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DTA sends "Corrective Action Plan" to USDA on steps to address Massachusetts SNAP crisis

For your weekend reading pleasure, attached are documents we received yesterday on the state's response to USDA. (Also included is USDA's original letter to Massachusetts of 5/5/15)  
 
And if you want the cliff notes, here's a Worcester Telegraph and Telegram article today covering the details of the plan and next steps: http://www.telegram.com/article/20150626/NEWS/150629297
 
As noted in the T&G, we remain concerned about DTA finding and restoring SNAP to the 51,000 SNAP households who have lost SNAP benefits over the past year, as well as DTA's ongoing "automated" SNAP denials and terminations without prior worker and the excess verification demands that have not abated. DTA's plan seems to rely heavily on worker training. We absolutely agree that training is essential, but DTA should do it in combination with serious IT/systems upgrades and policy revisions. In order to address the state's stunning caseload decline (10x the national average).
 
DTA also needs to commit to intensive outreach to all households terminated or denied benefits in the last 12 months who may have simply given up, perhaps with the help of sister agencies who serve the same population such as MassHealth. The "outreach" mentioned in the plan involves looking at a sampling of 200 closed cases per month, but does not involve outreach to the thousands closed or denied. DTA needs to find and bring back the thousands of SNAP-less low income households and return federal SNAP dollars to these households. (The SNAP decline also has an impact on "direct certification" for free school meals, automatic eligibility for utility discounts and LIHEAA and Safeline services.)
 
PLEASE continue to monitor what you are seeing and report problems to both MLRI and DTA.  We are very impressed with the current transparency at DTA Central and Commissioner McCue's willingness to tackle these many problems.  Commissioner McCue has come to every SNAP Coalition meeting since he took the reigns and is willing to hear from anti-hunger advocates and organizations throughout the state including recommendations. Please consider that an open invitation to share what you are seeing with the Commissioner: Jeffrey.McCue@state.ma.us