Food and Cash Benefits
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Families needing assistance to buy fresh, nutritious food may be eligible for SNAP, also known as food stamps. To determine whether your household is eligible for SNAP, find the SNAP eligibility chart that applies to your household, or use the 10-second screening tool. SNAP recipients with school-aged children will also receive additional funds. You can apply for SNAP online or by phone through the SNAP Outreach Providers who are authorized to take applications by phone, including the Project Bread Food Source Hotline (800-645-8333) (TTY 800-377-1292) and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts (413-992-6204).
Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
TAFDC provides cash assistance for families with children under the age of 18, including teen parents. If you are pregnant, you can apply for TAFDC for yourself if your child is due in less than 4 months. You may qualify for TAFDC if you meet certain income and asset limits and if someone in the family is a U.S. Citizen or has another qualifying immigration status. You can apply for TAFDC by calling your local Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office or by applying online.
Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC)
EAEDC provides cash assistance for people who are
- unable to work due to a disability that will last at least 60 days;
- over 65 years old and waiting for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments to begin;
- living with and taking care of a child who is not closely related;
- participating in a Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Program; or
- must be home to take care of a disabled person who would otherwise have to move to an institution.
You may qualify for EAEDC if you meet certain income and asset limits and if someone in the family is a U.S. Citizen or has another qualifying immigration status. You can apply for EAEDC by calling your local DTA office or by applying online.
Women, Infants & Children Nutrition Program (WIC)
WIC provides financial assistance to buy healthy foods, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support to pregnant women and families with children under the age of 5. Visit this website to see if you are eligible, or call the WIC program at (800)-942-1007. You can also contact your local WIC office. To apply, fill out this online form, and a representative will contact you with information on completing the application process.
A new federal program called Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) provides benefits for families of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch at their schools, while schools are closed because of the COVID-19 emergency. Each eligible family will receive $5.70 per student per day that their school has been closed to use to buy food. For families that already receive benefits from DTA, like SNAP, P-EBT benefits will be added to the family’s regular EBT card. Families that do not already receive DTA benefits will receive a P-EBT card for each eligible student. Eligible families should expect to receive a letter from DTA in May. Families that do not get a letter in the mail, but have students who receive free or reduced price meals at their schools should contact Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at (800) 645-8333 (TTY 800-377-1292). P-EBT benefits are meant for families to use in addition to picking up meals at school meal sites.
Assistance from Non-Profit and Community Organizations
Many non-profit and community organizations are providing assistance during the COVID-19 emergency. For example, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley has established a COVID-19 Family Support Fund to provide assistance to individuals and families with basic needs, including food and rent. Some communities are also creating local funds by raising money with the United Way. Call 2-1-1 for information on how to apply for assistance from funds that are coordinated with the United Way.
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice has created a list of funds that are providing assistance to workers and residents affected by current crisis, with information on how to apply. Mutual aid organizations are also being established to coordinate assistance between community members.
Federal Stimulus Payments
The recently passed federal stimulus bill, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides one-time cash payments of $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for taxpayers filing jointly, and $500 per child.. The IRS calls these payments “Economic Impact Payments.” Most people who are eligible should receive these payments automatically, either deposited into their bank accounts or in a check mailed to their address. Other people who are eligible, including people who normally do not file tax returns because their income is too low, may need to fill out a short form on the IRS website, or file their 2019 tax return electronically. Visit IRS.gov to learn if there is anything that you need to do to get your payment or to speed up your payment.
- filed your 2019 (or 2018 if you have not yet filed for 2019) taxes in Massachusetts,
- did not provide the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with bank account information to receive direct deposit information, and
- qualify for a stimulus payment under the CARES Act,
you may receive that stimulus payment on a reloadable prepaid VISA debit card. You will receive the debit card in an unmarked envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services, with instructions on how to activate the card. You will receive one card with the entire payment for your household (up to $2,400 for taxpayers filing jointly plus $500 for every dependent child). This is your money. Do not turn your debit card over to anyone that you don’t know and trust.
Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
Unemployment insurance (UI) provides weekly cash payments to people who lose their jobs, have their work hours cut, or have to stop working. This includes people who have to stop working because their workplace has been temporarily shut down during the COVID-19 emergency. The CARES Act, a recent federal law, provides enhanced unemployment benefits to people who would normally be eligible for UI, raising the weekly benefit by $600. Visit the Department of Unemployment Assistance’s website for more information. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) urges people to file their UI claim online. People who need help from DUA related to filing their claim can request a call back from DUA by filling out an online contact request form.
The CARES Act also creates a new unemployment program, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for people who cannot work (or cannot work as many hours) because of the COVID-19 emergency, but who would normally not be eligible for unemployment insurance. Eligible workers include self-employed workers, some types of gig workers, independent contractors, workers at certain religious institutions, workers who have already exhausted their regular UI benefits, and workers who do not have enough work history to qualify for regular UI benefits. The DUA has more information about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance here. They have also posted a guidebook about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is available in multiple languages. You can file an application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance online.
People who need free legal assistance related to filing unemployment assistance claims can contact Lawyers’ for Civil Rights through this online form, or Greater Boston Legal Services through an online form, or by calling (617) 603-1530 (Spanish) or (617) 603-1639 (English and all other languages).
Chapter 115 Benefits for Veterans
Massachusetts provides assistance to veterans and their dependents facing financial difficulties through a program called Chapter 115 Benefits. Eligible veterans and their dependents or survivors may qualify for monthly cash assistance, reimbursement for medical expenses, and other financial assistance to help pay mortgage, rent or utility bills. The Department of Veterans’ Services provides these benefits in partnership with Veterans’ Service Officers located in cities and towns across the state. Visit the Mass Vet Benefit Calculator to see if you might be eligible. Then call your local Veterans’ Service Officer to apply for Chapter 115 Benefits and discuss other veterans’ benefits that you might be eligible for. You can help you figure out how to contact your local Veterans’ Service Officer here. If you cannot reach your Veterans’ Service Officer, call the Department of Veterans’ Services directly at (617) 210-5480.
Utility companies are prohibited from shutting off electric, gas, and water service during the COVID-19 emergency. However, this does not mean your utilities are free, and any unpaid amount will continue to accrue. People who need assistance paying for their energy bills should consider the following programs.
Massachusetts Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP or Fuel Assistance)
LIHEAP helps homeowners and renters to pay for their heating costs during the winter heating season. Renters whose heating is included in their rent may be eligible as well. Visit this website to see if you may be eligible. To apply, visit this site to find your local fuel assistance agency. During the COVID-19 emergency, you should be able to apply over the phone.
Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund
The Good Neighbor Energy Fund provides financial assistance to help pay for energy costs for Massachusetts residents who are not eligible for other utility assistance programs. Visit this website for information on eligibility and where to apply.
Emergency Assistance (EA)
The Massachusetts Emergency Assistance program (EA) provides emergency housing for families with pregnant women or children under the age of 21 who are facing homelessness and meet income guidelines. Call the Department of Housing and Community Development at (866) 584-0653 to apply. Applicants who qualify for EA may also qualify for HomeBASE, which provides financial assistance to help families facing homelessness pay for rent, utilities, and moving costs.
Shelters for Individuals
Individuals and families without children under the age of 21 who are facing homelessness may be eligible to stay in an individual shelter. See this page from the Department of Housing and Community Development for a list of individual shelters around the state. The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless also has contact information for some individual shelters.
Rental Assistance Programs
Rental assistance programs provide financial aid to help low-income persons rent privately-owned apartments. The 3 largest rental assistance programs are: The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), and the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP). Applications may be made where waiting lists are open. If you are interested in applying for HCVP, MRVP, and AHVP are contact the local housing authority in your community.
Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)
The RAFT program is a homelessness prevention program that allows eligible households to receive up to $4,000 per year in flexible funds. The program is targeted to households with incomes at or below 50% of area median income. To see if your household meets the income eligibility limits for the RAFT program, CLICK HERE to access the FY 2020 Income Limits Documentation System. To determine which regional administrative agency provides RAFT assistance in your area, please CLICK HERE. Once you’ve determined which regional agency provides RAFT assistance in your area, contact the regional agency, or click on the appropriate link below to complete a Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) Intake Assessment:
- Berkshire Housing Development Corporation & Housing Services;
- Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance;
- Community Teamwork, Inc.;
- Franklin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority;
- Housing Assistance Corporation;
- NeighborWorks Housing Solutions (a.k.a. Housing Solutions for South Eastern MA); Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development;
- Metro Housing | Boston;
- RCAP Solution, Inc.;
- South Middlesex Opportunity Council, Inc. (SMOC); and
- Way Finders.
After you complete the HCEC Intake Assessment, HCEC staff will review it to determine individual needs and resources.