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Important SNAP Policy Updates affecting Elder/Disabled Clients and other households

Here's two important policy updates that will improve SNAP access for low income clients, especially elder and disabled households. A big thanks to DTA for tackling these issues, both of which had some BEACON systems implications that had to be dealt with.

1. Minimum $16 SNAP benefit for 1 and 2 person households:

DTA has just issued guidance that will make three important changes in how SNAP applications are handled for certain households;
  • All elder/disabled households with gross income below 200% federal poverty level (FPL) should now receive the minimum SNAP benefit ($16) even if net household income exceeds the 100% FPL level. This has been a long standing BEACON systems glitch since the implementation of broad-based categorical eligibility. Keep in mind that many elder/disabled households may also have out-of-pocket medical expenses (even if on MassHealth) or high shelter costs (including incurring excess electricity charges for air conditioning) which would trigger higher deductions to increase the SNAP benefit above the minimum benefit. DTA has made changes in BEACON to correct these cases effective July 5th. If you have elder or disabled clients who were previously denied SNAP benefits due to the net income test, please have them reapply and flag the case for possible retroactive benefits. We will keep you posted on how to address retro benefits.
  • All 1 and 2 person households comprised of adults age 19 - 59 (no children, not disabled) whose gross income is below 130% FPL gross income level but with net income exceeds 100% FPL. are also eligible for the minimum $16 SNAP benefit If you have 1 and 2 person childless households whose income exceeds 130% FPL but would otherwise be eligible for SNAP, please contact MLRI about these cases.
  • Families with three or more persons whose income is under 200% FPL are also categorically eligible for SNAP. However, unlike 1 and 2 person households, if the household net income exceeds 100% FPL, the family will not receive the $16 minimum benefit. They will be in suspended status, with zero benefits. This sounds odd, but what it means is that if the household experiences a change in income or expenses that reduces net income, they can report the change to qualify for benefits but do not need to reapply. Zero benefit households with school age children should also qualify for free school meals for these children.

Here's the link to the DTA Operations Memo 2011-33: http://www.masslegalservices.org/node/38098

2. Reinstatement of No-Interview waiver for Elder/Disabled Households: 

DTA has reinstated the policy of waiving recertification interviews for elder or disabled households without earned income. An elder or disabled household that submits a complete SNAP recertification form (and the information on the form and verifications are not questionable) is not required to have a SNAP interview. The USDA approved waiver applies only if all household members are elderly and/or disabled and no household member has earned income. Thanks to USDA for allowing DTA to reinstate this important, ground breaking waiver !! 

It is important to note that USDA waiver requires DTA to NOT terminate SNAP benefits at recertification without offering an interview to discuss the recertification information. So, if DTA believes the person is no longer eligible, they must schedule an interview before denying the recert. Please let MLRI know if you have any elder or disabled households whose benefits are terminated at recert and who were not offered an interview. 

Here's the link to the DTA Operations Memo 2011-29: http://www.masslegalservices.org/node/38091

The July Coalition meeting will be Tuesday, July 26th. Mark your calendars !