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Reduced Benefits for 130, 000 Massachusetts SNAP Recipients

In a few days, DTA will start sending notices to roughly 130,000 SNAP recipients advising them their SNAP benefits will be reduced in May based on changes in the benefits calculation and cost of living. The maximum reduction will be $11/month, some will get a lower reduction. Please note - this SNAP reduction is NOT related to the federal budget deliberations (but we guarantee that cuts to benefits will be wider and deeper if we cannot stop Congress from block granting SNAP! Make those calls!)

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? The reason DTA is reducing SNAP benefits is that the state is now required to implement a reduction in the Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) because utility costs have decreased since the last time the SUA was adjusted in 2008. The "heating/cooling" SUA will be reduced from $611/month to $575/month. The attached DTA Operations Memo 2011-14 gives you the changes in the three SUA amounts. There are also small COLA adjustments being made in the standard deduction and shelter deduction. It also gives you a sample notice sent to clients (Attachment A). MLRI will be updating its excel calculator soon.

Some of you may recall that Massachusetts joined with sister New England states to fend off a reduction in the SUA level that was supposed to take effect October 1st. We succeeded in getting two (2) extensions to avoid the SUA reduction - a total of six (6) months - to protect SNAP recipients from a reduction in benefits during the cold winter months. Thanks to those of you who worked with us to secure these extensions, and VERY special thanks to our anti-hunger hero Jim McGovern and our Congressional Delegation member who helped convince USDA to let us get through the winter months! We are disappointed that USDA did not permit further extensions but appreciate the six month delay that was granted. Big thanks to the New England states for fighting the good fight!

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR CLIENTS: The SUA reduction in benefits will disproportionately affect elder/disabled SNAP households - largely because shelter costs are uncapped in the SNAP calculation. Many of these SNAP households will be confused by the notices. Here's what you can do:

  • Double check the accuracy of the SNAP benefits! Make sure that changes in household income and expenses are fully reported (remember, for any persons who own their own homes or condos, shelter costs include mortgage, insurance, real estate taxes, repairs). DTA is basing the SNAP recalculation on the information they currently have in the case record. If the household's income is lower or expenses higher, report that information !!
  • Advise all elder/disabled members that they can also claim any non-reimbursed medical expenses as a deduction. Any elder (age 60+) or person with disabilities who has $35.01 or more in out of pocket medical expenses can get a standard $90 medical expense deduction, or MORE! Medical expense include public transport costs, private transport (at $ .51/mile) to doctors, pharmacies), any over-the-counter health supplies recommend by a health professional, and more! is MLRI's medical deduction flier and screening form.

We will discuss this issue at the April 26th Food SNAP Coalition meeting. Please let Pat Baker, pbaker@mlri.org, or our AmeriCorps Fellow, Kelly Love, know if you have any questions about this reduction in benefits. Kelly can be reached at: klove@mlri.org