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Tax outreach older adults, fuel assistance SSN proof news, SNAP non-countable income

We have a few updates this week - including a timely ask to get the word out on federal tax dollars!! Our next Coalition meeting will be Tuesday 4/26 at 10 AM. Here is the Zoom link, agenda to come. 

FindYourFunds outreach fliers for older adults 65+ who for the first time (!) can get EITC!

Please share these flyers for older adults in 11 languages! And visit FindYourFunds.org to learn more!

More options to get the word out on EITC and Child Tax Credit:

  • Host a training session to provide your team/providers with a high level overview of what their clients could get - and what questions to ask (available in multiple languages). 

  • Host a virtual or in-person information session for your clients to help understand what they are eligible for, clarify misconceptions and get questions answered (available in multiple languages with a tax expert and/or immigration attorney). 

  • Watch this FindYourFunds.org recent webinar for additional information. Contact sarah@shahfoundation.org to host a session.  

LIHEAP/Fuel Assistance Verifications - Social Security Number proof issues

A couple of months ago the Coalition hosted a presentation on Fuel Assistance with a CAP agency that included information on how to apply and the proofs needed to qualify. Following that presentation, MLRI, Central West Justice Center (CWJC) and the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) reached out to the Dept of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to share concerns about excessive verifications required to apply for Fuel Assistance. Notably, local CAP agencies shared that they believed they were required to ask households for  copies of the SSN cards or an SSA letter with the full SSN on it, and not just accepting the SSN itself, which other state agencies do. This is very burdensome for many households and for many is a source of incomplete LIHEAP applications. 

 

In a recent meeting we had, DHCD shared that they instructed all CAPs to not require households to provide a copy of the SSN card or an SSA letter. CAPs were instructed there are other ways a household may verify their citizenship or legal immigration status beyond the SSN documents, including birth certificates, passports, baptismal records, immigration documents and other documentation. Huge TNX to DHCD for this! We are urging  DHCD to also consider other federal options to reduce verification barriers and expand Fuel Assistance access. Please continue to notify Pat Baker at MLRI if you are seeing households denied Fuel Assistance due to lack of verification: pbaker@mlri.org 

Non-Countable Income Reminder: SCSEP and Work Study

In the past few weeks we’ve heard of a few cases where SNAP applications have been denied or SNAP benefits have been reduced due to DTA workers incorrectly counting non-countable income. As a reminder, certain types of income do not count for SNAP! Two examples include:

 
  • SCSEP is the Senior Community Service Employment Program. Much like AmeriCorps or Vista, SCSEP is a federally funded volunteer service program that provides older adults a stipend for their work with non-profits, typically paid at the state minimum wage. This is NOT countable income.  See DTA Online Guide guidance, including the agencies that administer SCSEP in MA. 

  • Work Study for college students is one of the factors that can qualify a student as SNAP eligible - and work study income does NOT count for SNAP. MLRI resolved a recent UMass Boston student case where the SNAP worker erroneously asked for the students wage information, counted it as income, and denied the household SNAP benefits because the work study put the family over the gross income limit for SNAP. 

 

For a full list of income that does not count for SNAP, see this page of DTA’s Online Guide


Please flag these cases if you see them and report them to the Ombuds Office right away (sara.craven@state.ma.us), and let MLRI know if you see any additional cases.