Equal Justice in the Courts - Fall 2016

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Taking Steps to Improve DHHS Client Notices

Maine Equal Justice is planning to file a class action lawsuit to challenge the wholesale failure of DHHS MaineCare eligibility notices to meet basic federal requirements, including the failure to provide the rationale for the decision and cite a specific rule to support the decision.  These federal requirements exist for a reason.  People have a right to know when and why they are being denied help or a change is being made that will impact their health coverage.  Currently, the notices refer to multiple rules, most of which are not applicable to the case.  The notices often fail to provide a reason for DHHS’ decision.

Maine Equal Justice is working on this case with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice which works on similar cases around the country.  We also may partner with a member of the private bar. 

DHHS Rule Ignores the Intent of the Legislature and the Letter of the Law

Despite action by the Legislature to ensure that immigrant populations receive help with basic necessities through the General Assistance program, DHHS has adopted rules that limit the scope of the new law so that it leaves asylum seekers out for a period of time while they move through the asylum application process.

Maine Equal Justice and the firm of Drummond Woodsum are preparing to file a lawsuit to challenge the rule, specifically its provision that bars General Assistance benefits to those who are pursuing a lawful process to obtain asylum.

People Eligible for Food Assistance are Improperly Denied Help

Maine Equal Justice and the firm of Drummond Woodsum have filed a class action lawsuit in Kennebec Superior Court challenging the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) denial of food assistance to lawfully present immigrants who have obtained their work authorizations but have not yet secured employment. 

When the Legislature enacted this hardship exception to the general bar on food assistance for asylum seekers in 2013, the funding was limited during the first two fiscal years, after which no funding limitations were enacted.  DHHS contends that the funding was one-time funding and denies assistance to people who are in this situation, ignoring current law; thus we are challenging this action and awaiting a decision from the Court.

If you have any questions or comments about these matters, or Maine Equal Justice’s impact litigation more generally, please contact Jack Comart at: (207) 626-7058, ext. 202 or jcomart@mejp.org.