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Introduction

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed March 2023

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation’s “first line of defense against hunger.” SNAP remains a highly effective 100 percent federally funded program. National economists estimate that every $1 in SNAP benefits triggers up to $1.70 in economic stimulus to the local economy during recessionary times. 

Because of pandemic boosts, during 2021 and 2022 SNAP brought over $3 billion in federal nutrition dollars to one in seven low-income Massachusetts residents, with food purchases made at over 5,000 local grocers. However, Congress ended the boosted pandemic benefits in February 2023, and DTA issued the last extra payment for February on March 2nd.

Receipt of SNAP not only gives low income households resources to purchase healthy food – it also triggers:

  • automatic free school meals status (breakfast and lunch) for elementary and secondary school students
  • regulated utility (natural gas and electricity) discounts,
  • fee or reduced fees for museums and cultural events through the Mass EBT Card to Culture program;
  • access to the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, farm stands and CSAs.
  • eligibility for help with internet/broadband costs and computers through the federal Affordable Connectivity Program.

During the pandemic, students K-12 who qualified for Pandemic EBT, including children getting SNAP. Children under 6 in a SNAP household also qualified for free or reduced price school meals -including all children getting SNAP- received Pandemic EBT during the summer months and for days they missed school for COVID reasons. Pandemic EBT benefits will stop after summer 2023. Starting summer 2024, certain children will be issued approximately $120/summer through Summer EBT.  

This SNAP Advocacy Guide produced by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) walks you through the core eligibility rules for SNAP including: how to apply, what proofs are needed, how much income is counted and benefits calculated, how the household composition rules work and more. It also includes advocacy tips on how to fix SNAP problems such as inaccurate denials, inappropriate verification demands, how to file an appeal and what happens in a hearing. This Advocacy Guide tool is for low-income households, community organizations and legal services advocates.

SNAP remains a critical safety-net program in difficult economic times. It is especially important for low-income older adults and persons with disabilities to remain in the community, as a work support for low-wage families, and for homeless and unemployed individuals in economic crisis.

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