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How much income can you have and still get TAFDC?

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2018

MLH - How much income can you have and still get TAFDC?.

DTA has:

  • one set of rules for counting income for applicants to determine if they qualify for TAFDC and
  • a different set of rules to calculate the amount of the benefit.

This question deals with applicant eligibility, sometimes called getting in the front door.

Step One. Subtract allowable deductions from gross earned income –

Start with your monthly gross earned income and deduct in the following order

  • $200 for work expenses. This is a flat amount regardless of how much your work expenses really are. 106 C.M.R. § 704.270
  • One-half of what is left after the $200 work expense deduction if you were a recipient within the four months before you apply. 106 C.M.R. § 704.280. DTA calls this the 50% disregard.
  • Dependent care costs. Deduct actual dependent care costs (including costs of transportation to and from child care) up to DTA’s maximum dependent based on the age of the dependent and the number of hours you work. 106 C.M.R. § 704.275. Determine the maximum deduction you can take for each dependent using DTA’s table. DTA Online Guide (Dependent Care Deduction).

Maximum Dependent Care Deductions

Hours of Work

Age of Dependent



2 or over

Under 2

















Step Two. Subtract allowable deductions from unearned income –

You can deduct the first $50 a month in child support for children who are included in the grant. You can deduct the first $90 in income from any source for a family cap child. See What income is not counted?.

Step Three. Figure your countable income –

Add earned and unearned income after the deductions allowed above.  Include in-kind and deemed income. See


Step Four. Compare your total monthly countable income with the Need Standard for your family size –

  • Use the Standard with the rent allowance if you live in private, unsubsidized housing.  
  • Use the lower standard without the rent allowance if you do not pay rent, you live in a teen parent living program, or you live in public or subsidized housing and the rent of at least one of the occupants is based on a percentage of income. 106 C.M.R. § 705.910.
  • Be sure to use the higher Standard in September when the clothing allowance is paid.

If total monthly countable income is less than the Need Standard for your family size, you got in the front door. Go to the next two questions to figure your monthly TAFDC grant.

TAFDC Monthly Need Standards

Assistance unit size

No rent allowance
(no rent, or public or subsidized housing)

With rent allowance (private, unsubsidized housing)


$ 388

$ 428


$ 491

$ 531


$ 593

$ 633


$ 691

$ 731


$ 792

$ 832


$ 896

$ 936


$ 997



$ 1,097

$ 1,137


$ 1,197

$ 1,237


$ 1,298

$ 1,338


$ 105

$ 105

Important Note:  The Need Standards go up in September by the amount of the clothing allowance for each eligible child ($350 in September 2019).

Advocacy Reminders

  • Because the Need Standards are higher in September, a family may qualify in September with income that would have made the family ineligible in previous months.
  • DTA may deny you the $200 work expense deduction, the 50% or 100% earned income disregards, and the dependent care deduction if you left a job without good cause, did not report your earned income on time, or you are under sanction or otherwise excluded from the assistance unit. 106 C.M.R. §§704.270(B), 704.275, 704.280. This may not be legal. Consult an advocate.
  • The assistance unit does not include SSI recipients or foster children. Do not count their income and do not include them in the assistance unit size. See Who cannot be in the assistance unit?.
  • DTA should not ask you for verification that you pay for private, unsubsidized housing unless the amount you report raises questions. DTA Operations Memo 2011-21 (June 29, 2011).
  • Some programs, such as tax credit programs, subsidize owners, not tenants. Unless you are in a teen living program, DTA rules do not consider you to be living in subsidized housing unless the rent is a based in whole or part on a percentage of a tenant’s income. See DTA Transitions, Apr. 2001, p. 5.
  • You can get the rent allowance if your mortgage is paid off as long as you verify other housing expenses such as property taxes, condo fees or home insurance. DTA Online Guide (Rent Allowance Chart).

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