Frequently Asked Questions:
What is General Assistance?
General Assistance is a program available in each municipality in Maine to help eligible people who do not have enough money to cover basic living costs. This program provides confidential financial assistance to South Portland residents who are having difficulty meeting basic needs for housing, food, heating fuel, non-elective medical needs and other goods or services essential to maintain themselves or their families.
Where does the money come from?
The program is funded by local property taxes with 70% reimbursement from the state.
How can I apply?
You can apply at the South Portland City Hall located at 25 Cottage Road, in South Portland, adjacent to the Post Office. An appointment may be made during business hours by calling 767-7617. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to Noon, and 1:00 PM to 4:30 PM.
Do I have to be a South Portland resident?
For the purposes of this program a “resident” means a person who is physically present in South Portland with the intention of remaining in South Portland to maintain or establish a home and who has no other residence.
What if I have an emergency and the City Hall is closed?
In a life or health threatening emergency after hours, you may contact the South Portland Police at 799-5511.
How long does it take to apply?
Your first visit will require an interview with a caseworker during which you will complete a written application. First visits take approximately 40 minutes.
What information will I need when I apply?
Your General Assistance budget will be based on the 30-day period following your application. We will also look back to 30 days before you applied, to see what money you received, and how you spent it. Applicants must provide
- Identification & Social Security Cards for Household.
- Birth certificates for household
- Passport/Visa & Immigration Papers
- Signed lease/rental agreement
- Current Bank Statement
- Last thirty days receipts (re-peat applicant)
- Work related expenses
- Medical statement if unable to work
- Proof of all household income
Is the information I give on my application kept confidential?
Yes. Your application and any case records pertaining to it are strictly confidential bylaw. You (the applicant), your attorney and certain government personnel may review your records. The City will need to know who to pay your GA vouchers to, such as your landlord. The City may also need for you to give permission for them to contact people who can verify your income and other necessary information. The general public cannot review your records unless you have given your express (written) permission.
If I receive Food Stamps, TANF, Social Security, Veterans Benefits, Unemployment or Worker’s Compensation, am I still able to receive General Assistance?
Maybe. You would want to apply and if your income is less than your necessary expenses and the program’s income maximum, you will be evaluated.
When will I get help?
We will issue you a written decision as to your eligibility within 24 hours after you apply and we will promptly furnish any assistance for which you are determined eligible within our guidelines. However, please be aware that if you have not furnished sufficient information, (including verification required) to enable us to determine your eligibility, we must consider your application incomplete and find you ineligible for any assistance until you reapply with adequate information.
If I’m eligible will I get a check?
General Assistance does not furnish money directly to the eligible person or household. All assistance is issued in the form of City vouchers payable to the vendors who have provided your household with goods or services.
How much assistance can I get?
The General Assistance Program is regulated by state law, which has set an overall maximum amount of assistance that a household can receive. In addition each municipality’s GA guidelines contain maximum amounts of assistance allowable for each category of assistance including rent, food, electricity, etc. We cannot exceed those established maximums even though household’s expenses for various items may exceed those amounts. To be eligible, you income must fall below the overall maximum level of assistance for a household your size and your income must also be less than the amount you need to pay for basic necessities using city guidelines.
How long can I continue to get help?
At the time an applicant receives a decision on their application, the administrator will inform them of their responsibilities for being eligible in the future. The period covered by your application and any assistance given under that application cannot exceed 30 days. However, there is no limitation on how many times a person can reapply and continue to be found eligible for assistance. The General Assistance program budgets your needs for 30 days forward from the date of your application. Upon initial application for General Assistance, the client must provide documentation (receipts) of all their spending over the past thirty days. The amount of income from all sources received by the household must be provided. The Applicant must show that they have utilized all potential resources the administrator referred them to.
What would cause me to be ineligible or disqualified from the General Assistance Program?
General Assistance is a program that encourages clients to do all they can to prevent needing future assistance. An applicant may be found ineligible to receive general assistance if they: misspend their money on items that are not considered basic necessities (this will count as money that is still available to the household and will affect the amount of eligibility); if a client forfeits a benefit, this benefit will not be replaced; if a client quits a job without just cause, they are disqualified from receiving assistance for a 120 day period, for failing to perform or complete a workfare assignment; for willfully making a false representation about their eligibility; for not providing or permitting the administrator to gather the necessary verification and documentation as required; as well as others.
What if I do not agree with the decision made?
If you are not satisfied you may request a Fair Hearing. You must request the hearing in writing within 5 business days of receiving your decision from the city. We will schedule a Fair Hearing within 5 business days after we receive your request. The Fair Hearing officer will issue a written decision within 5 business days after the hearing. If you are still not satisfied, you have 30 days to appeal to Superior Court.
If you believe the decision violated State GA law you may also call the Department of Human Services to complain at 1-800-442-6003. The Department of Human Services oversees the General Assistance Program in every municipality in the state and provides partial funding for the program statewide.