The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Problems Surfacing re Free School Meals for Children living with Relatives; Fliers in English and Spanish

Free School Meal Direct Certification Problems:

School has started, and so have the problems ! MLRI received calls from a grandparent and then an aunt with children NOT automatically "directly certified" for free school meals. Each child receives MassHealth, and one gets SSI and the other two get federal Adoption Assistance. Medicaid is provided along with these federal benefits. These children are entitled to free school meals and the income of their caregivers should not be counted!

We suspect the problem is that the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) Department of Medicaid and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) did an incomplete data exchange. We think they failed to include of all the children on MassHealth who are eligible for free school meals under the state's Medicaid Direct Certification pilot and MLRI has notified DESE and EOHHS of this discrepancy. We think the bulk of children not getting processed properly are likely children living with non-parent caregivers - grand parents, aunts, uncles, etc..  

Under the state's Medicaid Direct Cert pilot, all children on MassHealth with family gross income under 133% FPL should be "directly certified"for free meals. Also eligible are children who get MassHealth automatically with another benefit or DCF care - known in Medicaid land as "referred eligibles."  Non-parental income does not count in determining MassHealth, SSI or Adoption Assistance eligibility..

ATTACHED are two fliers, one in English and the other in Spanish, which explain the rights of children to qualify for free school meals. (Same text as before, but now on two pages).  If you hear of any families who should be getting free school meals for the children in their custody but were told otherwise, please let MLRI know ASAP.

School Meal Debt/Shaming: 

If you hear of any families whose children are shamed or punished in any way due to an outstanding meal debt (from last year), please also let us know. Shaming can include barring the child from extra curricular activities, not allowing the child to purchase a la carte food, stamping a child's hand or otherwise involving the child in collection of the debt.

School meal debt SURVEY, click here:

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