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Bill Calls For Public Benefits Common App

The number of Massachusetts households receiving food assistance benefits is 26% higher than it was a year ago, and there could be another 700,000 people who are eligible for the aid but are not receiving it, advocates said Monday.

Speakers at a virtual briefing hosted by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Greater Boston Food Bank, Project Bread and Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers highlighted a bill that aims to connect that population with nutrition benefits.

Legislation filed by Rep. Jay Livingstone and Sen. Sal DiDomenico (HD 1500, SD 1015) proposes a common application portal through which Massachusetts residents would be able to simultaneously apply for MassHealth, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), cash assistance benefits, veterans benefits, and subsidies for child care, housing and fuel assistance.

"What this effort is about is to try to make it as simple as possible for people," Livingstone said. "At one point, put in your information and get all the approvals that you're entitled to."

Livingstone said the House and Senate versions of the bills have a combined 62 cosponsors.

Households earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level are eligible for SNAP benefits.

Pat Baker of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute said SNAP enrollment numbers respond "to the ebbs and flows of the economy." As of March 19, she said, there were 552,918 Massachusetts households enrolled in SNAP, marking a 26% increase from March 2020 and a level significantly higher than was observed during the Great Recession.

Based on the numbers of people with MassHealth coverage who are under 150% of the federal poverty level, Baker said there appear to be about 700,000 people statewide who would meet SNAP eligibility requirements but are not enrolled in the program.

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