lump sum payment prior or subsequent to applying for assistance, that payment must be prorated over future months. The period of proration is determined by disregarding any portion of the lump sum payment that the applicant or recipient has spent to purchase basic necessities, including but not limited to: all basic necessities provided by general assistance; reasonable payment of funeral or burial expenses for a family member; reasonable travel costs related to the illness or death of a family member; repair or replacement of essentials lost due to fire, flood or other natural disaster; repair or purchase of a motor vehicle essential for employment, education, training or other day-to-day living necessities; repayments of loans or credit, the proceeds of which can be verified as having been spent on basic necessities; and payment of bills earmarked for the purpose for which the lump sum is paid. All income received by the household between the receipt of the lump sum payment and the application for assistance is added to the remainder of the lump sum. The period of proration is then determined by dividing the remainder of the lump sum payment by the verified actual monthly amounts for all of the household's basic necessities. That dividend represents the period of proration determined by the administrator to commence on the date of receipt of the lump sum payment. The prorated sum for each month must be considered available to the household for 12 months from the date of application or during the period of proration, whichever is less.
Sec. 7. 22 MRSA §4302, as enacted by PL 1983, c. 577, §1, is amended to read:
§ 4302. Delegation of duties; oath; bond
Overseers The department may authorize some a person whom they shall designate to perform such of the duties imposed upon them by this chapter as they may determine the department determines. The overseers department may designate more than one person to perform those duties. Before entering upon the performance of those duties, the person or persons so designated shall be sworn and shall give bond to the town department for the faithful performance of those duties, in such sum and with such sureties as the overseers order department orders.
Sec. 8. 22 MRSA §4303, as enacted by PL 1983, c. 577, §1, is amended to read:
§ 4303. Prosecution and defense of adminstrators
For all purposes provided for in this chapter, the overseers department or any person appointed by them it in writing may prosecute and defend a town an administrator.
Sec. 9. 22 MRSA §4304, as amended by PL 1991, c. 209, §1, is further amended to read:
§ 4304. General assistance district offices
Any district office established pursuant to this subsection shall must be located so as to be accessible by a toll-free telephone call from any part of every municipality it is designated to serve.
Every district general assistance officer administrator shall be available for the taking of applications at least 35 hours each week and shall make provision for designated personnel to be available to take applications in an emergency 24 hours a day.
Sec. 10. 22 MRSA §4305, as amended by PL 2013, c. 368, Pt. OO, §7, is repealed.
Sec. 11. 22 MRSA §4305-A is enacted to read:
§ 4305-A. Department rule required
Sec. 12. 22 MRSA §4306, as enacted by PL 1983, c. 577, §1, is amended to read:
§ 4306. Records; confidentiality of information
The overseer An administrator shall keep complete and accurate records pertaining to general assistance, including the names of eligible persons assisted and the amounts paid for their assistance. Records, papers, files and communications relating to an applicant or recipient made or received by persons charged with responsibility of administering this chapter are confidential and no information relating to a person who is an applicant or recipient may be disclosed to the general public, unless expressly permitted by that person.
Sec. 13. 22 MRSA §4307, as corrected by RR 2009, c. 2, §§58 and 59, is repealed.
Sec. 14. 22 MRSA §4308, as amended by PL 2011, c. 655, Pt. R, §2, is further amended to read:
§ 4308. Applications
In order to receive assistance from any municipality, the applicant or a duly authorized representative must file a written application with the overseer an administrator, except as provided in section 4304, subsection 3.
A municipality An administrator may provide emergency assistance when the municipality administrator determines that an emergency is imminent and that failure to provide assistance may result in undue hardship and unnecessary costs.
Sec. 15. 22 MRSA §4309, as amended by PL 2013, c. 368, Pt. OO, §8, is further amended to read:
§ 4309. Eligibility
For the purposes of this subsection, "parent" includes legal guardian.
Sec. 16. 22 MRSA §4310, as amended by PL 2013, c. 368, Pt. OO, §9, is further amended to read:
§ 4310. Emergency benefits prior to full verification
Whenever an eligible person becomes an applicant for general assistance and states to the administrator that the applicant is in an emergency situation and requires immediate assistance to meet basic necessities, the overseer administrator shall, pending verification, issue to the applicant either personally or by mail, as soon as possible but in no event later than 24 hours after application, sufficient benefits to provide the basic necessities needed immediately by the applicant, as long as the following conditions are met.
Sec. 17. 22 MRSA §4311, as amended by PL 2013, c. 368, Pt. OO, §§10 and 11, is repealed.
Sec. 18. 22 MRSA §4311-A is enacted to read:
§ 4311-A. State reimbursement to administrators; reports
The amount of reimbursement must be calculated for each fiscal year by adding 10% of all general assistance granted up to the threshold amount to 100% of all general assistance granted above the threshold amount.
For the purposes of this subsection, "Indian tribe" has the same meaning as in section 411, subsection 8-A. For purposes of this subsection, "threshold amount" means 0.0003 of the Indian tribe’s most recent state valuation, as determined by the State Tax Assessor in the statement filed as provided in Title 36, section 381, relative to the year for which reimbursement is being issued.
Indian tribes must submit monthly reports on forms provided by the department.
Sec. 19. 22 MRSA §4312, as repealed and replaced by PL 1985, c. 459, Pt. B, §1, is repealed.
Sec. 20. 22 MRSA §4313, as amended by PL 2007, c. 411, §1, is further amended to read:
§ 4313. Reimbursement to individuals relieving eligible persons; prior approval; emergencies
Municipalities, as provided in section 4307, The department shall pay expenses necessarily incurred for providing basic necessities to eligible persons anywhere in the State by any person not liable for their support provided that the municipality of responsibility shall be notified and approve those expenses and services prior to their being made or delivered, except as provided in this section.
Sec. 21. 22 MRSA §4314, as amended by PL 2003, c. 452, Pt. K, §§25 and 26 and affected by Pt. X, §2 and amended by c. 689, Pt. B, §§6 and 7, is further amended to read:
§ 4314. Cooperation in administration of general assistance
The overseer administrator shall give the applicant written notice that if the applicant does not provide the documentary verification within one week of the application, the employer will be contacted.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, every employer shall, upon written request of the overseer administrator, release information regarding any wages or other financial benefits paid to the applicant or a member of the applicant's household. No employer may discharge or otherwise adversely affect an employee because of any request for information pursuant to this section.
Sec. 22. 22 MRSA §4315, as amended by PL 1993, c. 410, Pt. AAA, §9, is further amended to read:
§ 4315. False representation
Whoever knowingly and willfully makes any false representation of a material fact to the overseer of any municipality an administrator or to the department or its agents for the purpose of causing that or any other person to be granted assistance by the municipality administrator or by the State is ineligible for assistance for a period of 120 days and is guilty of a Class E crime.
A person disqualified from receiving general assistance for making a false representation must be provided notice and an opportunity for an appeal as provided in sections 4321 and 4322.
If the fair hearing officer finds that a recipient made a false representation to the overseer administrator in violation of this section, that recipient is required to reimburse the municipality department for any assistance rendered for which that recipient was ineligible and is ineligible from receiving further assistance for a period of 120 days.
Any recipient whose assistance is terminated or denied under this section has the right to appeal that decision pursuant to the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 80-B.
No A recipient who has been granted assistance, in accordance with this chapter, may not have that assistance terminated prior to the decision of the fair hearing officer. In the event of any termination of assistance to any recipient, the dependents of that person may still apply for and, if eligible, receive assistance.
Sec. 23. 22 MRSA §4315-A, as enacted by PL 1991, c. 591, Pt. OOO, §2, is amended to read:
§ 4315-A. Use of income for basic necessities required
All persons requesting general assistance must use their income for basic necessities. Except for initial applicants, recipients are not eligible to receive assistance to replace income that was spent within the 30-day period prior to the application on goods and services that are not basic necessities. The income not spent on goods and services that are basic necessities is considered available to the applicant. A municipality An administrator may require recipients to utilize income and resources according to standards established by the municipality department rule, except that a municipality an administrator may not reduce assistance to a recipient who has exhausted income to purchase basic necessities. Municipalities Administrators shall provide written notice to applicants of the standards established by the municipalities department.
Sec. 24. 22 MRSA §4316-A, as amended by PL 1993, c. 410, Pt. AAA, §10 and PL 2003, c. 689, Pt. B, §6, is further amended to read:
§ 4316-A. Work requirement
If a municipality an administrator finds that an applicant has violated a work-related rule without just cause, under this subsection or subsection 1-A, it is the responsibility of that applicant to establish the presence of just cause.
(1) Included in the reimbursable net general assistance costs; and
(2) Itemized separately in reports to the Department of Health and Human Services under section 4311 4311-A.
The overseer An administrator may not require medical verification of medical conditions that are apparent or are of such short duration that a reasonable person would not ordinarily seek medical attention. In any case in which the overseer an administrator requires medical verification and the applicant has no means of obtaining such verification, the overseer administrator shall grant assistance for the purpose of obtaining that verification.
Sec. 25. 22 MRSA §4318, as amended by PL 1995, c. 462, Pt. A, §44, is further amended to read:
§ 4318. Recovery of expenses
A municipality or If the State , which has incurred incurs general assistance program costs for the support of any eligible person, the State may recover the full amount expended for that support either from the person relieved or from any person liable for the recipient's support, or from their executors or administrators, in a civil action. In no case may a municipality or the State be authorized to recover through a civil action , the full or part of , the amount expended for the support of a previously eligible person, if, as a result of the repayment of that amount, this person would, in all probability, again become eligible for general assistance.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, municipalities have a lien for the value of all general assistance payments made to a recipient on any lump sum payment made to that recipient under the former Workers' Compensation Act, the Maine Workers' Compensation Act of 1992 or similar law of any other state.
The department shall enter into an agreement with the Social Security Administration to institute an interim assistance reimbursement for the purpose of the repayment of state and local funds expended for providing assistance to Supplemental Security Income applicants or recipients while the Supplemental Security Income payments are pending or suspended. Written authorization must be given by the recipients.
A municipality The department may not recover from any recipient who has been injured while performing work under section 4316-A, subsection 2, any portion of any medical or rehabilitative expenses associated with that injury or any portion of any other general assistance benefits associated with that injury.
Nothing in this section may be construed as limiting or affecting in any way the right of any individual to file an action under the Maine Tort Claims Act, Title 14, chapter 741, except that a municipality that provides general assistance to a minor is absolutely immune from suit on any tort claims seeking recovery or damages by or on behalf of the minor recipient in connection with the provision of general assistance.
All collections, fees and payments received by the department from the Federal Government as a result of an interim assistance reimbursement must be dedicated to support the administration of the General Assistance general assistance program.
Sec. 26. 22 MRSA §4319, as amended by PL 1993, c. 410, Pt. AAA, §12, is further amended to read:
§ 4319. Liability of relatives for support
Sec. 27. 22 MRSA §4320, as amended by PL 1991, c. 591, Pt. OOO, §§5 and 6, is further amended to read:
§ 4320. Liens on real estate
A municipality or the The State may claim a lien against the owner of real estate for the amount of money spent by it to provide mortgage payments on behalf of an eligible person under this chapter on any real estate that is the subject of a mortgage, whether land or buildings or a combination thereof. In addition, a municipality may claim a lien against the owner of real estate for the amount of money spent by it to make capital improvements to the real estate, whether land or buildings or a combination of land and buildings, on behalf of an eligible person under this chapter.
The municipal officers, their designee or the State shall file a notice of the lien with the register of deeds of the county wherein the property is located within 30 days of making a mortgage payment or, if applicable, payment for capital improvements. That filing secures the municipality or State's lien interest for an amount equal to the sum of that mortgage or capital improvement payment and all subsequent mortgage or capital improvement payments made on behalf of the same eligible person. Not less than 10 days prior to the filing, the municipal officers, their designee or the State shall send notification of the proposed action by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the owner of the real estate and any record holder of the mortgage. The lien notification must clearly inform the recipient of the limitations upon enforcement contained in this section; it shall must also contain the title, address and telephone number of the municipal official administrator who granted the assistance. A new written notice including these provisions must be given to the recipient each time the amount secured by the lien is increased. The lien is effective until enforced by an action for equitable relief or until discharged.
Interest on the amount of money secured by the lien may be charged by the State or a municipality, but in no event may the rate exceed the maximum rate of interest allowed by the Treasurer of State, pursuant to Title 36, section 186. For the State, the The rate of interest shall must be established by the department. For a municipality, the rate of interest shall be established by the municipal officers. Interest shall accrue accrues from and including the date the lien is filed.
The costs of securing and enforcing the lien may be recoverable upon enforcement.
No A lien may not be enforced under this section while the person named in the lien is either currently receiving any form of public assistance or, as a result of enforcement, would become eligible for general assistance.
In no event may the lien be enforced prior to the death of the recipient of general assistance or the transfer of the property.
Sec. 28. 22 MRSA §4321, as enacted by PL 1983, c. 577, §1, is amended to read:
§ 4321. Grant, denial, reduction or termination to be communicated in writing; right to a hearing
Any action relative to the grant, denial, reduction, suspension or termination of relief provided under this chapter must be communicated to the applicant in writing. The decision shall must include the specific reason or reasons for that action and shall inform the person affected of his the right to a hearing, the procedure for requesting such a hearing, the right to notify the department and the available means for notifying the department, if he the person believes that the municipality administrator has acted in violation of this chapter. All proceedings relating to the grant, denial, reduction, suspension or termination of relief provided under this chapter are not public proceedings under Title 1, chapter 13, unless otherwise requested by the applicant or recipient.
Sec. 29. 22 MRSA §4322, as corrected by RR 2009, c. 2, §60, is amended to read:
§ 4322. Right to a fair hearing
A person aggrieved by a decision, act, failure to act or delay in action concerning that person's application for general assistance under this chapter has the right to an appeal. If a person's application has been approved, general assistance may not be revoked during the period of entitlement until that person has been provided notice and an opportunity for hearing as provided in this section. Within 5 working days of receiving a written decision or notice of denial, reduction or termination of assistance, in accordance with the provisions of section 4321, or within 10 working days after any other act or failure to act by the municipality administrator with regard to an application for assistance, the person may request an appeal. A hearing must be held by the a fair hearing authority within 5 working days following the receipt of a written request by the applicant for an appeal. The hearing may must be conducted by the municipal officers, a board of appeals created under Title 30-A, section 2691, or one or more persons appointed by the municipal officers to act as a fair hearing authority according to the rules pursuant to section 4323. An appeal may not be held before a person or body responsible for the decision, act, failure to act or delay in action relating to the applicant.
The person requesting the appeal and the municipal administrator responsible for the decision being appealed must be afforded the right to confront and cross-examine any witnesses presented at the hearing, present witnesses in their behalf and be represented by counsel or other spokesperson. A claimant must be advised of these rights in writing. The decision of such an appeal must be based solely on evidence adduced at the hearing. The Maine Rules of Evidence do not apply to information presented to the fair hearing authority. The standard of evidence is the standard set in Title 5, section 9057, subsection 2. The person requesting the appeal must, within 5 working days after the appeal, be furnished with a written decision detailing the reasons for that decision. When any decision by a fair hearing authority or court authorizing assistance is made, that assistance must be provided within 24 hours. Review of any action or failure to act under this chapter must be conducted pursuant to the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 80-B. The municipality administrator shall make a record of the fair hearing. The municipality's administrator's obligation is limited to keeping a taped record of the proceedings. The applicant shall pay costs for preparing any transcripts required to pursue an appeal of a fair hearing authority's decision.
Sec. 30. 22 MRSA §4323, as amended by PL 2007, c. 600, §1, is repealed and the following enacted in its place:
§ 4323. Department of Health and Human Services responsible
The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for the proper administration of general assistance. The department shall adopt rules to implement this chapter. Rules adopted pursuant to this section are major substantive rules as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A.
Sec. 31. 22 MRSA §4326, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 673, Pt. DD, §1, is repealed.
Sec. 32. 30-A MRSA §1605, sub-§8, as enacted by PL 1987, c. 737, Pt. A, §2 and Pt. C, §106 and amended by PL 1989, c. 6; c. 9, §2; and c. 104, Pt. C, §§8 and 10 and by PL 2003, c. 689, Pt. B, §6, is further amended to read:
Sec. 33. 30-A MRSA §2526, sub-§4, as enacted by PL 1987, c. 737, Pt. A, §2 and Pt. C, §106 and amended by PL 1989, c. 6; c. 9, §2; and c. 104, Pt. C, §§8 and 10, is further amended to read:
(1) Once the determination has been made, it stands until revoked at a meeting held at least 90 days before the annual meeting.
(2) If a town fails to fix the number, 3 shall must be elected. If a town fails to fix the term, it is for one year.
(1) If no person is designated as chairman chair, the board shall elect by ballot a chairman chair from its own membership, before assuming the duties of office. When no member receives a majority vote, the clerk shall determine the chairman chair by lot.
Sec. 34. 30-A MRSA §2631, sub-§2, as enacted by PL 1987, c. 737, Pt. A, §2 and Pt. C, §106 and amended by PL 1989, c. 6; c. 9, §2; and c. 104, Pt. C, §§8 and 10, is further amended to read:
Sec. 35. 30-A MRSA §2652, sub-§3, ¶B, as amended by PL 2009, c. 589, §7, is further amended to read:
Sec. 36. 30-A MRSA §5052, sub-§1, ¶C, as amended by PL 1991, c. 610, §21, is further amended to read:
Sec. 37. 30-A MRSA §5721-A, sub-§4, as amended by PL 2013, c. 368, Pt. G, §1, is further amended to read:
Sec. 38. Maine Revised Statutes headnote amended; revision clause. In the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 22, Subtitle 3, Part 5, in the Part headnote, the words "municipal support of the poor" are amended to read "support of the poor" and the Revisor of Statutes shall implement this revision when updating, publishing or republishing the statutes.
Sec. 39. Maine Revised Statutes headnote amended; revision clause. In the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 22, chapter 1161, in the chapter headnote, the words "municipal general assistance" are amended to read "state general assistance" and the Revisor of Statutes shall implement this revision when updating, publishing or republishing the statutes.
Sec. 40. Major substantive rules. By December 31, 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services shall adopt rules establishing the standards and protocol necessary for state administration of the general assistance program pursuant to the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 22, chapter 1161. Rules adopted pursuant to this section are major substantive rules as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A and may be adopted as emergency rules pursuant to Title 5, section 8054. This section takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the First Regular Session of the 127th Legislature.
Sec. 41. Effective date. Except as otherwise provided, this Act takes effect on January 1, 2016.
This bill shifts responsibility for the full funding and administration of the general assistance program from municipalities to the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill directs the department to adopt by December 31, 2015 major substantive rules necessary to implement the transfer of responsibilities. The transfer of responsibilities under the bill is effective January 1, 2016.