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

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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

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 spouse of a grantee relative who is not a parent cannot be included.) 106 C.M.R. §§ 704.305; 704.320(A). The income of the grantee relative does not count unless she or he is included in the unit. Also, grantee relative who is not a parent and who chooses not to be included in the unit is exempt from the time limit and work program. See Who is exempt from the time limit and Work Program? A grantee relative can make this choice at any time.
  • A caretaker can choose whether to include non-sibling children, such as a niece or nephew, in the assistance unit. A child who is not included but still needs TAFDC can get her own full grant if she can show that being in the unit will cause homelessness or serious hardship because the child will lose the full benefit of her own grant. 106 C.M.R. § 704.305(A)(2).
  • 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. § 704.305(A)(4). For example, if child support is more than the child’s share of the grant (about $100) plus the $50 pass through, see What happens if your child’s father (or mother) pays child support?, 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 to get TAFDC for the child if she is getting child support or Social Security benefits for the child. 106 C.M.R. § 704.320(B); DTA Transitions, Aug. 2004, p. 3.
  • Non-citizens who do not want to be included in the assistance unit can choose not to provide proof of immigration status. See Who cannot be in the assistance unit? and Can you get TAFDC just for your children if you are not a 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 $120 a month for him. His aunt can get a full single person grant for Reggie if she can show that giving him only a $120 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 chooses to receive a grant only for Laurene. Wretha does not have to meet the Work Program requirements. Benefits for Laurene will not be subject to the time limit.

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