General Assistance Details

How to apply for General Assistance

In order to receive assistance you must apply in person. If for some special reason that is not possible, application information may be taken over the phone. The telephone application process will include the caseworker receiving written verification by mail or visiting the applicant’s home with his/her permission. You should call the GA Office (or visit) to find out when and where you may apply. If your need is not life-threatening, you will be asked to make an appointment.

When you apply, you will be asked to give the caseworker whatever information is necessary to determine if you are eligible. You will be asked for your household income, expenses, names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of the people in the household.

When you apply, you should bring:
  • your most recent bills and receipts for you rent or mortgage, heating fuel, electricity, food, medical expenses
  • names and address of your landlord
  • check stubs, AFDC/TANF statements, or other proof of household income
  • canceled checks, receipts, or other documents that show how you have spent any income you received during the past 30 days
  • your driver’s license or other identification
  • your Social Security number and the Social Security numbers of all members of your household
  • a doctor’s statement if you are ill, disabled, or not able to work
  • financial statements from checking or savings accounts
Remember, it is up to you to show that you are eligible for general assistance. If you do not bring in all the information that has been asked for, the caseworker may have to deny your request for assistance until you provide the needed information.


The information concerning your request for assistance, including the application, budget sheet, decision, and other information in your case is strictly confidential. You, your attorney, the caseworker, and certain government personnel may review your records, but the general public may not review your records unless you have given your permission.

How to Qualify for General Assistance

To get General Assistance your income must fall below the Overall Maximum Level of Assistance for your household size. The Overall Maximum Level of Assistance is found in the City of Old Town’s General Assistance ordinance. Also, your income must be less than what you need to pay for the basic necessities of food, shelter, heating fuel, electricity, water, and sewer utilities, household supplies, clothing, and medical care.

It is important that you remember your "income" is any income you will probably receive over the next 30 days as well as any income received over the last 30 days that was not spent on basic necessities.

The first time you apply for GA (if you have never applied previously anywhere in the State before), your income will be the only information the caseworker will need to figure out your benefit. Every time you apply after the first time, you will have to show that you are doing everything you have been asked to do to reduce your need for assistance.

Work Requirement

If you are unemployed or underemployed, but able to work, you must:
  • register for work at the Maine Job Service
  • actively look for work
  • accept any job offer
  • participate in any no-cost training, retraining, educational, or rehabilitative program that would help you get a job if referred to such a program by your caseworker
  • agree to work for the City if assigned to a "workfare" program
If you do not comply with the work requirements, and you do not have a good reason for not complying, you will not be eligible to receive GA for 120 days.

If you have been working, but quit your job without a good reason or got fired from your job for misconduct, you are automatically ineligible to receive assistance for 120 days from the date of separation from your employment.

Income and Resources

You are required to use your income for basic necessities. The City has adopted use-of-income guidelines that the caseworker will expect you to follow. These guidelines will ask you to spend your money on certain basic needs.

In addition, you must use any and all resources that would reduce your need for GA. If you refuse to use a resource without a good reason, you will be ineligible to receive assistance until you do so. These resources include:
  • AFDC/TANF, SSI, Food Stamps, HEAP fuel benefits, and other government programs
  • Trust funds
  • alimony or child support programs
  • educational, retraining, medical, or rehabilitative programs
  • assistance from relatives legally liable for your support
  • unnecessary assets, such as extra vehicles and real estate, which you may be required to sell
Amount of Assistance

The amount of assistance you receive depends upon your situation. The City has maximum levels of assistance that it will not exceed. Assistance will be granted for a period of time that is no longer than one month, although it may be granted for shorter periods, such as a week at a time.

If you need GA, your request is to help with current bills; GA does not pay for back bills.

Welfare Fraud

It is very important that you tell the truth when you apply for assistance. If the caseworker finds out that you have not told the truth, you will be disqualified from receiving GA for 120 days. In addition, the administrator may refer your case over to the Police Department or the District Attorney’s office for committing welfare fraud, which is a Class E crime.

If you are not satisfied

If you do not agree with the caseworker’s decision, you can ask for further explanation. If you still disagree, you can appeal the decision to the Fair Hearing Authority. The Fair Hearing Authority is appointed by the City Council upon recommendation by the City Manager.   The City Council will also appoint alternates to serve in the absence of, or in assistance to the Fair Hearing Authority.  No member of the hearing committee will have participated in the initial decision on your request for assistance.

You must request the hearing in writing within 5 working days after receiving your decision. After you made a request, a hearing will be scheduled within 5 working days. You may be represented at the hearing by an attorney at your own expense. You should be prepared to explain why you think you are eligible for assistance. You will have the right to tell your side of the story and also question witnesses. You will receive a written decision from the Fair Hearing Authority no later than 5 working days after the hearing. If you are dissatisfied with the Fair Hearing Authority’s decision, you have 30 days to appeal to Superior Court.

If you are in immediate need and you think the City has violated the State law with regard to your request for assistance, you may call the Department of Human Services to complain: 1-800-442-6003.

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