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Do you have to meet job search requirements before you can get benefits?

Alert

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

DTA may not be enforcing pre-benefit job search during the pandemic.

You may have to meet a job search requirement during the 60 days after you apply. DTA calls this “PATH” or Pathways to Self-Sufficiency. 106 C.M.R. § 702.125(G).

To meet the job search requirement for applicants, you must

  • attend a TAFDC group orientation and verify at least two job contacts within 30 days of application, and
  • make three additional job contacts within the next 30 days.

You do not have to meet the job search requirements if:

What is the TAFDC pre-benefit orientation?

The pre-benefit orientation provides information about DTA rules, Pathways to Work activities, and support services like child care and transportation.

What happens if you don’t meet all the job search requirements?

The consequences of not meeting the job search requirement are harsher if DTA says you are “Work Ready.” DTA will say you are “Work Ready” if you worked in the past 12 months and either have a high school diploma or equivalency plus English proficiency or have some college or a specialized certificate such as CNA training.

If you are subject to the job search requirement and DTA thinks you are “Work Ready,” DTA will

  • deny benefits for you and your children if you do not attend a DTA group orientation and verify at least two job contacts during the 30 days after application,
  • terminate your benefits 60 days after application if you have not verified three more job contacts.

In a two-parent case where both parents are subject to the job search requirement, the entire family is ineligible at day 30 if a parent DTA thinks is “Work Ready” does not meet the job search requirements. DTA Online Guide (Work Ready Client Responsibilities).

If you are subject to the job search requirement and DTA does not think you are “Work Ready,” DTA will

  • approve benefits for you and your children within 30 days of application only if you attend a TAFDC group orientation and verify at least two job contacts during that time,
  • approve benefits by day 30 only for your children if you do not attend the TAFDC group orientation and verify at least two job contacts during the 30 days after application,
  • approve ongoing benefits for you and your children 60 days after application only if you have attended the TAFDC group orientation and verified a total of five job contacts,
  • terminate benefits for you and pay benefits only for your children 60 days after application if you have not attended the TAFDC group orientation and verified a total of five job contacts.

In a two-parent case, if both parents are subject to the job search requirement, DTA does not think either parent is “work ready,” and one parent does not comply, both parents are ineligible and benefits are paid only for the children. DTA Online Guide (Initial Job Search Client Responsibilities).

Advocacy Reminders

  • Applicants requesting an exemption because they are disabled, caring for a disabled family member or pregnant should not be subject to the applicant job search requirement.
  • Be sure to tell DTA if you need help because you have difficulty doing job search or writing down job search contacts because of language or other issues.
  • You should not have to borrow money or spend the little money you have to meet the job search requirement. Be sure to tell DTA if you have difficulty doing job search because you do not have a phone, cannot afford to put minutes on your phone, do not have access to the internet, do not have money for transportation, or do not have child care for your children. See DTA Online Guide (Initial Job Search Client Responsibilities/Work Ready Client Responsibilities).
  • DTA will send you an appointment notice for the TAFDC group orientation on a specific date. If you can’t attend that session, you can go to another session (see above for the days and times of the sessions). If there is a good reason you cannot attend a group session when they are scheduled, you can ask DTA to meet with you at a different time. Sometimes DTA will do the orientation over the phone. Be sure to tell DTA if you cannot get to the DTA office for the TAFDC group orientation because you do not have money for transportation or do not have child care for your children. Also be sure to tell DTA if you can’t go to the orientation because you are working.
  • If you get to the orientation late, DTA may say you have to come back another day. See DTA Online Guide Transmittal 2016-53 (Sep. 30, 2016; DTA Online Guide (TAFDC Group Orientation Attendance Tracking). If that is a problem for you, explain the problem and ask if you can join the orientation late and catch up later on what you missed, or ask to meet separately with the DTA worker or Full Engagement Worker.
  • If you were looking for a job before you applied and can give DTA a list of the contacts you made, there is good argument you should not have to prove additional job search to get approved for benefits.
  • DTA sometimes says you don’t have to do job search if you are working.
  • There is no job search requirement for SNAP or MassHealth. DTA should approve you for SNAP and MassHealth whether or not you meet DTA’s job search requirements.

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