DTA is required to interview all applicants for SNAP benefits. 106 C.M.R. § 361.500. The interview is usually conducted by phone, where DTA calls you at a preset time using the number you listed on the application form.
You always have the option of an in-person interview at the local DTA office if you wish. Sometimes DTA can require you to come to the local office if they have a good reason to talk to you in person (where information is questionable), or if you are applying for cash assistance benefits in addition to SNAP.
If you are disabled and need an accommodation, DTA also has the authority to schedule a home visit if you cannot get to the local office and cannot do a phone interview. See What if a disability makes it hard for me to apply, get proofs, or comply with the SNAP rules?
Scheduling the interview
DTA is supposed to contact you by telephone within two (2) days of when they received your application to schedule an interview and to screen you for emergency benefits. See Can I get emergency SNAP benefits? If a social services agency helped you fill out a paper or on-line application – and the agency is listed on the application as an authorized helping agency or emergency contact – DTA should contact the agency if unable to reach you.DTA should contact the agency if unable to reach you.
To protect your privacy, most of the time DTA will not leave a detailed message about who is calling and why, unless you give them written permission to do so. Be sure to pay close attention to phone calls and messages left during the times DTA tells you they will call.
If DTA has not reached you within two days, they should send you a written notice scheduling an interview by telephone. This interview should take place within seven days of your application in order to screen you for expedited benefits. If you do not hear from DTA by phone or by mail within five (5) days of filing your application (or sooner if you need emergency benefits), call your local DTA office and ask to speak with a supervisor or the office director.
What happens during the interview?
The DTA worker's role is to confirm the information you gave on your application, discuss any new information that DTA has from other government databases and tell you what proofs or verifications you need to provide. If you are subject to a work requirement see Who must register for work and do job search, and who's exempt? and Are there work rules for childless adults ages 18 to 50 years?, the worker should discuss this with you.
During the interview, the DTA worker should also explain your rights and responsibilities, including when you need to report changes. In addition to the DTA worker asking you for information, the interview is a chance for you to ask questions about the SNAP program and other benefits you might be eligible to receive.
If you need emergency (expedited) SNAP benefits, the worker should screen you during their first contact with you (in person or by phone), even if there is not enough time to do the full interview. See Can I get emergency SNAP benefits?
The interview must be conducted confidentially (not in a public setting where others can hear) and the information you provide must be kept private and not shared outside DTA unless you give written permission. 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.550, 360.300. If you need help getting any proofs, or you need a list of alternative proofs, you have a right to ask the worker during the interview or at any other time.
If you miss a scheduled interview
If you miss a scheduled interview, DTA is required to send you a written notice called a “notice of missed interview” (DTA calls it a NOMI). The notice must say that you have the right to another interview. 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.500, 361.540. You do not need to have or show good cause for missing the first interview. However, it is up to you to contact DTA to ask for a rescheduled interview.
If DTA does not hear back from you within 30 days of when you first applied, your SNAP application will be denied. 106 C.M.R. § 361.700(B)(1). You still have the right to reapply for benefits and the denied application will not be held against you, but the date your benefits start will be the date of your new application.
If DTA failed to send you either the notice of initial or the notice of missed interview (NOMI), they cannot deny your application. Contact the supervisor of your SNAP worker, or an advocate.
Additional Policy Guidance on Interviews
- BEACON-generated notice of missed interview (NOMI) for SNAP cases pending for more than 30 days and closed cases, Ops Memo 2012-46 (Oct. 1, 2012)
- Workers instructed that home visits can be scheduled to take an application and conduct an interview, especially if needed for an accommodation due to client disability. DTA Transitions FYI (Nov 2011).
- Instructions on reaching SNAP clients by phone including not leaving detailed voice messages on client phones. Transitions Hotline Q&A (April 2011). (Note, this policy should not apply if client gives permission to leave detailed voice messages.)
- Workers must contact SNAP applicant within two business days to schedule an interview. Ops Memo 2011-38 (Aug. 3, 2011).
- Requirement that DTA must send “Notice of Missed Interview” (NOMI) for any client not available at initial interview. Transitions Hotline Q&A (March 2011). DTA Failure to send NOMI is considered a negative case error. DTA Transitions, Quality Corner (see both July 2011 and September 2011).
- Elimination of face-to-face interview unless requested by household or required due to questionable information. F.O. Memo 2009-63A (Nov. 23, 2009).
- DTA must send notice of missed interview (NOMI) if applicant misses an in-office or phone interview; no need to establish "good cause" to get rescheduled interview. Worker should contact helping agency listed on application if unable to reach client. F.O. Memo 2007-16 (Mar. 15, 2007).
- Clients who miss appointments will be sent an appointment letter within two days of missed interview. Transitions FYI, p. 9 (July 2010).
- Worker must screen for expedited benefits eligibility at first contact with client. F.O. Memo 2006-30 (July 10, 2006).
- If no phone number for the client is listed on the application, DTA will schedule an in-office interview. Transitions Hotline Q&A (Sept. 2006). If your application is filed with the Web Unit, DTA should send you an interview appointment with a number and name of a SNAP worker to call directly.
Produced by Patricia Baker, Laura Gallant, Deborah Harris, Rochelle Hahn and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Last updated January 2013