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SNAP ALERT: Erroneous DTA Wage Matches Causing Confusion and Possible SNAP Terminations - Please Flag these Cases!

At last week's SNAP Coalition meetings in Boston and Western Mass, Coalition members discussed DTA's new policy involving automated data sharing between DTA and the Department of Revenue (DOR) as well as SSA. Under this new policy, if the wage information DTA has on record differs from the DOR source a SNAP recipients reported earnings are different from what DTA has on file, or the employer tax ID number (FEIN) does not match up exactly, the client is sent a notice requesting verifications (See sample, Attachment A)  
 
In the past 10 days, we've heard from recipients of numerous erroneous wage match notices including: 
  • Seven elderly residents in an assisted living facility received DTA letters on a DOR matches due to their being "extras" for 2 afternoons as part of a film series. They each received a small lump sum payment - income from a terminated source does not count for SNAP!  These seniors were very distraught by the DTA notices they received that suggested they had done something wrong and threatened of termination of SNAP. 
  • AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers asked by DTA for proof of their wages - even though DTA had information in the case record of the source of income - and then sent termination notices.  Note that AmeriCorps, VISTA, SCSCEP stipends are non-countable income, as is federal work study and other income that may show up on a wage match but is not countable.
  • SNAP clients on Interim Reporting who were not required to report income during the semi-annual period - being asked for discontinued wage information.  
  • SNAP recipients who were sent DOR matches for employers they never worked for, but were told by DTA their SNAP would terminate unless they got a letter from the named employer. Some employers are hanging up on clients and refusing to give information out to folks who have never worked for them.  A number of limited English speaking clients have struggled to get information from these alleged employers. These case are still pending.
  • A number of businesses have also confirmed with MLRI and other advocates they've been called by multiple DTA clients who never worked for them, including for time periods before the business even started. 
DTA's current DOR wage match policy is now automated without any local office DTA staffer checking the case record in advance of the DOR match notice to see if the information is on file. Further, it does not appear that DTA Central is taking sufficient steps to confirm the accuracy of the employer FEINs, filter out matches where the wage information is one-time or non-countable, nor segregate wage matches where a subsequent tax quarter shows it stopped (and therefore does not affect current SNAP benefits).  For example, many clients may get paid for one day of training with an employer. That income will come up in a wage match - even though the employer did not hire them after the first or second day and the income was not countable. SNAP recipients are also reporting that when they try to reach DTA workers, DTA is not routinely offering to make a third party "collateral contact" with the employer to get the past employment information.  As many Coalition members shared at the Coalition meetings, it has been increasingly difficult for clients to reach DTA case managers. Many have full voice mails or do not return calls timely. This automated wage match process appears to put the entire burden on the SNAP or cash recipient to resolve any DOR discrepancies, regardless of the accuracy or current status of the information matched. 
 
What you can do:
 
1.  Your clients have the right to ask DTA to contact the wage matched employer directly for any wage or date of  termination information. Please contact MLRI if you need the employment release form or information on this step. SNAP or cash benefits should not have their benefits delayed or terminated pending of information from a former (or non-existent) employer. 
 
2.  Please contact MLRI if you see any inappropriate requests for wage information or date of termination from work - even if you get the case resolved.  It is important we track these cases to be able to help unrepresented clients. Contact: VNegus@mlri.org or 617/357-0700 x 315 or me. 
 
 
File Attachment: