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Assisting immigrant-headed households with online SNAP applications

As discussed at March 29th Food SNAP Coalition meeting, USDA requires states to make sure their SNAP applications allow a household to “opt out” any person who does not wish to receive SNAP benefits or give information on their citizenship/immigrant status or Social Security Number (SSN). http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap-conforming-tri-agency-guidance-through-onli... current version of Massachusetts’ online (a.k.a. Virtual Gateway) application allows a household to complete an application without including all household members. Further, online SNAP fields asking about citizenship and SSN are not mandatory. But the questions asked and instructions in the online application do not include enough information to help an immigrant household know how to “opt in” or “opt out”, and do not explain the reason for or uses of the SSN. The SNAP web application for mixed immigrant status households can be confusing! 

Here is a link to guidance from MLRI on how to work through the on-line application, as well as an explanation of the "mixed household" SNAP calculation that highlights why it helps clients who have legal status to provide information on their status, even if they opt out. These considerations are also true for households going through the paper or in-person application process. Special thanks to Kelly Love for her work on this issue!

MLRI is working on recommendations to DTA and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services for changes in the SNAP online Virtual Gateway application. We would like any specific feedback you may have regarding parts of the on-line application that are difficult or confusing to fill out for mixed immigration status households. Please contact Kelly Love klove@mlri.org or Pat Baker at PBaker@mlri.org with any comments or recommendations.