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Homeowners Assistance and Housing Programs
Maine – Making Home Affordable options
Making Home Affordable is a federal program designed to cover different homeowners’ hardships and financial situations. Under the program there are various options that can help Maine homeowners in hardship stay in their homes. Depending on the situation Maine homeowners in hardship can apply to lower their monthly payments, lower the interest rate on their home loan or even get principal reduction in some cases.
There are foreclosure alternatives and temporarily help for unemployed homeowners as well.
Here are some of the most used options under Making Home Affordable Program:
- Lower your monthly mortgage payments with Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)
- Lower your interest rate with Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)
- Check eligibility for principal reduction with Principal Reduction Alternative SM (PRA)
- Get help if currently unemployed with Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP)
- Reduce your 2nd mortgage monthly payments with Second Lien Modification Program (2MP)
- Explore your foreclosure alternatives with Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA)
- FHA Home Affordable Modification Program (FHA-HAMP)
HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) approved housing counselor can be reached at: 888-995-4673 (Hearing impaired: 877-304-9709 TTY) to help you understand your options, prepare your application, and work with your mortgage company.
Food Assistance Programs, Services, and Organizations in Maine
Maine Food Supplement Program
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or the Food Stamps Program as it is known by the public, is a federal program that provides grants to the States for purpose of reducing the hunger and malnutrition in all eligible households across the nation. SNAP helps provide healthy food to qualifying low-income families with children, elderly or disabled in each State of the USA, including Maine. Learn more about SNAP.
It is important to know that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal entitlement program funded by U.S. Government grants. Any U.S. Citizen, even some legal alien residents, will get free food assistance as long as they meet the SNAP eligibility guidelines. In other words, there is enough Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for every American that qualifies.
In Maine the SNAP is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and its Office of Family Independence (OFI). The United States Department of Agriculture, Food & Nutrition Service (FNS), is the federal agency responsible for overseeing the Food Supplement Program, which provides the Food Supplement Benefits (а.к.а. Food Stamps) to all Maine qualified residents. According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the Food Supplement Program helps low-income people buy the food they need for good health.
Who is Eligible for Food Supplement Benefits in Maine?
The eligibility rules and benefit amounts in Maine, like in other States, are based on the household income, resources, household size, and are largely determined by regulations issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service.
The federal law allows States some flexibility when implementing SNAP on a State level. For example, Maine can adapt some of the food assistance program rules in order to meet the needs of eligible, low‐income local population.
Main Food Supplement Program is a food assistance program, primarily designed for individuals and families in need of help, with limited income resources, who compose a household, and purchase and prepare their meals together for home consumption.
For the purpose of the SNAP, certain people must be included in one household account even if they purchase and prepare meals separately. Husbands and wives of any household member, their children under age 22 when living together, plus children younger than 18 who are dependents of an adult household member are all considered as a part of one household formation.
For most households, food supplement benefits can provide only for a part of their food budget.
Households participating in Main Food Supplement Program must spend some of their own money along with the food supplement benefits they are getting, in order to buy enough food for a month.
In general, to qualify for Food Supplement benefits in Maine, you must meet the following basic eligibility requirements:
- Maine Resident – must be a U.S. Citizen or a legal resident with SNAP eligible non-citizen status;
- Work Requirement – unless exempted, each able-bodied household member who is 16 to 60 year old must be registered to work, accept a suitable employment offer, and take part in employment and training program if required by DHHS;
- Limited Resources – households must have countable household assets limited to $2,250 or less ($3,250 or less for households containing a member who is disabled or 60 years of age or older) – some assets that are exempted are household’s home, personal belongings, life insurance, resources of individuals who are getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or other public assistance;
- Income Limits – Income limits eligibility depends on the household size and composition. Households with no elderly or disabled individuals must meet both gross and net income limits. Households with elderly or disabled individuals must meet only the net income limits. Gross income includes wages, salaries, commissions, dividends, child support, self-employment income, unemployment compensation, social security benefits and other. Household net income is computed by deducting certain allowed expenses from gross income. Some of allowed deductions are utility and telephone expenses, cost of dependent care, portion of medical expenses and a standard deduction from earned income. Local OFI office can help with the current list of all allowable deductions. Check the table with Food Supplement Program income limit standards as per household size below.
[table id=37 /]
Source: USDA, SNAP Income Eligibility Standards
Some Maine residents may be automatically or so called categorically eligible for Food Supplement assistance if they already participate in other means tested assistance programs. Getting any benefits including pamphlets from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), funded by federal grants, or receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can make the applicant for Food Supplement benefits categorically eligible, thus bypassing the income eligibility and any asset eligibility rules. Under the federal SNAP regulations, States can assign a gross income limit of 200% of the federal poverty line (FPL) or less in order to use any TANF-funded benefit that can make food stamps applicants eligible.
In Maine, to be categorical eligibility, the household for example must have been provided with a Resource Guide and meet all other conditions of eligibility for Food Supplement benefits. No asset test is required, and gross income limit for households without an elderly or disabled member is 185% of the federal poverty guidelines (see table above).
Best way to find out if you qualify for Main Food Supplemental Program benefits is to apply.
You can also do a preliminary quick eligibility check before applying for Food Supplemental benefits.
Food Supplement Quick Eligibility Check
Use this Pre-Screening Tool to find out if you might be eligible to get Food Supplement Program benefits (Food Stamps). The screening allows interested in getting Maine food stamps to provide some basic information and determine if they are potentially eligible for benefits.
Although you will be notified immediately if you qualify after completing the questionnaire you still have to make an application at your Maine local OFI. Even if you are unsure whether you qualify you still may be eligible for food stamp benefits and you should still apply. There are many federal and state specific requirements that must be met for Food Stamp benefits applicants in different situations and only DHHS OFI can determine your eligibility for Maine Food Supplement Program.
What are the Dollar Amounts for Maine Food Supplement Benefits?
If approved, the Food Supplement (Food Stamp) benefit amount depends on the household size and the amount of the their net income. USDA has maximum food stamp benefit limits per month per household. Check below what are the maximum allowed food stamp monetary amounts. The food assistance dollar amounts are called allotments.
[table id=29 /]
Source: USDA, SNAP Maximum Allotments
How to Apply for Food Supplement Benefits (Food Stamps) in Maine?
Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) uses one application form for Food Supplement, TANF, PaS, or MaineCare assistance. Applicants need to answer questions only that concern the assistance they are applying for.
More than one assistance program in an application is common practice by a lot of the States, since most of the people in need of food stamps are likely to be in need of cash, medical assistance, or in need of child care assistance.
If you visit your local DHHS office, you may just have to complete an inter-active interview with OFI worker and sign the printed application.
You may request a phone interview and the printed Application for Food Supplement will be mailed to you to sign it and return back to the DHHS OFI.
The DHSS Office must accept all applications on the date of delivery as long as they have name, address, and signature. All required information and its verification can be provided later at the interview or upon request.
Before decision is made a DHHS OFI worker has to verify all the paperwork and interview the applicant. If the applicant is eligible, they will receive a notice stating how much food assistance benefit and for how long is the applicant eligible for, along with reporting requirements.
Food Supplement Program applicants also have the option to apply for benefits online using My Maine Connection.
Food Supplement Benefits (Food Stamps) Verification of Information, Rules, Approval
If you submitted application for Food Supplement Benefits and have scheduled an interview you may be required to bring application supporting documents and proofs. Here are examples of some basic proofs that you may need to provide:
- Identification (Driver’s License, State ID card, passport);
- Where you live (a rental agreement, current bill with your address listed);
- Social Security Numbers (see note below about certain non-citizens);
- Earned income of everyone in your household for the past 30 days (recent pay stubs, a work statement from an employer). NOTE: If self employed, income and expense or tax records;
- Unearned income (Unemployment benefits, SSI, Social Security, Veteran’s benefits, child support, worker’s compensation, school grants or loans, rental income, etc.);
- Bank checking and saving accounts statements
- Housing costs (rent receipts, mortgage bills, property tax bill, insurance documents);
- Phone and utility bills;
- Medical expenses for anyone in your household who is elderly (60 and older) or disabled;
- Child and adult care costs due to someone working, looking for work, attending training or school, or participating in a required work activity;
- Child support paid by a person in your household;
- Proof of lawful immigration status for non-citizens applying for benefits (an Alien Registration Card, visa).
The Food Supplement Program program has special rules for elderly or disabled applicants and beneficiaries. The federal rules state that food stamp beneficiaries between 16 and 60 years of age, if not exempted, must register for work, accept an offer of suitable work, and take part in an employment and training program to which they are referred by DHHS OFI.
In Maine, this is the the Food Supplement Employment and Training (FSET) Program. It is a mandatory employment and training program, where offered, for all able-bodied adults not meeting work requirements in households that are getting Food Supplement Benefits. It is a federal requirement that participants 18 to 50 years of age and who are identified as “able-bodied adults without dependents” must participate in a work program at least 20 hours per week in order to receive more than three months of food assistance in a 36-month period.
Applicants waiting for Food Supplement Benefits approval in Maine should get a response within 30 days from the date they submitted their application to the local DHHS OFI. Households getting food stamps benefits must report any changes of their household situation in a period of time determined by the DHHS OFI – all this to assure their participation in the Food Supplement Program.
Approved! When and How Do I Get the Food Supplement Benefits?
Maine Food Supplement Program provides the benefits via the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of the Maine Food Supplement Program are transferred to the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through the Maine EBT Card – Pine Tree Card.
Benefits are made available from the 10th to the 14th of every month, based on the last digit of the recipient’s birth day:
Birth day ends in: 0 or 9 = benefits available on the 10th of the month
Birth day ends in: 1 or 8 = benefits available on the 11th of the month
Birth day ends in: 2 or 3 = benefits available on the 12th of the month
Birth day ends in: 4 or 7 = benefits available on the 13th of the month
Birth day ends in: 5 or 6 = benefits available on the 14th of the month
If you have any question regarding your EBT Account or Card call Maine EBT Customer Service: 1-800-477-7428
How and Where to Use the Food Supplement (Food Stamp) Benefits?
When approved, Maine Food Supplement Program beneficiaries will get Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards – Maine Pine Tree Card. The beneficiaries can use their cards at any Maine Food Stamps approved grocery stores and farmers’ markets that are authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
With their Pine Tree Card food stamp recipients can buy any food to be eaten at home by people, including baby food, non-alcoholic beverages, and seasonings. Allowed are also seeds and plants to grow food for family’s consumption.
Non-grocery items such as cleaning products, pet food, paper products, alcohol, or tobacco are not allowed.
I Need Food Stamps Now. It is an Emergency!
Some households may get Expedited Services, as per federal rules – that is food assistance benefits within 7 calendar days if your household has less than $150 in monthly gross income and liquid resources (cash, checking or savings accounts) of $100 or less; or your rent/mortgage and utilities are more than your household’s combined monthly income and liquid resources; or a member of your household is a migrant or seasonal farm worker. In order to get expedite assistance, if you qualify, provide all required information and proof as soon as possible.