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public charge, advocacy tips & updates, SNAP data

 
 
Important updates and messaging below on public charge, replacement SNAP benefits after yesterday's storm, accessing DTA during times of high call volume, the July supplement, and SNAP caseload data. 
 
Homeland Security suspends recent "public charge" rule after fed court decision - How to advise immigrant families 
 
On July 29, a federal judge in New York granted a nationwide preliminary injunction of the Trump Administration's "public charge" regulations that went into effect in February. The federal court put the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rules on HOLD -  for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic emergency. Yesterday, August 4th, the US Citizenship and Immigrant Service (USCIS) - which is directly under DHS - issued guidance to implement this court decision. USCIS has confirmed that it will NOT use the revised public charge rule for any immigration cases pending as of July 29th. The "old" or former and much less harmful public charge rules are in effect. 
 
What to tell immigrant families:
  • As long as the New York District Court’s injunction remains in place, the public charge rules are blocked - nationwide. This means that the "wealth test" imposed by the Trump Administration rules is not in effect. 
  • Immigrants who are eligible to apply for legal permanent resident status (a "green card") should not worry about using federal health care, housing or SNAP benefits right now. USCIS will not ask about this if the immigrant is actively applying for legal status. 
And remember, even before the court stopped the harmful federal rules, the revised "public charge" rules do not affect many households: 
  • Receiving SNAP (or other benefits) on behalf of US citizen children or other family members does not cause a "public charge" problem for an immigrant. This was true before the federal court ruling, and is still true now!  
  • The vast majority of immigrants who were even subject to the public charge test before this court injunction are typically not eligible for SNAP because of the immigrant eligibility restrictions.  
  • Public charge does not apply to legal immigrants who are simply renewing their green cards (which most do every 10 years) and it does not apply when legal immigrants naturalize.
  • Public charge does not affect immigrants who are refugees, aslyees and other special categories and seeking a green card. 
SNAP replacement benefits due to loss of power

Yesterday more than 220,000 across MA lost power - especially in Central and Western MA. See Boston Globe article here. Reminder that SNAP households who lose food they bought with SNAP due to loss of power - if the outage lasted 4 hours or more - can request replacement SNAP benefits from DTA. DTA confirmed in the past that replacements can include the supplemental SNAP for households not getting the maximum grant. NOTE: Households do not have to complete the exact DTA form. They can write out the following information on a note (a "self declaration"): 
  • name and identifying information (eg. DTA Agency ID)
  • value of the food lost that was bought with SNAP
  • reason for the replacement request, and the date the loss occurred
  • signature with a note that the client signed "under the penalty of perjury"
They can submit the note quickly to DTA through DTA Connect (DTA guidance explains this here).  This may be easier for many households. The initial report (a phone call or in writing) must be made to DTA within 10 days of the loss.  For more information on how to request replacement SNAP, click here.   
 
DTA high call volume: Advocacy tips
 
Because of the interruption to FPUC (the $600/week unemployment boost) many families are calling DTA. DTA reported on yesterday's SNAP Coalition Zoom that there are long wait times and many callers are getting the "high call volume" message and being disconnected. Some tips on getting questions answered and ensuring households can be connected to SNAP as quickly as possible:
  • Encourage families with income below 200% FPL to apply for SNAP as soon as possible (including those on unemployment who lost FPUC). The fastest way to apply right now is through DTAConnect.com
  • Check on case information and notices via DTAConnect.com or the DTA Connect app (households can change phone number/address on DTAConnect as well)
  • Tell household to keep an eye out for text messages from DTA and to pick up if DTA calls them. DTA workers should call 3 times in a row. See the google doc for the numbers texts and calls come from when it is DTA. 
  • If an applicant needs to speak with DTA ASAP, suggest they call at 8:15 am when the phone lines open. 
  • Report issues to the DTA Ombuds office. 
SNAP caseload data - 2 MLRI charts 
 
Below are 2 charts illustrating the impact COVID-19 has had on the SNAP caseload - including the more recent impact of the boost to unemployment benefits. These charts underscore the need to #BoostSNAPnow, and the uncertainty and financial struggle many families are facing during this interruption to FPUC. Keep up the noise on social media, in the news, and with your networks on the need to #BoostSNAPnow!
MLRI chart, MA SNAP caseload - COVID19 March - July 2020.png
 
 
MLRI chart, MA SNAP caseload - 2009 to 2020.png
 
DTA issued SNAP supplement for July on 8/3 
 
On Monday, DTA issued supplements to households not already receiving the maximum grant. For more information on the supplements, click here. It was issued to about 247,000 households, for a total of about $35 million in SNAP. Households were informed via a text message.