Food Insecurity Data; $41M in Grants Now Available; Updates on P-EBT & Online EBT Purchasing; Upcoming Webinars and Events
First, THANK YOU ALL for adding your organizations to the national sign-on letter to the US Senate and White House, prioritizing SNAP and food security programs in the next COVID-19 federal package. Stay tuned for a FRAC update on the release of the final letter and social media opportunities to amplify.
Food Insecurity rising in MA and Baker Admin release of $41M funding for Food Security Infrastructure and HIP expansion:
A new poll by the MassINC polling group found that 24% of Massachusetts residents say they have either struggled to provide enough food for their family or have gotten food from a food bank since the coronavirus crisis began. According to a 6/11/20 article in Commonwealth Magazine, “measures of food insecurity are more common among certain groups already vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus. Roughly half of black and Hispanic residents (51 percent each) say they have struggled to provide food for their family or received food from a food bank. Among those living in the lowest-income households, 42 percent report similar challenges. Young people (41 percent) are also disproportionately affected.”
Last week during a visit to the Greater Boston Food Bank, Governor Baker announced release of $41 million to “address urgent food insecurity for Massachusetts residents as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.” This includes $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have access to fresh, local food (RFP for project proposals is available here) as well as an additional $5M for HIP state funding to expand HIP access points, Notice of Opportunity available here. We encourage all organizations that meet the criteria to request funding. See also 6/11/20 Commonwealth Magazine article highlighting the Governor’s visit and the exponential growth in food spending the GBFB and other food banks are experiencing.
Quick Updates on P-EBT:
We have a couple of quick updates for you on pandemic EBT.
· DTA’s portal to get the “DTA Case Number” so that a parent or caregiver can pin the P-EBT cards is now in 5 languages. Go here: https://dtaconnect.eohhs.
· For families that may have moved or did not get the P-EBT cards, they should call the DTA to report the change of address. To reach a DTA worker, call DTA Assistance Line at 877-382-2363 (press 6 after listening to the introductory language to reach a worker directly).
· DTA reported late last week that nearly 65% of the 280K families that received P-EBT cards have successfully pinned their cards. That leaves about 100K families who got cards and should be urged to PIN them. We will circle back to Coalition members as DTA, DESE and Project Bread redouble efforts.
· And remember, the P-EBT benefits are available to the child for 365 days, even if a P-EBT card has not yet been activated.
Online EBT Purchasing Updates:
Last Thursday at the Governor’s Press Conference at the Greater Boston Food Bank, EOHHS Secretary Sudders reported that as of June 10th there had been 11, 276 EBT online purchasing transactions with Amazon and Walmart from MA households, totally roughly $1M. Note, both SNAP and P-EBT can be used for online purchasing. e 22.00-22.40 of press conference.
Meanwhile, the MA Congressional Delegation, lead by Senator Ed Markey, has written to USDA Secretary Perdue asking USDA to expand the number of EBT retailers into the online EBT purchasing pilot. See news story from Framingham Source and Delegation statement and letter HERE. Thank you Senator Markey for your leadership!
Essential Workers and the Importance of SNAP:
We wanted you to be sure you saw this powerful Center for American Progress analysis which finds that “people who worked in jobs categorized as essential during the coronavirus pandemic were more likely than the general workforce to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.” And ”more than 5.5 million, or 13.36 percent, of people who worked in jobs that would be deemed essential during the pandemic needed SNAP benefits at some point during 2018, while only 7.8 percent of workers in jobs that weren’t deemed essential utilized the program that year.” Here’s the Center’s press release on the report as well.
Unidos/FRAC Webinar in Spanish: Changes to SNAP under COVID-19 Thurs, June 18, 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. ET
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to an unprecedented nationwide crisis for Latino children and families. This crisis has highlighted the critical role that federal nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), play to help families put food on the table through hard times or during low seasons. This webinar in Spanish will cover the changes made to SNAP during COVID-19 and discuss the challenges, in addition to best practices and lessons learned, that Latinos face to participate in SNAP. Central West Justice Center Advocate Gina Plato-Nino is one of the lead presenters! To register, go HERE.
Upcoming Training: State and Federal Veterans Benefits , July 9th (9:30AM – 3:30 PM)
This training (now by Zoom) is for legal services advocates, legislative aides, community orgs and anyone else who wants to learn about the basics of state and federal veterans’ benefits including Chapter 115 state benefits, federal VA-administered benefits for healthcare, service-connected disability compensation, and non-service-connected. The session covers the basic application process, eligibility rules for veterans (military discharge status, financial eligibility, disqualifying conditions, refund status); disability requirements for benefits and the basics of filing an appeal and upgrading a less than honorable discharge. It will also cover some recent policy changes for veterans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. To REGISTER, go Here (select non-lawyer advocate for $35 fee).
Next SNAP Coalition meeting: This is a brief reminder that our NEXT SNAP Coalition zoom meeting is Tuesday, June 23rd at 10 AM. The SNAP Coalition Zoom calls are every other Tuesday through July, and we will reassess at the end of July.