State-funded SNAP Benefits
On December 4, Massachusetts Governor Healey signed into law a supplemental budget which includes $6 million to offer food assistance (SNAP) to categories of immigrants who are not eligible under federal rules. Here is what we know so far.
What is the new budget provision?The Legislature allocated $6 million to provide state-funded SNAP (food stamps) for immigrants who are humanitarian parolees or otherwise residing “under color of law” and do not qualify for federally-funded SNAP benefits solely due to their immigration status. This funding is intended to provide SNAP for this population until June 30, 2024 (the end of the state fiscal year). The funding may not be enough to last until June 30, but the Feeding Our Neighbors campaign is advocating for more funding to be added this fiscal year and for the benefits to continue.
When can people get the new state-funded SNAP (food stamps)?This depends on your household! If you are in a household that is already receiving SNAP for some members: Benefits will be issued on February 15, 2024. You should receive benefits back to December 4, 2023 when the law changed. You do not need to apply to receive these benefits. The DTA is mailing a state SNAP approval notice. Your household should also receive a text on February 15, 2024. If you applied between December 4, 2024 and February 14, 2024, and no one in your household already received SNAP: The DTA is working to reopen denied applications. More information to follow. If you applied on February 15, 2024, or later: The DTA has put in place new notices and procedures. Expect that you will receive two notices – one denying you for SNAP from the federal (national) government and another approving you for state SNAP. Newly eligible immigrants who are NOT already in existing SNAP households should apply for SNAP as soon as possible! You can apply for SNAP online in 6 languages here.
Which immigrants are newly eligible for food stamps?
People who have humanitarian parole and those residing here “under color of law” are now eligible. A person is considered to be residing “under color of law” if their presence in the U.S. is known by immigration authorities (USCIS or ICE) and they are not the subject of deportation or removal proceedings.
Examples of immigrants who are residing “under color of law” include those with:
- pending asylum applications (other than those from Cuba and Haiti, who are already eligible for benefits as Cuban-Haitians Entrants)
- pending or approved Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- orders of supervision
- pending or approved U visas
- pending relative petitions
- pending or approved deferred action
This list does not include every newly eligible group. Contact a legal services provider to learn more about whether someone is considered to be residing “under color of law.”
Does the funding support adult legal permanent residents (Green Card Holders) who have to wait 5 years to apply for benefits under federal rules?
No, this group is not included in the newly eligible groups. However, there are exceptions to this rule, including receiving a disability-based benefit or based on work history. If you are unsure, contact a legal services provider for help.
Why is this happening in the state legislature?
SNAP is a federal program. It is authorized and funded by the US government which sets most of the program rules, including eligibility requirements. SNAP benefits are then administered by state agencies according to the federal rules. Under federal rules, many lawfully present immigrants are not eligible for SNAP benefits. Massachusetts cannot change this federal rule, but it can offer a parallel program that supplements the federal one and includes more immigrant groups. Massachusetts joins 6 other states who already doing this.
How can I make sure this program continues?
The current funding likely will not be enough to give benefits to everyone who is eligible. Want to ensure this program has enough money and is continued in future? Talk to your state legislators! You can also join the Feeding Our Neighbors Coalition, an advocacy group working on this issue.
Thanks to Naomi Meyer (Greater Boston Legal Services), the Somerville Office of Immigrant Affairs, and the Somerville Office of Food Access and Healthy Communities for pulling together this information.