DTA has several ways of collecting overpayments from former SNAP and cash recipients. If you appeal the overpayment, or disagree you were overpaid at all, DTA should suspend collection activities until there is a decision on the appeal. 106 C.M.R. § 367.495(H)
How to repay a SNAP overpayment
If you are not getting SNAP, you can fill out DTA’s Repayment Agreement form and agree to one of the following:
- Monthly or lump sum payments: DTA will send you a bill to pay $50 per month for Agency Errors and UPVs and $100 per month for Agency Errors and UPVs and $100 per month for IPVs. You can ask DTA about reducing this amount if this is a hardship and your household's income is below 300% of the federal Poverty Level. See below,
- Voluntary EBT deduction from EBT benefits taht remain in your account.
- Unemployment benefits: You can arrange with DTA to take some of your unemployment benefits.
- Voluntary wage garnishment: You can arrange with DTA to take some of your wages. A wage garnishment agreement has to let you keep 85% or $550 per week of your gross wages, whichever is greater.
Reducing the monthly amount of you repayment
If your household’s income is below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level, you can ask DTA to reduce your monthly repayment amounts. You can do this at any time. Call the DTA Overpayment Collections Unit at 1-800-462-2607 to ask about a reduced monthly repayment amount. DTA will ask you to complete a form and may ask oyu to provide proof of your household's income.
DTA will not agree to monthly payments less than $10 for an Agency Error or UPV or $20 for an IPV.
How DTA collects on an overpayment if you are not getting SNAP and you don't comply with a Repayment Agreement
If you do not comply with a Repayment Agreement, DTA may you’re your case to the Treasury Department to try to collect from you though the Treasury Offset Program (TOP). TOP can intercept certain federal payments to pay back a SNAP overpayment, including:
- Any amount of your federal tax refund(s)
- Up to 15% of your Social Security Benefits (you have a right to keep at least $750 per month). TOP can’t intercept Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
DTA has to send you a notice 60 days before they refer your overpayment to TOP. If you send DTA a repayment agreement and follow the terms of the agreement before they refer your case to TOP, they will not send it to TOP. If you get a notice about TOP, call DTA to enter into a repayment agreement. If you want to avoid TOP or want your case to be removed from TOP, but DTA refuse to remove your case from TOP, contact MLRI.
For more information, see 7 C.F.R. § 273.18(n) and 106 C.M.R. § 367.510(E).
DTA may also collect through a debt collection agency.
- Under state law, a collection agency cannot harass you or threaten to take the first $500 per week you earn in gross wages. A collection agency can only take money from your bank account if you have more than $2,500 in the account, and they can only take the excess above $2,500. For additional protections, see G.L. c. 235, § 34; 940 C.M.R. § 7.07(18).
DTA may take some of your unemployment benefits if they get a court order.
These collection methods may add additional fees or processing charges.
DTA cannot take SSI, TAFDC, EAEDC, Veterans’ Services, or other needs-based cash benefits to repay a SNAP overpayment. Federal and state SNAP law limits the steps DTA can take to collect on an overpayment: 7 C.F.R. § 273.18(g). 106 C.M.R. § 367.510. State law also limits the options DTA has if they try to garnish your wages. GL c. 18, sec. 30.
A criminal court can order you to pay back the SNAP benefits you received if it finds you committed welfare fraud.
- If you are not currently getting SNAP, DTA can suspend collection if DTA determines that the cost of collection will be more than DTA is likely to recover or would be unfair to you. 106 C.M.R. §367.495(H).
- If you are eligible for SNAP and have an overpayment, it is better for you to get back on SNAP! We encourage you to apply. If you are on SNAP DTA cannot ask you to pay back the overpayment because they will take some SNAP out of your monthly issuance instead.
- Do not agree to repayment terms that you will not be able to meet or that will cause your family hardship.
- If you are a SNAP recipient, or very low income, and paying back the overpayment will cause you financial hardship, you can make a written request to DTA to ask they waiver or reduce the overpayment to an amount that you could pay over three years. If DTA refuses, you can also file an appeal and ask a hearing officer to consider your request to compromise the claim. Contact Legal Services for help.
- See the MA Attorney General’s Guide on Debt Collection, here: mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources/consumer-information/credit-and-financial-literacy/consumer-credit/fair-debt-collection.html
- See resources on our MassLegalHelp webpage, “I have debt. Help!" masslegalhelp.org/consumer/debt.