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TAFDC Reforms 1

SECTION 54.   Section 110 of chapter 5 of the acts of 1995, as most recently amended by sections 53 and 55 of chapter 154 of the acts of 2018, is hereby further amended by striking out subsections (a) through (e) and inserting in place thereof the following subsections:-

(a) For purposes of this act the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings:-

"Assistance", cash grants, special needs assistance, and other benefits funded jointly by the commonwealth and the federal government which are available from the program.
"Commissioner", the commissioner of the department.
"Department", the department of transitional assistance known previously as the department of public welfare established by chapter 18 of the General Laws.
"Dependent child", "dependent children", "child" or "children", the children of recipients eligible to receive assistance from the program.
"Family", the household unit consisting of dependent children and a recipient or recipients determined eligible for assistance from said program.
"Program", the program of aid to families with dependent children established by chapter 118 of the General Laws and as modified by this act.
"Recipient", parents receiving or otherwise eligible to receive assistance from said program who are responsible for the care of dependent children.

(b) A family shall be eligible for assistance provided its maximum allowable countable resources do not exceed $5,000 and upon meeting all other eligibility criteria; provided, however, that the value of 1 vehicle will not count toward the family's countable resources; and provided further, that an assistance unit shall be allowed the value and balance of a college savings plan established and maintained pursuant to, or consistent with, section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.
The department shall exclude from a family's countable resources any earned income of dependent children of the family who are working part-time while attending school full time. The department shall promulgate regulations in accordance with this section, including, but not limited to, updated 106 CMR 204.210(D)(2).

(c) The department shall treat adult social security income as countable income for purposes of determining eligibility and benefit levels for the program.

(d) An earnings disregard of earned income shall be provided to both exempt and nonexempt families, such that a recipient shall be eligible to have 100 per cent of the remaining gross earned income, before dependent care deductions, disregarded for 6 consecutive months immediately following the start of initial employment or the date on which the recipient began receiving transitional aid to families with dependent children, whichever is later; provided, however, that total income shall not exceed 200 per cent of the federal poverty level for the household size. Such recipient shall also be eligible to have 50 per cent of the remaining gross income, after work-related expenses but before dependent care deductions, disregarded following the initial 6-month period of earnings disregard.

(e) Recipients meeting the following eligibility criteria shall be exempt from the provisions of subsections (d), (f), (h) and (j) until such time as their eligibility status has been determined by the department to have changed and they no longer conform to the criteria that define the following exempt categories of assistance:
(1) recipients who are disabled, as defined by the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.A. §423(d) or, in the commissioner's discretion, a recipient who has been determined by the commonwealth's disability evaluation service to have a disability that meets or equals medical standards established by the department or substantially reduces the recipient's ability to support the recipient's children taking into account the individual's age, education and work experience; provided that in families with 2 parents, both parents are disabled; provided further, that to the extent permitted by federal law, the word "disabled" shall not include recipients who are dependent on alcohol or drugs or whose disability is based in whole or in part on previous dependency. A recipient who requests an exemption under this clause shall, as a condition of continued eligibility for transitional aid to families with dependent children, apply for supplemental security income (SSI) and, if requested by the department, appeal a denial of SSI benefits. Recipients who do not comply with the department's request to apply for SSI or appeal a decision shall not be granted a work exemption under this clause;
(2) recipients who must care for a disabled child or spouse. A recipient who requests an exemption under this clause shall apply for SSI benefits on behalf of the disabled child or spouse;
(3) recipients in their thirty-third week or later of pregnancy, recipients in their third trimester of pregnancy who have submitted documentation signed by a primary care provider, as defined in section 1 of chapter 111 of the General Laws, or an obstetrician, gynecologist, nurse-midwife or family practitioner registered and certified under chapter 112 of the General Laws, that the recipient has a medical condition that prevents the recipient from working, or recipients with a child under the age of 2 years;
(4) recipients under the age of 20 years attending high school full time subject to the provisions of subsection (i); or
(5) caretakers of children in their care to whom they have no legal obligation; provided, however, that the department shall provide a cash payment for only the children.

This section eliminates the "family cap", which currently provides that a Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children ("TAFDC") grant is not increased if a child is born or conceived while the family receives such public assistance. It would also allow an applicant for TAFDC to disregard the value of a single vehicle for the purposes of the applicant's eligibility determination. Finally, it would require that the Social Security Income of adults be counted for purposes of determining eligibility for TAFDC, consistent with the treatment of other income like Veterans' income or Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance income.