Mass Senate Passes Bill To Enhance Access to Safety Net Resources to Most Vulnerable Residents Amid COVID-19

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The following is a press release from the Senate president’s office to SOURCE media.

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BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday, April 23, passed legislation that makes it easier for residents who have lost incomes due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis to access critical safety net programs.

The bipartisan legislation temporarily prohibits the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) from denying applications for the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program or the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) program on the bases of those programs’ asset limits.

“Supporting our vulnerable residents is one of the most important things we can do during this public health crisis and doing so has been a priority of the Senate since this emergency began,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I am grateful for the efforts of the Senate working group to advance this important legislation, and to all of the Senators who contributed to the final bill, which will help thousands in need of assistance during this challenging time.”

The bill, which is the latest action by the Legislature to address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its effects on Massachusetts, now heads to the House of Representatives.

“With the passage of this bill, the Senate is building upon its commitment to families and vulnerable populations struggling with the impacts of COVID-19,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D- Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This legislation will ensure that some of the most at-risk in the Commonwealth won’t be denied necessary aid during this incredibly difficult time, and I applaud Senate President Spilka for her continued leadership and Senate Comerford for her thoughtful advocacy in supporting them.”

“This legislation, drafted as part of the Senate’s COVID-19 working group process, will get much-needed state support to more people who need it during this public health crisis, while enabling them to keep any savings they have,” stated Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), Senate Chair of Joint Committee on Public Health and Chair of the Senate COVID-19 Working Group. “I’m grateful to the Senate President and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means for working quickly to move this bill to the floor.”

“COVID-19 is impacting people across our Commonwealth with serious consequences, and the families that are supported by these programs are no exception,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). “This tailored action will allow them to have the resources they need to navigate the financial challenges that exist now, and those that may develop as the pandemic continues.”

The TAFDC program provides cash assistance to families with children, as well as pregnant women in the last 120 days of pregnancy, who have little or no assets or income.

To receive TAFDC, one must meet both an income limit and an asset limit, which prohibits applicants from having countable assets worth more than $5,000.

EAEDC provides cash assistance to Commonwealth residents who: are unable to work due to a disability; are over 65 years old and waiting for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments to start; or living with and taking care of a child who is not a close relative or who requires in-home care. In addition to meeting the above criteria, an EAEDC applicant must meet an income limit and an asset limit, which is $250 for an individual and $500 for a couple.  The value of a house and $1,500 of the value of a car are not counted towards this limit.

Those who have lost income due to the impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency and, as a result, qualify for the income limits of these programs face the possibility of needing to spend down crucial savings to meet the asset limits at a time when they should be preserving savings. This legislation therefore temporarily removes those asset limits.

The components of the bill are as follows:

  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Asset Limit: prohibits the Department of Transitional Assistance from denying a family assistance under Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children solely because the family’s countable resources exceed $5,000.
  • Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children Asset Limit: prohibits the Department of Transitional Assistance from denying a person assistance under Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children solely because the person’s countable resources exceed the allowable limit.
  • Both provisions of the bill will remain in effect for 120 days after the law goes into effect or 45 days after the state of emergency ends, whichever is sooner. The Governor may postpone the expiration of the provisions of the bill for a period of time that doesn’t go beyond 45 days after the state of emergency ends.

editor

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