The Full Engagement Worker is supposed to meet with you to identify any problems you have meeting the work requirement, determine an appropriate activity for you, and determine what services you need such as child care or transportation. If you prefer to participate in community service rather than any other activity, DTA should refer you to a community service site.
If you have not verified that you are participating in an allowed work activity within 60 days of when you apply, DTA is supposed to refer you to an actually available community service site. If you can’t get to the community service site, the community service is not appropriate, or the community service site will not accept you, notify DTA immediately. If DTA thinks you have not participated and do not have good cause for not participating, you may be sanctioned and your benefits may be lowered or stopped. See What happens if you do not meet the Work Program rules?
DTA says it can require you to do community service during your child’s school hours. DTA says it can reassign you from one placement to another if it wants. 106 C.M.R. § 707.170(A)(2). Contact your local legal services program, Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices, if you have located a good placement, and DTA is telling you to change.
Limit on number of hours you can count community service. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, you cannot participate in community service for more hours than your TAFDC grant plus SNAP (food stamp) benefits divided by the minimum wage ($14.25/hour effective January 1, 2022) divided by 4.333. 106 C.M.R. § 703.150(A)(2)(c); DTA Online Guide (Community Service and FLSA Community Service Choices).
- DTA says it can require you to do another activity in addition to or instead of community service if you cannot meet your full work requirement with community service because of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 106 C.M.R. § 703.150(A)(2)(c); DTA Operations Memos 2008-53A (Oct. 24, 2008), 2008-4 (Feb. 1, 2008); DTA Online Guide (Community Service and FLSA Community Service Choices); DTA Transitions, June 2012, pp. 4-5. This may be illegal. Contact your local legal services program, Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices, if this is a problem for you.
- DTA agrees that if there is no activity available for you to supplement your community service hours and no activity for you to do instead of community service, you must be given “good cause.” DTA Operations Memos 2008-53A (Oct. 24, 2008); 2008-4 (Feb. 1, 2008); DTA Online Guide (Community Service and FLSA Community Service Choices).
- If DTA does not help you find a community service site, sends you to a site that does not exist, or sends you somewhere that is not appropriate, you should ask your worker to give you good cause for not meeting the Work Program requirement. See What if you have a good reason for not meeting Work Program rules?
- DTA must subtract the value of child support collected and retained by the state in making the Fair Labor Standards Act calculation. DTA Field Operations Memo 2008-53A (Oct. 24, 2008); DTA Online Guide (Community Service and FLSA Community Service Choices).
- DTA can place you in a community service site at DTA if it chooses. See DTA Operations Memo 2012-14 (Apr. 6, 2012). This can be a stepping stone to the DTA Works Program, which pays a stipend that is not counted for TAFDC or SNAP (food stamps). DTA Works Program positions often lead to paid jobs. See What are your Pathways to Work choices?