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SNAP Coalition 8/10; Updates on SNAP & College Students, Gig Workers; School Meal Debt Bill passes House, and CTC Resources!

Hoping you are all getting some time off this summer to enjoy the beach and being with family, while also staying safe!  

Next and Fall SNAP Coalition Meetings: 

The next (and last before September) SNAP Coalition meetings is Tuesday, August 10, 2021 from 10 to 11:30 AM.  Note, we will morph back to Coalition meetings the 4th Tuesday of each month with periodic or intermittent Coalition meetings on the 2nd Tuesday for special presentations.   The next regular 2021 SNAP Coalition meetings will be Tuesday September 28th and Tuesday, October 26th. Soon we will announce the date for the joint Coalition meeting for November/December.  

College students and SNAP:

We want to keep you up to date on SNAP and college students as campuses start to reopen.  Last Friday we spoke with DTA following a recent letter sent by members of the Hunger Free Campus Coalition (HFCC). 

·         DTA is working on a state regulation change to stop counting all non-federal student financial aid in calculating TAFDC (cash assistance) and SNAP benefits. (Federal financial aid is not countable income under federal rules). DTA will be posting this regulation change for public comment soon and they hope to have the final regulation in effect in September or October. This is terrific news. It means that college students will no longer need to verify how much non-federal financial aid they have and what it is used for. 

·         DTA will continue implementation of the temporary COVID SNAP rules for college students that went into effect in February 2021 and for as long as the federal government (USDA) allows states to do so, or approves other changes. This means that students will still be SNAP eligible this fall if they have a) an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0, b) receive a full Pell grant or c) are awarded Work Study (assuming the students meet the other SNAP rules). When they apply for SNAP, students need only download and send to DTA proof of their financial aid award that shows their EFC at $0, the amount of Pell, their Work Study award or receipt of a MassGrant.  Students do not need to ask the college to complete the DTA “EDUC-1” Form.

·         DTA plans to continue the current SNAP policy for community college students as well. Students with a declared major may continue to be SNAP eligible and do not need to ask the college to complete the DTA CCE-1 Form or any other forms. They just need to share with DTA proof of their major. (Note, community college students who meet the federal exemptions above re EFC of $0, approved for Work Study, Pell or MassGrant are also SNAP eligible - even if they have an undeclared major).   

Action item:  Please continue to encourage area colleges to notify students they are SNAP eligible, including alerting students to SNAP through financial aid award letter or award portals. SNAP Outreach materials and social media infographics re SNAP for students are available HERE

Self-employed/Gig workers and SNAP:

We just wanted to flag a wonderful report our former AmeriCorps member, Aparna Raghu drafted to make the case for a standard business expense deduction for self-employed households including gig workers, small farms, childcare providers etc.  Here is a link to the Google Drive with Aparna’s detailed report and the July 19th letter to DTA from MLRI, the Boston Independent Drivers Guild, the Mass Coalition of Gig Workers and the Mass Food Systems Collaborative.  MA has one of the lowest rates (1%) of SNAP households with self-employed income in the nation – which could be either a factor of being miscoded as wage earners or being too discouraged to apply or follow through with the onerous verifications.  

Action item: If you are working with any self-employed households whose SNAP or cash (TAFDC) benefits have been incorrectly calculated, please let us know. We appreciate how challenging documentation of self-employed deductions are and hope that a standard business expense deduction will resolve this.  

School Meal Debt/”Meal Shaming” Bill passes MA House!

On Thursday, July 29th, the Massachusetts House passed to be engrossed Rep Vargas’ legislation, an Act to Promote School Nutrition, H.3999!  This is a fantastic victory.  HUGE thanks to House Speaker Ron Mariano, Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, Education Chair Rep Alice Peisch and our amazing lead sponsor Rep Andy Vargas! Check out Rep Vargas’ tweet HERE

Under the House bill:

·         More school districts and individual schools eligible to provide universal free school meals – known as the CEP or “community eligibility provision”- are required to do so. School districts can “opt out” if implementing CEP would not be financially feasible.

·         Schools are required to take steps to maximize federal nutrition dollars. For ex, schools could do more regular “direct certification” of children potentially eligible for free school meals and promote SNAP outreach.

·         Schools are prohibited from certain practices such as tossing students’ hot meals, barring children from school activities or graduation exercises, adding fees or interest to meal debt, or otherwise involving children in what should be an “adult only” conversation about unpaid meal debt. (Please note, School Nutrition staff do not endorse nor engage in “meal shaming” – many of these meal debt collection practices are often orchestrated from the business side of the school district).

The Senate bill, S. 298, led by Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Stone Creem, is now before Senate Ways and Means where we hope some of the Senate provisions will be retained as the bill moves to the Senate floor either during informal sessions or in early September.  

Action Item:  Please THANK House leadership and Rep Vargas for their work on H.3999 and please contact your State Senator to urge the Senate to pass S. 298 as quickly as possible.  

Child Tax Credit Resources from MA AGO

The MA AGO has been actively working on promoting resources on the Child Tax Credit.  Check out these fantastic resources in four languages here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/attorney-generals-guide-to-the-child-tax-credit-in-massachusetts.  And the MA AGO is also leading the charge with 22 other AGOs in urging Congress to permanently extend the child tax credit.  See AGO letter to Congress HERE