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COVID-19 3/19: Federal legislation and DTA info

Below is an update on the federal bill signed last night.  We do not have details yet on the Baker Administration’s plans for implementation but just want to give you the highlights.  We are also sharing some of the steps being taken by DTA and the Legislature.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act H.R. 6201 signed - important SNAP/federal nutrition elements!

The President signed H.R 6201 last night (the second of major legislation to address COVID-19). Here is a link to the bill summary. Among many important provisions, the bill includes the following options. USDA will need to get guidance to states and states will need to choose to implement options:

·       Emergency SNAP allotments to households on SNAP, up to the max monthly SNAP benefit amount for the household size (eg. $194 for 1 person, $355 for 2 people, etc). This is a significant public health and economic boost for low income households and for the country as a whole.  There are currently over 450K SNAP household in MA.

  • Two forms of supplemental benefits for kids who qualify for free and reduced-price meals: 

A) Allows states to provide supplemental SNAP benefits (at the value of the school meals) for students who get free school meal status - likely paid to families on their SNAP EBT cards. 

B) Allows states to provide EBT issuances to low-income households with school aged children who are not already on SNAP, such as kids directly certified for free meals because Medicaid, foster care, Head Start or those who get free/reduced meal status through the regular NSLP application process.  We do not know how the Baker Admin will be identifying and assisting this second group of kids, but will keep you posted. 

  • Gives USDA authority to give states permission to extend SNAP certification periods, waive reporting rules and other administrative rules, and to change application and reporting rules during the crisis. We hope that DTA will take every federal option available here.
  • Suspends 3-month time limit for all ABAWDs, nationwide. This means that ALL 18 to 50 year olds are eligible for SNAP as of April 1, regardless of where they live or whether or not they have used 3 months of SNAP. We encourage organizations to take applications from all ABAWDs starting now-even if they have exhausted their previous time limit!
  • Expands on Flexibilities for School Meals and the Summer Food Service Program and for WIC - for example, relaxing food stocking requirements on WIC- approved foods in grocery stores. 

We do not have any information yet about when USDA will get information to states or from DTA about implementing these provisions. 

Households applying for SNAP benefits

As noted earlier, all applications for SNAP must be done online, fax or mail in applications or through the SNAP Outreach Providers (Project Bread and the Food Bank of Western MA are authorized to take applications by phone). We believe that DTA is operating with limited staffing, based on the reality that many case managers have kids at home or otherwise cannot get into a local office. DTA is not taking in-person SNAP applications.  

We understand that DTA is also liberalizing certain verifications needed for SNAP and cash.  We do not have details at this time, other than DTA will accept self-declarations in lieu of the college EDUC-1 (financial aid form) and the community college (CCE-1) form. The BEACON system may still be issuing these forms automatically, but DTA agrees that students are not required to get the forms signed as colleges are shut down. 

Families applying for cash assistance should call local offices 

DTA's website directs TAFDC or EAEDC applicants to call their local DTA office by phone to start an application for cash assistance.  Here is a link to the local DTA offices phone numbers.  This is an important resource for many, including families who have lost their income. Please let us know if you hear of issues or local DTA phones are not being answered.

Ask your state legislators to co-sponsor HD 4951 - an Act to Provide Short Term Relief to Families in Deep Poverty

HD 4951 was filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker and Sen. Sal DiDomenico and would provide immediate one-time supplemental cash assistance to Massachusetts’ 30,000 families with children who receive TAFDC benefits and 19,000 elders and persons with disabilities who receive EAEDC benefits.

As you know, the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has hit these families and individuals especially hard. As part of the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must help the very poorest families and individuals meet their basic needs. While there are many others who need help as well, this is a place to start. 

The MA Legislature is also working on other pandemic legislation to address the crisis. We will keep you posted on action steps.