Grants for Creative Individuals
Grants & Public Benefits Fact Sheet
Mass Cultural Council is proud to support artists, culture bearers, and creative practitioners with the Grants for Creative Individuals program. For people who receive public benefits, grants like ours can bring up an important question: If I receive a monetary grant, will it impact my benefits?
The answer is that it could. The exact impact depends on your benefit program and its rules and guidelines. Is your benefit program limited by income? Is that income calculated monthly or annually? Does your benefit have a “cap” on how much you can have in your checking or savings account every month? Questions like these are crucial to understanding a grant’s potential effects.
Your best approach before applying for a Mass Cultural Council grant is to research the rules of your benefits program. That way you can plan for possible impacts. This fact sheet will offer some information to guide that planning.
General Things to Know
What is a public benefit?
Public benefits are assistance programs offered by local, state, or federal governments. Examples include:
- Social Security, including retirement, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Health insurance benefits like Medicare and MassHealth/Medicaid
- Nutritional assistance such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called “Food Stamps” and Women, Infants, & Children Nutrition Program (WIC)
- Anti-poverty assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC)
- Federal and state public or subsidized housing
Many benefit programs are income limited. This means they are only available to individuals making below a certain income. Programs vary as to whether they calculate your income monthly or yearly. This difference is important in anticipating the impact of a grant. Programs with monthly income calculations may be more immediately affected by a one-time influx of funds.
Some programs have limits not only on income but also on assets, or the total amount of funds sitting in a checking or savings account. When receiving a grant, a benefits recipient with both income and asset limitations will need to plan for impacts to both limits.
Ways to Help
If you receive government benefits and are curious how income (including grants) may affect your benefits, we recommend seeking benefits counseling. Depending on your Massachusetts county, you can receive free benefits counseling from either Project IMPACT or Work Without Limits.
In FY24, Mass Cultural Council has a partnership with Work Without Limits to offer benefits counseling to our grant recipients. If you receive government benefits, we recommend answering “Yes” to the “Benefits Counseling” question in the Grants to Creative Individuals application form. That way, if you are selected to receive a grant, Work Without Limits will get in touch with you after the grant announcement.
ABLE/Attainable Savings Accounts
For grant recipients who receive public benefits, Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts can be useful. ABLE is a type of account that allows an individual with a disability to set aside funds that won’t count against asset limitations from programs like Supplemental Security Income and MassHealth. Those funds can then be put toward qualifying disability expenses.
ABLE accounts have specific eligibility requirements. In Massachusetts, the program is called the Attainable Savings Plan and is sponsored by the Massachusetts Educational Finance Authority (MEFA).
Special Needs Trust
Some individuals with disabilities have a legal arrangement called a special needs trust. A special needs trust is created by the individual or a family member/friend, and then is managed by a trustee. The trustee is responsible for safely administering the finances of the trust. Similar to the ABLE/Attainable Savings Plan, funds in a special needs trust do not count against public benefits’ asset caps.
If your benefit includes an asset cap, a grant presents a unique challenge. What can you do when a sudden influx of funds pushes your bank account above your benefit’s asset limit?
Not everyone is eligible to open an ABLE/Attainable Savings account or special needs trust. However, a grant recipient can still meet their benefit’s asset cap by spending down their grant in the same month the grant is received.
This requires careful planning. But a spending plan can be crucial in preventing any disruptions to important benefits. Meeting with a benefits counselor such as those mentioned above can be instrumental in creating an effective plan.
Mass Cultural Council is committed to reaching underserved communities. We hope the resources offered in this article will help public benefits recipients to better understand how a monetary grant might impact those benefits.
If you are interested in learning about current and future opportunities for creative individuals, please sign up for our Artist News e-newsletter.
- Work Without Limits’ MA Community Resource Guide
- MEFA’s Attainable Savings Plan
- Massachusetts Office on Disability
- Volunteer Lawyers in the Arts
- Mass Legal Help
Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice or benefits counseling.