What is Emergency Assistance?
Emergency Assistance (EA) is a program run by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). EA helps children and their families with some emergencies. The program does not cover all emergencies. You have to have children in your home, but you do not have to be on TANF, to get EA.
If you qualify, EA will pay certain basic needs. For example, if you and your child have just been evicted from your home and you don't have the money to pay the security deposit on a new apartment, you may be able to get EA to help pay the deposit.
EA will also pay for special clothing or equipment for a disabled child such as leg or back braces, if the item is not covered by Medicaid or Vocational Rehabilitation.
Are there limits on when I can get EA?
You can only get EA for 30 days during any 12 month period.
For example, if you got EA on March 1, 2017, you can apply for any other emergencies that you have until March 30, 2017. After that, you can't get EA again for another year (March 2018).
When you apply for EA,think about the time of year and what other emergencies might come up in the next twelve months. If you think you might have a worse emergency later in the year (during the most expensive heating months, for example) and you can get by right now, consider waiting to apply until later in the year.
What If my child got EA during the past year, but I did not?
You can still be eligible for EA if:
- Your child did not live with you when they got EA,
- your income was not used to decide that child's eligibility, and
- you have another child living with you who has not gotten EA within the last year.
How much money can I get from EA?
The limit on EA is $600 per family.
Also, you cannot get more than a certain amount for any one emergency. Those limits are:
- Disasters $350
- Repair or Replacement $500
- Emergency Housing $250
- Utilities $150
- Special Medical Equipment or clothing $250
Since you will not be able to qualify again for twelve months, apply for everything you need (up to $600) at the same time, or within 30 days of your first application.
If you reach your $600 limit before the 30 days expire, you can't get EA again until the next year.
How do I qualify For EA?
To get EA, you must meet these tests:
- Your child must be under the age of 21.
- You must be a "specified relative" of the child. DHHS uses this term for almost any kind of relative, including adoptive relatives, step parents, and spouses of any relative.
- Your income must be below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level or all household members who are applying for EA must be receiving TANF or PaS, SSI or Food Stamps.
- All your bills must be in your name or in the name of an adult or child listed on your application.
- Someone in your family did not cause your emergency by refusing a job or training (unless he had good cause to refuse).
- You meet certain non-financial TANF eligibility tests.
NOTE: If you are in the last trimester of your pregnancy, you can still be eligible, even if you don't have a child living with you.
If you are a child living alone or with others, you can get EA if you lived with a "specified relative" within the last 6 months.
If you have earnings, some of your gross income won't be counted. So, even if your gross income is higher than shown on the chart, you should apply anyway, to see if you are eligible.
What are the non-financial tests?
You cannot get EA unless you also meet these TANF-related tests:
- You are a Maine resident.
- You must give your social security number.
- You must have a child living with you for at least 30 days after you apply for EA.
- You must apply as a unit for all parents, siblings and half-siblings of the dependent children who live in your home.
What kinds of emergencies qualify for EA?
There are 5 categories of EA. These are explained below.
If your house or basic household items have been damaged by a fire, flood or storm, you may be eligible for EA. You must own, or be buying, the house or items. You can use EA to replace things like clothing, food and basic equipment. You can use it to pay for moving, storing or repairing "essential household equipment" including plumbing, electrical and carpentry work. You can use EA to repair your house or pay for rent or a security deposit if you have to move.
You must apply for assistance within 90 days of the disaster. The maximum payment you can get is $350.
How To Apply:
- Get an estimate to repair or replace the damaged items from a qualified professional.
- Send a copy of the estimate to DHHS.
- DHHS will be send their approval to the worker doing the job and will pay them directly.
- DHHS may ask you to verify that the work has been done right before they pay the bill.
If your well, chimney, septic system, furnace, heating stove, or other equipment wears out, or stops working, you may be eligible for EA to repair or replace the item. You must own or be in the process of buying the item.
NOTE: You cannot get EA to buy a stove or furnace more than once every five years.
The maximum payment you can receive is $500.
How To Apply:
- If you want to buy a heating stove, get a statement from the fire department that the chimney and hook-up are safe and that the existing stove is unsafe and needs replacing. Also, you must show that the stove is your primary source of heat, not a back-up system.
- If you want to repair or replace a furnace, you must show that you own the home. For any repairs or replacements, get an estimate from a qualified dealer or repair service.
If you rent and you have to move for any of these reasons, you may be eligible for up to $250 to pay back rent on your old home, a security deposit on a new home, and eviction-related court costs:
- Your building is condemned (not because of something you did)
- You must leave to get away from domestic violence.
- You must leave to avoid conditions that are unsafe for your children (danger must be certified by a public official)
- You are being evicted (not because of misconduct of you or your guests)
NOTE: If you have been abused and your abuser is the one who damaged any property, you will still be able to get EA.
How To Apply:
- If you are being evicted, send DHHS a copy of your eviction notice, or any other document showing that you are being evicted or have been evicted within the last 30 days.
- If you need new housing to escape domestic violence, send DHHS copies of any documents that show that the violence happened.
- If you need new housing because of unsafe or unhealthy conditions, send DHHS copies of any documents that prove such conditions.
- You must tell DHHS the reason for the eviction.
NOTE: If you are being evicted for nonpayment of rent, and you are asking for EA to pay your back rent, you must be able to show that EA will stop the eviction.
If you want EA to pay a security deposit on a new apartment, you must meet one of these tests:
- You had an actual landlord/tenant relationship and are facing eviction or have been evicted within the last 30 days.
- Your building has been condemned.
- A public official has certified that your building is harmful to the health or physical well being of your children.
- You had a lease which expires without written notice and your landlord has refused to extend the lease.
- You are leaving to escape domestic violence.
If you own your home, you can get up to $250 from EA to make a mortgage payment, as long as the mortgage holder will agree not to foreclose on your mortgage, even if you owe more than $250.
You can get up to $250 to pay past due property taxes as long as the town agrees not to foreclose (or to quit claim the property back to you if they have already foreclosed) even if you owe more than $250.
If you have been cut off or have gotten a cut off notice for your electricity, gas, bottled gas, water or sewer, you may get up to $150 from EA to pay past-due utility bills. You can use the money to pay more than one utility.
The utility must be in your name or the name of one of the adults or children listed on your application.
If you were cut off in the past and the utility says you have to pay the old bill before you can get service in your name, you can get EA to pay that old bill.
DHHS will approve EA for utilities only if the company will not cut off your service once the EA is paid.
If you are behind in your sewer payments, you can get EA only when a lien put on your property is maturing.
If you owe less than $150, you must apply to your area C.A.P. agency for benefits before applying for EA.
Special Medical Equipment Or Clothing
If you have a physical or mental incapacity, you may get up to $250 to pay for special clothing or equipment you need for daily living. Examples of covered equipment include corrective shoes, leg braces, bandages, special stockings, back braces and adapting your living space. Eye glasses for adults are not covered. Clothing or equipment will not be covered if they can be paid for through Medicaid or Vocational Rehabilitation
Can I Apply for EA if I am Getting General Assistance (GA) from my Town?
Yes. In an emergency, you can use EA as a supplement to getting GA. You are not required to apply for GA, or use up all of your GA, before applying to EA.
Once I Fill Out My Application, What Happens Next?
The DHHS worker has 10 working days to grant or deny EA. (10 working days means 10 days that the DHHS office is open. In most cases this will be about 2 weeks.) The worker should contact you if they have any questions about your application. The worker must send you a written decision.
If you do not get what you think you should have, you have the right to appeal the decision. The notice will tell you how to apply for a hearing. If you ask for a hearing, it must be held within 10 working days. If you want help with the hearing, call Pine Tree Legal as soon as possible.
Where Do I Apply for EA?
Apply at your local DHHS office. Town offices and local social service agencies may also have the forms.
PTLA # 717