Congress first created the Food Stamp Program in 1964 to reduce hunger by increasing the food-buying power of low-income households. The landmark Food Stamp Act of 1977 modernized the Food Stamp program by removing the “purchase” requirement and made other important changes that enabled more low income households to access benefits. In 2008, Congress renamed the program to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. (most states, like Massachusetts, adopted this name). SNAP was most recently reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. During the Trump Administration, state and national advocates joined forces to successfully protect and defend cuts to SNAP. We thank all of the Massachusetts anti-hunger organizations for their fantastic advocacy to protect this important program!
In Massachusetts the SNAP program is administered by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). Since 2015, and in collaboration with MLRI and the Massachusetts SNAP Coalition, DTA has focused its efforts on improving customer service, and timely processing, lowering DTA Assistance Line wait times, improving applications and forms, and simplifying reporting rules. Between 2015 and early 2020, DTA: created a specialized Senior Assistance Office (SAO) for low-income older adults; increased the number of SNAP Outreach Partners; implemented an “Elder/Disabled Simplified Application Project” to extend SNAP certification periods and reduce burdensome reporting; created the DTAConnect.com online platform and the DTA Connect mobile app; and overhauled SNAP application and recertification forms.
DTA’s investments in improving the SNAP infrastructure allowed DTA to quickly respond when the pandemic hit in March 2020. Between March 2020 and November 2022, the SNAP caseload in Massachusetts increased by 40 percent. When COVID-19 struck, DTA quickly implemented an option to apply by phone, caseload wide text messaging, waived interim reporting, simplified recertifying benefits, and issued SNAP “Emergency Allotments” and Pandemic EBT. MLRI is grateful that DTA robustly pursued federal options to boost benefits, improve access, and ensure continuity of benefits during the pandemic.
However, in December 2022, Congress passed and the President signed an “omnibus” Consolidated Appropriations Act to end the Emergency Allotments early (previously they were tied to state and federal public health emergency declarations). Congress did agree to fund a permanent “Summer EBT” program, but with benefits at a much lower level than under P-EBT. This Guide has been updated to reflect the changes in the SNAP Emergency Allotments.
The Massachusetts SNAP Gap
Federal SNAP benefits continue to serve over 1 million Massachusetts residents in nearly 628,000 households — 1 in 7 people in the Commonwealth. The majority of SNAP recipients are older adults, persons with severe disabilities, children and adults struggling with temporary unemployment or under employment.
The MassHealth (Medicaid) program, currently serves over approximately 2 million low-income Massachusetts residents. Roughly 600,000 MassHealth recipients have income below 150% FPL and are likely eligible for, but not receiving SNAP.
The Baker Administration took steps in July 2021 to "close the SNAP Gap" by allowing persons applying with a “paper application,” for MassHealth and Medicare Savings Program (MSP) to apply for SNAP with a simplified "checkbox" on the form. The Administration then added the simplified check box to the online MassHealth Connector in July 2022. The SNAP/MassHealth application is shipped to DTA for follow up on missing information, with SNAP benefits retroactive to the date of the SNAP checkbox application. This is a game changer!
In August of 2022, the SNAP Gap/Common Apps Coalition celebrated a huge legislative victory: Chapter 174 of the Acts of 2022 was signed into law on August 10, 2022, creating M.G.L Chapter 6A, Section 18AA. This law now requires the state to develop a simplified “common application” for more means-tested programs including SNAP, WIC, cash assistance, health care, fuel assistance, childcare and other critical benefits. MLRI expects the common application to be implemented under the Healey/Driscoll Administration.