1 Guide to Welfare in Maryland Welfare Advocates November, 2008
2 Celebrating 29 Years of Education and Advocacy Since its founding in 1979, Welfare Advocates has grown into an umbrella organization of nearly 500 service providers, agencies, religious organizations, advocates, and consumers. The efforts of the statewide coalition focus on public education and advocacy. We remain committed to identifying the needs of and recommending solutions for those on public assistance and those who have moved from welfare toward self-sufficiency. This goal is reflected in our membership and our participation in meetings, workshops, policy development, and conferences. Over the past 29 years, the efforts of Welfare Advocates have helped to call attention to the state s provision of assistance to poor and hard-working individuals and families. In part, through our education and advocacy, there has been substantial progress in developing programs so that those on public assistance can work toward self-sufficiency and those moving from welfare to work have the necessary supports to enable them to continue moving along toward economic independence. As the families who are affected by the laws and policies explained on the following pages know all too well there is still much to be done. Welfare Advocates will continue to: Educate ourselves and others; Support effective programs to help the poor move beyond welfare; and Support the provision of an adequate safety net. For more information: Welfare Advocates 228 West Lexington Street Suite 220 Baltimore, Maryland P) F)
3 Background: Over the years, Maryland has designed a variety of welfare-to-work strategies as well as adopted various policies that have been termed welfare reform. Except for the institution of AFDC some 60 years ago, nothing has been as dramatic or as sweeping as Maryland s welfare reform legislation that passed in 1996 and the Federal government s passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of The Federal bill was signed into law August 22, 1996 and Maryland s law became effective October Maryland also passed significant legislation in 1997 as well as other years. The federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program was due to be re-authorized in Finally TANF was extended in October 2005 in the Deficit Reduction Act of Since 1995 to June, 2007, the caseload in Maryland has dropped by about 78%. Today, about 49,000 individuals the majority of whom are children some 36,300 receive monthly cash assistance. Highlights of Maryland s Family Investment Program (FIP) (incorporating the federal and state requirements) 1. Block Grants: Maryland accepted the Federal Block Grant, effective October This means that Maryland receives a set amount of federal funding for welfare assistance $229.1 million annually regardless of caseloads. The $229.1 million block grant funding that comes to Maryland was extended under the Deficit Reduction Act. 2. Time Limits: The Clock Began Ticking on January 1, 1997 Maryland implemented Universal Engagement in December All Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) work-mandatory recipients now called work-eligible must be engaged in work or a work activity for at least 30 hours per week or 20 hours per week if a single parent has a child under age 6. There is a five year (60 months) cumulative lifetime limit on the receipt of cash assistance for families headed by an adult parent. For a specific explanation of the State s five year lifetime policy, please see page 9. ~ Page 1 ~
4 3. Local Flexibility: The Department of Human Resources (DHR) allocates FIP funding to local departments of social services who know best the services needed for and resources available to customers. This allocation includes the local department s share of funds for child care, employment and training services, welfare avoidance grants, emergency assistance, and program administration. Local departments submit annual plans (which have all been approved by DHR) to achieve mutually agreed upon outcomes, including caseload reduction and customer satisfaction. 4. New Approach from the Beginning: Child Support First: Customers must cooperate with child support services at application and assign child support rights to Maryland to reimburse the State for any cash assistance paid to a family. Customers must comply with Child Support Enforcement requirements as a condition of the receipt of TCA, unless there is a good cause for not doing so, e.g. previous spousal abuse. Assessment: The assessment is completed with applicants and recipients regarding their reasons for applying or for the continued reliance on assistance. Emphasis is placed on their skills, needs, and job readiness. The assessment includes possible alternatives to cash assistance, such as a welfare avoidance grant, child care, or medical assistance. Local departments use an enhanced assessment for adult or minor parent customers. These assessments identify any potential barriers that customers may have in obtaining employment, which could include substance abuse problems, as well as potential resources that may help a family move toward independence. Universal Engagement: Maryland engages all applicants and recipients from the time they apply for assistance, unless exempt in an activity. The specific activities and barrier removals flow from the assessment noted above. Customers are required to participate for at least 30 hours per week or 20 hours per week if a single parent has a child under age 6. ~ Page 2 ~
5 Screening for Substance Abuse: Each adult and minor parent TCA applicant, certain TCA recipients, and certain Food Supplement Program applicants and recipients will be screened for substance abuse in the local Department of Social Services (DSS) by an Addictions Specialist. If the screening and assessment indicate the individual has a substance abuse problem, the individual must sign a release form that allows the DSS case manager to receive the results of testing and screening, results of treatment referrals, and ongoing treatment status from the provider. As a requirement of eligibility, the adult or TCA minor parent and Food Supplement Program applicant or recipient must participate in the screening and assessment at initial application. As appropriate, the individual must enroll and maintain active enrollment in appropriate substance abuse treatment when there is a referral from the addiction specialist or substance abuse treatment provider. An individual convicted of a drug related felony committed after August 22, 1996 must comply with all eligibility requirements and participate in drug testing. If an appropriate substance abuse treatment program is not available, the customer is not sanctioned. Denials related to substance abuse determination for an applicant: When the addictions specialist notifies the DSS that a TCA applicant failed to comply, the local DSS case manager denies the application, notifies the applicant of the reason and separately determines eligibility for Medical Assistance and Food Stamps. If the applicant is only applying for Food Stamps, the applicant s needs are removed and eligibility is determined for any other household members. Sanctions related to substance abuse determination for a recipient: If a TCA recipient fails to comply with requirements, the local DSS follows conciliation procedures, removes the individual s portion of the grant and pays the remainder of the cash benefit to a 3 rd -party payee. The reduced grant remains in effect until the individual complies with the substance abuse portion of the requirement. When a Food Supplement Program recipient fails to comply, the individual s needs are removed. Conciliation procedures do not apply to Food Stamp recipients. A recipient convicted of a drug-related felony after July 1, 2000, while receiving TCA or Food Supplement Program benefits, is ineligible for TCA or Food Supplement Program benefits for one year from date of conviction. After the one year of ineligibility, the ineligible individual who complies with substance abuse regulations and other eligibility rules (child support, work requirements, etc.) may be eligible for TCA or Food Supplement Program benefits. Compliance, including drug testing, is required for two years starting from either the date the individual is released from incarceration, completes the term of probation or completes parole or mandatory supervision, whichever comes later. Note: There is a different sanction policy for non-compliance with a work activity than with the substance abuse requirements. Non-compliance with a substance abuse requirement reduces the grant while noncompliance with a work activity results in a full family sanction (see page 8). However, the client sanctioned for non-compliance with the substance abuse requirement must enroll in required work activities, if appropriate. ~ Page 3 ~
6 Welfare Avoidance Grants (WAG): A cash grant, typically equal to three months of TCA, may be given to avoid cash assistance. A WAG is not an entitlement benefit. An individual who seeks consideration for a WAG must apply for TCA first and be considered a good candidate for WAG assistance. Child Care and/or Medical Assistance Only: If a customer does not want TCA, the customer can file for Medical Assistance or a Child Care Subsidy (POC) voucher if such assistance meets the family s needs. While the Medical Assistance Program is administered by the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and the Child Care Subsidy Program by the Maryland State Department of Education, eligibility for these programs is determined in local departments of social service. Car and Other Assets: Applicants and recipients may now own vehicles of any value. All vehicles are excluded from the asset test for cash assistance, Food Stamps and Medical Assistance. Other assets, easily converted to cash, are restricted to a total limit of $2,000 for TCA and Food Stamps. Family Independence Plan: Sets out a plan for moving the family into unsubsidized work. The Plan will set out the obligations of the individual, which may include a requirement to attend work and training activities, keep school-aged children in school, immunize children, attend parenting and money management classes, file for potential benefits, as well as other requirements. The Plan describes the services the State will provide to assist the individual to achieve independence. The local department and the customer address barriers to employment in the Plan, as well. A sanction may be applied if the customer does not follow the Plan. Right to File and Decision on the Application: Any individual has the right to file an application for the benefit(s) of their choice. The customer may either complete and sign a paper application or be screened by a local department staff person. The case manager must make the eligibility decision no later than 30 calendar days from the date of the signed application. The applicant must comply with all requirements like searching for work in order to qualify for benefits. 5. Serves a New Customer Base: Family now means the parent/s or other caretaker relative acting as a parent, a minor child/ren or a pregnant woman. They must be residents of Maryland. Services for certain legal immigrants: Legal Immigrants Here Before 8/22/96 Legal Immigrants Here On/After 8/22/96 Family Eligible for TCA Family Eligible for TCA Family Eligible for Medical Assistance Children/Pregnant Women Eligible for Medical Assist. Children Eligible for Food Stamps if here for 5 years or more Most legal immigrants are eligible for Food Stamps, but some must wait for five years after obtaining legal immigrant status. Step Parent Families: Step parents with income under 50% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) will not have the income counted against the grant. Those with incomes exceeding 50% of the FPL will count, after allowable deductions. Non-Parent Caretaker Relatives with no children of their own included in the TCA grant are NOT included in the TCA grant thus exempting them from required work activities. Instead, the related children receive a Room & Board payment equal to one person higher than the number of children. [Example: If there are two children and a non-parent caretaker relative, the TCA payment plus Room & Board payment would equal the grant for a family of three]. ~ Page 4 ~
7 Medical Assistance for Children Losing SSI Eligibility: The State will provide Medical Assistance benefits to those minors who qualified for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as a disabled minor before August 22, 1996 and subsequently lose their benefits. The State will take the steps necessary to obtain Federal reimbursement for these health services. The Federal Balanced Budget Act of 1997 requires that Medical Assistance coverage be provided for minors who lose SSI as a result of the Federal welfare reform legislation of Places of a New Focus on Work: Federal rules require adult household members to participate in work activities for a certain number of hours per week the minimum requirement is 30 hours per week. Maryland s requirement for work activities is 30 hours per week; at least 20 of these hours must be in core activities, defined by the federal government. Minor parents under age 18 must be registered and attending school 80% of the time. Federal law requires States to meet certain participation rates that only count participation in core activities. The Federal participation rate requirement for FFY 97 was 25% of the caseload. The rate rose to: 30% in FFY 98 / 35% in FFY 99 / 40% in FFY 00 / 45% in FFY 01 / and leveled off at 50% in FFY 02. States must continue to meet the 50% participation rate requirement, based on the lower 2005 caseload. Under the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) Work Activities have been significantly modified and restricted: Core Activities required for 20 hours each week to count for the state s work participation rate are: Job Search and Job Readiness: Time limited to four consecutive weeks and a total of six weeks a year. Now includes substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment and rehabilitation services. As little as one hour for this activity counts as a full week against the time limit. Unsubsidized Employment: A full- or part-time job that is not subsidized by TCA or other public programs. Subsidized Public or Private Employment: A job in the private or public sector for which the employer receives a subsidy from TCA or other public funds to offset some or all of the wages and cost of employing a recipient. Work Experience: A work activity where an individual can acquire general skills, training, knowledge, and work habits necessary to obtain employment. Participants continue to receive TCA. On-the-Job-Training: Training in the public or private sector given to a paid employee while engaged in work that provides knowledge and skills essential to performing the job. Community Service: TCA recipients work in structured programs operated by public agencies or non-profit organizations for the direct benefit to the community. ~ Page 5 ~
8 Vocational Educational Training: Organized educational programs, limited to 12 months in a lifetime, which help prepare individuals for employment. Training must be provided by an educational organization (e.g. community college, voc-tech school) and may now include two and four year college degree programs. Providing Child Care: An activity which a recipient may only provide childcare for another TCA recipient who is in a community service work activity. Non-Core Activities: Are secondary school leading to a GED, education directly related to employment and job skills training for a specific occupation. A customer may participate in one of these activities after at least 20 hours of participation in a core activity. Education: Teen parents and teenagers without a high school diploma must participate in an educational activity leading to a high school diploma. This is a countable activity for them. Teenagers (16 and older) without a child must participate in a work activity if they do not attend school. Children under the age of 16 must be registered in school and attend 80% of the time. All other individuals will be restricted to a maximum of 12 months of vocational educational pursuits, as authorized by the local DSS. There is no provision for post-secondary education as a countable work activity for adults. Child care is provided for both work activities and education. Exemption from Work Activities: A parent caring for a child under one year of age for a maximum of 12 months in the parent s lifetime. A teen mother without a high school diploma who has a child less than 12 weeks of age. Adults and children who are severely disabled (must have applied for SSI). A child under 16 years of age. 7. Services to Help Individuals Transition to Work Are Provided: Once an individual has found employment, some cash assistance may continue. The Earned Income Disregard: Maryland allows individuals moving from welfare to work to keep 40% of their earnings, using a four week month when calculating eligibility for continued benefits. This means an individual with two children could earn about $900 per month and still be eligible for some cash assistance. If the parent has child care expenses, allowable deductions and earnings could be even higher, as an individual can also deduct up to $200 per month per child, for out-of-pocket child care expenses ($100 per month if working less than 100 hours). ~ Page 6 ~
9 Working individuals can elect to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in their paychecks or receive it in a lump sum at tax time. The EITC amount does not count when calculating TCA eligibility. Working individuals can also claim the Child Tax Credit when they file their taxes giving them a bigger refund. Employment Requirement: An adult can not voluntarily quit a job without good cause. If a recipient quits without good cause, a full family work sanction is imposed. Applicant households are denied benefits for 30 days from the date of the quit without good cause. Medical Assistance: Will be extended for an additional 12 months for families if they have received three months of TCA in the preceding six months, and are no longer eligible for cash assistance because of wages from employment. The Medical Assistance extension should be automatic when earnings or going to work is reported. If not, the recipient should tell the DSS worker: I have a job tell what they earn and say I want Medical Assistance. Even after this one year extension, Maryland offers Medical Assistance coverage called Maryland s Children s Health Insurance Program (M-CHIP) for children, depending on family size and income, as follows: Age of Child Household Income All Children Up to Age 19 Up to 200% of Poverty ($34,340 for a family of three) Pregnant women of any age There is also MD Children s Health Insurance Program (M-CHIP) Premium. This provides children in families with income between 200% and 300% of poverty with health coverage through HealthChoice. Families pay a premium of either $42 or $53 per month, depending on income, regardless of the number of children covered. To enroll in HealthChoice, call: Once enrolled, for problems or complaints, call: Families who become ineligible for cash assistance solely because of increased Child Support collections are eligible for four additional months of Medical Assistance. Food Stamps: Families who leave TCA for reasons other than a sanction will receive transitional food stamps for five months. The earnings of the family are not used to determine the amount of food stamps the family will receive for these five months. Child Care: May be provided for up to one year after leaving welfare for work, depending on the parent s earnings. The need for Child Care should be discussed with the local DSS worker. ~ Page 7 ~
10 8. Sanctions and Penalties: There is a FULL FAMILY SANCTION (the loss of all cash assistance) for non-compliance with Work or Child Support requirements. **Individuals receive notice of non-compliance and then have a 30-day opportunity to comply with the requirement. **Benefits can be restored. There is immediate restoration of the cash grant upon compliance with any requirement other than work. For Non-Compliance with a Work Activity: For 1st instance TCA benefits are restored the day after compliance. For 2nd instance TCA benefits are restored the day after 10 days of compliance. For 3rd instance or more TCA benefits are restored the day after 30 days of compliance. TCA benefits are prorated from the day after the customer meets compliance. Example: Customer complies with all the activity days in the 10-day sanction period. The customer s benefits are prorated from the day after the 10 th day. A sanctioned family retains eligibility for food stamps and Medical Assistance, if otherwise eligible. Food stamps do not increase and may decrease when there is a sanction. There are food stamp work requirements as well. After cash benefits end due to a sanction, Transitional Cash Assistance MAY be available for up to three months through a third-party payee. The household retains eligibility for Food Stamps and Medical Assistance. A 3rd-Party Payee (approved by the local DSS) may be an individual, nonprofit or for-profit organization, as well as government entities. A fee may be paid to cover the administrative costs of managing the benefits. Family grants are reduced when school-age children do not meet school attendance standards and when pre-school children do not receive preventive health care. The grant is reduced $25 per month per child for non-compliance. Housing Subsidies Count as Income: If a family lives in Public Housing, Section 8, or FMHA Section 15 housing, $60 per month of the subsidy is counted as income. ~ Page 8 ~
11 9. Five-Year Life Time Limits: The five year or 60 month, cumulative lifetime limit became effective January 1, The first families reached five years in January The following are exempt from time limits: A minor child who is not head of household or married to head of household A victim of domestic violence who is receiving counseling A person severely disabled who has applied for SSI and agrees to repay the State when SSI benefits are paid A person receiving cash assistance under the Earned Income Disregard provision (page 7) Exemptions Due to Hardship: The Federal government allows 20% of the caseload to be exempt from the five year lifetime limit. Even if a household fits into the 20% exemption, the local DSS still must make a determination of hardship. In addition to the 20% exemption, Maryland may provide a hardship exemption to any family reaching the five year lifetime limit. Any family exempt from the five year lifetime limit because of hardship will continue to receive the full cash benefit and must continue to meet requirements. Process for Local DSS to Make a Determination of Hardship: The caseworker reviews the signed Family Independence Plan (page 4) that outlines the requirements that the parent is to meet and the support services to be provided by the local DSS, as well as documented case records. If the local DSS has not been able to provide all agreed-upon support services or the services did not remove the identified barriers and the family has demonstrated good faith efforts, a hardship exemption is provided. A new Family Independence Plan must be established between the local DSS and the family within 60 days. The plan must include the goals and intent of the family, a list of problems and/or barriers to be overcome to achieve the goal, a list of services to be provided by the local DSS and the responsibilities/activities of the family. Time frames must be included. The caseworker makes a recommendation whether a hardship exemption should be granted. The recommendation must be reviewed and approved by the FIP supervisor and the local DSS director or designee. Please Note: Any family receiving an exemption will continue to receive full cash benefits, but must continue to comply with all rules and requirements. A family not complying with the rules and requirements will receive the sanction applicable to the non-compliance. ~ Page 9 ~
12 10. Simplified Reporting for Food Stamps: Most households are certified for a six month period and do not need to report a change unless income exceeds 130% of the FPL ($1,907 per month/family of three) effective 10/1/08. Of course, if there is a change that will increase the household s benefits like a new baby in the household it is advantageous to report the change. We are grateful that the Office of Programs, Family Investment Administration, Department of Human Resources, has reviewed the Guide to Welfare in Maryland for its accuracy and helped to update the information. Prepared by: Welfare Advocates November, ~ Page 10 ~
13 Vocabulary for Welfare Block Grant: Under Federal law, Maryland chose to take Federal funds based on its FFY 95 caseload for AFDC, Emergency Assistance, and JOBS. Maryland accepted the Block Grant in October 1996 and receives $229.1 million annually from the Federal Block Grant. The funds remain constant, regardless of caseloads, as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has been extended by Congress until December 31, Community Service: Also called Community Work Experience is work performed through a public agency or nonprofit organization that provides a useful community purpose in exchange for the family s cash assistance and Food Stamp benefits. The required number of hours is the cash assistance amount and Food Stamp amount divided by the minimum wage. Family Investment Program (FIP): This is the name for Maryland s program of public welfare and includes all services and benefits under the Block Grant. Job search, child support activities, and substance abuse screening may be required before any cash benefits will be paid. Most families will be required to participate in work activities. Income Disregard: When applying for cash benefits, there is a gross income test that disregards 20% of earnings in order to be eligible for TCA. Once eligible for TCA, a 40% disregard of earnings applies effectively a 43.3% disregard because calculation is done using a four week basis thereby helping some families to increase overall household income. Families under this provision are not subject to time limits. Job Readiness: Classes and activities that help prepare a person to interview for, accept, and retain employment limited to six weeks per year, with no more than four weeks being consecutive. Job Readiness is considered a core activity. Job Search: Services would include: developing a resume, interviewing skills, looking and interviewing for employment limited to six weeks per year, with no more than four weeks being consecutive as a core activity. Sanctions: Sanctions are the penalties for not meeting a program requirement. For non-compliance with Child Support provisions A family is not eligible for cash assistance or loses all cash assistance. When the family complies with the requirements, benefits are restored. For non-compliance by an adult with Work Requirements There is a full family sanction, meaning the entire family loses all cash assistance. For the 1 st non-compliance there is immediate restoration of benefits after compliance; 10 days of compliance is required for the 2nd instance; and 30 days compliance is required for the 3rd instance. Benefits are prorated from the day after compliance is met.
14 Vocabulary for Welfare Sanctions for non-compliance with Substance Abuse Requirements: An applicant is denied. A recipient if the 30-day conciliation process is unsuccessful the local DSS removes the individual s portion of the TCA grant amount and pays the remainder of the cash benefit to a third party payee. The reduced grant remains in effect until the recipient complies. The conciliation and sanction policy noted above also applies to an individual receiving TCA who was convicted of a drug-related felony after August 22, Food Supplement Program recipients needs are removed from the Food Stamp benefit. For an individual recipient convicted of a drug related felony after July 1, 2000, the individual is ineligible for cash assistance and Food Supplement Program benefits for one year from the date of conviction. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): The Federal government abolished Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and replaced it with TANF a non-entitlement program. Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA): TCA is Maryland s monthly cash benefit (TANF) program. The maximum monthly benefit for a family of three is $574, effective October 1, Time Limits: Maryland adopted the Federal five year, cumulative lifetime limit on the receipt of cash assistance. Time limits began with re-determinations and new applicants as of December The first families reached the five-year time limit in January Families reaching the five year time limit will have their case reviewed for a possible hardship exemption. If a family receives a hardship exemption, they continue to receive a full cash benefit as long as they comply with all rules and regulations. Time Limit Exemptions: Circumstances that stop the time limit clock: A minor child, not head of household or married to head of household. A victim of domestic violence who is receiving counseling. A person severely disabled who has applied for SSI. An employed person receiving cash assistance under the Income Disregard provisions. Transitional Assistance: When a family is sanctioned and loses all cash assistance because of non-compliance with work activities, some families may receive benefits for up to three months through a third party payee. Universal Engagement: From the date of the 1 st application interview, an applicant for TCA who is not exempt must participate in a Federal or state-defined work activity. Welfare Avoidance Grant (WAG): Local jurisdictions in Maryland may offer some families an amount of money (typically equal to three months worth of cash assistance benefits, but no more than 12 months worth) to help the household avoid coming onto TCA. Families do not apply for a WAG; rather a DSS worker may recommend a WAG after talking with the family.
15 Vocabulary for Welfare Work Activities: All non-exempt adults are expected to engage in an activity, referred to as Universal Engagement. The required hours of participation are typically 30 hours per week 20 of which must be in federally-defined activities. The following can be counted as work activities: job search (time-limited), subsidized employment, work experience, on-the-job training, community service, and unsubsidized employment. Education must be the work activity for teen mothers who do not have a high school diploma or GED. Otherwise, education is limited to 12 months. Work Exemptions: Exemptions from participating in a work activity include: A one time exemption for an adult caring for a child under the age of one. A teen mother who is caring for child less than 12 weeks of age. One s own disability or caring for a disabled child and have applied for SSI. Lack of adequate and affordable child care is good cause for not participating. Work Participation Rate: A Federal requirement that at least 50% of the work eligible individuals receiving TCA must be engaged in federally countable work activities.
16 FY 2009 Effective 10/1/2008 The Gap Between Meeting Basic Human Needs and The Levels of Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) and Food Stamps Family Size MD s Minimum Living Level ** Maximum TCA Grant Monthly Food Stamps Monthly Total Benefits The Gap 2 $1,298 $453 $323 $776 $522 3 $1,700 $574 $463 $1,037 $663 4 $2,021 $695 $588 $1,283 $738 Maryland s 1996 major welfare reform legislation included the provision that the total of the Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) grant and Food Stamp benefit shall at a minimum equal 61% of the state s Minimum Living Level MLL). If the Governor does not include sufficient funds in the budget, the Governor must report to the General Assembly on the reasons. Currently, the amount of TCA and Food Stamps for most families meets the 61% Standard. Family Size Minimum Living Level ** 61% of MD s MLL Total TCA & Food Stamps The Gap Each Month 2 $1,298 $792 $776 $16 3 $1,700 $1,037 $1, $2,021 $1,233 $1,283 $ -50 Effective: 10/1/08 **The monthly amount is Maryland s MLL, updated annually by the Department of Human Resources. The MLL is the amount determined that it takes for various family sizes to live a life of minimal decency. By law, the cash assistance grant amount, when added with food stamps benefits, is to equal at least 61% of the State s MLL. The 2004 legislature set aside $1 million for a grant increase, effective October 1, 2004, making the grant plus Food Stamps fall between 58.8% (for a family of two) of the MLL and 62.5% (for a family of four) of the MLL. The 2005 legislature set aside $1.3 million for a 1-1/2% grant increase, effective October 1, 2005, making the grant plus Food Stamps fall below the 61% minimum Standard. The FY 2009 budget includes adequate funds to meet the 61% minimum standard for most families.