MLRI Basic Public Benefits Advocacy Trainings

A series of 13 trainings for legal, social and health services, and community advocates who assist low and moderate-income individuals and families.

MCLE and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) are collaborating to make annual basic public benefits advocacy training more accessible to the many public and private sector individuals and lawyers who assist Massachusetts residents in qualifying for and receiving public benefits. Detailed materials are distributed for each training.


Note: All programs will be available online only.



1. Assisting Families Experiencing Homelessness
Wednesday, September 23, 2020 No. 2210033WBC
or Wednesday, September 30, 2020 No. 2210033RBC
9:30 am–3:00 pm; 5 Credits

This program focuses on strategies to assist families experiencing homelessness in accessing and retaining shelter, short-term housing, and services from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Trainers provide an overview of the Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter and services program, including current restrictions on access to EA shelter. The training also includes advocacy tips regarding the range of issues facing families at-risk or experiencing homelessness as they seek access to EA shelter and the HomeBASE program. The training includes an overview of the system, the application process, denials, terminations, shelter placements, and program requirements. This training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, and community activists who want to learn about the nuts-and-bolts of the EA system and the HomeBASE program.

Training materials include the Emergency Assistance Advocacy Guide: A Guide to Emergency Shelter and Rehousing Services for Homeless Families with Children in Massachusetts.

Andrea Park, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Elizabeth Alfred, Central West Justice Center; Iris Eileen Coloma-Gaines, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Marwa Sayed, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless; Kelly Turley, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless; Laticia Walker-Simpson, Greater Boston Legal Services

Click here to register for 2210033WBC

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2. CORI: Basics of the NEW Criminal Justice Reform Law
Tuesday, October 20, 2020 No. 2210036WBC
or Tuesday, October 27, 2020 No. 2210036RBC
9:30 am–2:30 pm; 4 Credits

This seminar provides an overview of criminal offender record information (CORI) laws as related to employment, driver licenses, housing, and other collateral consequences. Topics include: how to get CORI reports, sealing and expungement of adult and juvenile cases; chapter 151B anti-discrimination provisions; negligent hiring protections for employers and landlords, and other provisions.

Massachusetts keeps “CORI” on every individual who has a criminal case in a Massachusetts state court. CORI is recorded and kept on file even if the underlying case is ultimately dismissed or the accused is found not guilty. CORI is used in screening processes by employers, landlords, government agencies, and others. Clients with criminal records face barriers to employment, housing, benefits and other opportunities for economic stability. This training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, and community activists who want to learn about the new law or get a refresher course on the basics of CORI.

Pauline Quirion, Greater Boston Legal Services; Mac McCreight, Greater Boston Legal Services; Agapi Kouloris, Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information System; Ventura Dennis, Greater Boston Legal Services; Susan Malouin, Northeast Legal Services; Sophia Hall, Lawyers for Civil Rights

Click here to register for 2210036WBC

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3. SSI & SSDI Basics
Wednesday, December 2, 2020 No. 2210034WBC
or Wednesday, December 16, 2020 No. 2210034RBC
9:30 am–4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

Social Security disability programs continue to be a major source of cash and health benefits for individuals with disabilities. However, dealing with a large federal agency can be daunting and overwhelming, especially for an unrepresented claimant. The program begins with an overview of the two disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), with emphasis on eligibility requirements and procedures, including basic disability eligibility standards and non-disability issues such as income, resources, and non-citizen criteria. An explanation of the recently revised evidence submission and analysis rules begins with the afternoon session followed by overview of the appeals process for disability applications. Concluding the program is a review of certain post-entitlement issues, with special emphasis on continuing disability reviews, work incentives rules, and benefits overpayments. The training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice who are thinking of representing clients before SSA, social and health workers, and community activists.

Linda Landry. Disability Law Center; Svetlana Uminkova, Disability Law Center

Click here to register for 2210034WBC

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4. SNAP/Food Stamps Advocacy 101
Wednesday, February 3, 2021 No. 2210094WBC
or Wednesday, February 10, 2021 No. 2210094RBC
9:30 am–12:30 pm; 3 Credits

The federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) remains the first line of defense against hunger for thousands of Massachusetts residents. Families and individuals often struggle with getting their SNAP applications and recertifications approved. Collecting all the required proofs and getting through the application process can be overwhelming for an unrepresented household. Some of the most challenging cases involve the rules for immigrant-headed households. Special rules also apply to households with older adults and persons with disabilities.

The training includes an overview of the federal SNAP program, an update on federal and state SNAP changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, and an in-depth look at the nuts and bolts of SNAP eligibility, benefit amount, online tools, trouble-shooting, and appeal rights. This SNAP 101 training is designed for participants who need the basic rules and advocacy tips including new legal services and community advocates, lawyers in private practice, and social and health services workers.

Please note, the 2020 SNAP Advocacy Guide will not be updated due to the ongoing federal and state policy changes due to COVID. The 2020 is available as a download or e-book on the MassLegalServices website and should be used in conjunction with updated information about SNAP and COVID-19, available at:

Patricia J. Baker, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston; Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston

Click here to register for 2210094WBC

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5. Utilities—Advocacy for Low-Income Households in Massachusetts
Wednesday, February 3, 2021 No. 2210095WBC
or Wednesday, February 10, 2021 No. 2210095RBC
1:00 pm–3:00 pm; 2 Credits

This training covers the broad range of topics that arise when low-income households are trying to initiate or protect their utility service, as well as pay their non-utility energy bills (oil, propane). Topics include: how to start service and protect service from termination, how to restore terminated service, how to get on the low-income discount rate, payment plans and arrearage management programs, funding sources that help pay utility bills, helping victims of domestic violence and crimes, and advocating for clients at the Department of Public Utilities. Training materials include Utilities Advocacy for Low-income Households in Massachusetts. All materials will be available on the NCLC website. This training is designed for anyone working in the field and helping low-income clients with their utility problems, including social workers, housing search workers, elder advocates, immigration advocates, domestic violence program staff, community action program staff, and lawyers.

Charles Harak, National Consumer Law Center Inc (NCLC), Boston

Click here to register for 2210095WBC

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6. Overview of the TAFDC Program, Massachusetts’ Cash Assistance Program for Families
Friday, February 12, 2021  No. 2210037WBC
or Friday, February 26, 2021  No. 2210037RBC
10:00 am–2:30 pm; 4.5 Credits

This training, originally scheduled for December 10 or December 17, and now scheduled for February 12 or February 26, is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, and community activists who want to learn about TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children)—the cash assistance program for families. The training provides an overview of program rules, eligibility and information about recent changes, including COVID-19 policy adjustments and issues. The training will also cover applying for and keeping TAFDC benefits, and protections for specific populations including people with disabilities, people dealing with domestic violence, and people with limited English proficiency. In the afternoon, there will be breakout sessions on child care and non-citizen eligibility/public charge.

Materials will include PowerPoint handouts and other resources. With so many rules in flux, we are not updating the TAFDC Advocacy Guide: An Advocate's Guide to the Massachusetts Welfare Rules for Families. The December 2019 edition is available free at

Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Lizbeth Ginsburg, Greater Boston Legal Services; Sarah Levy, Greater Boston Legal Services; Naomi Meyer, Greater Boston Legal Services; Lisa Bradley, Greater Boston Legal Services

Click here to register for 2210037WBC

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7. Health Care Access Programs
Thursday, February 25, 2021 No. 2210096WBC
or Thursday, March 4, 2021 No. 2210096RBC
9:30 am–4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

This training is designed to help attendees understand Medicaid and other subsidized health programs available to people under age 65 in Massachusetts. The program provides an overview of the eligibility requirements for MassHealth, ConnectorCare and other programs and the process for applying and enrolling in coverage. It also provides an update on any significant changes to health access programs in the prior year. It reviews the way MassHealth beneficiaries obtain access to covered services including changes in the delivery of MassHealth services by Accountable Care Organizations. Trainers also supply troubleshooting tips for resolving common eligibility and access to service problems in MassHealth and the Connector. This training gives outreach workers, social workers, providers, and advocates an up-to-date nuts-and-bolts overview of eligibility issues, and teaches them how to assist their patients and clients in becoming enrolled, maintaining coverage, and using their benefits. The training is designed for new advocates but will also be helpful for experienced advocates looking for a review and update.

Vicky Pulos, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Katherine Symmonds, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Andrew Cohen, Health Law Advocates; Beth Baker, Boston Public Health Commission; Hannah Frigand, Health Care for All; Radhika Bhattacharya, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services

Click here to register for 2210096WBC

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8. Income Maximization for the Working Poor
Wednesday, March 3, 2021 No. 2210097WBC
or Wednesday, March 10, 2021 No. 2210097RBC
9:15 am–3:00 pm; 5 Credits

This session is an overview focusing on various supplemental benefits and assistance programs which help working families and individuals to maximize their income and reduce their expenses. This training is designed as an overview of benefits. The subject areas are quite broad. This is not an in-depth analysis of any particular program. This training is for new and experienced legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, and community activists who want to learn about or get an update on this subject in order to help their clients.

Julie McCormack, Legal Services Center of Harvard; Gina Plato-Nino, Central West Justice Center; Amanda Montel, Central West Justice Center

Click here to register for 2210097WBC

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9. Unemployment Insurance, 3.5 Credits
Thursday, March 11, 2021 No. 2210098WBC
or Thursday, March 18, 2021 No. 2210098RBC
1:00 pm–4:30 pm; 3.5 Credits

Unemployment insurance (UI) is a critical safety net during periods of joblessness. This seminar provides you with the expertise you need to understand the UI system and to help your clients get the UI benefits to which they are legally entitled. Our expert panel guides you through the entire UI system from eligibility criteria to the appeals process. (Unemployed workers often cannot afford to retain professional services in pursuing their claims, so if you are a non-legal services attorney, you can register to assist someone in need of help, and in doing so, qualify for reduced tuition.) Training materials include the Unemployment Advocacy Guide: An Advocate’s Guide to Unemployment in Massachusetts. This training is co-sponsored by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Volunteer Lawyers Project, and the Labor and Employment Section of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Elizabeth Whiteway, Greater Boston Legal Services; Hannah Tanabe, Greater Boston Legal Services; Melissa Promfred, Promfred Law Offices; Alana Clark, Volunteer Lawyers Project; Stephanie Herron Rice, Justice Center of Southeast MA; Michael Morelli, Community Legal Aid; Claudia Quintero, Central West Justice Center

Click here to register for 2210098WBC

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10. Tenants’ Rights
Wednesday, April 14, 2021 No. 2210093WBC
or Wednesday, April 28, 2021 No. 2210093RBC
9:30 am–3:00 pm; 5 Credits

This training, originally scheduled for January 26 or February 9, and now scheduled for April 14 or April 28, is for community and lay advocates, mediators, housing and legal advocates, and others interested in having a better understanding of tenants’ rights in Massachusetts. The training focuses on evictions, getting repairs made, rents, and housing discrimination. While the eviction process part of the program applies to all tenants, the training focuses primarily on rights of tenants in private housing. Materials include Legal Tactics: Tenants’ Rights in Massachusetts.

Annette Duke, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston

Click here to register for 2210093WBC

Click here to register for 2210093RBC


11. State & Federal Veterans’ Benefits, 5 Credits
Thursday, April 22, 2021 No. 2210100WBC
or Thursday, April 29, 2021
9:30 am–3:30 pm; 5 Credits

This training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, veterans, lay advocates, legislative aides, and anyone else who wants to learn about the basics of state and federal veterans’ benefits. The training covers state veterans’ benefits under M.G.L. c. 115 (administered by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services), and federal benefits for healthcare, service-connected disability compensation, and non-service-connected pensions (administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs). The session covers the basic application process, eligibility rules for veterans (military discharge status, financial eligibility, disqualifying conditions, refund status), and the disability requirements for benefits. It also covers the basics of filing an appeal and upgrading a less than honorable discharge.

Anna Schleelein-Richardson, Veterans Legal Services; Betsy Gwin, Veterans Legal Clinic, Harvard Law School; Dana Montalto, Veterans Legal Clinic, Harvard Law School; Steve Connor, Central Hampshire Veterans Services

Click here to register for 2210100WBC

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12. Immigrants and Public Benefits, 5.5 Credits
Thursday, May 6, 2021 No. 2210099WBC
or Thursday, May 21, 2021 No. 2210099RBC
9:30 am–4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

This all-day training offers the nuts-and-bolts on how immigration status affects eligibility for benefits for non-citizen immigrants and refugees. The trainers include both immigration lawyers and legal experts in different public benefit programs. It covers basic information about immigrants in Massachusetts, how immigration status affects public benefits in general and an overview of the most commonly seen types of immigration status and documents. It will include the latest information about the proposed “public charge” rule that may change how benefits are treated for immigration purposes in the future as well as a “know your rights” session for community organizations to address fears among immigrants whom they serve. In the afternoon, hear from experts on the immigrant eligibility rules in specific programs including the TAFDC, EAEDC and SSI cash assistance programs, the SNAP (food stamps) program, and MassHealth and other subsidized health programs. Also addressed is immigrant eligibility for state and federal subsidized housing programs and EA shelter.

Vicky Pulos, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Iris Gomez, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Deirdre Giblin, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Mario Paredes, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Judith Liben, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Naomi Meyers, Greater Boston Legal Services; Pat Baker, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Kate Condon, Metro West Legal Services

Click here to register for 2210099WBC

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13. Elder Benefits Programs, 5.5 Credits
Wednesday, May, 12, 2021 No. 2210101WBC
or Wednesday, May, 19, 2021 No. 2210101RBC
9:30 am–4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

Due in part to the high cost of living, older adults in Massachusetts have the second lowest levels of economic security in the nation. This training provides an overview of the key public benefits programs to help older adults meet their basic needs. Experts review the basic eligibility rules for cash benefit programs like SSI and Social Security Insurance benefits, home-based care services from the Office of Elder Affairs, and health care programs like Medicare and MassHealth. It also provides a brief summary of other public benefits. This program provides legal services advocates, lawyers, paralegals, social workers, case managers and advocates with other community groups with basic knowledge about many of the resources available to elders, with an emphasis on program criteria specific to elders and how to navigate the complexities across programs.

Katherine Symmonds, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Rachel Brown, Community Legal Aid; Svetlana Uminkova, Disability Law Center; Donna McCormack, Greater Boston Legal Services; Shannon Philbrick, Executive Office of Elder Affairs; Andrew Bardetti, South Coastal County Legal Services; Betsey Crimmins, Greater Boston Legal Services

Click here to register for 2210101WBC

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