The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Updates: Economic Impact Payments, power outage replacement SNAP, fuel assistance, etc

 few updates below on a number of programs and also on SNAP and the recent power outages. 
 
Economic Impact Payments (stimulus payments from the CARES Act)
 
See this very help Q&A on the Economic Assistance Payments and how to ensure households get the payments from the IRS:  Masslegalhelp.org/covid-19/stimulus-payment
 
A couple of other important updates on these payments:
  • SSI and RSDI (Social Security) recipients will automatically get the payments by direct deposit (the IRS announced the addition of SSI recipients to automatic payments today). SSI and RSDI recipients with dependents should fill out the IRS form for those who have not filed taxes in 2018/2019 if they have children under 17 in order to get the dependent benefit of $500/child.
  • The MA AG Office has stated that these payments cannot be intercepted for debt collection in Massachusetts (this order does not protect the payment from interception for child support payments). Also, under federal law they cannot be intercepted for certain types of debt or overpayments handled through the Treasury Offset Program (TOP).  
Replacement SNAP benefits if food lost due to power outage more than 4 hours
 
If a SNAP household lost food bought with SNAP due to power outages from the Monday storms, folks can apply for replacement misfortune benefits. For households who got a supplemental SNAP payment at the end of March, DTA has confirmed with FNS that a misfortune replacement can include food lost that was purchased with those supplemental funds. 
 
The fastest way of doing this at this point is to report the loss to DTA by submitting a note through DTA Connect and by flagging the proof as household misfortune proof -NOT as the general "Verification" label (there are type of proof options when submitting documents through DTA Connect). We recommend including on the note all of the information that is asked for on the DTA household misfortune form (so clients don't have to then figure out printing the form). For general info on replacement SNAP, see our MassLegalServices page here. 
 
Online ordering: MA legislature letter to MA Congressional Delegation & NBC Boston piece
 
Attached is a letter from MA legislators to the MA delegation regarding implementing online EBT purchasing in MA. As we have shared on Coalition calls, online ordering is not as simple as a flip of the switch. Access for SNAP recipients is incredibly important during this crisis - but online ordering is a major undertaking for DTA and for Conduent, the MA EBT vendor. We are glad this letter flags that in addition to pursuing online ordering, it is important that Congress ensure that the USDA covers all relevant costs to Massachusetts associated with the information technology needed for implementation and for delivery fees.
 
For a good overview of the issue, check out this NBC Boston piece featuring the incredible advocate and SNAP recipient, Diane Sullivan, Carolyn Villers the Executive Director of the Mass Senior Action , and our beloved Rep. McGovern.
 
Fuel Assistance application window extended to May
 
The Massachusetts window to apply for fuel assistance has been extended through the month of May. To find out more information and how to apply during COVID-19, visit masscap.org/heatinghelpma/
 
Survey: Track veterans and dependents ability to access Chapter 115 Veterans benefits during COVID-19 pandemic
 
The Chapter 115 Veterans Services program is a unique Massachusetts needs-based cash and medical assistance program for low income veterans and their dependents. Chapter 115 can provide up to $2,257/month for veteran families in need. See Chapt 115 Self Help Guide HERE. The program is administered by local Veterans Services Officers (VSOs) in each city, town or in some cases a regional district. But we want to be sure they are open for business (in person or remotely) and - most importantly, if they are both accepting and processing Chapter 115 applications for needy veterans and dependents. 
 
The Veterans Legal Services (VLS) is tracking access to Chapter 115 benefits. Everyone who may be eligible needs to know they have a right to apply for the benefits and receive a written notice of approval or denial.  You can help.  Please share this SURVEY with your clients.  If you are able to contact your local VSO and find out if they are open and how they are handling applications, please also let VLS know what you learn (if they are closed or not taking applications). We also want to know if veterans are being required to follow program requirements that are risky or unworkable given the pandemic. 

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