What Happens to My MaineCare and Other 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?

If you get a job or start earning more money, you and your children can often still get MaineCare even though you are not on TANF.  MaineCare income guidelines are higher than TANF's.  If your income puts you over the limit for regular MaineCare, you are likely to be eligible to continue coverage through Transitional MaineCare for at least 6-12 months when your TANF ends.   Your children’s MaineCare may continue for even longer.

If you or your children end up losing MaineCare, then you may be able to get affordable health insurance through the Marketplace (“ObamaCare.”)  This health insurance will have low premiums and out of pocket costs, like co-payments.  So, if your MaineCare ends, then DHHS will send your information to the Marketplace to see if you can get help.   If you need more information, go online to www.healthcare.gov or www.enroll207.com.

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

Your family will still get food supplements for at least five months after you leave TANF.  When you leave TANF for work, DHHS will automatically sign you up for transitional food supplements. Your transitional food supplement 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 Supplement Benefit.

You may still get food supplements after your five months in the transitional food supplement program, but you will need to reapply.  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 Get a Job and Leave TANF?

The Transitional Child Care (TCC) Program helps families who can no longer get TANF or PaS benefits because they are working and their income is too high for TANF.  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 your 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 parent fee of between 2% and 10% of your gross income.   The total amount of assessed fees to a family will not exceed 10% of the family’s gross income for all of their children.

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

If You Lose Transitional Child Care, There Is Another Program To Help You.

The Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP) can help you pay for child care.  The program helps families with incomes up to 85% of the State Median Income.  This is about $995 per WEEK for a household of 3 people.  As in Transitional Child Care, there is a parent fee of between 2% and 10% of your gross income, depending on your income.  There is a two-step application process for CCSP.  First you apply either on-line at My Maine Connection (use the MaineCare application and indicate CCSP in the “applying for” section) or at your local DHHS Office of Family Independence.  Then you’ll receive an application form from CCSP asking for more information, including what your hours of work will are, who your child care provider is, and other information.   Be sure to submit the CCSP application as soon as possible.  Even though it may take a few weeks for CCSP to process your application, benefits are retroactive to the date that the Office of Family Independence received your application.

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 costs for the first 18 months after you get your last TANF check.  It is paid on a monthly basis on the last day of each month.

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 that you may be eligible for Transitional Transportation benefits.  You must tell your worker that you want this benefit within 12 months of getting this notice.

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 on how far you travel to work and to take your child(ren) to daycare.   Transitional Transportation will pay 44 cents per mile up to a cap of $20 per day.  Transitional Transportation lasts up to 18 months from the time you leave TANF for wages.  However, if you don’t apply right away, you will only be eligible for the months remaining in the 18 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 Supplement 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:  August 2015