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The following items may be of interest to Coalition members working with immigrant clients.

The Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee released its proposed budget for FY 2012. The following is a summary of some of the key issues that Coalition members are concerned about relative to the state WIC dollars DTA benefits and services, and MEFAP funding.

On the WIC front:

DTA recently instituted some important changes in the Virtual Gateway SNAP application. The SNAP web application now asks all three screening questions for “expedited” benefits and flags the case for follow-up by the Web Units when an applicant indicates that he or she falls into one of the expedited SNAP benefit categories. The expedited eligibility questions have been on the paper SNAP applications all along, and expedited screening is done for individuals who walk into local DTA offices. The web application, however, lacked these questions in the past few years.

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means is planning to release its proposed FY2012 state budget on May 18th in anticipation of debate starting May 25th. According to the State House News Service, the Senate will "take up its version of the House's $30.5 billion fiscal 2012 budget on Wednesday, May 25. Amendments to the Senate budget must be filed by Friday, May 20, at noon.... The budget will be the first for new Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sen.

RE: Federal Budget Anti-Hunger Update

Massachusetts is expected to lose over $2 billion in federal food stamp/SNAP benefits during the next 10 fiscal years if proposals before Congress to "block grant" the SNAP program prevail. Currently more than 800,000 Massachusetts residents (children, seniors, parents, persons with disabilities) receive SNAP benefits, comprising 440,000 SNAP households. The value of SNAP benefits received in Massachusetts exceeds $100M per month – more than $1.2B a year.

The following are two food stamp/SNAP policy updates:

State Budget update: At the last Food SNAP Coalition, members we briefed on federal and state budget issues. On the good news front, state FY2012 budget amendments that would have imposed onerous verification requirements on U.S. citizen and immigrant households were defeated in last week's House floor debate, as were two other anti-immigrant amendments.

Erroneous SNAP COLA Reduction Notices: We have heard from a couple of SNAP households that the amount of their SUA reductions is woefully incorrect. Please let us know if you see any SNAP recipients who received DTA notices telling their SNAP benefits would be reduced by more than $11 due to the federal cost of living (COLA) change in the standard utility allowance (SUA). Attached below is a redacted sample notice we received from one SNAP recipient advising her that her SNAP benefits would go from $200/month to $52/month.

We understand folks are busy on many levels with the state budget, fundraising activities, etc. We wanted to update you on one of the items in tomorrow's Coalition meeting agenda re when a SNAP household must provide verification to DTA of "questionable information."

The following email is from MLRI's AmeriCorps Fellow, Kelly Love: