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How does DTA collect overpayments if I am not getting SNAP?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

DTA has several ways of collecting overpayments from former SNAP and cash recipients. But, if you appeal because you do not agree with the amount of the overpayment, or disagree you were overpaid at all, DTA should suspend collection activities until there is a decision on the appeal. 106 C.M.R. § 367.495(H)

How do I pay DTA back if I am not getting SNAP?

You can fill out DTA’s Repayment Agreement form and agree to one of the following:

  • Monthly or lump sum payments: DTA will send you a bill to pay $50 per month. You can talk to DTA about reducing this amount if this is a hardship.
  • Voluntary EBT deduction from SNAP or cash benefits in your account.
  • Unemployment benefits: You can arrange with DTA to take some of your unemployment benefits.
  • Voluntary wage garnishment: You can arrange with DTA to take some of your wages. A wage garnishment agreement has to let you keep 85% or $550 per week of your gross wages, whichever is greater.

What happens if I am not getting DTA benefits and I do not make timely payments?

DTA may collect from you though the Treasury Offset Program (TOP):

  • Taking federal payments, such as your federal tax refund(s) and/or Social Security Benefits to repay your SNAP overpayment.
  • Taking any amount of your federal tax return and up to 15% of your Social Security Benefits (you have a right to keep at least $750 per month). TOP can’t take Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • DTA has to send you a notice 60 days before they refer your overpayment to TOP. If you send DTA a repayment agreement and follow the terms of the agreement before they refer your case to TOP, they will not send it to TOP.

For more information, see 7 C.F.R. § 273.18(n) and 106 C.M.R. § 367.510(E).

DTA may also collect through a debt collection agency.

  • Under state law, a collection agency cannot harass you or threaten to take the first $500 per week you earn in gross wages. A collection agency can only take money from your bank account if you have more than $2,500 in the account, and they can only take the excess above $2,500. For additional protections, see G.L. c. 235, § 34; 940 C.M.R. § 7.07(18).

DTA may take some of your unemployment benefits if they get a court order.

These collection methods may add additional fees or processing charges.

DTA cannot take SSI, TAFDC, EAEDC, Veterans’ Services, or other needs-based cash benefits to repay a SNAP overpayment. Federal and state SNAP law limits the steps DTA can take to collect on an overpayment: 7 C.F.R. § 273.18(g)106 C.M.R. § 367.510.  State law also limits the options DTA has if they try to garnish your wages. GL c. 18, sec. 30.

A criminal court can order you to pay back the SNAP benefits you received if it finds you committed welfare fraud.

Advocacy Reminders:

  • If you are a SNAP recipient, or very low income, and paying back the overpayment will cause you financial hardship, you can make a written request to DTA to ask they waiver or reduce the overpayment to an amount that you could pay over three years. If DTA refuses, you can also file an appeal and ask a hearing officer to consider your request to compromise the claim. Contact Legal Services for help.
  • See the MA Attorney General’s Guide on Debt Collection
  • See resources on our MassLegalHelp webpage, “I have debt. Help!"

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