October 21, 2010
OLR BACKGROUNDER: MAJOR PUBLIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS IN CONNECTICUT
By: Robin K. Cohen, Principal Analyst
Connecticut's major public assistance programs provide cash, medical, food, and child care assistance to the state's neediest residents. This report provides a brief description of each of these programs.
To qualify for any of these programs applicants must pass income tests, many of which are tied to the federal poverty guidelines. For a family of three, the current federal poverty level (FPL) is $1,525 per month or $18,310 annually. Most of the programs also impose asset tests. With the exception of the Care 4 Kids program, the Department of Social Services (DSS) administers all of these programs, and a single application can be used to apply for many of them. DSS contracts with United Way of Connecticut to administer the Care 4 Kids Program. DSS is in the process of modernizing access to the programs it administers.
Temporary Family Assistance (TFA)
The TFA program provides cash assistance for up to 21 months (plus limited extensions for certain people who are complying with the program requirements) to very low-income families with children. Unless exempt (e.g., caretaker relative is incapacitated), adults in the household must participate in a work-related activity (e.g., work, job search, job search skills training) for the family to receive assistance.
Family income must be less than the TFA benefit for the family size (e.g., $576 per month for a family of three in most parts of the state) plus $90. Once DSS deems the family eligible, the income can go up to just under 100% of the FPL. Families also can have up to $3,000 in liquid assets and may own a car worth up to $9,500.
Benefits vary depending on family size and where in the state the family lives. Once family income reaches 100% of the FPL, the benefit is zero.
State-Administered General Assistance (SAGA)
The SAGA program offers cash assistance primarily to single individuals who have very low incomes, do not qualify for any other cash assistance program, and are considered (1) “transitional” or (2) “unemployable.” Individuals considered transitional generally have short-term disabilities that prevent them from working. Unemployable recipients typically are waiting for their federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to begin.
To qualify for SAGA, an applicant can have no more than $250 in assets and a car worth up to $4,500. Net income can be no higher than the benefit amount. The actual benefit paid is the difference between income and the benefit.
Benefits are a maximum of:
1. $212 per month for a single, unemployable recipient;
2. $212 per month for a single, transitional person who must pay for his or her own shelter; and
3. $53 per month for a single, transitional person who has no shelter expenses (CGS § 17b-190, et. seq.).
State Supplement to Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
The State Supplement Program (SSP) provides cash assistance to individuals who are aged (age 65 or older), blind, or disabled. Recipients must have some other source of income and most typically receive federal Social Security benefits. To qualify, an individual's gross income cannot exceed 300% of the maximum SSI benefit ($2,022 per month). Assets are limited to $1,600 for a single person and $2,400 for a married couple.
Monthly benefits are calculated on an individual basis and depend on the person's need (based on living arrangement). DSS compares the applicant's needs to his or her “applied” income (income less unearned and earned income disregards) and the benefit amount is the difference between the two (CGS §§ 17b-104 and 17b-600).
For example, let us assume a single applicant with $500 in the bank is living alone in the community, is not working, and receives $600 a month in SSI benefits. DSS would deduct $278 (a flat amount DSS sets that is also based on the living arrangement) in an “unearned income disregard,” yielding a net income of $322. Net income would then be compared to his need. For someone living alone in the community, need would be $400 plus a personal needs allowance of $164.10, for a total need of $564.10. The benefit amount is the difference between income and need. If income is greater than need, the benefit is zero. In the example, the State Supplement benefit would be $564.10 (need) minus $322 (net income) or $242.10 per month.
Medicaid (Title 19 of Federal Social Security Act)
The federal-state Medicaid program offers fully subsidized health insurance to children and their caretaker relatives (HUSKY A), and several other categories of individuals, including those who are aged, blind, or have disabilities. Recently, the state began offering coverage to single individuals without children.
The income and asset limits vary depending on the Medicaid coverage group. For example, HUSKY A children are covered if their family's income is less than 185% of the FPL ($33,873 annually or $2,822 per month) and their caretakers can have no more than 150% of the FPL ($27,465 annually or $2,288 monthly). There is no asset test. Aged, blind, and disabled applicants who are single can have no more than $784 per month in income and $1,600 in assets.
The Medicaid benefit package includes a wide variety of services, including prescription drugs, preventive care, home care, and nursing home care.
Medicaid service delivery varies. For HUSKY A, care is managed either by three managed care organizations (MCOs) or primary care case managers. Other recipients receive their care on a fee-for-service basis from medical providers that have agreements with DSS (CGS § 17b-261).
HUSKY B (Title 21 of Social Security Act-State Children's Health Insurance Program)
Children who do not qualify for HUSKY A can receive health care from the HUSKY B program. If family income is no more than 235% of the FPL, parents and caretaker relatives pay no premiums and nominal co-payments. If family income is between 236% and 300% of the FPL families pay a $38 per child monthly premium (maximum $60 per family) and the same co-payments as the lower income families. Families with incomes above 300% of the FPL receive no subsidy and pay the full premium ($195 per month per child) and co-payments. There is no asset test.
The benefit package is the same as that available to children enrolled in HUSKY A, and care is delivered by the same three MCOs (CGS § 17b-289, et. seq.).
Charter Oak Health Plan
Individuals between the ages of 19 and 65 who (1) do not qualify for other public health insurance programs and (2) have been uninsured for at least six months can get help from the Charter Oak Health Plan, regardless of any preexisting condition.
Individuals with incomes under 300% of the FPL receive subsidies for their care if they were receiving subsidies as of June 1, 2010. Anyone, regardless of income, who becomes eligible for the program after that date pays a flat $307 monthly premium. There is no asset test.
Program beneficiaries pay deductibles and co-payments for most services. There is a $1 million lifetime limit on benefits and an annual benefit cap of $100,000. The program does not pay for dental, vision, and chiropractic care.
The three MCOs that serve HUSKY recipients also deliver care to Charter Oak beneficiaries (CGS § 17b-311).
Go to www.charteroakhealthplan.com for more information.
The main food assistance program in the state is the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as Food Stamps), which DSS administers. In Connecticut, most applicants' income can be no more than 185% of the FPL ($2,822 per month for a family of three). There is no asset limit and DSS totally excludes the value of any motor vehicles the family owns. Like the State Supplement Program, DSS determines SNAP benefits by comparing the applicant's income (less certain deductions) to the maximum monthly allotment and paying the difference. For a family of three, the maximum allotment for FFY 10-11 is $526 (7 USC § 273.2, et. seq).
CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE
The Care4Kids program provides subsidies to families who need help paying for child care for their children under age 13 (or under 19 if the child has special needs). The care can be provided in a number of settings, including the child's home, a licensed center, or a recreational program run by a library or other approved organization.
As of June 16, 2010, family income could be as high as 75% of state median income (SMI), which is $64,035 annually for a family of three. There is no asset test. Families already receiving subsidies (whose income could be no higher than 50% of SMI up until June 16, 2010) could earn up to 75% of SMI and not lose their benefits. On October 6, 2010, DSS announced that beginning November 6, 2010, the income limit for new families will be 50% of SMI ($42,690 annually). Higher income families will be placed on a waiting list.
Benefit levels vary depending on the care setting, the number of hours of care, and where in the state the child lives. For example, a relative caregiver providing 40 hours per week of care to an infant from a family living in Hartford would receive $89 per week in state reimbursement. A licensed child care center providing this care would receive $189 (CGS § 17b-749).
DSS contracts with the United Way of Connecticut to administer the program. For additional information on the program, go to www.ctcare4kids.com.
DSS takes applications for the programs described above at any of its regional offices. For a listing of these, go to www.ct.gv/dss
The single DSS application for some of the above programs can be found by going to www.ct.gov/dss
HUSKY information can be accessed at www.huskyhealth.com
Several recent OLR reports discuss these programs in greater detail. To read them, please click onto the links below:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
TEMPORARY FAMILY ASSISTANCE