Food & Income Security

Headline:

Families receiving SNAP benefits can expect to receive notices within the next 2-3 weeks regarding the end of Emergency Allotments.

Last-reviewed: 9am, Jan. 26, 2023

Key Resources:

Food Security

The Basics

  • Care teams can share information to assist individuals with income maximization and other updates regarding benefits.
  • Congress voted to end Emergency Allotments early. The last SNAP Emergency Allotment supplement payment will be issued on March 2, 2023.
  • 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 or people can apply online.
  • Find nutrition resources by zip code and free, confidential assistance in accessing federal nutrition programs 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.
  • 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.
  • Each DTA office has a Client Assistance Coordinator to help people with disabilities and a Domestic Violence Specialist to help survivors access DTA benefits and services.

The Breakdown

Food Security

  • 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 saw an increase in their SNAP benefits. For more information, consult the DTA COVID-19 FAQs or click here.
  • MA is currently providing 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. Congress has voted to end these emergency allotment supplements. The last EA payment will be issued on March 2, 2023.
  • Claiming medical expenses can boost SNAP benefits! Eligible SNAP households can self-declare the Standard Medical Expense deduction at any time over the phone or in writing to DTA. The $155 deduction is limited to people ages 60+ and those with a verified disability if their average out-of-pocket medical costs exceed $35/month. Call the DTA Senior Assistance Office at 833-712-8027 for more information.
  • 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. The last P-EBT payment for school-aged kids and kids under 6 went out to SNAP households on October 25.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Each DTA office has at least one Client Assistance Coordinator to help people with disabilities access DTA benefits and services, including accommodations. Find more information on this brochure.
  • DTA offices also have Domestic Violence Specialists to help survivors access DTA benefits and services. People can call the DTA Assistance Line at 877-382-2363 and select #2 to be connected with a Domestic Violence Specialist. Learn more from this DTA video.
  • 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.

Nutrition and Project Bread

  • 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. Learn more 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.
  • Meals on Wheels provides nutritional support to homebound seniors. Find a local nutrition program site.
  • People can find updated dietary guidelines, shopping guides, and recipes at myplate.gov.

WIC

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

  • The 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security begins January 2023 and SSI began on December 30, 2022. More information here
  • DTA is restarting TAFDC Learnfare requirement mandates that any child 6-15 years old who receives TAFDC must attend school regularly.
  • As of October 1, cash benefits (TAFDC and EAEDC) increased by 10%.
  • 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. 

The Breakdown

  • DTA is restarting TAFDC Learnfare requirement mandates that any child 6-15 years old who receives TAFDC must attend school regularly. To comply with Learnfare rules, a child may not have more than 8 unexcused absences each quarter. Find more information here, including reasons why an absence may be considered excused.
  • As of October 1, cash benefits (TAFDC and EAEDC) increased by 10%. Find DTA’s guidance here as well as FAQs here. Tax refunds are not considered countable income for SNAP, TAFDC, and EAEDC (cash benefits), and do not need to be reported to DTA.
  • 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 more information on the mass.gov website or findyourfunds.org.
  • Older adults and people with disabilities who receive SNAP benefits and have medical expenses greater than $35 and less than or equal to $190 per month are eligible for a $155 Standard Medical Deduction. Learn more in the guidance here, in this DTA Online Guide Transmittal 2022-49 or by calling the DTA Senior Assistance Office at 833-712-8027.
  • 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.  
  • 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.
  • 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.