*Due to COVID-19 the work rules are currently suspended. The below rules are not in place right now. Check back for more information.* Learn more at MassLegalServices.org/DTA-COVID-19
I can't work at all right now. What can I do?
You may be able to get an exception to the work rule. There are three kinds of exceptions:
- domestic violence waiver
- good cause
What is an exemption?
An “exemption” means the work requirement and TAFDC time limit do not apply to you.
You can apply for an exemption at any time.
You can ask your worker for an exemption, if you can't work for one of the following reasons:
- you have a physical or mental health problem,
- you are caring for a family member with a health problem,
- you are in your third trimester of pregnancy,
- your youngest child who is not under the family cap is under two years old,
- you have a baby who is less than three months old,
- you are sixty or older,
- you are a relative (not parent) of the child and chose not to get benefits yourself, or
- you are a teen parent and are going to school.
What is a domestic violence waiver?
If you can't work because of current or past domestic violence, you may be able to get a “waiver” of the work requirement for a certain amount of time, such as six months or a year. But if you have physical or mental health problems due to domestic violence, it is better to request an exemption (see above), because exemptions give you more rights.
Tell your worker if you want to apply for a domestic violence waiver. You can apply for a waiver at any time. When it runs out you can apply for another one.
What if I don't qualify for an exemption or waiver?
If you have a good reason for needing to miss work or a program, or if you can't start work or a program for a good reason, you can ask your worker to give you “Good Cause.”
If DTA enters “Good Cause” into the computer for you, your family will not lose your benefits even though you are not meeting the work requirement.
What counts as Good Cause?
The following reasons for missing work or a program count as good cause:
- Child care - if you are not able to find safe child care;
- Transportation - if you do not have reliable transportation that you can afford;
- Housing search - if you need to look for housing because you need to move;
- Lack of community service placement - if DTA has not given you a community service placement;
- Health - if you or a family member is sick, hurt, or disabled;
- Illegal working conditions - if the job you were offered pays less than minimum wage, discriminates against you because of age, sex, race, religion, ethnic origin, or physical or mental disability, does not meet health and safety standards; or is not available because of a strike or lockout; or
- All other good reasons - A family crisis, an emergency or any other important situation that you can not control and that needs your attention during the hours you would normally be working or in a program.
How do I get “Good Cause”?
Tell your worker that you need Good Cause and why. Also give your worker a note saying what your Good Cause reason is and ask that she enter it into the computer.
If DTA sends you a warning notice with a form listing Good Cause reasons, circle the Good Cause reasons that apply to you and get it to your DTA worker within 10 days.
If you have proof of your Good Cause reason, get a copy to your worker. If you need help getting proof and ask for help, your worker is required by law to help you.
What if DTA lowers or stops my benefits even though I said I have Good Cause?
You can file an appeal asking for a hearing. Look on the back of the notice that says DTA is lowering or stopping your benefits. There should be an appeal form. Fill it out and send it to DTA's Division of Hearings right away. Send it by fax, if possible. Call your local Legal Services for help.
What if I didn't ask for Good Cause before I got a notice lowering or stopping my benefits?
It is best to ask for Good Cause right away, but you can ask for it even after DTA sends you a sanction notice lowering or stopping your benefits. Send in an appeal of the notice. Also contact your DTA worker or the duty worker to ask for Good Cause. If you need help, call Legal Services.