Applying for Public Assistance Programs

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Public Assistance Programs

Any citizen of Massachusetts who meets the criteria of need can apply for health insurance, food stamps, housing, or emergency cash assistance. All of these programs are administered by both state and federal government, so you must use your legal name and gender that is associated with your social security number.

Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
TAFDC is the new version of “welfare” which provides eligible families with dependent children (regardless of gender of legal single parent or federally recognized married parents) and/or pregnant women who are in the last 4 months of pregnancy.

To be considered for eligibility:

   * Meet income and asset limits
   * Live in Massachusetts
   * Be a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant. 
   * Have a Social Security Number or have applied for a Social Security Number.

How to apply for public assistance
To apply for public assistance go to the Transitional Assistance Office that covers your city or town most offices are open between 7-8am until 5p . You will be assigned a Transitional Assistance Worker who will start the process with you.

Paperwork and documents you may need when meeting with the DTA worker: • Birth certificates for yourself and dependent children • Social security cards for yourself and dependent children • Proof of residency in Massachusetts, such as rental agreement, utility bills addressed to you, mortgage, etc… • Other documentation maybe required

For further information and documents needed call the Application Information Unit at 1-800-249-2007.

The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) will provide language assistance through bilingual staff, interpreter services and translated materials for those who are not fluent in English.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) Fact Sheet

Emergency Assistance (EA)
(EA) may be available to eligible families with dependent children (regardless of gender of legal single parent or federally recognized married parents) and/or pregnant women. An EA household must have at least one member who is a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant in accordance with the TAFDC program.

Food Stamps

Getting Food Stamps
To apply for food stamp benefits, fill out the 5-page application, which is available in English or Spanish.

You must mail, fax or take the application to the Department of Transitional Assistance Office that serves your city or town. If you are not sure where the office is located, please call 1-866-950-FOOD. Once you application is submitted you will have to do an interview with a DTA worker. If you’d prefer a telephone interview, and have a number at which you can be reached, you can waive the in person interview with DTA, by checking off the Waiver of the Face-to-Face Interview box.

Food Stamp Eligibility:
• Your income and money in the bank add up to less than your monthly housing expense; or
• Your monthly income is less than $150 and your money in the bank is $100 or less; or
• You are a migrant worker and your money in the bank is less than $100.

MassHealth Benefits

MassHealth uses state and federal rules to decide if single person and/or a family are eligible for benefits. If you have low to moderate income and currently have health insurance you may also be eligible for MassHealth.

Eligibility criteria:

• You are the legal parent living with your children under age 19;
• You are an adult caretaker relative living with children under age 19 to whom you are related by blood, adoption (including two parent adoptions), or marriage (federally recognized marriage only), or are a spouse or former spouse (federally recognized marriage only) of one of those relatives, and you are the primary caretaker of these children when neither parent is living in the home;
• You are under age 19, whether or not you live with your family or legal guardians;
• You are pregnant, with or without children;
• You have been out of work for a long time;
• You are disabled; or
• You are HIV positive.

In deciding family size, MassHealth counts parents (natural, step, and adoptive, including two parent adoptions) and their children under the age of 19 who live with them. If neither parent is living at home, a family group may be children under the age of 19 and a caretaker relative who is not their parent who are all living together. We also count your unborn child (or children) as a member of your family. If you are married (federally recognized marriage only) and have no children under age 19, we count you and your spouse. A caretaker relative may choose to be part of the family or not.

MassHealth compares the family’s gross monthly income (before taxes and other deductions) to the applicable federal poverty level to determine eligibility. Federal Poverty Guidelines

To receive MassHealth, you must fill out a form called a Benefit Request(PDF; RTF). You can download the application package or call a MassHealth Enrollment Center at 1-888-665-9993 (TTY: 1-888-665-9997 for people with partial or total hearing loss) to mailed one. You can also get help filling out the form by calling these numbers.

What you can do if you are denied:

If you are denied benefits or need legal services regarding benefits you can contact:
The Health Law Institute (HLI) of JRI The HLI provides direct legal services to low-income people with disabilities in cases involving housing, public benefits such as Social Security, private long-term disability benefits, consumer issues, and health insurance access. In addition, through a grant from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, we are able to expand our geographic capacity beyond Greater Boston to offer onsite legal services, including wills and permanency planning, at collaborating social service agencies. For more information, please contact the Program Director, Annie Singh, at (617) 988-8700 x 209.

Health Law Advocates
Health Law Advocates, Inc. (HLA) is a public interest law firm affiliated with Health Care For All, the premier health advocacy organization in Massachusetts. Health Care For All seeks to build a movement of empowered people and communities to create a health care system responsive to the needs of all people.

HLA is dedicated solely to ensuring access to health care for society’s most vulnerable members. HLA provides free legal representation to eligible consumers who live or work in Massachusetts and seek access to health care. We also fight for health care justice through representation of groups of consumers and communities and through education and outreach.

For legal problems with medical care and health insurance, call Health Law Advocates at 617-338-5241
For general health care questions and referrals, call Health Care for All's Helpline at 800-272-4232

Information for these sections came from the following websites:
TANF Fact Sheet
Getting Food Stamps
Health Law Institute
Justice Resource Institute