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Can you get a waiver of welfare rules because of domestic violence?

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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

Waiver due to domestic violence

If you (or your child) are a survivor of domestic violence, you may request a waiver of welfare requirements, including the time limit, the Work Program, the drug felon bar, and teen parent and child support requirements. You can also ask to have your Employment Development Plan (see What is an Employment Development Plan?) changed if you cannot comply with it because of domestic violence.

To get a requirement waived, you will need to show that the requirement will make it harder for you or your child to escape domestic violence or will penalize you or your child for past violence. You can verify your claim for a waiver on the basis of domestic violence with your own statement, plus court or medical records or the statement of at least one other person with knowledge of the circumstances. The statements will have to explain why the welfare rule should be waived. 106 C.M.R. § 703.110.

You can get a domestic violence waiver form from your worker or a DTA Domestic Violence Specialist. If you want, the Domestic Violence Specialist will help you fill out the domestic violence waiver request form and help you get counseling, legal and other services to deal with the violence or the effects of the violence.

DTA may say it will not consider a request to waive the time limit until you reach your 22d month of time limited benefits. Contact your local legal services program, Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices, if you need to know sooner so you can plan for the future.

Example 1

Katherine Farrell was living with her boyfriend who hit her if she would not have sex with him. She moved out with her 4-year-old child Sam and applied for TAFDC benefits. Sam was upset by the beatings and is misbehaving at home and in school. Ms. Farrell takes him to psychologist appointments, goes to frequent meetings at the school, and spends lots of extra time with him. She does not feel she can work or go to education or training right now. She requests a waiver of the time limit and the Work Program, explaining why she cannot meet Work Program requirements. Her child’s psychologist writes a statement for her.

Example 2

Susan Moriarty’s husband Tom was controlling and physically abusive. He would not let her leave the house without him and would not let her go to school to get her HiSET certificate. She finally left with her daughter and began receiving TAFDC. Ms. Moriarty wants to get a HiSET certificate, but the HiSET program is only 10 hours a week, and DTA says she must participate in a work activity for 30 hours a week. She and her therapist think trying to go do another activity plus school will put too much stress on her. She can ask for a waiver of the Work Program hours requirement because making her comply would penalize her for past domestic violence. She can support her request with a statement from her therapist.

Good cause due to domestic violence

Instead of or in addition to asking for a domestic violence waiver, you can ask DTA to grant you “good cause” for not meeting a DTA rule, including the time limit, What is the time limit rule and when does your time limit start over?, the Work Program, What is the Work Program?, and teen parent school attendance requirements. What are the school attendance rules for teen parents and pregnant teens?, DTA Online Guide (Good Cause Due to Domestic Violence).

Advocacy Reminders

in addition to or instead of a domestic violence waiver.

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You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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