Poll: Families in need are not taking advantage of available benefits

BOSTON — The state may be moving back toward normal since the height of the pandemic, but the need for food has not.

Greater Boston Food Bank CEO, Catherine D’Amato tells me the need has doubled in the last year.

D’Amato says a new MASS INC poll, showing families in need are not taking advantage of all the benefits available to them, came to no surprise to her.

“The study we did as well showed half of the 3,000 people we interviewed were not utilizing it,” says D’Amato.

MASS INC surveyed 10,000 K-12 parents in 14 public school districts.

Researcher Richard Parr tells me many families some 43% thought they didn’t qualify for SNAP benefits.

“People were surprised when we showed them how much money they could make and still get SNAP, they said that number was higher than they expected,“ says Parr.

Many families utilized the state’s emergency Pandemic-EBT or P-EBT program.

Families who were receiving free and reduced lunch were automatically enrolled, but the federal SNAP program requires an application process.

“We’re finding almost 90% of parents were using P-EBT and then it drops down to 32% for SNAP.”

Misconceptions in immigrant communities also affected benefit usage.

“SNAP is a program you can get for your kids, if your kids are U.S. citizens, even if you are not a U.S. citizen. But a lot of people weren’t clear on that,“ said Parr.

D’Amato says her staff experienced this first hand. 

“That immigrant family was fearful. Went through the process, qualified, but was fearful and didn’t decide to do it and withdrew their application. A lot of this is education, education and education,” D’Amato said.

Another big concern here is the fact that pandemic relief programs have a higher likelihood of sunsetting when the economy goes back to normal.

Federal benefits like SNAP remain available to families until their households stabilize.

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