The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

46. What is unearned income?

Most sources of unearned income are counted in calculating your SNAP benefits. 106 C.M.R. § 363.220(B). Unearned income does not receive the 20% earned income disregard. 

Unearned income includes

  • Cash assistance from TAFDC, EAEDC (Emergency Aid for Elders, Disabled and Children), Social Security and SSI (Supplemental Security Income). 106 C.M.R. § 363.220(B)(1).
  • Cash benefits based on past earnings or service, including Unemployment Insurance, Workers Compensation, state and federal Veteran's benefits, and other pension benefits. 106 C.M.R. § 363.220(B)(2). Even though some income sources are based on your past earnings record, they are treated as unearned income because you are not working at the time you receive them.
  • Cash entitled benefits diverted to a landlord or other third party for vendor payments. 106 C.M.R. § 363.220(C)(2), (C)(3).
  • Foster care payments received for a child or disabled adult who is included in the SNAP household. These payments are not countable if you opt out this individual from the household. 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.240(F), 363.220(B)(2). See Question 17 (Who cannot be a separate SNAP household?).
  • Income from trusts, alimony and child support payments paid directly to you. Child support payments made to TAFDC recipients that must be assigned to the Department of Revenue (DOR) are not countable, even if erroneously received by the TAFDC household. 106 C.M.R. § 363.220(B)(3), (C)(6).
  • Interest payments, dividends, royalties paid from your assets, or other direct money payments. 106 C.M.R. § 363.220(B)(4). These monies still count as income, even though the assets themselves do not count.
  • State and private post-secondary educational loans, grants, scholarships that can be used for current living expenses (all federal educational monies are non-countable). 106 C.M.R. § 363.230(D). See Question 44 (What income is not counted?). State or private funded work-study is countable earned income (to the extent it is available for living expenses). 106 C.M.R. § 363.220(A)(3).
  • Cash assistance income deducted from the grant of a TAFDC, EAEDC or SSI household member who has been sanctioned or has an overpayment because of an intentional failure to comply with requirements of these programs. See Question 49 (Do the food stamp/SNAP rules count money I don't receive?).

Advocacy Reminders

  • DTA can use government data bases to verify a number of income sources including Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Unemployment Insurance and child support that is collected and paid to a family through the Department of Revenue (DOR). Where DTA can use these databases to verify unearned income, you need not produce a written statement about the benefit amount.
  • Anything that is not expressly excluded as "non-countable" under the SNAP rules is usually considered countable earned or unearned income. Always be sure to report to DTA any source of income, even if you think it is non-countable.
Additional Policy Guidance on Unearned Income
  • State Veterans’ Services Benefits (VSB) considered countable unearned income but certain portions may be excluded—if vender payments are made by VSO, etc. Transitions Hotline Q&A (May 2013).
  • Payments from a "reverse mortgage" (where homeowner draws money out of equity from home) is a loan and non-countable as income for SNAP. Transitions Hotline Q&A (Apr. 2007).
  • Social Security received by household for child residing in institution is not countable if money is used for the care and maintenance of the institutionalized child. Transitions Hotline Q&A (June 2000).