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Thrifty Food Plan boost to SNAP, unemployment cliff, child care resources

Lots of news below, including a permanent boost in SNAP effective 10/1, but also a “benefits cliff” loss of Unemployment benefits after Labor Day.  

There is NO SNAP Coalition meeting next week. We will have two Coalition meetings in September –September 14thand 28th.

 

USDA authorizes permanent increase to SNAP effective October 2021 

USDA announced an historic update to the “Thrifty Food Plan” (TFP) to more accurately reflect the cost of a healthy diet for SNAP households. In the 2018 Farm Bill, a bi-partisan Congress directed USDA to evaluate the TFP.  In response to Congress, USDA spent the last few months engaged in a data and science-driven effort to determine the minimum food resources families need to purchase a healthier diet for the month. USDA considered what Americans eat, the nutrients in food, and current costs of food and dietary guidelines.  As a result, USDA is implementing a 21% increase in the maximum SNAP monthly allotments. 

MLRI applauds the Biden Administration for their hard work to evaluate the adequacy of SNAP and make a permanent change in the right direction! This is long overdue. 

Beginning October 1, 2021, the average SNAP benefit for households — excluding temporary COVID-19 “emergency allotments” that may expire in early 2022 — will increase roughly $36 per person per month or $1.20/day. Put another way, the current average SNAP benefit will increase from $4.25 to $5.45 per person per day.  Still very low, but a step in the right direction!

Two notes:

1.     This 21% boost in the maximum SNAP benefit will go into effect the same time that the temporary 15% COVID boost will sunset. As Joseph Llobrera of CBPP notes, “while the increase in SNAP benefits resulting from the revised TFP will make benefits more adequate going forward, SNAP households’ benefits will rise by only about 7% in October because the temporary 15% increase in SNAP benefits established by the December 2020 COVID-19 relief bill and extended by the American Rescue Plan is slated to expire at the end of September.” This means that instead of facing a decrease in October, SNAP benefits will increase roughly $8 per person per month starting 10/1/21.

2.     We do not know yet when DTA will be implementing this update. Stay tuned!

More information:

  • The Food Research and Action Center’s statement on the TFP boost here
  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities blog posting on the TFP boost here.  
  • For a short/straightforward TFP overview, check out CBPP's Brynne Keith-Jennings twitter thread here. 
  • USDA’s infographic is here and public announcement is here.
  • To see a summary of comments by SNAP households and researchers/advocates, see USDA’s flier “You spoke, we listened” is here.  Huge thanks to Diane Sullivan for speaking with USDA!
  • And if you subscribe, see Sunday’s New York Times article by Jason DeParle.
 

An estimated 314K MA workers scheduled to lose Unemployment after Labor Day

According to the Century Foundation,  an estimated 314,000 MA workers will lose all of their unemployment benefits September 4 (meaning their last payments will be issued to most the week of 9/5). This unemployment “cliff” will put low-income families in an extremely difficult financial position, especially for those who are currently unable to re-enter the workforce due to lack of child care (especially for nights and weekends), concerns about the Delta variant, or ongoing health effects from COVID. For many households, this change could result in a drop to $0 of income. For more context about the challenges facing those who lose unemployment, see Sunday’s Commonwealth Magazine article

MLRI is extremely concerned about this cliff. We encourage you to be in touch with clients getting unemployment to make sure they are connected to SNAP and, if they will have very low or no income after their unemployment ends, encourage them to apply for TAFDC. Also, tune in to an upcoming training - See information below!

 

TRAINING: The Unemployment Cliff - DTA Cash and SNAP Benefits Training 

MLRI and Greater Boston Legal Services are hosting an important training to help you help households who lose Unemployment benefits in early September. The free training will focus on the basics of SNAP and the TAFDC cash assistance program for families with children and some pregnant women. The training is on Thursday, September 9 from 10:30-Noon. Register by clicking here.  Please contact Vicky Negus with questions:  vnegus@mlri.org

 

Childcare subsidies – Client resource materials

We know that there are shortages of childcare slots statewide, and challenges for parents - especially for those who work non-traditional hours. See Boston Opportunity Agenda/Boston Foundation study on the impact of COVID on childcare.  Yet even before COVID, Massachusetts had some of the highest childcare costs in the country and woefully long waitlists for subsidized care. Connecting to child care is a top concern for many of the clients we work with!

Our colleagues at GBLS have assembled the fliers below to help: 

·       Overview of childcare resources  from DTA and DEEC  (Department of Early Education and Care)

·       Flier on childcare resources from GBLS, and a 1 page overview from GBLS on how homeless families can access childcare during the pandemic.

 

Note: Families who qualify for TAFDC cash assistance are automatically qualified for free childcare. And, they qualify for subsidized (lower cost) child care for a year after their TAFDC is closed. Plus, families who get TAFDC in September will also get a $350/child clothing allowance.