SPRINGFIELD Seniors in Massachusetts who haven't applied for food stamps will now find the process a "snap" thanks to State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera.
Coakley-Rivera's Senior Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was developed to meet a need she has seen in her district: seniors who qualify for assistance but haven't applied because of the paperwork involved.
Last week Coakley-Rivera started a series of SNAP workshops that takes the application process to seniors and explains how the program works. At the SNAP event at The Hobby Club, Commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance Julia Kehoe joined the state rep.
Kehoe told the audience of over 50 seniors that several months ago Coakley-Rivera had come to her department with concerns that eligible elders were not participating in the food assistance program.
Coakley-Rivera's idea was to have outreach sessions to bring the application process to the seniors. Kehoe said that seniors have told her in the past the application process was too long, there was a stigma for applying for help and there are not enough benefits to justify their effort.
Kehoe said the application is now two pages. "We made it as short as possible," she said.
The department also has altered the benefits to make them as high as possible for seniors.
Coakley-Rivera said statewide only about 60 percent of the people who could receive benefits have applied for them and that percentage is lower for senior citizens.
She said the department is adopting the SNAP program and that she will run the program in her district every four years as part of a rotating series of program to assist her constituents.
The response to SNAP has been so positive she has received requests to bring the program to venues outside of her district.
The remaining SNAP workshops will be Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. at Pynchon Terrace/Edgewater Apartment and Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. at Riverview Tenants Council.