TANF Time Limit Rules: Hardships

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IV. Hardships that Qualify for a TANF Extension:

You must meet certain requirements to qualify for any of the TANF extensions. You will have to collect the information to show that you are eligible for an extension. If you have trouble getting this information DHHS must help you.

1. Domestic Violence Extension

Who qualifies for a domestic violence extension? An adult or minor parent head of household qualifies for a domestic violence extension if they are currently experiencing domestic violence or suffering from the effects of past domestic violence.

How is “domestic violence” defined?

  • A physical act or threat of physical injury;

  • Sexual abuse of a child or caretaker of a child; or

  • Psychological effects of the abuse.

You may qualify for the domestic violence extension if you:

  • Work with DHHS to create an employment plan. This plan will include steps to reduce the threat of violence and prepare for employment. DHHS will also give the family information about services offered by domestic violence resource centers; and

  • Provide records or other documentation from the court, law enforcement, child protective, social services, a mental health or other medical provider; or other trustworthy source; or

  • Provide a sworn statement from a person other than yourself with knowledge of the domestic violence. This might be someone from an agency that helps people who have experienced domestic violence or a friend or family member.

Length of extension: You can get a Domestic Violence extension for as long as your family continues to suffer from the effects of the violence and is taking steps to become employed, if appropriate. If you qualify you will be given an extension of up to 6 months. After that, you will continue to qualify as long as you continue to show that you are eligible at the end of each six-month extension.

2. Disability Extension

Who qualifies for a disability extension? An adult or minor parent head-of-household who has a disability (there is another extension for adults who need to provide care for children or other family members who have a disability– please see below).

How is “disability” defined?

A disability means that a person has a physical or mental condition that makes them unable to engage in “gainful employment.” “Gainful employment” means steady work at a job that provides a regular source of income to support the family. In order to get a disability extension a person must have a condition that greatly limits that person’s ability to support the family, but the condition does not need to be as severe as it must be to qualify for SSI or Social Security Disability benefits.

You may qualify for an extension based on your own disability if you:

  • Provide medical evidence of the physical or mental condition that limits your ability to work;
  • Apply for disability benefits from SSI, Social Security Disability Benefits, Railroad Retirement Disability, or MaineCare in the disability category if required by DHHS;
  • Provide evidence that you have applied for SSI or Social Security Disability benefits and the status of your application if asked by DHHS. This could be a letter from a lawyer that is helping you or a notice from the Social Security Administration;
  • If required by DHHS, show that you are complying with a rehabilitation plan through the Vocational Rehabilitation program, or that you are eligible but on a waiting list for those services.

Length of extension: You can get a disability extension for as long as you meet the requirements for this extension. Once you qualify you will be given an extension of up to 6 months. After that you may get unlimited additional extensions as long as you show that you continue to be eligible at the end of each extension.

3. Extension for Caring for a Significantly Disabled Family Member

Who qualifies for an extension to care for a family member? This extension may be given to families when the adult (or both adults in a two-parent family) or the minor parent head-of-household is needed to care for a family member with a serious disability.

You may qualify for an extension based on needing to care for a family member if:

  • You are needed to care for a family member who lives in the same home and is on the TANF grant, or would be on the grant if not for their disability. For example, a disabled child receiving SSI is not on the TANF grant, but would qualify; and

  • The adult or child needing care has a temporary or permanent mental or physical illness or incapacity and no other care is available.

  • You provide proof from a qualified medical professional (can be a counselor):
    • Verifying the household member’s illness or disability; and

    • Verifying that the household member needs full-time care. Full-time care means care that reasonably prevents the caretaker from being able to work.

  • You make a plan with DHHS describing the care needed for the disabled family member that will enable you to eventually return to work or find some other way to support the family.

Length of extension: You can get an extension to care for a disabled family member for as long as you continue to meet the requirements for this extension. Once you qualify you will be given an extension of up to 6 months. After that, you may get unlimited 6-month extensions as long as you show that you continue to qualify at the end of your last extension.

4. Education or Training Extension

Who qualifies for an education or training extension? This extension may be given to families when the adult is participating in an approved education or training program (including Parents as Scholars).

You may qualify for an education/training extension if:

  • In your 60th month of receiving TANF you are in good standing and making good progress toward completing your education or training program that is approved by DHHS. This means you must:

  • Maintain at least a 2.0 GPA (grade point average);

  • Participate for the required number of hours and verify your participation; and

  • Provide your ASPIRE worker with your financial aid award letters and grades as they become available.

Please note: the following education and training programs will not qualify for an extension: (1) Adult Basic Education; (2) GED activities; (3) English as a Second Language (ESL); or (4) High School.

Length of extension: You can get an extension to participate in a training or education program for as long as you continue to meet the requirements for this extension. Once you qualify you will be given an extension of up to 6 months. After that you may get unlimited, additional extensions as long as you show that you continue to qualify for an extension.

5. Working Families Extension

Who qualifies for a working family extension? This extension may be given to families when an adult is working but still qualifies for TANF.

You may qualify for the working family extension if:

  • You are working at a paying job for at least 35 hours a week; and

  • You are still financially eligible for TANF.

Go here to determine whether you still qualify for TANF while you are working.

Please note: If you are self-employed you must show that you are working at least 35 hours per week and earning at least the minimum wage ($7.50 per hour) for your work.

Length of extension: You can get an extension to continue receiving TANF as long as you are working at least 35 hours a week. Once you qualify you will be given an extension of up to 6 months. After that you may get unlimited additional extensions as long as you show that you continue to qualify at the end of each extension.

6. Pregnancy Extension

Who qualifies for an extension based on pregnancy? This extension may be given to families when an adult is pregnant.

You may qualify for the pregnancy extension if:

  • You are in the last trimester of your pregnancy when you reach your 60th month of TANF assistance; and

  • You are the only adult (or minor parent head-of-household) on the TANF grant in the household.

Length of extension: One extension of up to 6 months. This extension can be used for 3 months in the last trimester of your pregnancy and the first three months after your child is born.

7. Job Loss Extension

Who qualifies for an extension based on job loss? This extension may be given to families when, after already exhausting their 60-month limit, the adult loses a job.

You may qualify for the job loss extension if:

  • You have been employed for at least 12 months after you reached your 60-month time limit. This doesn’t have to be 12 months in a row, just 12 months in total after leaving TANF. For example, if you apply for an extension 18 months after you reach your 60th month, you will have to show that you worked for at least 12 of those 18 months.

  • You lost a job through no fault of your own (see “good cause” for job loss below); and

  • You applied for unemployment benefits, but were not eligible because you didn’t have enough earnings to qualify.

The following are “good cause” reasons for losing a job or refusing to take a job:

  1. The employment did not pay at least the Maine minimum wage.

  2. The employment resulted in your family experiencing a net loss of cash income.

  3. The daily hours of work and the weekly hours of work exceeded those customary to the occupation.

  4. The employment was dangerous to health or safety.

  5. Daily commuting time or daily distance was more than a two hour round trip commute from your residence.

  6. You were not physically and/or mentally able to do the job.

  7. You were required to join or quit a union.

  8. There was a legal strike or lock-out or other bona fide labor dispute at the work site.

  9. The job or work hours interfered with your religious beliefs.

  10. Community resources (i.e. transportation and child care) necessary for participation in employment were not available.

  11. The employment offered interrupted a program in progress under an approved Family Contract.

  12. You were laid off and job-attached as defined by Unemployment Insurance law.

Please Note: There is no requirement that you must be employed for a certain number of hours per week during the 12 months. Any months that you work at all should count.

Length of extension: One extension of up to 6 months. You may qualify for additional extensions, but there must be a break of at least 12 months between the extension periods.

8. Emergency Situation Extension

What is an emergency situation? This extension may be given to families facing an emergency situation.

How is “emergency situation” defined?
Emergency situation means circumstances that: (1) are beyond the control of the family; and (2) prevent the adult(s) in the household from working.

Examples of an emergency may include:

  • The death of a child, parent, or spouse;

  • Homelessness due to a disaster such as fire, flood, or other natural disaster; or

  • Being the victim of a violent crime.

These examples all sound very serious. But remember, that what is needed for an emergency extension is an event that is beyond the family’s control and prevents the adult from working. This could also mean that a period of homelessness or a separation that leaves your family without income could be considered an emergency.

An emergency extension will not be granted if a person’s immigration or citizenship status prevents them from getting a job. For example, a person would not qualify for an emergency extension if their immigration status caused a delay in getting a work permit.

The following programs also help families with children in certain circumstances:

Alternative Aid Program: Available from DHHS. Helps families with children who are not on TANF resolve emergencies that prevent them from getting or keeping a job. Aid is given in the form of a voucher and can equal up to three months’ worth of TANF benefits ($1,455 for a family of 3). Read more

Emergency Assistance Program: Available from DHHS. Helps families with children get help with emergencies for 30 days during any 12 month period. The total limit on assistance is $600 in a 30-day period. Read more

General Assistance: Available from your city or town. Helps people without enough income to pay for basic needs like housing, food or medication. Read more on Pine Tree Legal website

Length of extension: One extension of up to 6 months.

June 2012