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NUTRITION; WELFARE - TANF;

OLR Research Report


October 7, 2009

 

2009-R-0363

ASSISTANCE FOR FAMILY WITH LOSS OF INCOME DUE TO UNEMPLOYMENT

By: Robin K. Cohen, Principal Analyst

You asked whether there is any assistance available to a family in which (1) the wife is pregnant with triplets and has had to take a temporary leave from her job for doctor-prescribed bed rest and (2) the husband is unemployed. The couple is currently residing with the wife's parents. You asked specifically about eligibility for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.

SUMMARY

It is difficult to say which public assistance programs might be available to your constituent since we do not know the couple's financial situation, nor do we know whether the husband can work. The Department of Social Services (DSS) runs four major assistance programs that may offer help. All four are means-tested, which means that DSS considers financial resources available to program applicants when determining their eligibility. For example, unemployment compensation or paid sick leave would count as income.

The main cash assistance program, Temporary Family Assistance (TFA), is available to low-income families with children, including pregnant women. This program is time-limited and the husband would likely have to be actively engaged in a work-related activity.

The family may also qualify for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. This program (formerly called Food Stamps) offers food assistance to families with income up to 185% of the FPL with no asset limit. HUSKY A provides medical assistance to pregnant women; once the triplets are born, the father could get assistance too.

DSS administers its own Rental Assistance Program (RAP) and acts as a conduit to the federal Section 8 housing voucher program. Both programs provide rental subsidies to low-income families. To qualify, a family's income generally cannot exceed 50% of the area median income where the housing is located. Both programs presently have long and closed waiting lists. DSS places a notice and pre-application form in local newspapers and on its website when a RAP list opens. For Section 8, it recommends that people register with the state's website to receive email notification when a public housing authority advertises the opening of its waiting list. The link for registering can be found at http://www.das.state.ct.us/Business_Svs/HCVP/HCVP_Home.asp

The WIC program, run by the Department of Public Health, offers supplemental food assistance to pregnant women and children up to their fifth birthday. WIC uses the same income guidelines as those for SNAP and HUSKY A and anyone participating in those program is automatically income-eligible for WIC. In addition to nutritious foods, WIC offers nutrition assessments and education, breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to other health and social services.

TEMPORARY FAMILY ASSISTANCE (TFA)

The TFA program offers cash assistance (generally 21 months) to families with children. Pregnant women can start receiving benefits for themselves and the unborn baby as soon as they get pregnant. (The benefit would cover two, mother and fetuses.) Once the babies are born, the family size would increase to five to include the babies and the father.

To qualify, a family's gross monthly income minus $90 from earnings, is compared to the TFA Standard of Need for that family size. For most families of five living in Connecticut, the standard is $1,062. If the net income amount is less than that, the family qualifies for the full TFA benefit, $775. (The benefit amount is 8% less if the family is living in subsidized housing.) Families receiving TFA can earn up to 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL, $2,149 per month for five person household) and still receive the full TFA benefit.

Non-exempt adults in households receiving TFA are expected to engage in work or a work-related activity as a condition of receiving the benefit. The expectant mother would probably be exempt during the remainder of her pregnancy and for up to one year once the babies are born. The husband would be expected to work or be engaged in some sort of work-related activity through the Labor Department's Jobs First Employment Services program.

SNAP

 

Income Eligibility Criteria

SNAP eligibility criteria and benefit levels are generally governed by complex federal law (7 CFR 273. 2(j)(2)(A)). As of July 1, 2009 the income limit for most households is 185% of the FPL with no asset limit. According to the DSS website, the following gross income limits apply:

 

Household Size

Monthly Income Limit

Annual Income Limit

1

$1,671

$20,036

2

$2,248

$26,955

3

$2,823

$33,874

4

$3,400

$40,793

Benefit Levels

To calculate a household's SNAP benefit, DSS must deduct certain items from the household's gross income, including allowable housing, medical, and utility expenses. Once the deductions are taken, the “net” income is multiplied by .30. This product is then subtracted from the federally established “maximum monthly allotment” and the difference is the amount of SNAP the applicant receives. According to DSS, the maximum monthly SNAP benefits a household can receive are:

 

Household Size

Current Monthly Benefit Limit

1

$200

2

$367

3

$526

4

$668

 

(These benefit levels reflect an April 1, 2009 increase due to the state's receipt of federal stimulus funds.) While, in general, the finances of the parents of the couple would not be a factor, if they are purchasing and preparing their food as one household, this could affect SNAP eligibility.

 

For additional benefit and eligibility information, please visit the DSS website at the following link:

 

http://www.ct.gov/dss/cwp/view.asp?a=2353&q=411676

 

HUSKY

The HUSKY A program provides health care coverage to children and their caretaker relatives with income under 185% of the FPL. Pregnant women are covered if their income is under 250% of the FPL. (The husband's coverage would not start until the babies are born, but he might qualify for State-Administered General Assistance medical assistance or the Charter Oak Health Plan.) There is no asset test in the program. Families must sign up with one of three managed care organizations with which DSS contracts to run the program.

If the parents' income is above 185% once the babies are born, they may still be able to get health insurance for the children through the HUSKY B program, which offers comprehensive health care coverage and subsidies if income is less than 300% of the FPL.

More information is available at huskyhealth.com.

WIC

The WIC program offers additional nutritional assistance to pregnant and breastfeeding women and their children up to their fifth birthday. To qualify, family income cannot exceed 185% of the FPL for the family size (an unborn infant counts as a household member). In addition, the recipients must be considered “at risk” nutritionally—either low birth weight- or dietary-based.

In addition to nutritious food supplements (nutrition professionals prescribe food and issue checks to participants to redeem at supermarkets), WIC offers individual nutrition counseling and nutrition classes, breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health and other social services. The food supplements include coupons to buy fruits and vegetables at local farmer's markets between July and October.

Please visit DPH's website www.ct.gov/dph for additional information.

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