Project Bread is driven by our desire to solve hunger, which will require long-term, systemic solutions. Our Policy team is hard at work to support and advance numerous bills in the state legislature to bring about long term change through legislation.
In early 2021, Project Bread put forward our legislative agenda for the next two years. These are 15 bills that we believe will move the needle on ending hunger in the state of Massachusetts.
In total 12 of our bills are still active in the legislature which is a testament to the hard work of our advocacy in making anti-hunger bills a priority!
Below is the full update on all 15 bills, how far we’ve come this past year, with notes on how you can take action to move important anti-hunger bills forward in Massachusetts!
Before we look where each bill stands, here is a refresher on the steps a bill has to take in order to become a law.
In October 2021, An Act Promoting Student Nutrition (H.715/S.298) was signed into law! This bill prohibits schools from certain meal debt collection practices that involve or penalize the student and encourages schools to adopt universal school meals through the Community Eligibility Provision or another federal option. Our team was proud to work with the state legislature and Governor Baker to enact this bill after months of pushing forward
Each bill is assigned a committee, and by the first Wednesday of the second year of the session (this year on February 2, 2022), committees are required to issue a report of their bills. Most bills are referred to a study committee, which is political speak for a bill that will not be considered that session. As of this blog post, seven bills have been reported out favorably. These bills will now move forward to the next step of the legislative process.
An Act Relative to an Agricultural Healthy Incentives Program (H.250/S.108) would create a permanent program to ensure the Healthy Incentives Program’s (HIP) long-term stability. Launched in 2017, the HIP allows SNAP recipients to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers. While the program has been a tremendous success, to date it has only been authorized through the state budget. The bill was heard by the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on September 29, 2021 and was referred favorably to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. That committee has since referred it favorably to the Senate Committee on Ways & Means.
An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative (H.1368/S.822) will support the estimated 37% of public university students in Massachusetts currently experiencing food insecurity. This bill would provide capacity, guidance, and funding to public colleges and not-for-profit institutions of higher education take steps to alleviate food insecurity on campus. The bill was heard by the Joint Committee on Higher Education on October 7, 2021 and was referred favorably to the Senate Ways & Means Committee after being combined with another bill addressing campus hunger.
An Act to Lift Kids Out of Deep Poverty (H.199/S.96) will assist households with children by increasing the amount of cash assistance grants to families with children living in deep poverty. The bill was heard by the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on September 29, 2021 and the bill was referred favorably to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
An Act Concerning Public Assistance for Working Families and the Creation of a Pilot Program to Address the Impacts of the Cliff Effect (H.208/S.119) will protect benefits for low-income households by creating a pilot to ensure households receiving federal and state benefits would not be penalized for working, providing a portion of their benefits even as their income increases. The hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on September 29, 2021. S.119 was referred favorably to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on January 26, 2022. H.208 was referred favorably to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
An Act Relative to Establishing and Implementing a Food and Health Pilot Program (H.2298/S.1403) will expand healthcare screenings and benefits for food insecurity. The bill would create a pilot under the Massachusetts Office of Medicaid to demonstrate the impact on health outcomes of medically tailored nutrition services for MassHealth enrollees diagnosed with certain health conditions. The hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Public Health on October 7, 2021 and the bill was reported favorably to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.
An Act Relative to Establishing a Food Justice Frontline (H.973/S.564) will create employment opportunities for teens to promote SNAP and HIP by providing grants to organizations to hire and train teens to promote SNAP in their community. The hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on October 13, 2021, and the bill was reported favorably to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
While most bills were reported on or near the February 2nd deadline, some bills had their report deadlines extended. Our goal is to get bills reported favorably so they can move through the legislative process, but an extended deadline is exciting news. It means the original committee is still considering the bill and either waiting for additional news or working out details. An extended deadline is also an opportunity for us to continue our advocacy efforts – and we need your help to continue building grassroots momentum!
After our largest effort to date with the Feed Kids Coalition, An Act Relative to Universal School Meals (H.714/S.314) was heard by the Joint Committee on Education on January 4, 2022. With school meals for all, we can ensure that, while at school, every child is fed and ready to learn without worrying about cost or stigma. The committee has extended the reporting deadline until June 1, 2022 while they learn what actions Congress and USDA take on school meals. You can help ensure that this bill moves favorably through committee by taking action here!
Two identical bills, An Act to increase family stabilization through the earned income tax credit (H.2871/S.1841) and An Act Providing a Guaranteed Minimum Income to All Massachusetts Families (S.1852) will expand benefits for low-income households by expanding the state match of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 30 to 50% of the federal credit and creating a minimum benefit of $2,400 for households with no income. The bills were heard by the Joint Committee on Revenue on December 13, 2021, and the committee extended the reporting deadline until March 30, 2022.
An Act Providing Affordable and Accessible High Quality Early Education and Care to Promote Child Development and Well-Being and Support the Economy of the Commonwealth (H.605/S.362) will invest in child care so that child care providers are better supported and families have free or affordable access. This bill establishes a system of grants and subsidies through the Department of Early Education to enable all families to access high quality early education and care. The hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Education on November 23, 2021 and the committee extended the reporting deadline until May 1, 2022 while they learn what actions Congress will take on childcare and preschool funding.
An Act Protecting Safety Net Access for Massachusetts Residents (H.234/S.134) will ensure a public process before the moving or closure or Department of Transitional Assistance offices, requiring 120 days public notice prior to opting out of a lease renewal, closing a community service office, or soliciting proposals to lease a new space. The Joint Committee for State Administration and Regulatory Oversight would need to hold a public hearing within 30 days of this notice. The hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on September 29, 2021, and the committee extended the reporting deadline until May 2, 2022.
An Act Establishing Health Equity At All Levels in Government (H.2373/S.1388) will promote equity policy and operation of all levels of state government by establishing procedures to ensure policies are evaluated on the basis of healthy equity and that the legislature, state agencies, and the entire state government has a plan to advance healthy equity in their work. The hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Public Health on October 28, 2021 and the committee extended the reporting deadline until December 31, 2022.
Referring a bill to study may mean additional study has been requested, but it is most commonly used to end consideration of the bill this session without an unfavorable report. They will need to be refiled next session.
An Act Concerning Food Insecurity and Supporting the Restaurant Industry (H.207/S.118) will allow households with older adults or individuals with disability or homeless individuals to use SNAP at authorized establishments for prepared meals by directing DTA to enroll in the Restaurant Meal Program. The hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on September 29, 2021 and was sent to study.
We look forward to another eventful year in the state legislature and hope to see more bills progress to Governor Baker’s desk!