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Basic Welfare Rights (TAFDC)

What is TAFDC?

TAFDC is "Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children." It is a monthly cash benefit. Some people call TAFDC "welfare.”

Who can get TAFDC?

The rules for getting TAFDC are complicated. In general, you must have little or no income. You must live in Massachusetts and

  • be a parent living with your child, or
  • be living with and taking care of a child you are related to, like your niece or grandchild or
  • be at least 5 months pregnant.

Other important rules include:

  • You must be a US citizen or eligible noncitizen. If you cannot get TAFDC because of your immigration status, your children still might be able to.
  • If both parents live at home, one of you must be disabled or unemployed.
  • Work rules, school attendance rules and immunization rules apply to some families.
  • You must meet DTA’s financial rules.

For more details about getting TAFDC, see General Eligibility Rules of the TAFDC Advocacy Guide.

How do I apply?

Apply at your local Department of Transitional Assistance office.

You can apply the first day you go to the DTA office.

If you have trouble with English, DTA should give you an interpreter

If you are hard of hearing, DTA should give you an interpreter.

If you have trouble filling out an application, DTA must help you.

If you cannot get a specific paper that DTA asks for, DTA must help you get it or let you use a different paper. For example, if you do not have your child's birth certificate, DTA must let you prove your child's age and relationship to you with another paper like a baptismal certificate, school record, day care record, newspaper article, hospital record, or a sworn statement from another person who knows you.

Make sure that you get back your original papers or copies, so you can keep a record of everything you give DTA.

For more information on how to apply, call DTA's Application Information Unit at 1-800-249-2007.

How soon will I get benefits?

DTA must approve or deny your benefits within 30 days.

How much TAFDC will I get each month?

Your TAFDC grant is based on how many people are in your household. The At-A-Glance chart shows the highest amount of TAFDC you can get each month.  A household of 3 people in private housing can get up to $618 a month.  This amount may be lower if anyone in your household has other income.

What if I have a car or own a home?

You can only get TAFDC if your household has $2,500 or less in assets. Assets are things like bank accounts, cash and other property. The home you live in, your furniture and personal belongings, do not count.  If you own a car, the first $15,000 of its value does not count.

Example: Marie’s car is worth $16,000. DTA does not count $15,000. $16,000 - $15,000 is $1,000 So, DTA counts $1,000 of her car as an asset.

See What assets count? in the TAFDC Advocacy Guide for more information about assets that count and assets that do not count.

What if I cannot work?

The TAFDC program has a work requirement.

But you have the right to be excused from the work requirement if you can not work due to health problems, domestic violence, pregnancy, or emergency situations. See What if I cannot meet the TAFDC work requirement?

Is there a time limit?

Yes. You can get 24 months of benefits every five years.

You can get more than 24 months of TAFDC if you need it because of health problems, domestic violence, or pregnancy. If you need TAFDC for one of these reasons, you should be able to get it for as long as you need it.

If your  TAFDC stopped because of the 24 month time limit and 5 years has passed, you can get TAFDC again. See Getting TAFDC after hitting the time limit

What if DTA denies or stops my benefits?

You have the right to get all decisions in writing. These include decisions denying, lowering or stopping your benefits.

You have the right to talk to a supervisor or assistant director if your worker doesn’t help you or you are not satisfied.

You can also call DTA Recipient Services help line:
1-800-445-6604.

TTY: 617-348-5599 or 1-888-448-7695.

You can appeal any decision you think is wrong. Ask for a "fair hearing."

You also have the right to ask for a fair hearing if your worker:

  • threatens you,
  • does not follow the rules,
  • violates your privacy, or
  • does not treat you with dignity and respect.

What is a fair hearing?

A fair hearing is a formal meeting. It can take place

  • at the local welfare office,
  • by telephone, or
  • by a video conference.

A hearing officer runs the hearing and decides who is right.

How do I ask for a fair hearing?

Use the Appeal form on the back of the notice to ask for a hearing. Or, you can write your own letter.  Keep a copy of your hearing request.

  • Fax your request to the Division of Hearings, 617-348-5311, or
  • Mail it to
    DTA - Hearings
    P.O. Box 4017
    Taunton, MA 02780-0314 

Call the Division of Hearings to make sure that they got your hearing request.
Phone: 1-800-882-2017
TTY:1-800-532-6238 or 617-348-5337.

You can bring a friend, family member, advocate or lawyer to help you at a hearing or any time you need to do business with DTA..

Call your local legal aid office right away to ask for help with your appeal.

How long do I have to ask for a fair hearing?

Usually, you have 90 days to ask for a fair hearing.

If DTA is trying to stop or lower your benefits, and you appeal quickly, you keep getting the same amount of TAFDC while you wait for your hearing decision. This is called “aid pending.” The Division of Hearings must get your request for an appeal within 10 days from the date on the DTA notice.

If you miss the 10 day “aid pending” deadline, you can still ask for a fair hearing within 90 days. But your TAFDC benefits will stop or go down while you wait for the hearing decision.

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated December, 2014

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