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09. How do I apply if I live in a group home, substance abuse center or teen program?

ALERT:  Many of the rules in the SNAPAdvocacy Guide do NOT apply during the pandemic. Please go to the following COVID-19 & DTA benefits page: https://www.masslegalservices.org/DTA-COVID-19 until further notice for more information about changes.

Group home residents

If you live in a licensed group home for persons with disabilities, you may be eligible for SNAP benefits as a one person household even though you live with others and share common meals. 106 C.M.R. § 361.240(B).  A licensed group home is one licensed by the state as a community-based residential facility and that has no more than 16 residents living there at a time. 106 C.M.R. § 365.640.

Some group homes act as the Authorized Representative for residents, esspecially those run by the Mass Department of Developmental Services. This means a group home manager may file a SNAP application for residents and/or the group home receives the EBT card.

Other group homes have residents apply for SNAP and buy their own food. Some group homes have point of sale (POS) devices that allow the group home to swipe benefits off the EBT cards of residents to collect money for common food.

If you are not already getting SNAP when you join the group home, the group home must make an individual determination whether or not you can to handle your own affairs. If the group home determines that you do not have the physical or mental ability to handle your own affairs, the group home will file an application for SNAP on your behalf (act as an authorized representatives to do your SNAP application). 106 C.M.R. § 365.620(A).

If you apply for your own SNAP, you can choose whether to have the group home transact (keep) your EBT card to buy food or if you want to keep your own EBT card to make and buy your own food. 7 CFR 273.11(f), 106 C.M.R.§365.620(A).

Residents of substance abuse disorder treatment centers

If you are a resident of a licensed substance abuse disorder treatment program, the SNAP rules say that the treatment program must be your Authorized Representative. 106 C.M.R. § 365.610.  Even if you apply for SNAP on your own, you must transfer your EBT card to the treatment program for food purchases while you are staying there.

If you live in a “sober house” or other roomer/board situation which is not licensed by the Department of Public Health, the sober house should not take your EBT card unless you voluntarily appoint them as your authorized representative.

Residents of teen living programs                                        

If you are living in a teen parent program, the program is given the authority to decide if it will be the authorized representative and receive the SNAP benefits, or if it will allow you to apply for and spend the benefits yourself. 106 C.M.R. § 365.620(B).

When leaving a residential program

After you leave a group home or treatment center, the program must return your EBT card to you. If you do not have an EBT card in your name, they should help you get one.

When you leave, the group home or treatment center must give you back SNAP benefits in the following ways:

  • If they have not yet used any of your SNAP for the month, they must return your entire monthly allotment.
  • If they have already used some of your SNAP for the month:
    • If you leave before the 16th of the month, the program must give you back half of your allotment
    • If you leave after the 16th and the program has already used your SNAP for that month, you may not get any SNAP back.

7 CFR 273.11(e)(6) and (f)(5).

Contact the DTA Ombudsman office or an advocate if you do not get back your EBT card or a portion of your benefits.

Advocacy Reminders:

  • Drug and alcohol treatment centers are liable for any SNAP overpayments that occur while the household is a resident of the treatment center. Group homes are similarly liable for any overpayments that occur while a household is staying at the group home. 106 C.M.R. §365.650.The only exception is if a group home resident applied for SNAP on their own, then the resident is responsible for any over-issuance. 7 C.F.R 273.11(f)(6).
  • The program fee for individuals in certain Group Homes is allowed as a shelter cost. Under an agreement with the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and Department of Mental Health (DMH), group home residents be credited with 10 % of the rental costs as payment for heat and are entitled to the Heating/Cooling Standard Utility Allowance (HCSUA).  The remaining 90 % is considered as a Shelter Expense. See OLG, Expenses and Deductions, shelter expense deduction
  • If the group home insists you appoint them as your “authorized representative” to use your EBT card, and you do not agree, you can challenge this. Contact the Disability Law Center, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee or MLRI for advice on how to represent an individual in these cases. See Legal Resources in Appendix E.
  • “Sober houses” typically provide room and meals for adults transitioning from a treatment program and/or referred by a court or probation officer. Sober houses may be regulated at the local level but usually are not licensed or regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.If you live in a “sober house” or other roomer/boarder situation that is not licensed by the state, you cannot be forced to turn over your EBT benefits without your written agreement. If this has happened to you, contact an advocate.

DTA Online Guide Sections: 

Additional Resources:  

DTA has a special Authorized Representative Form for group homes, available at Mass.gov/snap