Do You Need Help With Your Basic Living Expenses? (SAGA/GA)
Do You Need Help With Your Basic Living Expenses? (SAGA/GA)
Find out if you qualify for State Administered General Assistance (SAGA).
- What help is available through SAGA?
- SAGA Cash Assistance Program
- Other benefits if you get SAGA cash assistance
- Connecticut Agencies
- What does unemployable mean?
- Short and long term "transitional"
- How to apply for help
- Low Income Medical Assistance Program (LIA)
- What if I'm disabled?
- What if I have a substance abuse problem
- What other help is available?
Cash and medical assistance are available for low-income individuals and families who do not have enough money to meet their basic living expenses. The Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) provides help in programs for families with children and pregnant women (Temporary Family Assistance or TFA), for the elderly or those with disabilities (Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled/AABD or State Supplement), State Administered General Assistance (SAGA cash and medical assistance), Medicaid and SNAP (formerly food stamps). Adults who do not have children at home and who are not elderly may be eligible for SAGA cash or medical assistance, even if they cannot get other assistance. This article tells you more about SAGA. If you are denied SAGA, call Statewide Legal Services.
- SAGA Cash Assistance and other benefits if you qualify
- Low Income Medical Assistance (LIA) and other benefits if you qualify.
Note: Other benefits you may get are described later in this article.
You can qualify for the SAGA cash assistance program if, for example, you are:
- considered an "unemployable" or "transitional" individual (see definitions of unemployable and transitional); or
- under 18 and emancipated by the court or living with a guardian or a low-income parent, or there is good reason you cannot live with a parent or guardian; or
- waiting for a decision on an application for other DSS benefits including TFA or Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled.
A decision on your application for SAGA cash assistance is made within 10 days. If you qualify for emergency food assistance, you should be able to get food benefits for 4 days and a decision on your application within 4 days.
Income and Asset Rules for SAGA Cash Assistance:
You cannot have more income each month than the benefit amount you would get under SAGA. You may have up to $250 in assets for each person receiving SAGA in the family, or up to $1000 for a family of four or more. (Assets are things such as cash, bank accounts, etc.). You may also have a car worth up to $4500.
1. If you need help with any of the following, ask your DSS worker:
- emergency housing;
- moving and storage expenses;
- repair or replacement of essential household items and clothes if destroyed or damaged by an event like a fire;
- eviction prevention services; and
- security deposit for housing or certain heating services.
2. Some parts of Connecticut have agencies that can also help. If you need help with the following, ask the agency in your area:
- case management services;
- referral to other help in the community such as clinics and adult basic education;
- bus tokens; and other services.
See a list of agencies below.
Community Renewal Team (CRT): 860-589-8623
ACCESS Agency: 860-774-0418, after hours 860-774-4977
Training, Education & Manpower (TEAM): 203-736-5420
Community Renewal Team (CRT): 1229 Albany Ave.: 860-560-5776
3580 Main St.: 723-1011. 842 Park St.: 560-5782
395 Wethersfield Ave.: 560-5894
860-647-3270 or 860-647-3096
Community Renewal Team (CRT): 860-347-4465
Rushford Center: 203-630-5280 or 203-630-5310
Community Renewal Team (CRT): 860-612-3577
New London Area
Thames Valley Council for Commun. Action: 860-444-0006 x119
Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON): 203-899-1062
Thames Valley Council for Community Action (TVCCA): 860-889-1365, 860-425-6582 or 860-425-6541
Community for Training and Employment (CTE): 203-327-3260
St. Vincent DePaul: 203-756-2666
ACCESS Agency: 860-450-7400
You are "unemployable" if:
- you have a physical or mental health problem that will last for at least the next 6 months; or
- you are waiting to hear about your application for another state program such as Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) or Aid to the Aged Blind & Disabled (also known as AABD or State Supplement). You must have filed an application for assistance with DSS and appear to be eligible; or
- you are younger than 16 or older than 65; or
- you are needed at home to care for a child under 2 years of age or for an incapacitated spouse or child of any age; or
- you are a full-time high school student; or
- you are over 55 and have not worked during the past 5 years or have worked less than 6 months in the past 5 years; or
- you have a letter granting you Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits, but you have not yet received the benefits; or
- you are a VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) member.
- Benefits: If you are "unemployable," you will receive $212 each month in cash assistance. You will continue to get benefits as long as you remain unemployable.
You could be either short-term transitional or long-term transitional, depending on how long you are unable to work. The benefit amount is the same whether you are short or long term.
You are considered "short-term transitional" if you:
- have a physical or mental health problem that keeps you from working for 2 to 6 months in the future. You must also have worked recently or had a good reason for not working.
You are considered "long-term transitional" if you:
- have a physical or mental health problem that keeps you from working for 6 or more months in the future, but you have not been officially classified as "unemployable" based on a review of your medical records. No work history is required.
Benefits: If you are short-term or long-term transitional, you will receive $212 each month if you pay rent or $53 each month if you do not pay rent, live in a shelter or are homeless.
Note: If you are first classified as "transitional" and then are determined to be "unemployable":
- your monthly benefit should immediately be set at $212, and
- you should get additional money for any months you got $53, so that your total benefit for each of those months is $212 for each month.
You usually need to be interviewed in person when you apply for benefits from DSS. Call before you go to an interview and ask what you need to bring. You do not need to tell DSS which programs you want to help you. You only need to ask for the type of assistance that you need, such as cash, medical and food. DSS should put you on the programs for which you are eligible.
If you go to a DSS office to apply for help, you may not be interviewed the day you go, but you can fill out a short form to apply. An interview will be scheduled and your benefits will be paid going back to the day you filled out the short form. DSS should also check to see if you qualify for immediate help with medical or food assistance.
If you call DSS for an interview instead of going in to the office, your benefits will not begin until DSS interviews you and has your completed application.
If you have an urgent need for food, you should be given a food voucher and your application should be processed within 4 days.
If you have a disability that makes it hard to do something DSS asks you to do, ask your DSS worker for help. You should explain your disability and tell your worker what help you need. For example, tell your worker if you need help completing forms or getting documents that DSS asks for, or if your disability makes it hard for you to go to the DSS office (sometimes you can be interviewed at home).
How will I get my cash assistance benefits?
Most people receive cash assistance electronically, rather than by check. This electronic system is known as "EBT." You will get a plastic card that looks like a credit card. You can use the card at automated teller machines (ATMs) and grocery stores.
I think I should be "unemployable," not "transitional." What can I do?
If you think you are unable to work for at least six months, but you are not receiving benefits as an unemployable person, you may be able to have DSS change your category to "unemployable."
To ask to be changed (reclassified) as unemployable, you can:
- ask for a fair hearing (see Fair Hearing section), or
- submit a petition. Ask your worker or call Statewide Legal Services about a submitting a petition. A petition asks DSS to look at other factors such as your educational and employment history.
You may ask for a fair hearing and submit a petition at the same time.
Medical assistance is available even if you are not receiving SAGA cash benefits. The Medicaid for Low Income Adults (LIA) program provides medical assistance for people between the ages of 19 and 64 who are not pregnant or receiving Supplemental Security Income. (There are other Medicaid programs for children and their parents, pregnant women, the elderly and persons with disabilities.) Medical, mental health and dental coverage are provided. Assistance is provided with medical transportation where needed.
To find a dentist: 1-866-420-2924
To schedule a ride for your LIA covered medical appointment: 1-877-423-6794
To find out about residential substance use treatment or recovery supports programs: 1-866-213-4759
A decision on your application for LIA will be made within 45 days. However, if you have an urgent medical need, you should be given a voucher for medical care and your application should be processed within 4 days.
Income and asset rules for LIA:
If you are receiving LIA only, your monthly income can be higher than SAGA cash assistance. If you have high medical bills, they will be used to reduce the amount of income you have.
A fair hearing gives you a chance to challenge decisions made about your case. You should ask for a hearing if:
- your application for assistance from DSS is denied, or
- your benefits are ending, or
- you disagree with how DSS classified you or the amount of your benefits.
If your application for SAGA was denied, you should ask for your hearing right away; a hearing should be held within 4 days of when you ask for it.
If you are already receiving SAGA benefits, you must ask for your hearing in writing within 10 days of the date your DSS notice is mailed if you want your benefits to continue.
Otherwise, you can ask for a hearing in writing within 60 days of the date your benefit notice is mailed to you.
However, you will not receive your benefits while you are waiting for the hearing results if you did not ask for your hearing within 10 days.
To ask for a hearing:
You can either ask your DSS worker for a hearing request form or write a letter asking for a hearing. You must sign the hearing request form. Mail or fax it to:
Office of Administrative Hearings Department of Social Services
25 Sigourney Street
Hartford, CT 06106 Fax: 860-424-5729
Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 or 860-344-0380 for free advice about fair hearings.
Social Security Administration Benefits. If you think you will be disabled for at least 12 months or your disability is expected to result in death, you should also apply to the Social Security Administration for disability benefits. Call Infoline at 2-1-1 to ask where to apply. If you receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, Connecticut may use some of your benefits to pay back any SAGA cash assistance you received.
Aid to the Aged, Blind or Disabled Benefits. If you apply for SAGA cash assistance and are later found eligible for Social Security benefits, DSS should also see if you are eligible for benefits under the Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled program (also called AABD or State Supplement). You also may be able to get additional State Supplement benefits back to the date you first applied for SAGA cash assistance.
You may qualify for medical assistance if your income and assets are low enough. You may also be able to get cash assistance, but you may have to participate in substance use or mental health treatment or be on a waiting list for this treatment. However, you cannot get cash assistance if your inability to work is based only on your addiction or you have mental health problems which do not prevent you from working.
If you are eligible for SAGA medical assistance only (no cash assistance) and you participate in an approved treatment program or are on a waiting list, you may be eligible for the Basic Needs Program.
- The Basic Needs Program (BNP) The BNP provides temporary limited help in paying for personal care items or services, utilities, clothing, transportation and other needed supports. The help is provided through vouchers. Your mental health or addiction counselor must fill out and submit your application. "Urgent" requests should get a response in one business day. Other requests ("standard") should get a response in five business days. "Urgent" requests include supports needed to allow the person to meet treatment plan goals and remain in treatment, and there is no other way to meet these basic needs. Help with transportation is available if needed to maintain continuity of care when a person moves from one level of care to another, or for help getting vocational supports or finding a job. You cannot get help from the Basic Needs Program if you are receiving cash assistance of any kind.
If you are denied Basic Needs Program help, you can ask the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) to reconsider your request. You must ask within 7 days of being denied "urgent" help or within 14 days of being denied other help. Ask your mental health provider for a "BNP Reconsideration Form." If you have trouble getting the form or have other problems with the BNP program, call the DMHAS Basic Needs Program hotline at 1-800-658-4472.
Mail or fax your request for reconsideration to:
Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
ATTN: Basic Needs Program Manager
Health Care Systems
410 Capitol Ave., P. O. Box 341431
Hartford, CT 06134
Once your request is reviewed, the new decision is final and cannot be appealed.
- Town Social Services: Some towns have their own social services offices to help people in need in their community.
- Food Assistance:
- The Food Stamp program (now called "SNAP") can help you buy needed food. You can apply for this help at DSS.
- Many towns have soup kitchens where you can get free meals and food pantries where you can get free food.
- Energy Assistance:
- In the winter you can apply for energy assistance to help with your heating costs.
- You also may be able to get help from a local fuel bank.
- Utility companies have special payment programs that can help you pay utility bills. CL&P, UI, CNG, SCG and Yankee Gas have programs for heating customers where the utility matches customer and energy assistance payments. CL&P and UI also have programs for nonheat customers.
- Apply to your utility company for "hardship" protection from utility shut-offs between November 1 and May 1.
- Help Finding a Job: Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) offices throughout the state have job listings you can review.
- Help for Veterans: If you are a veteran and were honorably discharged from the service, you may be able to get emergency help from the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Marines’ Fund. Most towns have a local place to apply.
Emergency Shelters: If you become homeless, you may be able to go to an emergency shelter.
Where do I go to get assistance?
For any of the programs described above, call INFOLINE at 2-1-1 to find out where to apply.
For more information, call Statewide Legal Services:1-800-453-3320 or 860-344-0380
This booklet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.
The information in this booklet is based on laws in Connecticut as of 08/2011. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. Please call Statewide Legal Services or contact an attorney for additional help. © August 2011
Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).
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