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Small SNAP Benefit Decrease Starting October 2015 due to Energy Costs Decline - TIPS on how you can help Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Boost their SNAP

Many Seniors May See Small Decrease in SNAP benefits starting in October

SNAP benefits changes are coming in October for some households due to the drop in gas and oil prices during 2015. The decline in heating costs is good for low income households, but it can also impact the amount of SNAP or food stamp benefits. Because heating energy costs are lower, the federal SNAP (food stamp) rules require states to adjust the amount of the heating/cooling "standard utility allowance" (SUA) figure that is used to calculate SNAP benefits. According to DTA, the dollar value of the heating/cooling SUA will drop by $14 in October, from $634 to $620.

DTA anticipates that roughly 200K Massachusetts SNAP households may see a drop in their monthly SNAP benefits, between $4 to $6/month. It is also likely the majority of SNAP households impacted will be seniors (and some persons with disabilities, but mostly seniors). That's because there is no cap on the amount of "shelter expenses" that can be claimed by elder and disabled SNAP households and it will likely impact "higher income" low income seniors (e.g. those above the SSI levels).  

DTA will be sending out notices in late September advising households whose SNAP benefits will be going down in October. This information may be confusing because the recipient may not think he or she has lower living expenses, especially where the heating season has not started.

What to do if a senior calls you saying her SNAP benefits decreased?

Check the SNAP math !

  • Explain to the senior that the SNAP reduction is required by the federal government (not DTA) and it is because energy costs have gone down. 
  • Double check the information on the SNAP reduction notice with the client, including his or her monthly gross income, rent and other expenses. Report any mistakes or updates to DTA right away. 
  • Many elder and disabled households are not aware they can claim out-of-pocket medical expenses to boost their SNAP benefits. You can help the senior actually increase his or her SNAP benefits - up to the maximum $194 amount for one person - by helping them verify and claim out-of-pocket medical expenses. Attached is a DTA brochure on medical expenses and here is the link to more materials about the Medical Expense Deduction. /content/food-stamps-snap-and-medical-expense-deduction  
  • Many low income home owners are not aware of all the home ownership costs they can claim for the SNAP calculation. If you are working with home owners, be sure they tell DTA the amount of their mortgage (if they have one), as well as any property taxes and homeowner insurance. If they own a condo, they can claim condo fees as well.

ATTACHED also is a FLIER for community groups that explains the drop in SNAP.  We hope this helps you explain what's happening to your clients. 

Is any other part of the SNAP math changing in October?

Yes and no! The SNAP maximum benefit amounts are staying the SAME. The 200% gross income test will stay the same (it went up last January).  The 130% FPL gross income test and 100% FPL net income tests will increase sightly. There is also an increase in the shelter deduction cap to $504 -  which will actually benefit SNAP families and individuals subject to the shelter cap. And the "standard deduction" for larger households of 4 or more will increase too.  MLRI will be updating its calculators with this information soon. Sorry this is so confusing.  Please look out for confused elders !!

Important Training Reminders

** SNAP TRAINING in Boston: Helping Seniors and Persons With Disabilities Obtain and Maximize Food Stamp Benefits - September 25th

MLRI and the Greater Boston Food Bank are teaming up with ABCD and the City of Boston to provide you a FREE training to help you understand the basics on how DTA is handling SNAP applications via a new business model and how you can help seniors & persons with disabilities navigate this new system; how to help seniors & persons with disabilities maximize benefits through medical expenses; and ways to figure out if clients are having a difficult time using their SNAP benefits for food shopping. 

When, where how:

Friday, September 25th, 10:00 AM to 12:00 Noon, Cass Room, 3rd Fl., ABCD 178 Tremont St., Downtown Boston

This training is co-sponsored by the ABCD Food Dollars Program, the City of Boston Commission on Affairs of the Elderly, the Greater Boston Food Bank and Mass Law Reform Institute. The training is FREE but registration is required. Click on THIS LINK to REGISTER If you have questions or need other information, contact Roxanne Reddington-Wilde, roxanne.redwilde@bostonabcd.org

** SNAP TRAINING in W. Mass: SNAP Training for Organizations Working with Low Income Seniors/Persons with Disabilities - October 16th

MLRI is teaming up with Community Legal Aid (CLA) and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts (FBWM) to provide a training for community organizations that work with low income seniors and persons with disabilities. The training is to help organizations learn what's changed since the height of the SNAP caseload decline, and how groups can assist clients through the hurdles of the DTA "modernized" system,  how to track down information on the status of a case, see client documents, go up the chain of command to get a SNAP case opened or secure retroactive benefits. We will also cover medical expenses deductions and more. This training is similar to the SNAP 101 "Triage trainings" held in Boston in April and Worcester in June and is designed for WMass folks!

When, where, how:

Friday, October 16th, 10 AM to 12:30 PM, Northampton Council on Aging, 67 Conz Street, Northampton MA.

This training event is co-sponsored by the Northampton Council on Aging, the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging, Franklin County Home Care Corporation, and The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The training is FREE but please sign up by phone calling the Northampton Senior Center's main number at 413/587-1228or email:ctarail@northamptonma.gov

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