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, but it is usually not required. Sometimes DTA can require you to come to the local office if they have a good reason to talk to you in person (if something in your case seems suspect), or if you are applying for TAFDC or EAEDC cash assistance benefits in addition to SNAP.
If you are scheduled for an in-person interview and you cannot get there, contact an advocate. Federal SNAP law requires DTA to allow for hardship exceptions including if you cannot get to the local office due to illness, disability, lack of transportation, lack of child care, work or training hours that conflict with DTA office hours. 7 CFR § 273.2(e)(2). DTA may schedule an in-office interview if you are required to have a photo EBT card, but the federal SNAP hardship exceptions should apply. See What is Photo EBT card?.
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
A DTA worker should try to call you within two (2) days of when DTA received your SNAP application to schedule an interview and to screen you for emergency benefits. See Can I get emergency SNAP benefits?. If a local organization helped you fill out a paper or on-line application – and the organization 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, DTA does not leave voice messages about the reason for their call. Be sure to pay close attention to phone calls and messages from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
If DTA has not reached you within 2 days, they should send you a written notice scheduling a phone interview. This interview should take place within seven (7) days of your application to screen you for expedited benefits. If you do not hear from DTA by phone or by mail within five (5) days of when you filed the application, call your local DTA office or the Web Unit (if you filed on line) and ask to speak with a supervisor.
What happens during the interview?
The SNAP 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 and when. If you are subject to a work requirement, the worker should discuss this with you. See Are there work rules for childless adults ages 18 to 50 years? and Is there a quick way to check the status of my application or my benefits?.
Before or during the interview, the case worker should the documents you sent in with your application and explain what additional documents you need. After the interview, you must be sent a verification checklist and be given at least 10 days to get the proofs in. See What proofs do I need?.
The SNAP worker should also explain your rights and responsibilities, including when you need to report changes in income and other changes. In addition to the SNAP 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?.
If you go in person to DTA, the interview must be conducted confidentially (not in a public setting where others can hear). Your personal information 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.
For Web applications, you can leave a message to reschedule your interview on the Web Application Hotline. The Boston Web Hotline number is 617-348-5656. Leave a message with your name, Social Security Number/Agency ID or date of birth and ask for a new interview. If you do not hear back from staff at the Web Unit within a couple of days, contact an advocate. See Can I apply through the internet?.
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
- DTA instructs workers 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).
- 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, Victoria Negus, Laura Gallant, Deborah Harris and Rochelle Hahn, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Last updated January 2014