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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Baker-Polito Administration Opens First DTA Office Specifically for Seniors

Baker-Polito Administration Opens First DTA Office Specifically for Seniors
Specially Trained Staff Help Older Adults Access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program 

HOLYOKE – Today, the Baker-Polito Administration celebrated the official opening of the Department of Transitional Assistance’s (DTA) Senior Assistance Office in Holyoke, created to better serve older adults accessing benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Across the United States, SNAP serves nearly five million seniors, however only 42% of eligible elderly individuals participate in the program compared to 83% for all eligible individuals, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In Massachusetts, DTA assists over 153,000 individuals over age 60 through SNAP. 

“Many Massachusetts seniors are living very active lives well beyond their retirement age and providing them with pertinent information about available resources is important to us,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “DTA’s new office in Holyoke is geared specifically to seniors and provides an opportunity for specially trained Commonwealth staff to engage and help their clients live healthier and longer lives.”  

“Massachusetts has been a leader in the development and delivery of aging services and support for decades and as the population ages, our leadership is needed more than ever,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “SNAP provides a vital nutritional resource for older adults, many of whom live on fixed incomes and are faced with unique health, social and nutritional challenges which can serve as a barrier to applying for and maintaining benefits.” 

Located in the Holyoke Transitional Assistance Office, the new senior assistance office has specially trained staff available to provide a better experience for SNAP seniors. Staff are equipped to help seniors complete a simplified SNAP application — which is available in both English and Spanish — and to provide assistance to individuals who call the new SNAP senior assistance line — (833) 712-8027. This line is specifically tailored to ease the call-in experience for SNAP seniors, including direct access to a case manager without requiring the use of automated prompts.

“Food insecurity is one of the fastest growing public health threats facing seniors,”said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Massachusetts has taken great strides to improve how we deliver essential SNAP benefits to help seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income individuals and their families meet their basic needs, improve their quality of life and outcomes, and achieve economic stability.”

In 2017, DTA formed a Senior Working Group that included members from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) and local advocates who met weekly to discuss how to best serve SNAP seniors and enhance access to benefits. The simplified application and dedicated phone line are a direct result of the group’s efforts. With these new tailored services in place, the DTA aims to best meet the needs of seniors who receive SNAP benefits.

“Our new Senior Assistance Office will help us ensure that seniors are better able to access their SNAP benefits, and that we are best serving them. Since the soft opening of the office, we’ve processed more than 2,400 applications from seniors across the state,” said DTA Commissioner Jeff McCue. “We are also working in partnership with the advocacy community to conduct targeted outreach to seniors to increase SNAP participation.”

In Massachusetts, one in every nine people receive SNAP benefits, including seniors, working families, children, and people with disabilities. Of all SNAP households in the state, 72% earn less than the federal poverty limit — or $24,300 for a household of four. Senior participation in SNAP is significantly lower than other demographics.

DTA administers SNAP on behalf of the USDA and serves as a critical first line of defense against hunger in the Commonwealth. Recently, DTA was awarded a $2.9 million high performance bonus from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for improving access to nutritional support and benefits for low-income individuals and their families to purchase healthy food. Every year, DTA issues approximately $1.2 billion in SNAP benefits across the Commonwealth, representing about $2.14 billion per year in economic activity as each dollar in SNAP benefits generates an equivalent of $1.79 billion in economic activity for the state.

For more information about DTA’s new Senior Assistance Office visit their website

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