Food & Income Security

Headline:

SNAP households will see an increase in their SNAP benefits when a new cost of living adjustment (COLA) takes effect on October 1, 2022.

Last-reviewed: 9am, Sept. 22, 2022

Key Resources:

Food Security

The Basics

  • SNAP households will see an increase in their SNAP benefits when a new cost of living adjustment (COLA) takes effect on October 1, 2022.
  • DTA lobbies are open for limited services (e.g., getting an EBT card, using a kiosk). Additional SNAP services can be accessed by calling DTA at 877-382-2363 or visiting the DTA Connect website.
  • WIC offices are closed to the public. All services are available by phone at 800-942-1007.
  • Find nutrition resources by zip code through the FoodSource Hotline at 800-645-8333 or Project Bread.
  • DTA has issued urgent information regarding “skimming,” a type of theft that can happen anywhere an EBT, credit card or debit card is used. Households that receive DTA benefits can protect their benefits by calling EBT Customer Service (800-997-2555) and changing their EBT card PIN
  • Children whose schools participate in the National School Lunch Program will get free school meals statewide during the 2022-23 school year. Learn more here.
  • Massachusetts residents can now apply for SNAP benefits when seeking subsidized healthcare coverage through a MassHealthConnector application.
  • Effective immediately, DTA will no longer count a college student’s receipt of financial aid as countable income in determining SNAP or cash assistance benefits eligibility.

The Breakdown

  • The federal government makes annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs) that account for changes in inflation. Each COLA impacts benefit calculations. Effective October 1, 2022, eligible SNAP households will see an increase in their SNAP benefits. For more information on the 2022 SNAP COLA changes, click here.
  • MA continues to provide SNAP emergency allotment payments that bring SNAP households’ benefits up to at least the maximum amount for their household size. The emergency allotments provide a minimum of $95, including for those who already receive the maximum benefit amount.
  • Students whose schools participate in the National School Lunch Program will receive free school meals statewide during the 2022-23 school year. Even though meals will be free for all such students, it is important for families to complete the household Application for Free and Reduced Price Meals for the 2022-23 school year so that districts can continue to establish eligibility for P-EBT benefits. Learn more here.
  • The Biden-Harris administration has continued action on several fronts to alleviate the nationwide infant formula shortage. Parents and caregivers can contact community resources, including their local WIC office, for help.
  • Massachusetts residents can now apply for SNAP benefits when seeking subsidized healthcare coverage through a MassHealthConnector application. Approximately 700,000 residents are within the “SNAP Gap,” meaning that they receive MassHealth coverage but are not receiving SNAP benefits. Now, MassHealthConnector applicants can apply for SNAP with a SNAP checkbox on the application.
  • SNAP applicants can request an interpreter if they feel most comfortable speaking in a language other than English. DTAConnect.com is also available in 6 languages (Chinese, English, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, and Vietnamese) and SNAP outreach flyers are available in 14 languages.
  • DTA must take away any benefits that have remained unused on a SNAP EBT and P-EBT account for 9 months (274 days). There is no way to get benefits back once they have been taken away.
  • Families can check their P-EBT Card balance and request a replacement P-EBT Card through the DTA portal.
  • DTA has been notifying clients about “skimming,” a type of theft that can happen anywhere an EBT, credit card or debit card is used. DTA recommends that clients who receive SNAP, TAFDC or EAEDC benefits re-PIN their EBT cards for protection.  People can call EBT Customer Service (800-997-2555) to change their EBT card PIN. For more information on how to re-PIN, visit mass.gov/ProtectYourEBT (available in Spanish as well).
  • The Summer Eats Program, which provides free meals to children ages 0-18, is winding down statewide. For assistance locating a Summer Eats site, contact Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach team at 617-723-2543 or find a site here.
  • Schools are required to follow new nutritional standards set by the USDA. For additional information visit the USDA.
  • Many food pantries allow clients to self-report their identity and nutritional needs, eliminating the requirement to show photo identification and share social security numbers. 
  • Applicants for SNAP benefits can ask to pick up their EBT card at a local office, instead of waiting for it to be mailed. DTA can mail EBT cards overnight in emergency situations like when an applicant is experiencing interpersonal violence (IPV) or homelessness.
  • Many DTA offices are no longer allowing people experiencing homelessness to receive mail at their offices. As a result, individuals and families may be missing out on important notifications and benefits. Healthcare teams can make a big impact by helping patients find a reliable way to receive mail (e.g., PO Box).
  • SNAP recipients can use their EBT card for grocery delivery and pick up through Amazon, Walmart, BJ’s, Daily Table, and via Instacart (from Hannaford, Stop & Shop, Price Chopper, Price Rite, Wegmans, McKinnon’s, and ALDI). Delivery fees and bag fees are not covered by SNAP.
  • SNAP recipients who purchase fruits and vegetables from farm vendors can receive up to $40 (1–2 person household), $60 (3-5 person household) or $80 (6+ person household) in additional benefits. To find participating vendors, visit the Healthy Incentives Program site.
  • The City of Boston has a SNAP incentive program that gives 50% off fresh fruits and vegetables. To find participating stores, visit the Double Up Food Bucks program site.
  • SNAP households that have lost power for more than four hours have 10 days from the outage to request replacement benefits. Families that only get SNAP can call 1‐877‐382‐2363. Families that get SNAP and cash assistance should contact their case manager.
  • Meals on Wheels is providing nutritional support to homebound seniors. Find a local nutrition program site.
  • People can find updated dietary guidelines, shopping guides, and recipes at myplate.gov.

The Bottom Line

  • Sharing reliable, up-to-date information about the changing resource landscape with families is key to reducing hunger and increasing food security.

Financial Assistance

The Basics

  • DTA lobbies are open for limited services (e.g., getting an EBT card, using a kiosk to use DTA Connect, SNAP Path to Work, SNAP Nutrition Education and other DTA web services). Additional services can be accessed by calling DTA at 877-382-2363 or visiting the DTA Connect website.
  • Many Social Security offices are open for walk-in service. Check the status of a local office on the SSA website. Due to long in-person wait times, the SSA advises people to complete services online or by calling a local office whenever possible. 
  • TAFDC and EAEDC benefits are expected to increase by 10% starting in October 2022.
  • Governor Baker has signed into law the “Common App” legislation, which will reduce barriers for people applying for SNAP, MassHealth and DTA cash benefits, among others.
  • In August 2022, the SSA revised instructions for evaluating cases after an acute phase of COVID-19, including Long COVID.
  • The Department of Revenue will issue a refund to anyone who paid personal income taxes in MA in the 2021 tax year and filed a 2021 state tax return on or before October 17, 2022.

The Breakdown

  • Anyone who paid personal income taxes in MA in the 2021 tax year and filed a 2021 state tax return on or before October 17, 2022 is eligible to receive a tax refund. Refunds will be distributed beginning in November 2022, and no action is needed to receive a refund. For questions, call 877-677-9727, Monday-Friday from 9am-4pm or use the estimator here to calculate a preliminary estimate of your refund.
  • Workers who reported more than $13,500 and less than 300% FPL on their 2021 MA tax returns should receive Essential Employee Premium Pay. The second round payment will be mailed to the address provided on their 2021 MA tax return. People who received unemployment in 2021 do not qualify for this program. Get more program details on mass.gov or call (866) 750-9803 with questions.
  • During the pandemic, free credit reports are available weekly. For more information, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Individuals and families who did not receive the 2021 Economic Impact Payment (EIP) can request the payment when they file their 2021 taxes. Visit findyourfunds.org for additional information.
  • Eligible households will receive the 2021 Child Tax Credit of $3,600 for every child under 6 or $3,000 for every child from 6 to 17. Eligible families can claim the credit through April 15, 2025 by filing a federal tax return – even if they don’t normally file and have little or no income. Visit findyourfunds.org for additional information.
  • The IRS mailed two important letters to families who received the advance child tax credit and the Economic Impact Payment. “Letter 6419, 2021 Advance Child Tax Credit (CTC)” will verify how much the household received in advance CTC payments in 2021 and the number of qualifying children used by the IRS to determine these payments. “Letter 6475, Your Third Economic Impact Payment (EIP)” will include information to help EIP recipients determine whether they should claim the recovery rebate credit on their 2021 tax returns.
  • Some taxpayers may qualify for free preparation assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), and AARP programs. Find locations on the IRS website. They may also qualify for free e-filing. Find information on the mass.gov website.
  • Cash assistance (TAFDC and EAEDC) applicants can request an interpreter if they feel most comfortable speaking in a language other than English. DTAConnect.com and EBT outreach flyers are also available in 6 languages (Chinese, English, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, and Vietnamese).
  • If cash assistance applications are delayed due to a DTA error (e.g., a paperwork processing delay), applicants have a right to receive a retroactive payment. The retroactive payment should cover any missed benefits dating back to the date they applied.  
  • DTA is enforcing work program requirements for TAFDC (cash assistance) recipients who do not have an exemption. Some caregivers may still qualify for an exemption due to a disability or being an essential caregiver. See the DTA Guide for additional information.
  • Governor Baker signed the FY23 state budget, which includes a 10% increase to TAFDC and EAEDC (cash assistance) benefits beginning in October 2022.
  • Veterans and their families may qualify for “chapter 115” financial assistance. Additional information can be found on the Mass Vets Advisor website.
  • The SSA is prioritizing in-person appointments for people who are applying for a social security number and applicants who must go without basic necessities (e.g., food, shelter) until they get benefits.
  • SSA has re-issued two Emergency Messages (EMs), clarifying that pandemic-related financial assistance is excluded indefinitely from SSI counting. Read the EMs here and here.
  • SSA posted revised instructions for evaluating Long COVID. The changes include examples of symptoms that some adults or children may experience after the acute phase of COVID-19.
  • The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides eligible households with a $30/month discount on internet services. Any household that receives WIC or whose income is below 200% FPL can apply through their internet service provider. Twenty leading internet providers will offer ACP-eligible households a high-speed internet plan for no more than $30/month. So eligible families can match their ACP benefit with one of these plans to receive high-speed internet at no cost. For additional information, visit the Common Sense guide or getinternet.gov.
  • Free., a program offering menstrual hygiene products, is working to end period poverty in Massachusetts. The program has distributed more than 261,844 products to individuals and through partner agencies. Find Free. products here.

The Bottom Line

  • Sharing reliable, up-to-date information about the changing resource landscape with families is key to optimizing household income.