34. What is the time limit rule and when does your time limit start over?

Certain families are limited to a total of 24 months of TAFDC benefits in any 5-year period. You are eligible for a new five-year period and 24 months of additional benefits five years after your last five-year period started. 106 C.M.R. § 703.120.
The 24-month time limit runs only during months the family is not exempt (see Question 36) and
  • receives a TAFDC cash grant for a full calendar month, or
  • is considered a TAFDC family, but is not receiving a cash grant because the benefit amount is less than $10 a month.
The 24-month time limit clock (but not the five-year period) stops running if the family stops receiving TAFDC or becomes exempt from the time limit. See Question 36. If the family goes back on TAFDC, the 24 month clock starts running again. DTA will add the new months to the full calendar months already used before the family stopped receiving assistance or became exempt.
The 24-month time limit clock also runs against the children of a parent who received assistance. But sometimes a child can get a waiver if another relative or parent has custody or guardianship, or the parent who received assistance is dead, incarcerated, institutionalized, or incapacitated.
Extensions, waivers, and exemptions
If you reach the time limit and still need TAFDC benefits, you may be able to get an extension, a domestic violence waiver, or an exemption. See Questions 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 47, and 45.
Recent changes after the COVID-19 pandemic
The time limit rule was suspended during the pandemic, from March 2020 until August 2023. DTA Online Guide Transmittal, 2020-49 (June 29, 2020) (TAFDC: Temporary Changes for TAFDC Work Program Required Clients); DTA Online Guide Transmittal, 2023-58A, 58B, 58C (Aug. 9, 2023) (TAFDC – Pathways to Work) – see Appendix E. See Questions 49-58 for more details on the Work Program

Advocacy Reminders

  • Check to see if you are eligible for an additional 24 months of benefits because your five-year period has started over.
  • A month counts against your 24-month time limit only if you received TAFDC as a nonexempt household for the full calendar month. If your case was closed for part of a month or you were exempt for part of a month, that month does not count.
  • You have the right to challenge DTA’s calculation of your time clock. See Question 110.
  • A month counts towards your 24-month time limit if you are a TAFDC participant and you are receiving a very small grant, you are receiving no grant (because of the $10 minimum rule), or you are receiving a grant only because your child support is assigned to the state. See Question 65. You may decide you are better off closing your case so that you do not use up your 24 months. If you close your case, you should still be eligible for MassHealth and SNAP (food stamps). See Question 96 on eligibility for child care after your case closes.
  • DTA says that in a two parent family both parents have the same five-year period. 106 C.M.R § 703.120(A)(8). This is change from prior policy. See  DTA Operations Memo 2011-53 (Nov. 22, 2011). Email info@masslegalservices.org if this is a problem.