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Who has a choice about whether to be in the assistance unit?

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

Certain people can choose whether to be in the assistance unit:

  • A grantee relative who is not a parent, such as a grandparent aunt, or stepparent, does not have to be included in the assistance unit. The income and assets of the grantee relative do not count unless she or he is included in the unit. (The spouse of a grantee relative who is not a parent cannot be included.) 106 C.M.R. § 204.320. A grantee relative who is not a parent is exempt from the time limit and work program if the grantee relative chooses not to be included in the unit. See Who is exempt from the time limit and Work Program?. A grantee relative can make this choice at any time.
  • Are you getting TAFDC for your children and caring for a child who is not their sibling? You can choose whether to get TAFDC for the non-sibling child. If you need TAFDC for a child who is not a sibling of your children, you can get the full grant for the child ($388 for one child) if you can show that getting only $100 as an additional person in your unit will cause homelessness or serious hardship. 106 C.M.R. § 204.305(B).
  • An adoptive parent has a choice about whether to include a child getting adoption assistance payments in the assistance unit. 106 C.M.R. § 204.305(E)(3). Usually, adoption assistance payments are more than the child's share of the grant, so it makes sense for the adoptive child to be excluded.
  • A woman who qualifies for benefits for herself on the basis of pregnancy has a choice about whether to include her children in the assistance unit. 106 C.M.R. § 204.305(D). For example, if child support is more than the child’s share of the grant (about $100) plus the $50 pass through, see Does DTA ever count money as income even if you do not get it?, it is probably better for the child not to be in the assistance unit. But once the baby is born, the mother cannot get benefits for herself unless all children are included in the assistance unit.
  • A teen parent who is getting TAFDC on her parent’s grant can choose whether to get TAFDC for her child. The teen parent not might not want to get TAFDC for the child if she is getting child support or Social Security benefits for the child. See DTA Transitions, August 2004, p. 3.
  • A non-citizen who does not wish to be included in the assistance unit because of her immigration status does not have to get TAFDC. See Getting TAFDC for your children if you are a non-citizen.

Example 1

Jane lives with her aunt and cousins who get TAFDC benefits. Jane has income from child support, so her aunt does not include her in the TAFDC unit and her income does not count in determining the aunt's and cousins' TAFDC eligibility.

Example 2

Reggie lives with his aunt and cousins who get TAFDC benefits. Reggie has no income, so his aunt needs to get TAFDC for him. If Reggie is included in the assistance unit with his aunt and cousins, his aunt will get about $100 a month for him. His aunt can get a full single person grant for Reggie if she can show that giving him only a $100 grant would result in his becoming homeless (because she cannot afford to have him continue to live with her) or would otherwise cause Reggie serious hardship.

Example 3

Wretha is taking care of her grandchild, Laurene, who is six years old. Wretha has no income but chooses to receive a grant only for Laurene. Laurene’s grant is based on the “exempt” standard, see How much income can you have and still get TAFDC?, and Wretha does not have to meet the Work Program requirements. Benefits for Laurene will also not be subject to the time limit.

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