Special to the Bridge
Last week, the Healey Administration announced $40 million in federal and state funding to implement the law that Senator Sal DiDomenico championed for years, and the legislature passed in 2022 that would streamline access to core safety net programs. Legislation passed in August of 2022, Chapter 174 of the Acts of 2022, directed the Administration to create a Common Application for SNAP, MassHealth, cash assistance, childcare and housing subsidies, fuel assistance, and other needs-tested benefits and today this funding infusion will ensure the state can reach this goal.
The funding included in the Governor’s 5-year Capital Investment Plant represents a significant step towards making basic benefit programs more efficient and effective, closing participation gaps, maximizing federal revenue for needy families, and ensuring more residents connect to the programs they need. The announcement comes as part of the Administration’s broader efforts to improve quality of service across government programs, including enhancing transparency, accessibility, and cybersecurity.
“The allocation today by the Healey Administration of $18 Million will move the implementation of the Common Application forward in Massachusetts and help thousands of low-income individuals across the Commonwealth meet their basic needs,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico, Senate lead sponsor of the Common Application legislation and Assistant Majority Leader. “After many years of work on this issue we are thrilled to partner with the Administration and advocates to make the Common Application a reality and look forward to building on this momentum of equitably expanding access to public benefits.”
For many years, Massachusetts had separate application processes for MassHealth and SNAP, as well as many other safety-net programs, that all asked for the same basic information. For many low-income families, these burdensome and duplicative application processes were a significant barrier to access the benefits for which they were entitled. For example, the separate application process for MassHealth and SNAP resulted in the “SNAP Gap” – with approximately 700,000 MassHealth recipients who are likely income-eligible for SNAP, but not receiving them. The MA Legislature included language in the FY20 and FY21 budgets requiring the Administration to allow MassHealth applicants to apply for SNAP at the same time, which has produced significant results in boosting SNAP enrollment. The Common Application initiative weaves in other basic benefits and creates a “no wrong door” portal for low-income families, while allowing state agencies to more efficiently process benefits using common eligibility information and proofs.
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) and the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-MA) led a coalition urging the adoption of a Common Application. De-siloing government programs and closing gaps were core goals of legislation and subsequent budget language filed by State Senator Sal DiDomenico and State Representative Jay Livingstone, An Act to Streamline Access to Critical Public Health and Safety-net Programs through Common Applications (S.761/H.1290). More than 70 State Senators and Representatives supported this legislation, demonstrating widespread bipartisan and bicameral support.
“Bureaucratic obstacles should never stand in the way of Massachusetts households being able to access the benefits they are eligible for to meet their basic everyday needs,” said Georgia Katsoulomitis, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI). “Passing the Common Application legislation was an important step in the process toward solving this issue, and today’s allocation of funds to get it implemented is a welcome affirmation from the Healey Administration that they are committed to improving the lives of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents.”
“Social workers understand how important it is to address the root causes of poverty and food insecurity through public policy. The infusion of this essential funding will finally allow the state to provide streamlined access to essential, life-saving benefits, which will improve economic mobility and, in turn, overall health and mental health outcomes for kids and families across our Commonwealth,” said Rebekah Gewirtz, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter. “We are grateful the Administration took this bold action to finally begin to realize the Common Application and we look forward to working with the Administration on implementation.”
Patricia Baker, MLRI Sr. Policy Advocate and Chair of the statewide SNAP Coalition, added, “We are thrilled that Governor Healey and her Administration are actively removing access barriers and finally investing resources to make the Common Application a reality for Massachusetts families, older adults, and persons with disabilities who need to be connected to these key benefits. MLRI and the anti-poverty advocacy community look forward to working with the Healey Administration on robust implementation. We are deeply grateful to Chairman Jay Livingstone and Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico along with the Massachusetts Legislature for their unwavering efforts in closing the SNAP Gap and mandating the state create a Common Application. Massachusetts has the smarts and IT to get this done.”
The Common App Coalition is a coalition of more than 150 organizations across Massachusetts committed to reducing hunger and alleviating poverty and is led by the National Association of Social Workers – Massachusetts Chapter (NASW-MA) and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI). The Coalition has been advocating for a Common Application and looks forward to continuing to work on the implementation of this initiative with the Healey Administration.