Food & Income Security

Headline:

Summer Eats provides free, in-person meals at locations across MA to kids and teens ages 18 and under, no identification or registration required.

Last-reviewed: 9am, June 23, 2022

Key Resources:

Food Security

The Basics

  • While the federal government is addressing the nationwide infant formula shortage, baby formula is likely to remain hard to find until at least mid-July.
  • 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.
  • On June 25, 2022, DTA will issue P-EBT to households with children under 6 who received SNAP at any point from September 2021 through November 2021.
  • WIC offices are closed to the public. All services are available by phone at 800-942-1007.
  • Find nutrition resources by zip code, including Summer Eats sites, through the FoodSource Hotline at 800-645-8333 or Project Bread.

The Breakdown

  • The Biden-Harris administration has continued to import baby formula from abroad, invoked the Defense Production Act, and signed bipartisan legislation to help alleviate the nationwide infant formula shortage.
  • With the ongoing shortage of infant formula, parents and caregivers can contact community resources, including their local WIC office, for help.
  • DTA announced that households with children under 6 who received SNAP at any point from September 2021 through November 2021 will receive retroactive P-EBT on June 25, 2022. Read the press release here.
  • 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 idle 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.
  • Students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch and had qualifying COVID-related absences during the 2021-2022 academic year should have received retroactive P-EBT payments on May 25, 2022. Eligible families will also receive a monthly payment on June 25, 2022. For additional information, visit MA P-EBT.
  • Families can check their P-EBT Card balance and request a replacement P-EBT Card through the DTA portal.
  • During K-12 summer break, children ages 0-18 can receive free meals through the Summer Eats Program. For assistance locating a Summer Eats site, contact Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach team at 617-723-2543  or find a site here.
  • The USDA extended universal free school lunch to the end of the 2021-2022 school year. Without this provision, 400,000 students are set to lose access to free school meals in the 2022-2023 school year. Districts may still require families to complete an application. If a family is denied free lunch, they should contact DESE’s Office for Food & Nutrition Programs at nutrition@doe.mass.edu.
  • 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). 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. 

The Breakdown

  • Workers who reported more than $12,750 and less than 300% FPL on their 2020 MA tax returns should receive Essential Employee Premium Pay. The first-round check of $500 will be mailed to the address that they provided on their 2020 MA tax return. People who received unemployment in 2020 do not qualify for this program. Get more program details on mass.gov.
  • A second-round payment of the Essential Employee Premium Pay will be sent out after the 2021 tax season. Eligibility will be based on income reported on 2021 MA tax returns.
  • The Essential Employee Premium Pay will not be used as countable income for SNAP or cash assistance (TAFDC, EAEDC) programs.
  • 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. 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.
  • DTA has resumed their policy of reducing TAFDC (cash assistance) benefits for children who have too many unexcused absences from school. See the DTA Policy for additional information.
  • Veterans and their families may qualify for “chapter 115” financial assistance. Additional information can be found on the Mass Vets Advisor website.
  • Both local and national SSA phone lines have been experiencing technical difficulties. The best way to contact the SSA is through the online portal or a kiosk in a local office.
  • 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.
  • The Affordable Connectivity Program 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.