What are the rules about what you can buy?

The TAFDC Advocacy Guide is out of date!


Many of the rules in the guide do not apply right now. See Help with food and cash during COVID-19.

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

You are not allowed to use TAFDC benefits to pay for: 

  • Alcohol,
  • Cigarettes or other tobacco products,
  • Lottery tickets or other gambling,
  • Jewelry, 
  • Vacation services,
  • Court ordered fees, fines bail or bail bonds,
  • Tattoos or body piercings,
  • Firearms and ammunition, or
  • Pornographic material or performances.
  • A television, stereo, video game or console at a rent-to-own store.

If DTA finds that you knowingly paid for something in violation of these rules,

  • for the first offense, you will have to pay DTA back from your benefits for the amount of the purchase,
  • for the second offense, you will have to pay DTA back and lose your portion of the cash assistance grant for two months,
  • for the third offense, you will have to pay DTA back and permanently lose your portion of the cash assistance grant. Massachusetts General Laws c. 18, § 5I; DTA Operations Memo 2013-56 (Nov. 21, 2013).

Advocacy Reminders

  • There is also a list of places that are not supposed to accept TAFDC benefits held on an EBT card. These include jewelry stores, rent-to-own stores, manicure shops, cruise ships, and tattoo parlors. Massachusetts General Laws c. 18, § 5J. The law does not provide for penalties for recipients whose benefits are accepted by an establishment in violation of this law, but DTA says that the penalties for making prohibited purchases with TAFDC benefits also apply if you use your EBT card at an establishment that is not supposed to accept it. Check with an advocate if that is a problem for you.
  • You have a right to use your EBT card to make purchases outside Massachusetts if you wish. DTA may try to close your case if DTA thinks that a pattern of EBT purchases outside Massachusetts shows that you are no longer a resident of Massachusetts. DTA Operations Memo 2013-34 (July 26, 2013). Consult an advocate if this is a problem for you.

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