Does DTA count money that is withheld or garnished from my cash benefits?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2020

DTA sometimes counts money you do not get as income, including:

■ Money taken from your TAFDC or EAEDC benefit because of an intentional failure on your part to comply with the rules of that program is counted as if it were still paid in calculating your SNAP benefits. This includes when your cash benefits are reduced if DTA decides you failed to comply with the TAFDC work rules, teen parent school attendance rule, Learnfare rule, child support requirements, etc.

Example

Randy receives $398/month in TAFDC for her child. She was getting $531 but DTA reduced the benefits by 25% because DTA determined that Randy failed to cooperate with the child support rules without good cause. DTA will calculate the SNAP benefits as if Randy receives the full TAFDC grant of $531.

■ Money taken out of your TAFDC, EAEDC, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cash benefits or the Massachusetts Veterans Services program due to an intentional program violation (fraud) is counted in calculating your SNAP benefits. 106 C.M.R. §363.220(C)(4).
If the money is being taken out to repay a non-fraud overpayment, it is not countable income. 106 C.M.R. §363.220(C)(4). And DTA cannot count needs-based benefits you don’t receive unless there is a finding that you intentionally failed to comply with program requirements resulting in the benefit reduction. 7 C.F.R.§273.11(j)

■ Money legally owed to you but you do not receive directly because it is paid to a third party does count as income to you. For example, if you ask your boss to pay your rent directly from your paycheck, the money would still count. But if your boss pays you your regular salary and also pays your rent as a gift, the rent payment does not count as income. 106 C.M.R. § 363.220(C)(3).

■ Part of your TAFDC or EAEDC grant that is sent to your landlord or utility company as a “vendor payments” is countable income for SNAP. 106 C.M.R. § 363.220 (C)(2), (C)(3).

■ Money garnished from (taken out of) your Social Security benefits (RSDI) may count for SNAP, depending on the reason for the garnishment. See the chart below.

Social Security Benefits (RSDI): Garnishment

Reason money is taken out

What does this mean for SNAP?

Owed child support

Counts as income. Should count as a child support deduction. See What is the child support deduction?

Medicare Part B or D, or private insurance

Counts as income. Should count as a medical expense deduction. See What medical expenses can I claim if I am elderly or disabled? DTA automatically gets proof of Medicare Part B.

RSDI overpayment

Does not count as income.

Unintentional SSI overpayment

Does not count as income.

Intentional SSI overpayment

Counts as income.

Unpaid taxes, alimony, or student loans.

Counts as income.

Advocacy Reminders:

  •  Money that is taken out of your EAEDC, TAFDC, SSI or other needs-based benefit to pay back an overpayment can only be counted as income if you were found guilty of an IPV/fraud by a court of law or hearing officer. The federal SNAP regulations also state that DTA is required to contact the agency that administers the benefits (e.g. SSA) to confirm a formal finding of fraud as the basis of the overpayment, not the SNAP recipient.
  • Money recovered from a needs-based program, such as Unemployment Compensation, should not be counted as income for SNAP purposes. 106 C.M.R. §363.220(C)(4). Monies recovered from federal Veterans Administration (VA) benefits also is not countable because the VA benefits are not a “public or general assistance program.”
  • Money paid to a third party that is not legally owed to you does not count. For example, if a family member, friend or an organization, pays your landlord part of your rent, the payment is not countable. 106 C.M.R. § 363.230(B).
  • Money that is paid to others on your behalf – but you do not have legal control over – does not count. 106 C.M.R. § 363.230(B)(4)(b). For example, if the court orders an absent parent to pay you $600 per month for child support and pay $500 per month to a bank for the mortgage on jointly held property, the $500/month does not count as income.
  • If your Social Security benefits are being garnished to repay a debt you owe, contact Legal Services. There may be options to reduce or eliminate the monthly garnishment.

DTA Online Guide Sections:

Additional Guidance: DTA guidance and chart on when SNAP can count withheld or recouped income as countable. Workers must use net Social Security and not count recouped RSDI, and confirms that VA pension overpayment recoupments are never countable. Transitions Hotline Q & A (Nov 2014)

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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