What is the EA income limit?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed October 2022

For applicants

To be eligible for Emergency Assistance as an applicant, your family's gross monthly income must be below 115% of the federal poverty limit for your family size. The federal government usually increases the amount slightly in January or February of each year.

For participants

Starting in FY20, the Legislature raised the maximum income level for families already in EA shelter to 200% of the poverty level. Participant families are not considered over income until they have exceeded 200% of the poverty level for 90 consecutive days.

As of January 2022, the EA eligibility standards are:

Household Size

A Eligibility-Applicants: 115% of Federal Poverty Level (monthly)

EA Eligibility-Participants: 200% of Federal Poverty Level (monthly)

























Each additional household member

$452 each household members

$787 each household members


These limits usually change each January or February so be sure you are using the most recent numbers. You can check for updates online.

EA considers your gross income, which is your total income before any tax withholdings or other deductions. See 760 CMR 67.02(5). If you are working, DHCD usually asks for your last 4 pay stubs if you are paid weekly or last 2 pay stubs if you are paid every other week. Since most months are not exactly 4 weeks long, to calculate your income DHCD takes your last 4 weekly pay stubs, adds them together, divides by 4, then multiplies that amount by 4.333; or, it takes your last 2 biweekly pay stubs, adds them together, divides by 2, and then multiplies that amount by 2.167. This is the number they generally will use for your monthly gross income.

Weekly pay: Biweekly pay:
1. Add together last 4 paystubs 1. Add together last 2 paystubs
2. Divide total by 4. 2. Divide total by 2.
3. Multiply by 4.333 3. Multiply by 2.167

Note: If you are applying for EA and you expect your income to go down soon, DHCD should use the best estimate of income for the next month. For example, if you expect your hours or pay to be reduced, tell DHCD and get a letter from your employer that says what your future hours and pay will be.

See 106 CMR 702.920 incorporated into the EA regulations through 760 CMR 67.02(5)(b) and 106 CMR 204.290.  Note that the DTA regulation numbers changed in 2018 and DHCD recently updated their regulations to reflect these changes.The referenced regulations can now be found at 106 CMR 704.210 through 704.230; 106 CMR 704.240(A) and (B); 106 CMR 704.250(A)(2) through 704.250(QQ); and 106 CMR 704.290.While 106 CMR 702.290 no longer exists in the DTA transitional cash assistance program regulations, 106 CMR 704.290(A) now incorporates that income is to be counted prospectively: “Eligibility and grant amount are based on the filing unit's projected income at the time of application or when a change is reported. Projected income must be based on the best estimate of income that actually will be received in the cyclical month in which action will be taken on the application or the change.”

Families should not give up earned income for the purpose of qualifying for shelter. Reducing earned income without good cause within 90 days of a shelter application can result in a denial of shelter. 760 CMR 67.02(3) and Can You Be Denied. If families lose income because they are due to homelessness, such as loss of childcare or employment, DHCD should consider that reduction in income to be “good cause” for losing earned income. Note that families can give up unearned income for the purpose of qualifying for shelter. See What income is and is not counted for EA? for a list of what income does and does not count for EA.

Families receiving EA who go over income

If you are receiving EA shelter benefits and your gross income goes over the EA eligibility standard for 90 consecutive days or more, you can continue to receive benefits for six more months from the day you went over income before being terminated from the program (unless you become ineligible for another reason). Beginning with the FY20 budget, the Legislature changed the income limit for families who are already receiving EA shelter to 200% of the federal poverty level. You will not be subject to the over-income termination if your income goes back under 200% of the poverty within 90 days. See HSN 2019-2 and HSN 2020-1.

If you are over income for 90 consecutive days or more, in order to receive shelter for six months from the date you went over income, you:

  • must save the amount of income that is over the income limit (this is in addition to what you must save under your EA Rehousing Plan, see What are rehousing and stabilization plans?,
  • may not withdraw the saved money until you leave shelter (except to pay costs directly related to getting permanent housing or for other purposes approved by your DHCD worker), and
  • must follow all other EA rules. See 760 CMR 67.02(5)(d)-(f).

In special situations, DHCD may extend your EA benefits beyond the six months, if your income is over the limit for more than 90 days. See 760 CMR 67.02(5)(g). Ask your DHCD worker if you need more time to find housing.

For families receiving HomeBASE

If you are receiving HomeBASE benefits and your gross income goes over the EA eligibility lijmit, you can continue to receive HomeBASE for 12 months after your income exceeds the EA limit as long as you are complying with your stabilization plan. See What are rehousing and stabilization plans? The Legislature changed the HomBASE over-income rules in the FY23 state budget. As of September 2022, DHCD has not issued updated regulations.

Advocacy Tips

  • Before you use any of the money you are required to save while in shelter, ask your DHCD worker or your shelter provider if the spending is allowed and try to get approval in writing.
  • One-time “lump sum” income, such as a personal injury settlement, does not cause a period of ineligibility for EA as it does for Transitional Aid for Families and Dependent Children (TAFDC). See 760 CMR 67.02(5)(b).

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