Concerned with growing hunger among Massachusetts families eligible for Food Stamps, and the paradoxical decline in the number of program enrollees, Project Bread asked the Center for Social Policy at the John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs, University of Massachusetts Boston (CSP) to study the process of securing and sustaining Food Stamp Benefits. Concurrent with the planning process for the study, the Massachusetts legislature, in an override of the Governor's veto in early December 2001, included language in the FY 2002 budget designed to expand access to the program. Among other requirements, the language requires the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), the state agency administering Food Stamps, to:
- extend office hours;
- simplify the Food Stamp application;
- out-station workers at community and human service organizations;
- provide categorical eligibility to families at 200% of the federal poverty level; and
- elect the federal option to automatically continue three months of Food Stamp benefits for families whose TAFDC benefits are ending.
These requirements added new areas of inquiry to the study: the potential expansion of both physical and programmatic access to the program for Massachusetts families. In fact, in the state legislature's Conference Committee budget for FY 2003, released mid-July 2002, these provisions are reiterated, as DTA is directed to increase access to Food Stamps by simplifying the application, making forms and notices more readable, extending office hours, and outstationing workers. With these new requirements, the study, carried out in collaboration with Project Bread, addressed the following research questions:
- Are there barriers to accessing the Food Stamp program? If so, what are those barriers? Why do some eligible applicants choose not to apply?
- Are there barriers to maintaining Food Stamp benefits? If so, what are those barriers? How do Food Stamp applicants experience the process of maintaining benefits?
- Is the Food Stamp program complying with the new regulations around extended hours, streamlined application forms, and out-stationing services?
Kahan, Michelle; Werby, Elaine; and Raymond, Jennifer, "Food Stamps: Available But Not Easily Accessible: A Study Conducted for Project Bread" (2002). Center for Social Policy Publications. 73.