The Massachusetts TAFDC Program

Alert

DTA made a number of changes and suspended a number of rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guide notes in red when a rule was suspended during the pandemic.

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed March 2022

In Massachusetts, the agency that runs the family cash assistance program is called the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). Massachusetts funds cash assistance primarily with state funds; most of the block grant pays for programs and services other than cash assistance.

In February 1995 the Massachusetts legislature enacted a “welfare reform” plan called Chapter 5. Chapter 5 renamed the state’s welfare program Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC). Chapter 5 also made sweeping changes to the program, imposing a two-year time limit on benefits and a work requirement for many recipients, a family cap, sanctions for not documenting immunization and for children not attending school, living arrangement requirements for teen parents, and other new restrictions. Massachusetts has also kept a number of rules and benefit restrictions that are no longer required by federal law, including assistance unit rules and rigid child support cooperation requirements.

Thousands of families have lost benefits because of the time limit and sanctions. Only one-third as many needy families receive cash assistance as before welfare reform. Before welfare reform, for every 100 families in poverty, 81 received cash assistance. Now, for every 100 families in poverty, only about 40 receive cash assistance.

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