Almost 25,000 children and their families in the state of Maine receive cash assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Designed to help families who have lost the financial support of one parent, the program provides the neediest Maine families with monthly cash stipends to pay for utilities, clothing, rent and other expenses. The TANF program is separate from the medical, food and heat assistance programs, although if you qualify for TANF, you qualify for those other programs as well.
Welfare benefits in Maine are based on income in relation to household size. To qualify, your household income must be equal to or less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level for your household size. The Department of Human Services calculates your eligibility based on how much you spend on rent, utilities, child care and medical expenses in relation to your income. Your income includes money you earn from work, child support, workers' compensation and Social Security payments.
The state of Maine conducts an asset test on all applicants for welfare cash assistance. Each person in the household applying for assistance is limited to $2,000 in countable assets. Countable assets include money in your checking or savings accounts, individual retirement accounts, any vehicles that are not the primary vehicle, recreational vehicles and any property that is not your primary home. The state does not consider the value of 401k and college savings accounts, prepaid burial expenses, household items, insurance policies and property that you are attempting to sell as assets.
Because welfare benefits are meant to be temporary, Maine’s rules are designed to get adults back to self-sufficiency as soon as soon as possible. Adults who are not disabled, pregnant or otherwise exempt from work have to work in an approved position or attend training for at least 30 hours per week. Some TANF beneficiaries also qualify for money to pay for school to earn a degree that will lead to employment. If you’re working and your income increases, or you go back to work after a period of unemployment, your TANF benefits are reduced by an equivalent amount. While Maine is one of the few states that does not put a time limit on how long you can receive welfare, according to the Maine Department of Human Services, 85 percent of households receiving benefits are self-sufficient within two years.
Additional Eligibility Requirements
In addition to the income qualifications, Maine has other restrictions on who can receive state assistance. To qualify for welfare benefits in Maine, you must be a resident of Maine, and a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant. The state also requires that at least one member of the household be a child under the age of 18; single adults and the elderly may qualify for food stamps, heating assistance or Medicaid, but only families with children can receive cash assistance. Everyone listed on the application as part of the household must have a Social Security number or proof that they have applied for one. If any of the children in the household do not have a Social Security number, the entire household is ineligible until you have acquired that information.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.