Mass Cultural Council advances the Commonwealth’s creative and cultural sector by celebrating traditions and talents, championing its collective needs, and equitably investing public resources.
In partnership with Mass Cultural Council, Work Without Limits will provide benefits counseling services for creatives and gig workers who have been awarded grants from the Mass Cultural Council’s Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Individuals. Benefits counseling services will help artists to understand the impact the Recovery Grant may have on any public benefits they may be receiving.
Deadline for artists to apply for services is May 31, 2023. To receive benefits counseling, please complete and submit the Referral Packet by following the instructions found on page one.
The Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling program specializes in assisting individuals to understand how earned income (e.g., from work) and unearned income (e.g., guaranteed income, grants) may affect eligibility for public benefits, such as:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Medicaid and Medicare
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Subsidized Housing
Our team of benefits specialists have extensive knowledge and training in public benefit programs and in providing benefits and work incentives counseling services to individuals and families in Massachusetts and New York. Our benefits specialists have been trained and certified by the U.S. Social Security Administration and Virginia Commonwealth University.
For more information see our FAQs below.
Massachusetts Cultural Council Recovery Grant Program for Individuals
Benefits Counseling FAQ’s
What is a Benefits Counselor?
A Benefits Counselor has extensive training in public benefits programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicare, Medicaid (MassHealth in Massachusetts), public housing, SNAP (Food Stamps) and Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC). Work Without Limits Benefits Counselors have been trained by Virginia Commonwealth University in conjunction with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Our job is to provide high quality counseling regarding the impact of income, earned or unearned, on an individual’s public benefits. The Benefits Counselors who are working on the Mass Cultural Council Recovery Grant project have over thirty years of combined experience and work for ForHealth Consulting at UMass Chan Medical School. The Mass Cultural Council has contracted with UMass Chan to provide benefits counseling services for artists who have been selected to receive Recovery Grants and have questions or concerns about how the grant may affect their benefits.
Do I need to fill out the Referral Packet to get the benefits counseling service?
Yes. The reason we ask you to complete a Referral Packet is for us to collect basic information about your public benefits, employment situation, and living situation. This information enables our Benefits Counselors to provide you with the most accurate information possible regarding how the Mass Cultural Council grant may impact your benefits.
If needed, is there someone available to help me fill out the Referral Packet?
Yes, if you need assistance filling out the Referral Packet you can call us toll-free at 877-937-9675, Option 1 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be more than happy to assist you. Please note that instructions on how to complete the Referral Packet along with our contact information is available on page 1 of the Referral Packet.
What does a benefits counseling meeting involve?
You will meet with a Benefits Counselor over the phone or Zoom, whichever you prefer. The Benefits Counselor will review the information you provided in the Referral Packet and discuss your concerns about how the grant may impact your public benefits. We will send you an invitation to this meeting via email. If you feel it would be helpful for other people in your life to join the meeting, you are more than welcome to include them.
What if I need reasonable accommodation for the meeting, such as a Sign Language Interpreter or CART Reporter?
We are more than happy to arrange that. Please let us know what you need by emailing us at email@example.com. There is also a spot on our Referral Packet for you to request an accommodation.
Will you report to Social Security or any other public benefit agency that I am getting this grant?
No, we do not share your information with any public benefit agency. Our responsibility is to assist you. We are not mandated reporters, so anything you share is strictly confidential.
What is the Consent for Release of Information form on page 3 of the Referral Packet?
Only individuals who receive SSI and/or SSDI need to sign the Consent for Release of Information form. By doing so, you are giving us permission to contact SSA and request your Benefits Planning Query (BPQY). The BPQY is an official SSA report that verifies information such as the benefits you receive, when you started receiving them and how much you receive each month. The BPQY is an essential tool for our Benefits Counselors to provide you with the most accurate information, resources, and guidance possible. When we contact SSA to request your BPQY, we do not tell them why we are requesting it or anything else about your personal situation including the Recovery Grant.
What is the Request for Access to SSP Recipient Record and Information form on page 4 of the Referral Packet and how does it help?
If you receive SSI monthly cash benefits, you most likely receive two payments - a larger one and a smaller one. The smaller payment is paid through the Massachusetts State Supplement Program (SSP). The amount you receive for your SSP payment is based on your living situation. By filling out the form on page 4, we will be able to get a letter from the state verifying the amount you receive in SSP. This will allow us to verify that you are receiving the correct amount of benefits to which you are entitled.
I am not receiving SSI or SSDI benefits; do I need to fill out the forms on pages 3 and 4 of the Referral Packet?
No, you do not have to fill out these forms, unless you receive SSI and/or SSDI benefits.
Will I receive written information regarding how this grant will affect my benefits?
Yes. At the conclusion of the meeting, you will receive a summary of the meeting discussion along with other relevant materials. If applicable, you will also receive a copy of your BPQY and the State Supplement Program benefits verification letter for your records.
How will you protect my personal information?
All information gathered by us for this project is kept in a secure folder on a UMass Chan Medical School server. Only those who need to have access to your information, such as our Benefits Counselors, have access to this folder. Additionally, any personal information we send electronically (email or fax) is done so through a secure and encrypted system. Last, our Benefits Counselors undergo a Tier 2 Suitability Clearance from the federal government so you can be assured we will hold your information in strictest confidence.
If I have further questions about my benefits, will I be able to speak to a Benefits Counselor again?
Yes, you will have access to a Benefits Counselor for the duration of UMass Chan’s contract with the Mass Cultural Council. Once that contract has ended, we have two additional Benefits Counseling programs that you may be able to access as well.
An initiative of ForHealth Consulting, the consulting and operations division of the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, Work Without Limits is a network of employers, educational institutions, employment service providers, state and federal agencies, and individuals served and their families. Work Without Limits was established in 2008 to increase the employment of people with disabilities until it is equal to those without disabilities.