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MLRI Basic Public Benefits Advocacy Trainings

A series of 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.

UPCOMING TRAININGS

Note: All programs will be available online only until further notice.

Utilities—Advocacy for Low-Income Households in Massachusetts

Recorded Webcast, 2220089RB1 Register
Friday, 2/4/2022, 9:30 am – 12:00 pm; 2.5 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, avoiding overpriced energy supply contracts, 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.

Faculty:
Jennifer Bosco, Esq., National Consumer Law Center, Inc. (NCLC), Boston, Chair
Alexa L. Rosenbloom, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston


SNAP/Food Stamps Advocacy 101

Recorded Webcast, 2220088RBC Register
Friday, 2/11/2022, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm; 3 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220088RB1 Register
Tuesday, 2/22/2022, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm; 3 Credits

The federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) remains the first line of defense against hunger for more than 1 in 8 Massachusetts residents (over half a million households). 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 SNAP program, an update on federal and state SNAP changes, 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.

Faculty:
Patricia J. Baker, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston, Chair
Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston


Health Care Access Programs

Live Webcast, 2220090WBC Register
Tuesday, 2/15/2022, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220090RBC Register
Wednesday, 3/2/2022, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220090RB1 Register
Thursday, 3/10/2022, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

his 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. 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 is also helpful for experienced advocates looking for a review and update.

Faculty:
Victoria Pulos, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston, Chair
Sonia Amado, City of Boston Public Health Commission, Boston
Andrew P. Cohen, Esq., Health Law Advocates, Inc., Boston
Hannah Frigand, Health Care For All, Boston
Nancy J. Lorenz, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Kate Symmonds, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston


Tenants' Rights

Live Webcast, 2220087WBC Register
Wednesday, 2/23/2022, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm; 5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220087RBC Register
Thursday, 3/10/2022, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm; 5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220087RB1 Register
Friday, 3/18/2022, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm; 5 Credits

This training 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.

Faculty:
Annette R. Duke, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston, Chair
David Brown, Esq., Community Legal Aid, Worcester
Hed Ehrlich, Esq., Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts LLC, Brockton
Jan M. Kendrick, Esq., South Coastal Counties Legal Services/Hyannis, Hyannis
Maureen R. St. Cyr, Esq., Community Legal Aid, Worcester
Quinten Steenhuis, Esq., Suffolk University Law School, Boston
Patricia Whiting, Esq., Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Cambridge


Income Maximization for the Working Poor

Live Webcast, 2220091WBC Register
Tuesday, 3/1/2022, 9:15 am – 3:00 pm; 5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220091RBC Register
Wednesday, 3/16/2022, 9:15 am – 3:00 pm; 5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220091RB1 Register
Thursday, 3/24/2022, 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.

Faculty:
Laura R. Gallant, Esq., Northeast Justice Center/Lynn, Lynn, Chair
Julie I. McCormack, Harvard Law School, Cambridge
Amanda Montel, Esq., Central West Justice Center, Worcester
Gina M. Plata-Nino, Esq., Central West Justice Center, Worcester


Unemployment Insurance

Live Webcast, 2220092WBC Register
Thursday, 3/10/2022, 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm; 3.5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220092RBC Register
Friday, 3/25/2022, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm; 3.5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220092RB1 Register
Monday, 4/4/2022, 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.

Faculty:
Elizabeth A. Whiteway, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston, Chair
Stephanie M. Herron Rice, Esq., Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts LLC, Brockton
Cory Mescon, Esq., Central West Justice Center, Springfield
Michael J. Morelli, Community Legal Aid / Berkshire County, Pittsfield
Melissa A. Pomfred, Esq., Pomfred Law Offices, PLLC, Franklin
Jason Salgado, Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Hannah Morgan Yasuko Tanabe, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Sandra Tavarez, Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston


Immigrants & Public Benefits

Live Webcast, 2220093WBC Register
Thursday, 4/7/2022, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220093RBC Register
Friday, 4/22/2022, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220093RB1 Register
Monday, 5/2/2022, 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 state and federal public benefits.

In the morning, you get an overview of how immigrants obtain legal status, how to read immigration documents in order to understand their legal status, any recent changes during the Biden Administration regarding new immigration statuses, the Administration's change in the "public charge" rules in March 2021 and any subsequent federal guidance issued. You also learn from health law experts about MassHealth and other subsidized health care programs available to immigrants and their dependents.

In the afternoon, you hear from benefits experts about other public benefits potentially available to low-income legal immigrants including: state and federal subsidized housing programs, emergency shelter, cash assistance (TAFDC and EAEDC) and the federal SNAP and child nutrition programs. The afternoon also includes a plenary session highlighting immigrant eligibility for unemployment, tax credits, emergency food, school meals and any COVID-related benefits still available to immigrant households in early 2022.

Faculty:
Victoria Pulos, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston, Chair
Patricia J. Baker, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston
Deirdre M. Giblin, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston
Iris D. Gomez, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston
Katie Condon Grace, Esq., MetroWest Legal Services, Framingham
Judith Liben, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston
Naomi A. Meyer, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Mario Paredes, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston


State & Federal Veterans' Benefits

Live Webcast, 2220094WBC Register
Thursday, 4/28/2022, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm; 5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220094RBC Register
Friday, 5/13/2022, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm; 5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220094RB1 Register
Monday, 5/23/2022, 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.

Faculty:
Anna Schleelein Richardson, Esq., Veterans Legal Services, Boston, Chair
Steven J. Connor, Department of Veterans' Services, Northampton
Betsy Gwin, Esq., Harvard Law School, Jamaica Plain
Dana Montalto, Esq., Harvard Law School, Cambridge


Elder Benefits Programs

Live Webcast, 2220095WBC Register
Wednesday, 5/11/2022, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220095RBC Register
Thursday, 5/26/2022, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm; 5.5 Credits

Recorded Webcast, 2220095RB1 Register
Friday, 6/3/2022, 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.

Faculty:
Kate Symmonds, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston
Andrew Bardetti, Esq., South Coastal Counties Legal Services, New Bedford
Rachel S. Brown, Esq., Community Legal Aid, Worcester
Betsey E. Crimmins, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Donna M. McCormick, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Shannon K. Philbrick, Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Boston
Svetlana Uimenkova, Esq., Disability Law Center, Inc., Boston


PRIOR TRAININGS


Assisting Families Experiencing Homelessness

Available On Demand
Recorded: Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 9:30 am–3:00 pm; 5.5 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.

Faculty:
Andrea M. Park, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston
Elizabeth Alfred, Esq., Central West Justice Center, Worcester;
Iris E. Coloma-Gaines, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston;
Adam Hoole, Paralegal, Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston;
Kelly Turley, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Lynn


CORI: Basics of the Criminal Justice Reform Law

Available On Demand
Recorded: Tuesday, October 26, 2021, 9:30 am–1:30 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.

Faculty:
Pauline Quirion, Greater Boston Legal Services;
Ventura Dennis, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services;
Sean J. Casey, Esq., Massachusetts Probation Services, Boston;
Loren N. Forbes, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston;
Agapi Koulouris, Esq., Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, Chelsea;
Susan Malouin, Northeast Legal Services; Arielle Sharma, Lawyers for Civil Rights


SSI & SSDI Basics

Available On Demand
Recorded: Tuesday, November 2, 2021, 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 online procedures and any remaining COVID-19 related procedures, 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.

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


Overview of the TAFDC Program, Massachusetts’ Cash Assistance Program for Families

Available On Demand
Recorded: Thursday, December 9, 2021, 9:30 am–2:00 pm; 4 Credits

This training 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 and eligibility, as well as information about recent policy and practice changes. 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. If the rules are no longer in flux because of COVID-19, we will also provide an updated TAFDC Advocacy Guide: An Advocate's Guide to the Massachusetts Welfare Rules for Families. The December 2019 edition is available free at https://www.masslegalservices.org/TAFDCAdvocacyGuide.

Faculty:
Deborah Harris, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston;
Lisa Bradley, Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston;
Lizbeth A. Ginsburg, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston;
Sarah R. Levy, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston;
Melanie Malherbe, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston;
Naomi A. Meyer, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston