Part 3 Time Limit and Work Program Rules and Exemptions


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, Ruth Bourquin, Patricia Baker Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2010
Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

Certain families are limited to a total of 24 months of TAFDC benefits in any five-year period. You are eligible for a new five-year period and 24 months of additional benefits five years after your last five-year period started. 106 C.M.R. § 203.200; DTA Operations Memo 2011-53 (Nov. 22, 2011).

The 24-month time limit runs only during months the family is not exempt (see Who is exempt from the time limit and work program?) and

  • receives a TAFDC cash grant for a full calendar month, or
  • is considered a TAFDC family, but is not receiving a cash grant because the benefit amount is less than $10 a month.

The 24-month time limit clock (but not the five-year period) stops running if the family stops receiving TAFDC or becomes exempt from the time limit. See Who is exempt from the time limit and work program? If the family goes back on TAFDC, the 24-month clock starts running again. DTA will add the new months to the full calendar months already used before the family stopped receiving assistance or became exempt.

The 24-month time limit clock also runs against the children of a parent who received assistance. But sometimes a child can get a waiver if another relative or parent has custody or guardianship, or the parent who received assistance is dead, incarcerated, institutionalized, or incapacitated.

If you reach the time limit and still need TAFDC benefits, you may be able to get an extension, a domestic violence waiver, or an exemption. See Questions 39-48.

Maximum grants for families subject to the time limit are lower than grants for exempt families. See Questions 77-80 for the grant amounts and eligibility calculation.

Advocacy Reminders

  • Check to see if you are eligible for an additional 24 months of benefits because your five-year period has started over.
  • A month counts against your 24-month time limit only if you received TAFDC as a nonexempt household for the full calendar month. If your case was closed for part of a month or you were exempt for part of a month, that month does not count.
  • You have the right to challenge DTA's calculation of your time clock. See Appeal Rights.
  • A month counts towards your 24-month time limit if you are a TAFDC participant and you are receiving a very small grant, you are receiving no grant (because of the $10 minimum rule), or you are receiving a grant only because your child support is assigned to the state. See If your child gets child support. You may decide you are better off closing your case so that you do not use up your 24 months. If you close your case, you should still be eligible for MassHealth and SNAP (food stamps). See Who is eligible for child care? on eligibility for child care after your case closes.
  • DTA says that in a two parent family each parent may have a different five-year period. DTA Operations Memo 2011-53 (Nov. 22, 2011). Consult an advocate if this is a problem.

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