The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

COVID-19 update 3/12: DTA info to know, federal bills/landscape

Updates for today (so far) on the federal and state level. We will continue to update the Coalition as we get relevant information. 
 
Federal nutrition programs & COVID-19 - Bills filed by McGovern and others - call your Rep!
 
A number of bills were introduced this week, intended to expand federal nutrition benefits to cushion the impact of coronavirus (see links for bill names/more info):
  • School lunches: To waive certain requirements in school nutrition programs to allow school officials to more easily distribute food, as well as grant flexibility on meal components if supply is limited. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 1,500 schools across the country were closed or about to shut their doors, affecting more than one million children. In Massachusetts, as of today multiple districts and individual schools are closed (including Somerville and Milford). 
  • Pandemic SNAPGive states the option to expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, so-called Pandemic EBT, to households with children attending closed schools. 
  • Block USDA from implementing harmful SNAP rules: Our very own Rep. McGovern and others introduced legislation that would block implementation of 3 recent USDA rules that narrow eligibility for nutrition assistance, along with suspending the ABAWD time limits in general. The measure would also temporarily increase SNAP benefits and expand the food distribution program on Indian reservations.  
  • Also, the House today is expected to vote on a sweeping stimulus package, H.R. 6201 (116), including pieces of those measures. 
See today's summary from Politico here, and regular updates & more information about the bills to share on FRAC's website here
 
Please call your Congressional Representative & Senators Warren and Markey, make sure they are aware of and supporting these bills, and thank them for their support of SNAP and their work on behalf of Massachusetts communities in the face of COVID-19!
 
Updates from DTA re. in person appointments 
 

DTA staff have been informed that as a result of COVID-19 that client appointments, including hearings, should be scheduled as telephonic appointments, with some exceptions. Existing in-person appointments may be changed to a phone appointment. This largely affects cash assistance cases (TAFDC and EAEDC) since SNAP does not have any in person rules. Reminder that folks can apply for TAFDC or EAEDC cash assistance by calling the DTA Ombudsman office at 617-348-5354 instead of going in person to an office. 

 

Clients in the following situations can continue to have in person conversations with DTA staff:

  • Any client who goes to a local office must be seen and served (including if they need an EBT card). 
  • Heightened Level of Security clients (a type of security for DV survivors)
  • A disability accommodation to have all in-person appointments;
  • No working phone number on file; or
  • Asked DTA for an in-person appointment

 

To be clear - any client who goes to an open DTA office should not be turned away. DTA in office protocols have not changed when it comes to folks who choose to go to the office. However, in the interest of reducing foot traffic and the possible spread of COVID-19, we encourage you to advise clients to call DTA by phone. If folks have a hard time reaching DTA or if there are issues accessing services by phone, please let us know. 

 

DTA is also temporarily suspending the following:

  • All home visits by any DTA staff for any reason;
  • Community liaisons’ offsite work;
  • SNAP Outreach and Nutrition Education community-based events and training;
  • In-person TAFDC orientation sessions (more guidance to come)  

 

Thanks to DTA for their regular and clear communication with stakeholders during this difficult time. 

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