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What is the EA income limit?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2019

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. As of January 2019, the EA eligibility standards for applicants are:

Household Size

EA Eligibility Standard

1

$1,197

2

$1,621

3

$2,044

4

$2,468

5

$2,891

6

$3,315

7

$3,738

8

$4,162

Each additional household member

$424

The 2019 eligibility guidelines can be found in Housing Stabilization Notice 2019 and can be found online.

Remember

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 looks at 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.

If you expect your income to go down soon, DHCD should use the best estimate of income for the next month. See 106 CMR 702.920 incorporated into the EA regulations through 760 CMR 67.02(5)(b) and 106 CMR 204.290. If you expect your hours or pay rate to decrease, tell DHCD and get a letter from your employer that states what your future pay will be.

See What income is and is not counted for EA? for a list of what income does and does not count for EA.

For 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). In 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 level within 90 days. See HSN 2019-2.

If you are over income for 90 consecutive days or more, in order to receive shelter for the next six months, 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 standard, you can continue to receive HomeBASE benefits until your income goes over 50% of the median income for your area as long as you are complying with your stabilization plan. See What are rehousing and stabilization plans? Annual income equal to 50% of area median income for your area can be found on the “very low income” lines on, which can be found by visiting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's website.

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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