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DTA suspends automatic DOC Prison Match -Please let MLRI know of erroneously terminated SNAP or cash cases

We are writing to ask SNAP Coalition Members to flag SNAP or cash cases of individuals currently or previously denied or terminated from SNAP or cash assistance benefits because DTA thought they were incarcerated. DTA started an "automated" prison match with the Department of Corrections (DOC) inĀ June of 2013. DTA regularly matches data from DOC with the caseload to see if anyone receiving benefits is incarcerated and - if there is a match - the individual is automatically removed from the SNAP or household, or the SNAP or cash case was closed if a one-person household.

MLRI recently raised with DTA a couple of case examples where DOC match information was out-of-date but DTA terminated the SNAP benefits (both clients were recently released from prison and applied for benefits post release). No DTA staff person had looked at the client case record following the match to see confirm the DOC information or see if there was a recent release date. Last week, DTA agreed to suspend the automated termination of SNAP and cash benefits based on the DOC matches. When a DOC match surfaces with no release date, DTA will phone call DOC and/or the prison to see if the individual is still incarcerated. However, we do not yet know if DTA plans to reach out to persons erroneously denied or terminated cases from the past 12 months.MLRI is concerned that the SNAP cases flagged for us by shelter providers may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Misleading DTA termination/denial notices: To add to the confusion on the DOC match, the SNAP recipients are sent a very strange DTA termination notice saying they ineligible for benefits because "you are a resident of an institution that provides a majority of your meals."(Residents of shelters, group homes or treatment programs can still get SNAP, even if food is served!) Attached is a sample copy of the case closing notice DTA has sent to clients in DOC match cases. We are worried many clients will not understand these notices and believe they are not eligible for SNAP if they get meals at a shelter. We have asked DTA to also revise these notices.

SNAP and cash rules on incarceration: As a reminder, individuals incarcerated in a state, county or federal prison - for 30 consecutive days or more - are ineligible for SNAP benefits. This is also true for persons admitted to a hospital, nursing home or other institution for 30 consecutive days or more. 106 CMR 361.240 (B). However, individuals staying in homeless or DV shelters, group homes and substance abuse treatment programs are SNAP eligible - even if meals are provided at their shelter or program. 106 CMR 361.240(B)(1)-(5). And individuals incarcerated for less than 30 consecutive days (even if in and out of prison as long as no one stay is more than 30 days), and individuals placed by a court on "house arrest" (or wear an electronic bracelet) are not "incarcerated" and therefore they are also SNAP eligible if they meet the other SNAP rules.

PLEASE FLAG any cases of individuals who lost their SNAP or cash benefits in the last 12 months due to the DOC prison match. We are happy to advise you on how to help your clients get their benefits restored and/or pursue retroactive benefits back to the date of erroneous termination if the client was otherwise eligible. Please also reach out to area shelter case managers who work with ex-offenders to see if they are reporting benefits receipt problems. Community partners are welcome to contact Vicky Negus (617/357-0700 x 315) or Pat Baker (617-357-0700 x 328)

REMINDER: Next Boston-based SNAP Coalition meeting (and last one for the summer months) is Tuesday, July 22nd, at St Francis House in Boston.

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