1. Heat and Eat (H-EAT) update: Twice a year, DTA reviews the FS/SNAP caseload to identify SNAP households that are not receiving the heating/cooling standard utility allowance (SUA) in the calculation of their SNAP benefits. The heating/cooling SUA, added to rent or mortgage, can result in higher SNAP benefits. DTA reviews all active SNAP cases on a specific date each Spring and Fall, notifies the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) which SNAP households are eligible for the $1 fuel assistance benefit, and then DTA increases the SNAP benefits using the higher heating/cooling SUA. (Note, there are SNAP cases are excluded from H-EAT including Bay State CAP, homeless households who get the standard homeless deduction and households already pegged with the heating/cooling allowance).
Attached is DTA's Operations Memo 2010-48 announcing the Fall 2010 caseload sweep and eligibility conditions for H-EAT. DTA has sent H-EAT notices to 53,000 SNAP households, of which 20,000 are newly eligible for H-EAT and thus the higher SUA. These 20,000 households were also sent notices that their SNAP benefits have increased too! In our experience, many of these SNAP households are in fact eligible for regular Fuel Assistance because they incur heating costs separate from their rent (sadly, more landlords are passing heating and cooling costs off to tenants), or the tenant's rent is greater than 30% of their income (Fuel Assistance will pay a portion of rent if heat is included). H-EAT is a great opportunity to introduce new households to the Fuel Assistance program!
2. SNAP Policy Regarding New Applicants Born in Puerto Rico: As you may be aware, earlier in the year the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico passed a law voiding birth certificates issued before July of 2010. The Commonwealth began the process of issuing new birth certificates in July. Puerto Rico born individuals are now required to apply for new birth certificates if they need one for any government service or other purpose. New reports confirm that there continues to be delays in receiving replacement birth certificates (a 2 - 3 month backlog), and some of the replacement documents have errors (such as misspelled names). Further, getting a replacement certificate is particularly difficult for individuals who lack current government issued photo IDs, a requirement of Commonwealth of PR in order to issue a replacement birth certificate. MLRI and the ALCU of Massachusetts are closely monitoring this situation. We would like to hear about any situations where Puerto Rican born residents of Massachusetts are turned away for any state or federal services for lack of a newly issued birth certificate, or any persons hassled in any way based on their being of Puerto Rican birth/descent.
The GOOD NEWS is that DTA has issued guidance to the field, incorporating many of the comments and concerns of MLRI and the Coalition (thank you again, DTA!). DTA's Operations Memo 2010-49 is available at the following link: http://www.masslegalservices.org/node/34281
Important things to remember:
- Birth certificates are never a required document for SNAP applicants. The SNAP regulations require SNAP workers to accept a wide range of documents to verify identity (including SSN validation) and no single document can be required.
- U.S. citizenship and age are self-declared unless the information provided is questionable.
- Any SNAP (or cash) recipients need not provide updated birth certificates. If a PR birth certificate is on file before 10/30/2010, DTA will continue to honor it.
NEXT Food SNAP Coalition Meeting, Tuesday, November 30th.