80. What is the Standard Utility Allowance and what is Heat and Eat?
The standard utility allowance (SUA) is a fixed dollar amount for a household’s heating and utility expenses used in the calculation of shelter expenses for SNAP benefits. 106 C.M.R. §§ 364.400(G)(2), 364.945. The dollar value of the SUA applies statewide and is not tied to what you actually pay in monthly oil, gas, electricity or other utilities. It is an annualized amount to help simplify the calculations.
There are 3 different SUA amounts and the amounts are periodically adjusted by DTA with USDA approval:
- Heating (or air conditioning) SUA – currently $860. This is used for households that incur heating or air conditioning costs separately from their rent. This includes public or subsidized housing tenants if your housing authority charges you for heat, or for use of an air conditioner (either excess electricity or a usage or maintenance fee).
You also get this SUA if you receive or have received Fuel Assistance (also called Low Income Home Energy Assistance Act or LIHEAP payments) in the last 12 months even if your heat is included with your rent. Often LIHEAP will provide a partial rent subsidy if rent exceeds 30% of net income.
- Non-heating SUA – currently $525. This is used for households that incur utility expenses but not heating or air conditioning costs. Utility expenses can include electricity (non-heating), cooking gas, garbage collection, and water and sewer fees passed onto tenants.
- Telephone-only SUA – currently $60. This is used for households that incur only telephone costs (cell phone or landline, but not phone cards) and do not pay any of the other utilities listed above.
It is important that you tell DTA if you incur heating costs, AC costs during the summer (even if your heat is included), or you get regular Fuel Assistance benefits for either utilities or toward part of high rent costs. The application and recertification paperwork have questions about utility expenses. Make sure to fill out this information accurately.
You also get the full SUA even if you live with another household and pay part of the utilities. 106 C.M.R. § 364.410(B)(2). You should also get the SUA in the SNAP math, even if you pay $0 in rent but are responsible for utility costs where you live (e.g. off-season caretaker of a home).
The “Heat and Eat” Fuel Assistance Program
DTA and the Dept. of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) have a special “Heat and Eat” Fuel Assistance program, or H-EAT.
The H-EAT program was created because many seniors and persons with disabilities often underreport their AC/cooling costs, or do not realize they can claim utility costs when sharing utilities with other households.
DTA identifies SNAP households not getting the full “heating/cooling standard utility allowance” (SUA) and then exchanges a data file with DHCD to confirm if any of these SNAP households received regular Fuel Assistance in the past 12 months. If not, DTA provides the SNAP household with a $21 H-EAT Fuel Assistance payment.
This H-EAT payment is put on your EBT card, once every 12 months. You can use this money to buy supplies such as light bulbs, flashlights, or blankets. If the H-EAT payment increases your SNAP you will get a notice from DTA. DTA should automatically issue another $21 H-EAT payment annually if you are eligible for this special payment.
SNAP households who do not receive the H-EAT payment are:
- Bay State CAP (SSI) households,
- homeless households (who get a special homeless income deduction), and
- households that have separate heating/cooling costs or getting maximum SNAP benefits.
DTA Online Guide
See Appendix G for links to the DTA’s BEACON Online Guide for this section.