Boston's Morning Newsletter
How Mass. is trying to soften the blow of SNAP's snap back to normal
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Keep your eyes to the sky tonight once when those clouds clear: we may get a glimpse of Venus and Jupiter in “conjunction” — or what astronomers call a cosmic kiss.
But first, some news back here on Earth:
Today is the last day that over 634,000 households in Massachusetts will get extra federal help paying for their groceries. That’s because a pandemic-era program that boosted food stamp payments from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for the last three years officially expires this month. But state lawmakers are moving to soften the blow before SNAP payments snap back to normal.
- Nationwide, the change means $90 less for the average recipient. But in Massachusetts, the difference is larger: State officials estimate that, on average, the emergency allotment boosted the normal $324 monthly SNAP payment by an additional $151. (The exact amount depends on the household; those with young kids saw their payments increase by over $220 a month.)
- What’s being done: The House unanimously passed a short-term spending bill Wednesday — first proposed by Gov. Maura Healey in January — that includes sending SNAP recipients 40% of what they got from the pandemic boost for another three months. (That’s an average of just over $60 each month.) Now, it needs Senate approval before getting back to Healey’s desk.
- In the meantime, the state launched Mass.gov/ExtraCOVIDSNAP to help people plan for the reduced benefits. WBUR’s Morning Edition also talked to state officials about other resources that may be available to help people with costs.
- Project Bread CEO Erin McAleer told WBUR’s Dave Faneuf that charities only have the capacity to feed a tenth of the people that SNAP serves. So, she and other food security advocates are calling on the State House to pass Healey’s stopgap measure so families don’t face an “immediate cliff” this month.
- Go deeper: Listen to this episode of The Common on how the end of additional SNAP benefits will be felt in working-class communities at a time of rising food prices.
In related news: With the end of the federal COVID-19 emergency declaration this spring, 2.3 million Massachusetts residents who get state-sponsored health insurance through MassHealth (which includes the state’s Medicaid program) must re-enroll if they want to keep their coverage. That’s because the state is “beginning the process of redetermining eligibility” next month — and expects to remove about 300,000 from the program.
- Here’s why: MassHealth saw its caseload grow by 31% since early 2020 due to the boom in people who lost their jobs and health insurance at the beginning of the pandemic. Up until this May, federal rules kept people on the program, even if they later became ineligible. But the state plans to begin enforcing eligibility again this year.
- What it means for you: If you’re on MassHealth and remain eligible, make sure you respond to your annual renewal letter. If you’re no longer eligible, officials will aim to get you on insurance through your employer or the state’s Health Connector.
The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln is closing its indoor exhibitions for two to three years later this month, so that they can upgrade the museum’s HVAC and climate control systems.
- Don’t worry, the outside sculpture park will remain open.
North of the border: In what’s believed to be a first-of-its-kind case in New Hampshire, the state Attorney General’s office is pursuing a civil action suit against a Neo-Nazi group whose presence is on the rise across New England. The move comes after several incidents of vandalism and hate message displays across the state, including a “Keep New England White” overpass banner in Portsmouth.
- The court case kicked off Wednesday — and immediately ran into an issue: The group, NSC-131, says “no member of the New Hampshire Bar” is willing to be their lawyer.
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