Every month Homes for Families hosts a Community Meeting where we create space for all of our partners: families experiencing homelessness, front line shelter staff, policymakers and advocates to come together to discuss and learn about issues our network has identified as important.
At our last Community Meeting we had a presentation from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) with some valuable updates on changes in service delivery, new supports and ongoing programs for recipients of Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC: cash benefits). We also had an eye-opening presentation by Deborah Harris from Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) that illustrated some stark statistics showing that many more families in MA are living in deep poverty than are receiving cash benefits. This post will offer some of the highlights from our meeting with links to materials and next steps.
- Enhanced Assessment: once a client is approved for a cash benefits (TAFDC) grant, they will be invited to participate in an assessment intended to be strengths based and support the client in engaging in employment services activities that will support their economic mobility.
- Transitional Support Stipends: when a client stops receiving TAFDC because they become over income, each employed adult household member may receive a stipend for up to 4 months. This money is not counted against subsidized or affordable housing. It does not count against the 24 month clock. For more information see this DTA fact sheet.
- Weekly Orientations to Learn about Employment Services Programs: every Tuesday at 10 am and Thursday at 1:00 every DTA office has an orientation where recipients of cash benefits can go to learn about the employment services programs in their area and actually connect with some of the providers running programs.
- Full Engagement Workers: these FEWS provide more comprehensive support for clients in identifying and connecting to employment services programs and work opportunities. For a list of FEWS click here.
- The DTA Works Internship to Work Program: this program generated some good conversation. It has a good track record of creating a pathway to work for clients who participate. Check out this flyer for more information. To apply, submit resume to the full engagement worker in your area.
- The DTA Connect phone app is now available and allows clients to track aspects of their benefits. If a client requests heightened security on their case, they will not be able to use this app.
While DTA works to improve their services, families and service providers face challenges with accessing them. Community members present at our meeting expressed concerns about being able to get in touch with case workers, not having specific assigned case workers for cash benefits, and the challenges of waiting in crowded DTA offices to access services.
If you have questions, concerns or feedback for DTA on any of this information that you would like to be able to provide directly, please contact: John Stella, Director of Cash Policy: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Mayra Torres, Assistant Director of Employment Services Programs: email@example.com.
The Bigger Picture:
Deborah shed light on why so many families find themselves struggling to escape poverty and homelessness to begin with: while there are more families in poverty now as compared to the early 90s the number of families on cash assistance has dropped. Whats more, the value of the cash grant has declined. In fact grants are worth half of what they were worth in 1988: on average, for a family of three, the value of a cash grant has declined by $535/month!
One effort you can join to get more money into the pockets of families that are very low income is the campaign to lift the family cap (which limits access to cash benefits for some children). You can learn more about this campaign by contacting us or Deborah Harris: 617-357-0700 x 313, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where We Go From Here:
We are committed to continuing to find policy solutions that create tools for families to increase their income, access affordable housing, and move out of poverty and into stable long term housing. While our state policymakers are working to make improvements within the system we currently have, we will continue to work with policymakers, advocates, our members, and other stakeholders to support the kinds of significant shifts in our system of cash benefits and beyond that our needed to create meaningful change.
Join us at our next community meeting on Dec. 14th!
Director of Operations and Member Engagement