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Coalition meeting 4/28; Critical FY23 Budget Amendments; New Fuel Assistance Income levels and MORE!

Our next SNAP Coalition meeting is Tuesday, April 26th from 10 to 11:30 AM. Here’s the Zoom link. 

 

We have a couple of important updates in the meantime including new income levels for Fuel Assistance, upcoming Veterans Benefits training, public charge comments (org deadline to sign on is today) and a White House memo on paperwork reduction!

  1. Important FY23 Budget Amendments needing co-sponsors:  

 

The following budget amendments are top priorities for Coalition members.  We urge you to ask your State Rep to sign on as a co-sponsor.  Reps can sign on up as co-sponsors until debate on the amendments start, best before Noon on Monday, April 25th.  

 

All amendments can be found HERE, scroll down to the amendment number and click on it to see if your Rep is listed. You can find your State Rep HERE.

 
  • Amendment #196, Rep Livingstone’s Common Application amendment (outside section language)  to create a common front door for more needs-based benefits.

  • Amendment #181,Rep Decker’s Lift Kids out of Poverty amendment calling for a 20% grant increase for this upcoming fiscal year to get closer to 50% FPL.

  • Amendment #182, Rep Decker’s Amendment to establish a policy of continuing to raise grants each year until they reach half the federal poverty level.

  • Amendment #1196, Rep Duffey’s Safety Net Access amendment (outside section language) to ensure that constituents and community organizations have an opportunity to testify on the potential impacts of DTA local office relocations and closures.

  • Amendment #360, Rep Duffey’s amendment to eliminate the Cliff Effect (outside section language), by creating a pilot program to address the impacts of the cliff effect on working families who suffer a loss in benefits with a slight raise in income

 
  1. New LIHEAP/Fuel Assistance Income Levels announced!  

 

Our colleagues at the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) just alerted us that the Department of Communities and Development (DHCD) has posted higher gross income thresholds to qualify more households for LiHEAP/Fuel Assistance, and the application deadline for Fuel Assistance is Friday, May 13th. To find your local LIHEAP agency, click HERE. The new LIHEAP Income Eligibility and Benefits chart is attached.  

 

Important information to know (tnx to our colleagues at NCLC):

  • The maximum benefit for oil-heat and propane-heat households is $2,100, and the newly increased max benefit for those who heat with natural gas or electricity --- or whose heat is included in rent --  is now $1,525.

  • Households whose heat is included in rent (that is, who don't pay for heat directly) are eligible for LIHEAP.  The program pays a portion of the tenant's rent.

  • SOME (but not all) public and subsidized tenants are eligible for LIHEAP. The rules are complicated as to who is eligible, so we advise folks who may be eligible to apply; the local agency that takes applications will determine who is, or is not, eligible.

 

Reminder re excess verifications: Please remember that DHCD has instructed the local agencies (typically Community Action Programs) that administer Fuel Assistance to not require applicants to provide the SSN cards for each household member. Applicants will be asked to list their SSNs on the application and can provide a range of  proof of their US citizenship or legal immigration status such as their birth certificates, baptismal records, passports, and, if non-citizens, proof of their immigration status. The households do not need to provide the actual SSN card or letter from SSA.(This is also consistent with the Biden Administration's quest to reduce paperwork barriers in federal programs, see below!) Please let MLRI -pbaker@mlri.org- know if you see requests for excessive documentation in accessing Fuel Assistance  

 
  1. Organizational sign on letter/comments to Biden Administration on public charge - Last chance TODAY!

 

If your organization has not had the chance, today is the deadline to add your name to the Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) comments to the Biden Administration. The comments both urge the Administration to finalize public charge regulations and recommend improvements in the proposed regulations to minimize the harm of receipt of benefits on immigrant households. Let’s get a strong showing from MA!  You can read the text of the letter and sign on HERE. 

 
  1. Veterans Benefits Training, April 28th

 

Our partners at Mass Continuing Legal Education are hosting the next Basic Benefits Training on state and federal Veterans Benefits next Thursday, April 28th. Register HERE. To get the community advocate discount when you register, click on “Non-Lawyer Advocate.” 

 

This training is for both legal advocates and community partners who want to learn about the basics of state and federal veterans' benefits. The training covers state veterans' benefits administered by the MA Department of Veterans' Services as well as federal benefits for healthcare, service-connected disability compensation, and non-service-connected pensions. The session covers the basic application process, eligibility rules for veterans (military discharge status, financial eligibility, disqualifying conditions, refund status), the disability requirements for benefits as well as the basics of filing an appeal and upgrading a less than honorable discharge.

 
  1. White House Memo- Improving Access to Public Benefits Programs Through the Paperwork Reduction Act 

 

Thanks to our colleagues at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) for flagging this just released White House memo in their Friday updates! (if you don’t get these emails, you can subscribe here). The memo directs all federal agencies to review paperwork burden with a focus on reducing “burdens associated with applying for and maintaining eligibility for public benefits

programs, with a particular focus on members of underserved and marginalized communities.” 


This memo, while technical, is highly worth the read! It prioritizes a number of things this Coalition has focused on for many years - including the Common Apps campaign, and to what many of you are advocating for at the local level! It calls out a “no wrong door” approach and names the psychological cost for low-income households navigating extremely complex and stressful processes in order to get benefits: Every step in the process represents a burden that could result in individuals or entities justifiably becoming too discouraged to complete the process and thus not receiving public benefits for which they are legally eligible.” YES!! We could not agree more, and are so glad the Biden Administration is focusing on these issues.