The PlanSector

Food Access, Security and Health

Goal 2

Everyone who qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will receive the benefits that are available to them.

Image courtesy of UMass Memorial Health Care

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the most widely used assistance program of its type for families and individuals who need food. Over 860,000 Massachusetts residents received an average $123 per month in SNAP benefits during FY2014, contributing about $1.27 billion to the State’s food economy,1 and enabling residents in getting more of the food they need.

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Recommendations

  1. 2.1 The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) should continue to restore SNAP benefits to households improperly terminated or denied due to the business process redesign during 2014 and early 2015.
    1. Actions:
    2. 2.1.1 DTA should review the terminations and denials of all SNAP benefits, and where determined eligible, permit or restore benefits as soon as possible. This would not apply in cases where SNAP benefits were terminated because applicant’s income exceeded the eligibility thresholds.
    3. 2.1.2 Ensure adequate funding to hire DTA staff for the timely, efficient, and reliable processing of SNAP applications and renewals. The DTA should renew their focus on assisting clients, particularly elders, people with disabilities, and applicants with limited English proficiency, in securing required documentation and verification.
    4. 2.1.3 Identify and implement best practices for SNAP administration that have been developed in other states, through research and working with the USDA. In particular, improve the existing Virtual Gateway and Beacon systems, to prevent automatic terminations or denials where submitted documents are not reviewed by DTA staff. Ensure DTA staff is trained to facilitate a streamlined application process.
    5. 2.1.4 Implement federal options to reduce SNAP application barriers for low-income, seniors, and elder populations. Pursue an Elder Simplified Application Pilot (ESAP) to eliminate verification and interview requirements for seniors. Expand the Bay State Combined Application pilot to reach low income elder and disabled Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. Consider allowing community partners to conduct client interviews.
  2. 2.2 Implement a common application portal for MassHealth, SNAP and other needs-based programs, that serves as an integrated, streamlined eligibility system for state - administered benefits.
    1. Actions:
    2. 2.2.1 Develop, test, and deploy a common application portal, either as improvement to the existing Virtual Gateway or new system, to enable people to apply for SNAP when applying for or renewing MassHealth membership.
    3. 2.2.2 Explore use of a common application portal for other federal and state benefit programs including the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Income Eligible Child Care; housing assistance benefits; and Cash Assistance benefits to ensure families seeking these benefits are offered simultaneous applications for SNAP and health care programs. Encourage inter-agency referrals under existing programs as an interim measure until a new and improved system is in place.
  3. 2.3 Assist households in claiming all available income deductions to increase the amount of monthly SNAP benefits allotted.
    1. Actions:
    2. 2.3.1 Collaborate with DTA and agencies that assist seniors and persons with disabilities in claiming and verifying un-reimbursed, eligible medical and transportation expenses.
    3. 2.3.2 Collaborate with the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to identify low-income working families who may qualify for SNAP. Assist them with applications, and ensure that families claim all eligible child care, after-school, and transportation expenses.
    4. 2.3.3 Produce client-friendly SNAP outreach educational materials that are ADA-accessible and multi-lingual to highlight all eligible income deductions.
    5. 2.3.4 Provide additional reimbursement to community partners that are managing more SNAP applications since the DTA’s change to program administration.