The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

COVID relief package & SNAP, eviction legal help project, vet benefits training

Thanks to everyone who tuned in this morning to the last Coalition Zoom meeting of 2020! Amazing to "see" 120 of you to celebrate the good news - we have lots to do in 2021! Follow up information below. 
 
SNAP and P-EBT improvements in COVID relief 
 
We are thrilled that the package includes a 15% boost to SNAP and other positive SNAP and federal nutrition provisions. However, we know this relief is not enough - it is a down payment, and we need to continue pushing Congress to pass comprehensive relief in 2021!
 
In terms of what the bill does for SNAP and P-EBT, we wanted to provide a brief overview of the top line SNAP and P-EBT items:
  • 15% boost to SNAP benefit amounts - with the supplemental payments boosting folks to the max grant still in place, this will look like approximately $27 per person per month (eg. for a family of 3, the monthly max SNAP amount will be about $615 - it is currently $535).This will be in place from January 1 through June 2021. 
  • $300/week boost in unemployment not counted for SNAP- In the spring, the $600/week FPUC unemployment boost counted as income for SNAP - which meant many were cut off, and either did not know to come back to DTA or had a hard time reapplying after they lost FPUC in July. This change means that families will not see their SNAP change as a result of the $300/week FPUC boost moving forward. 
  • Changes to college student eligibility rules:  Expands SNAP eligibility for low income college students who receive work study (even if no work study job available) and those whose financial aid/ FAFSA "expected family contribution" (EFC) is $0. It also requires more info sharing and cooperation between USDA and the US Department of Education. But! Please stay tuned in terms of what this will mean for Massachusetts students! USDA needs to put out guidance first before DTA can implement. 
  • Getting P-EBT out to certain kids ages 0-5 - stay tuned!!  In October, Congress extended P-EBT and expanded it to certain kids under 6 who lose access to child care days due to the pandemic. States haven't been able to implement this yet because USDA hasn't gotten out guidance. This COVID relief bill has language geared at making it easier for states like Massachusetts to get P-EBT out to kids ages 0-5 who are on SNAP. As DTA shared this morning, we just don't know yet how this will work in Massachusetts - stay tuned! P-EBT is confusing enough for families - so please continue focusing your messaging on spreading the word on P-EBT for October and November for school aged kids. Also, connect families not getting SNAP with SNAP! See MAp-EBT.org for more!
More to come in terms of revised resources, materials etc in 2021! For now, we want to take a moment to celebrate the advocacy of this tremendous Coalition! And, of course please thank our delegation members for their ongoing and robust support of federal nutrition programs. 
 
COVID-19 Eviction Legal Help Project for Massachusetts Residents:

Many thanks to our MLRI colleague Quisquella Addison for sharing these resources on today's call. As evictions start to increase, the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP) is scaling up statewide to provide more legal resources to prevent eviction during the pandemic. The project will help tenants facing eviction and owner-occupants who live in 2 and 3-family houses who are filing an eviction. To be eligible for free legal help a household's income must be under 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. CELHP is a joint project between MLRI, the Mass Legal Assistance Corporation and the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project.  

To find out where your clients can get legal help, how you can refer tenants, and for more information about tenants' rights and resources go to evictionlegalhelp.org.  
 
Cash Benefits for Massachusetts Veterans and Dependents - Free Zoom Training on Jan 14th 
 
Massachusetts is the only state in the United States that has a state and locally-funded means-tested cash assistance (and medical assistance) for low income veterans, their dependents including in some cases, their parents?  Known as "Chapter 115" Veterans Services benefits, the monthly cash benefits can often be 2 to 4 times higher than TAFDC or EAEDC cash benefits administered by DTA, depending on the veterans shelter costs. SNAP Coalition members and other partners are welcome to attend this 1 hour free webinar on Thursday, January 14th, from 10 to 11 AM.  
 
The 1 hour training is presented by our colleagues at Veterans Legal Services. You will learn: 1) the nuts and bolts of Chapter 115 Vets Services benefits, 2) how veterans and dependents can apply for these benefits, 3) how to use the fantastic Veterans Benefits Calculator massvetben.org/  and 4) where to refer veterans and their dependents denied these critical lifeline benefits.  To REGISTER, fill out the Google Form HERE

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