Thank you to all of you who joined yesterday’s Zoom call. 102 participants! Wow, we figured you were all vacationing. It was a pleasure to have you on the call along with our national partners from FRAC. THANK YOU for all you do to serve low income Massachusetts households.
Federal Updates & Labor Day media push:
Labor Day media push to highlight need for Pandemic Package: Tomorrow (9/3) and Friday (9/4) the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and US Department of Labor will release unemployment data for August. Our friends at the Food Research Action Center (FRAC) are joining with national groups for a big media push next week to get Congress to pass the urgently needed Pandemic package – including the need to #BoostSNAPnow. Once the data is released, we are hoping you can help get local media including letters to the editor. We will ship out sample templates on Friday AM with help from the FRAC team.
US and Massachusetts Mayors call on USDA to Extend Summer Meals and support extension to P-EBT by Congress:Check out the August 31st letter signed by over 100 U.S. Mayors to USDA to extend summer meal waivers and support Congressional efforts to extend P-EBT benefits. The Mayors of Boston, Everett, Lawrence, North Adams, Northampton and West Springfield all signed on! (In terms of part of their letter, on Monday, USDA announced an extension of summer meal flexibilities through the end of December). Please THANK them and urge them to keep up the noise!
MA SNAP Updates:
· SNAP emergency supplement for August will go out tomorrow, September 3 (assuming no unforeseen issues). DTA can ask USDA to approve the emergency allotment each month where the federal government and the state each have a public health emergency declaration due to COVID in place. For more information, see the google doc here.
· Automatic replacement of some SNAP for households hit hard by Tropical Storm Isaias: DTA plans to issue automatic SNAP replacement benefits for households living in 33 Western and Central MA towns tomorrow, September 3 (similarly, assuming no unforeseen issues) . The amount of the automatic replacement depends on the day of the month households are issued SNAP (based on the last digit of Social Security Number). Note: households can still make an individual request for the full amount of food lost, up to the SNAP maximum allotment, but they need to take steps to make that request by September 3. To learn more, see MLRI’s flier here and DTA press release here.
· SNAP interviews required again for applications and certain Recertifications: As of September 1, DTA has reinstated the mandatory SNAP application interview – this means all applicants need to talk to a DTA worker by phone as part of the application process. Households who have to do a Recertification also have to have an interview unless all members of the household are 60+ or persons with disabilities with no earnings. Note that households can complete an application or Recertification by phone – instead of doing the form – by speaking with a SNAP case manager. Doing the paperwork by phone also serves as the interview. Households should get a notice from DTA about the interview, and they can check the status of their case on DTA Connect.
· Lost Wages Assistance ($300/week unemployment): The Baker Administration announced Massachusetts will starting issuing the $300/week “Lost Wages Assistance” (LWA) for beginning this week (for those getting PUA - Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) and soon for those getting regular Unemployment benefits. See Baker Admin 9/1/2020 media advisory here. It will be paid out, to start, retroactively for 3 weeks in August. DTA has confirmed that this $300/week benefit does NOT count as income for SNAP.
· College students: DTA has issued guidance that college students applying for or renewing SNAP do not need to complete the DTA financial aid form (EDUC-1) or the community college form (CCE-1). Students can provide a print out of their financial aid award statements (most students have online financial aid accounts). Students can qualify for SNAP if they receive MassGrant financial aid, or if they receive work study in their financial aid package (even if no work study job is lined up at this time). Community college students should be able to qualify if they are enrolled in a certificate program or Associate’s Degree that will make them more employable. DTA will accept self-declarations of this information. Please contact MLRI if you learn of any students who are denied SNAP (for just themselves, or if they are part of a larger household).
· Verifications: During COVID-19, DTA has adopted a number of simplified verification procedures. DTA should broadly use collateral contacts and self-declarations if proofs are not immediately available. If a household reports that income has stopped / been terminated, a verbal or written self-declaration should be accepted. Also, reminder that parents applying for US citizen children can verify their identity with their child's birth certificate if the parent is listed on that document. A photo ID (such as a foreign passport) is not required. Contact MLRI if you see issues with verifications.