The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Claiming Medical Expenses, College Student Hunger, Voter Registration – Resources for Your Advocacy and Upcoming BBT Sessions!

TO:  Food SNAP Coalition

FR:  Pat Baker, Vicky Negus

RE:  SNAP & Medical Expenses, Student Hunger, Voter Registration – Resources for Your Advocacy

Hope you all had a fantastic July 4th break.  We are writing with a couple of updates and resources for your summer advocacy work:

1.SNAP and Medical Expenses:   We’ve updated and translated our SNAP Medical Expenses flier – English and Spanish.  The most important  changes are that private travel to and from health care providers and pharmacies can be self-declared by the SNAP household, and that medical expenses claimed for public/subsidized housing can also be claimed for SNAP purposes.   Please let us know if your clients are having difficulty claiming medical expenses. DTA is updating the Online Guide and will be retraining staff late summer/early fall.  All our SNAP & Medical Expense materials are HERE.

 

2.College student hunger MA Legislation:   The Joint Committee on Higher Education will be holding a hearing in late July on a number of bills including two (House 1233/Senate 757) that will authorize the Department of Higher Education (DHE) to establish an account to receive and distribute any state funding or donations to community colleges that seek funds to address student hunger (the bill does not appropriate any funds).  This is a good first step toward addressing college student hunger.  MLRI and our sister organizations are also working on a late-file bill to have Massachusetts establish “Hunger Free Campuses” in both 2 and 4 year state colleges, similar to legislation passed in NY, NJ and CA.  If you are interested in working on this issue, please let Pat Baker know, pbaker@mlri.org   See also recent research from the National Institute of Health re Prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among U.S. college students: a multi-institutional study, 5/29/19

 

3.Gig economy workers and SNAP or other benefits:  We are hearing sporadically from “gig economy” independent contractors (Uber, Lyft, Task Rabbit, etc) about problems they are having verifying their gig income and/or the worker not knowing how to verify their self-employment expenses.  Attached are screen shots of  a few weeks of earnings from a Uber driver (not a SNAP household).  You will note that the Uber earnings do not include the gig worker’s name on any the screen shots created by the driver from his Uber account  This was an issue in at least one recent denied SNAP case reported at the June Coalition  meeting.  Second, many SNAP applicants are not aware they can claim self-employment expenses with their gig work, such as gas, tolls, car maintenance, car payments or insurance).  Let us know if you are seeing gig workers either denied SNAP or other benefits, or where DTA is counting their gross vs net (after business expenses) earnings.  We are worried many gig workers may not know how to best verify income and claim self-employment expenses.  Please contact Pat or Vicky if you see these cases. 

 

4.Social Security benefit “garnishment” cases and SNAP:  At the last SNAP Coalition meeting, we discussed the fact that SNAP rules require DTA to count the “gross” Social Security/RSDI of an individual, even if some of the Social Security is being “garnished” for some reason (such as unpaid taxes, student loans, etc).  However, there are exceptions to that rule where Social Security/RSDI is being garnished to pay child support arrears (which child support payments are allowed as a SNAP income deduction).  And DTA should not count Social Security/RSDI benefits being recovered for a Social Security overpayment (DTA should count the net Social Security/RSDI unless SSA has made a fraud determination).  Further, in some cases, individuals with severe disabilities can request “forgiveness” of unpaid student loans, as well as request waivers of Social Security overpayments.  Please let us know if you hear about any of these cases.  

 

5.MLRI’s Annual Basic Benefits Trainings 2019/20 schedule:  Yes, it’s that time of year and the first training on Emergency Assistance and and Shelter benefits is September 23, 2019!   Here are the 2019/2020 dates for the 13 sessions.  training.  

 

6.Voter Registration and SNAP, Cash and MassHealth:  We will discuss this at an upcoming SNAP Coalition meeting, but just wanted to flag for you this fantastic “Primer for Advocates on the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)” from our friends at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).  “Advocates know the importance of lifting up in the democratic process the voices of communities affected by poverty, hunger, lack of resources for health care or housing, and racial discrimination. The NVRA is one of the most important and effective ways to ensure better participation and representation of low-income people in the political process.  Anti-hunger, anti-poverty, and health care access advocates are well-positioned to play an important role in ensuring NVRA implementation because of their strong relationships with many of the state agencies that administer SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF and their expertise in how state public assistance agencies operate.”  Check out the FRAC primer here to see how you can support opportunities to register people to vote through public assistance agencies.

NEXT Boston SNAP Coalition (and last one for the summer), Tuesday July 23rd from 10 to Noon at St Francis House.   

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