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Part 2 Assistance Units


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 9 2022
Produced by Deborah Harris and Betsy Gwin, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2022

Who has to be in the assistance unit?

An assistance unit is all the members of a household who are counted in determining the amount of the grant.

Certain people have to be in the assistance unit, whether they want to or not. This is a way of forcing their income to be counted in determining the eligibility of other members of the household. Mandatory assistance unit members are

  • a natural or adoptive parent, or parents, living with a dependent child, and
  • most siblings – including half-siblings but not step-siblings – living with the dependent child. 106 C.M.R. § 704.305.

Example 1

Ms. Ward has two children, Michael and Rachel. The children have different fathers. Rachel’s father pays child support. Ms. Ward would like to exclude Rachel from the TAFDC unit, so that the child support would not count against the grant for Michael and so that she could use the child support for Rachel. Under the rule, however, Rachel has to be in the unit with her half-brother Michael.

See What happens if your child’s father (or mother) pays child support? for who gets the child support.

Example 2

Nina Santiago and her partner Jose Hernandez have one child, Awilda. Ms. Santiago’s child, Victor, also lives with them. Jose is not Victor’s father, and has no obligation to support him. But under the rule, Awilda has to be in the assistance unit with Victor, and Mr. Hernandez has to be in the assistance unit with Awilda, his daughter. As a result, Mr. Hernandez’s income counts in determining everyone’s eligibility.

Advocacy Reminder:

  • The assistance unit rule is not required by statute. DTA could eliminate the assistance unit rule if it wanted to. For more information email [email protected].

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