What Happens to My Benefits When I Get a Job and Leave TANF?

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Many parents on TANF worry that when they got a job and leave TANF, they'll lose MaineCare, food supplements, and child care help, too. This situation has improved! Much has happened in the last few years to help families who lose their TANF when they go to work. This information is to help you know what assistance you can still get after you get a job and leave TANF.

Table of Contents

What Happens to MaineCare?

What Happens to My Food Supplements?

What Happens with Child Care?

What Happens with Transportation Costs?

What if I Disagree with DHHS?


What Happens to MaineCare When I Leave TANF?

You and your children can often still get MaineCare even though you are not on TANF. MaineCare income guidelines are much higher than TANF's. Your MaineCare will continue when your TANF ends unless your income is too high to be eligible.

Your children, 18 and younger, will continue to be eligible for MaineCare until the end of their 12-month certification period, no matter how much money you make.

Both you and your children will continue to be eligible unless your family income is over the monthly income guidelines in Table 1. You may be asked to pay a premium, between $8 and $64 per month total, depending on your income and how many children you have.

TABLE 1
MaineCare Income Guidelines for
Children ages 0-18* and Their Parents**

Even if your gross income is slightly higher, you and your children may get MaineCare. MaineCare allows some deductions from your income.

Poverty Guidelines

* Children who are disabled may continue to be eligible even if your income is higher than in Table 1. For more information on the "Katie Beckett" MaineCare option for children with disabilities, contact your local office of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services

** If you are a parent who is disabled and working, you may still be eligible for MaineCare even if your income is higher than Table 2. Contact your local office of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services or Legal Services for the Elderly at 1-800-750-5353.

Over Income? Read this...

If your family income is over the monthly income guidelines in Table 1 because of money you earn and you (the parent) are also enrolled in MaineCare, then you and your children may be eligible for Transitional MaineCare for up to six months. For more information, see the Transitional MaineCare section below.

When your children under 19 can no longer get MaineCare because of higher family income, you can choose to pay to keep MaineCare for your children. You can keep MaineCare for up to 18 more months. This is called the MaineCare "Full Cost Purchase Option."   

The premium for the Full Cost Purchase Option is $250 per month per child.  You can choose to get coverage for all your children or only for one or more of your children. 

For more information, call MaineCare Member Services toll-free: 
1-800-977-6740
TDD/TTY
  1-800-977-6741
 

Transitional MaineCare

If you (the parent) are enrolled in MaineCare, and your income goes from under the amount in Table 2 to over the amount in Table 1, you may still be eligible for MaineCare for up to six more months regardless of how high your income goes. This MaineCare is called "Transitional MaineCare." [Children in MaineCare get MaineCare for 12 months, regardless of family income changes. So, even though you are losing regular MaineCare and going onto Transitional MaineCare, MaineCare may continue for your children, 18 and under, until the end of their 12 month certification period.]>

TABLE 2
Was your income (after allowable deductions) at or below this level before your increase in income?

Poverty Guidelines

What Happens to My Food Supplements When I Leave TANF?

You your family will still get food supplements for at least five months after you leave TANF. When you leave TANF, DHHS will automatically sign you up for transitional food supplements. Your transitional food benefit will be the same amount as the food benefit you got while on TANF, even if your income now is much higher. This will help families who are making more money after they leave TANF. If your family is making less money, you should talk to your eligibility specialist about recalculating your Food Benefit.

You can still get food supplements after your five months in the transitional food supplement program. But, the amount of your earnings will affect your food supplements. In general, households lose about one dollar in food supplements for every three dollars in increased income. To find out if you will still be eligible for food supplements and to estimate the amount you will get, you can use the Food Supplement Estimator on the Pine Tree Legal Assistance website.


What Happens with Child Care
When I Leave TANF?

The Transitional Child Care (TCC) Program helps families who can no longer get TANF or PaS benefits because they are working. Here are some important facts about Transitional Child Care.

Who is eligible?

You will be eligible for TCC if:

  • you have a child under 13 (or older, if the child needs child care because of a physical or mental health problem), and
  • you lost your TANF benefits because of earnings or you voluntarily left TANF and are working, and
  • your family income is under the amount for your family size on this table:

Poverty Guidelines

How do I apply?

When your TANF or PaS ends, ask you TANF worker about Transitional Child Care (TCC).  You will get a letter from the Department of Health Human Services (DHHS) telling you that you may be able to get help with child care costs and suggesting that you contact them. You must contact your eligibility specialist within 12 months after you leave TANF to get help.

Important Note:  TCC is only for people who leave TANF because of work. Be sure to tell you TANF worker that you are working. If you tell your worker that you want to go off TANF but don't say that it is because you have a job, you could lose out on this important child care benefit.

Will the Transitional Child Care Program pay for all of my child care costs?

No, but it should pay for most of them. Depending on your income, you will have to pay a per child fee of between 2% and 10% of your gross income. The cost will go down for each additional child you have in care. You will pay your share of the cost on a monthly basis.

Sometimes your child care fees are more than the maximum allowed by DHHS. In this case you will have to pay your share of TCC and the extra amount over the DHHS's maximum.

Who can be a child care provider?

TCC won't pay for child care provided by the child's parents, guardian, step-parent or household members who were also on the TANF grant. DHHS will also do a background check on the childcare provider (checking for criminal and abuse or neglect history) before they will pay for the child care. Otherwise, TCC will help pay for your choice of child care provider.

Read more here: Parents Can Choose How to Pay for Child Care


What Happens with Transportation Costs When I Leave TANF?

The Transitional Transportation Program (TT) helps families who lose their TANF or Parents as Scholars (PaS) benefits because they got a paying job. Transitional Transportation helps with your transportation cost for the first 12 months after you get your last TANF check. It is paid as a lump sum every 3 months for the first full year.

Example: You get your last TANF check in May. You will be eligible for Transitional Transportation benefits starting in June. You will actually get your first TT benefit check in September, and then another every 3 months for the first full year.

How do I apply for Transitional Transportation benefits?

You will get a letter from DHHS before your TANF cash grant is going to end.  The letter will let you know if you may be eligible for Transitional Transportation benefits. You must tell your worker that you want this benefit within 30 days of getting this notice. If you don't ask within 30 days, you may still be able to get this benefit, but you must be able to show that you had a good reason for not making the request on time.

Important Note: TT is only for people who leave TANF because of earnings from work.

You must make it clear that you are leaving TANF because of earnings from work. Don't just tell your worker that you want to go off TANF without saying that it is because you have a job.  This may cause you to lose out on this important benefit.  TT is only for people who leave TANF because of earnings from work. If you don't tell your TANF worker that you are working, they won't know that you should get this benefit. Report your earnings; then wait until your TANF worker decides you are no longer eligible to be sure you get Transitional Transportation.
 

How much help will I get?

That depends on the amount of your income and your mileage. The amount ranges from $1 a day to a maximum of $10 a day for each day that you work in the 12-month period. (Pine Tree Legal posts more details on payment rates.) 


What can I do if I don't think I am getting what I should or if I disagree with a decision made by the Department?

You have a right to appeal a decision by DHHS. You can have a fair hearing if you disagree with any decision they make about your benefits. This includes decisions about MaineCare, the amount of your TANF or Food Benefits, or any of the transitional benefits described here. You can request a fair hearing by just asking your worker. If you get a letter from DHHS and you disagree with  the decision be sure to make your appeal by the deadline given in the letter. You have a right to bring a friend, lawyer, or advocate to help you at your fair hearing.

Contact your local office of Pine Tree Legal Assistance if you want to ask them for help with your fair hearing.

Updated October 2008

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