PA 08-28—HB 5909

Human Services Committee


SUMMARY: This act deletes obsolete references to time limits for certain individuals who would otherwise be considered “transitionally” eligible for cash assistance from the Department of Social Services (DSS) under the State-Administered General Assistance (SAGA) program. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has provided assistance to these individuals for 10 years.

In general, SAGA cash assistance is available only to individuals who are “unemployable” or “transitional. ” Benefits are $200 per month for unemployable people and transitional recipients who must pay for their shelter. Transitional recipients who do not pay for shelter receive $50 per month.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2008


By law, individuals who meet the criteria for this eligibility category and are not classified as such solely due to mental illness or substance abuse are eligible for SAGA cash assistance for as long as they meet the program's eligibility criteria (e. g. , disability).

The law defines someone as transitionally eligible if he or she:

1. has (a) a documented physical or mental impairment that prevents employment and is expected to last between two and six months and (b) a recent connection to the labor force or

2. has a determination of employability or disability pending and provides medical documentation of a severe physical or mental impairment expected to last at least six months.

If the impairment is expected to last for at least six months, DSS conducts a medical review to determine whether the individual should be considered unemployable (see BACKGROUND) based on a potentially permanent condition.

Under prior law, individuals deemed transitional solely on the basis of mental illness or substance abuse were subject to time limits: a 24-month eligibility period, with no more than 10 months of assistance in the first 12 months of eligibility and a maximum of six months of assistance in the second year.

In 1997, the state took over administration of the General Assistance program, and DMHAS assumed responsibility for meeting the basic needs of people who had substance abuse or mental illness problems and who would have otherwise been classified as transitionally eligible for SAGA cash assistance solely based on either of these conditions. Consequently, DSS has not been providing cash assistance to them. Thus, the time limits have no meaning.


Unemployable Definition

The SAGA law defines someone as “unemployable” if he or she:

1. is under age 16 or over age 64, or older than age 54 with a history of chronic unemployment;

2. has a physical or mental impairment expected to last at least six months that prohibits him or her from working or participating in an education, training, or other work-readiness program, as the DSS commissioner determines;

3. is waiting to receive federal Supplemental Security Income benefits or financial assistance from another program DSS administers;

4. is needed to care for a child under two or an incapacitated child or spouse;

5. is a full-time high school student; or

6. is a VISTA volunteer.

OLR Tracking: RCKM: SS: dw