Once DTA decides you are eligible for SNAP benefits, it will approve or "certify" you for a certain number of months. This is called your "certification period." You need to reapply or "recertify" at the end of this time frame to continue getting benefits.
The length of your certification period
Certification periods are based on your household situation:
- If you are an SSI recipient on Bay State CAP benefits, your case is certified for 36 months. 106 C.M.R. § 366.910(J). See Can I apply for SNAP benefits at the local Social Security office?.
- If your household includes adults who are all elders (age 60+) or have disabilities, and have stable income (such as SSI or Social Security), your SNAP benefits are certified for 24 months with change reporting. 106 C.M.R. § 364.700(B).
- All other households that have earnings, a history of earnings or are homeless are generally certified for 12 months and must report changes every six months, 106 C.M.R. § 364.700(A). See What is interim or semi-annual reporting?.
The only households that are not certified for 12 months are the following:
- expedited benefit household—certified for 1-2 months (if no follow-through on the regular application and verifications);
- transitional benefits alternative (TBA)—certified for 5 months (see What are "TBA" benefits and reporting rules for former TAFDC recipients?;
- non-citizens awaiting verification of work history quarters from SSA—certified for SNAP for 6 months.
The rules vary on when you need to report changes that occur during your certification period. When do I have to report changes during a certification period? through When do I have to report changes if I am on change reporting? discuss when you need to report changes to DTA.
What happens at the end of your recertification period
When your certification period ends, your SNAP will stop unless you reapply or "recertify" for benefits. About 45 days before the end of your certification period, DTA will send you a notice and a recertification form to fill out. 106 C.M.R. § 366.310. The form will be pre-filled with the information DTA has about your household including the names, SSN, citizenship and date of birth of all members, your address, your shelter costs and medical expenses. You need to tell DTA if you have moved, if there are new household members who share food with you or other members have left. You also need to tell DTA about your current income and changes in any shelter, dependent care or medical expenses.
When it is time to recertify, you need to take three steps:
- Fill out, sign, and return the recertification form; and
- Send in verifications of anything that has changed, as well as copies of your most recent wage stubs or other recent proof of income; and
- Be available for a phone interview with a DTA worker. See Do I need to have an interview to continue benefits?.
DTA should give you enough time (usually 20 days) to complete and return the recertification paperwork to continue getting SNAP benefits. 106 C.M.R. § 366.320(A). If you do not return the form, your benefits will end. There are no additional notices from DTA. If you get the form back but after the DTA deadline, you may have an interruption in benefits.
If you complete the recertification process on time, DTA must make sure your benefits continue on the usual schedule without interruption. 106 C.M.R. § 366.330 (B).
Getting a closed case reopened
Suppose you completed your recertification form and had an interview, but you did not get all of your proofs in before your recertification deadline (for example, a missing wage stub). If your case closes because of the missing proofs, you can ask DTA to reopen your case as long as:
- you sent in the recertification form before the deadline, and
- you get your proofs in within 30 days of the date your case closed.
You do not have to start a new application. 106 C.M.R. § 361.700(B)(2). This reopening rule applies to both applications and recertifications since a recertification is, in fact, a new SNAP application. If more than 30 days has elapsed since the end of your certification period, you should reapply.
Additional Policy Guidance on Assets
- Re-certification forms pre-filled with household member information, address, shelter costs, child care, medical expenses; no need for household to re-verify most eligibility factors or expenses that have not changed. Ops Memo 2012-55 (Dec 2012) and Field Operations Memo 2010-03 (Jan. 19, 2010).
- If household files late recertification form, benefits reinstated but prorated for the month as of the date received. Transitions Quality Corner (October 2011).
- Policy reconfirms one-year certification period (“annual reporting”) with a semi-annual or “interim” reporting obligation for SNAP households with earned and unearned income. Ops Memo 2011-31 (July 6, 2011) and Ops Memo 2011-43 (Sept. 12, 2011).
- DTA required to close SNAP case if recert process not complete prior to closing date, even if household sends in timely recert form. Ops Memo 2011-55A (Dec. 14, 2011).
- No termination of benefits at end of certification period if DTA receives a "completed" recertification form, even if interview and mandatory verifications not received. F.O. Memo 2009-29 (May 20, 2009).
- Households where all adult members are elder (60+) or have disabilities assigned 24-month certification periods, even if household includes children. F.O. Memo 2009-38 (June 25, 2009).
- DTA will send an "interim contact" notice to elder/disabled households on 24-month certification periods and self-employed households on 12-month cert periods to remind them to report changes. F.O. Memo 2009-31 (May 27, 2009).
- DTA guidance instructing workers to extend certification periods as long as possible; adds self-employed, FS/ET and FS/WP and "unstable" households to the 12-month certification periods. F.O. Memo 2008-14 (Mar. 19, 2008).
- Closed SNAP/food stamp case must be reopened if missing verifications received within 30 days of termination, no need for household to file a new SNAP/food stamp application. F.O. Memo 2006-20 (Apr. 21, 2006).
- Recipient who reports no changes in semi-annual report is not required to re-verify eligibility factors that have not changed. F.O. Memo 2007-39 (July 13, 2007), Transitions Hotline Q&A (Nov. 2005).
Produced by Patricia Baker, Victoria Negus, Laura Gallant, Deborah Harris and Rochelle Hahn, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Last updated January 2014