We know this is a crazy week in the world and country, and we also know COVID cases are on the rise in the state and across the nation. And food insecurity is also on the rise, with MA having the highest rate of increase since COVID in the nation – see Feeding America recent data below.
Against this backdrop, we extend our deepest thanks to all the Coalition members for everything you are doing to ensure Massachusetts households have access to food resources. These are very tough times. We will have lots of updates at next week’s SNAP Coalition meeting (Tues, 11/10/20) - but right now want to share some exciting state budget news and ACTION steps on two amendments.
House Ways and Means FY21 Budget Update
Yesterday, House Ways and Means (HWM) released its FY21 proposed budget, which heads to the House floor next week for debate. (The Senate will likely release its budget soon thereafter). The HWM budget makes critical investments in low-income households in MA including.
· A 10% cost of living increase (COLA) in TAFDC and EAEDC cash assistance benefits, effective January 2021 thru June. This is HUGE! These DTA cash benefits have not been increased for decades. (Remember, incomeless/low-income households can apply for DTA cash benefits through DTAConnect or by phone). The Lift Our Kids Campaign will keep folks updated on next steps.
· A huge boost in MEFAP to $30M (Mass Emergency Food Assistance Program). These are state dollars to boost commodity foods to food pantries and other partner orgs.
· Another major boost in HIP to $13M (Healthy Incentives Program). This is state funding that helps SNAP households afford locally grown, healthy food from farmers markets, farm stands and CSAs.
These HWM budget priorities are HUGE! A deep bow to House Speaker DeLeo and HWM Chair Michlewitz for recognizing the impact of the COVID/Economic Recession and the important investments needed to help low income families. Please THANK them!
ACTION ALERT: Two anti-hunger budget amendments that need your advocacy
· SNAP Gap Amendment # 140: Rep Jay Livingstone is filing an amendment that would direct the EOHHS to make changes this fiscal year(before July 2021) to allow MassHealth and Medicare Savings Program consumers to apply for SNAP at the same time. The MA Legislature already authorized the Administration to borrow $5M in the August 2020 IT Bond Bill to implement these IT changes. This amendment does not seek funding but simply directs EOHHS to get it done this fiscal year. Why? Millions of federal SNAP dollars are on the table, SNAP is the only way households can access HIP, and food pantries cannot begin to backfill the food insecurity needs or replace the SNAP Gap! Members should sign on thru the Quill feature in the LAWS portal (members know what this is, so just let them know it is in LAWS).
· Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Amendment: Rep Andy Vargas is filing an amendment that would direct school districts or individual schools that are CEP eligible to elect the CEP federal option and provide universal free meals. School districts with 60% or more eligible students (directly certified for free meals through SNAP, TANF or Medicaid or are homeless or foster care) would be required to implement CEP and districts/schools with 40-60% eligible students would be required to explore CEP and determine if financially feasible. This would impact school districts in the upcoming school year 21/22. With the huge surge in SNAP applications in the state (15% increase since COVID), more schools are likely CEP eligible next year. There is NO amendment number right now but House Reps or aides can contact Rep Vargas’ aide, Emrah Fejzic to sign on firstname.lastname@example.org
ACTION STEPS: 1) Please THANK Speaker DeLeo and HWM Chair Michlewitz for the very strong budget provisions listed above. 2) Please email or call your State Rep and urge them to co-sponsor and support both the SNAP Gap and CEP amendments!
MA with largest % increase in food insecurity in the nation due to COVID.
The Greater Boston Food Bank recently shared this eye-popping data. Feeding America released updated projections last week that Massachusetts has the highest increase of individuals experiencing food insecurity in the nation at 59% since COVID, and food insecurity among children is now at 102%, again the highest increase in the nation. All data can be seen in Feeding America’s updated interactive map and Here is the new brief .
- MA has the highest increase of individuals experiencing food insecurity in the nation at 59% (pg 3, Table 2 and pg 5, Table 4 of report)
- MA Child Food Insecurity has the highest increase in the nation now at 102% (see pg 3, Table 2 and pg 7, Table 6 of report)
Reminder – Upcoming Training on SNAP during COVID-19
Date and time: Thursday, November 12 from 2-3:30 PM
The SNAP caseload has increased by 15 percent since the start of the pandemic - but we know many are not yet connected to SNAP. Connecting all low-income families who are eligible with DTA benefits is a key way to fight food insecurity and boost the MA economy. Join Pat and Vicky to learn about SNAP and how to connect families to this valuable benefit. This training is geared at community advocates, legal services, the emergency food delivery system, social workers, health care providers, and others who work with low-income households and communities. Recipients and low-income households are welcome as well. To learn more and to register, click here!
NEXT SNAP Coalition meeting
Tuesday, November 10th from 10 to 11:30. An agenda and Zoom call-in details to follow.