Old News Archive

Alternative Aid

September 29, 2006 - TRC

A Short-Term Alternative to TANF

Families can now apply for the Alternative Aid program benefit once every 12 months. Previously a family could get Alternative Aid only once in a lifetime. However, a new law that took effect on September 12th changed this rule, to make this benefit more available to families who need it.

Alternative Aid is an important program for low-income working familiesóbut many donít know about it. This program helps families with children who are not on TANF resolve problems that prevent them from getting or keeping a job. For example, the program provides help with car repairs, childcare, uniforms or even help with housing-related emergencies, if those things are needed to help them get or keep a job. Aid is given in the form of a voucher and can equal up to three monthís worth of TANF benefits ($1,455 for a family of 3). The income eligibility limit for this program has been increased from its formerly very low level to 133% of the poverty level. (See chart below.)


Families are eligible for Alternative Aid if they meet the income, asset and other eligibility requirements for TANF, (such as deprivation) and the parent or caretaker relative in the family has a job or is looking for one. For example, looking at the chart below, a family of 3 with income of less than $1,841 a month may be eligible for Alternative Aid; a family of 2 with income less than $1,463 a month may be eligible. One important difference between TANF and Alternative Aid is that once a person has been determined eligible, a parentís wages do not count when figuring the amount of the Alternative Aid grant.


Alternative aid doesnít come as a cash benefit. Instead, it takes the form of vouchers for services or items that the family needs. Because it is a voucher, it will not affect a familyís food stamp benefit. For example, a family of 3 who is eligible for Alternative Aid and having no other income could be eligible for up to $1455 in vouchers for car repairs, or other items or services that they need to get or keep a job. Families who receive Alternative Aid are not required to sign their child support over to the state or be involved with the ASPIRE program.


A family that receives Alternative Aid but decides it really needs longer-term help from the TANF Program can still apply for and get TANF. If they apply for TANF during the 3 months they are receiving Alternative Aid, the Alternative Aid must be repaid for any time during which the family received both Alternative Aid and TANF. The repayment method is the same as that used for the repayment of unintentional overpayments in TANF. (For families receiving the full TANF grant, Department of Health and Human Services will keep 10% of the familyís benefit until it is repaid. For families receiving less than the full TANF amount - usually because they have some other source of income - DHHS will keep 30% of the familyís TANF benefit until it is repaid.) You can apply for Alternative Aid by contacting your local DHHS office. http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/DHSaddresses.htm

Alternative Aid Monthly Income Limits

Family Size 133% Federal Poverty Level
2 $1,463
3 $1,841
4 $2,217
5 $2,594

If you have any questions about this program or the change in the law, feel free to contact Maine Equal Justice.

Crystal M. Bond
Maine Equal Justice Partners
126 Sewall Street
Augusta, Maine 04330
1-866-626-7059 x 205
207 626-7058 x 205
fax: 207 621-8148

This message is brought to you in solidarity for peace, bread and justice by:

Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods (MAIN)
P O Box 69
Hallowell, ME 04347
Russell Anderson, Vice President

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.