The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

72. What are the rules about what I can buy?

Under a state law, you are not allowed to use EAEDC cash benefits to pay for:

  • alcohol,
  • cigarettes or other tobacco products,
  • lottery tickets or other gambling,
  • jewelry,
  • vacation services,
  • court ordered fees, fines, bail or bail bonds,
  • tattoos or body piercings,
  • firearms and ammunition,
  • pornographic material or performances, or
  • a television, stereo, video game or console at a rent-to-own store.

Your EAEDC grant is intended to meet your basic living expenses, and the grant is so tiny there is rarely anything left over. After you apply for EAEDC, DTA will send you a flier that tells you about these purchase restrictions.

If DTA finds that you knowingly paid for one of the restricted items listed above and  in violation of these rules,

  • for the first offense, you will have to pay DTA back from your benefits for the amount of the purchase,
  • for the second offense, you will have to pay DTA back and lose your portion of the cash assistance grant for two months,
  • for the third offense, you will have to pay DTA back and permanently lose your portion of the cash assistance grant. Massachusetts General Laws c. 18, § 5I; DTA Operations Memo 2013-56 (Nov. 21, 2013).
                  Advocacy Reminders:
  • There is also a list of places that are not supposed to accept EAEDC benefits held on an EBT card. These include jewelry stores, rent-to-own stores, manicure shops, cruise ships, and tattoo parlors. Massachusetts General Laws c. 18, § 5J. The law does not provide for penalties for recipients whose benefits are accepted by an establishment in violation of this law, but DTA says that the penalties for making prohibited purchases with EAEDC benefits also apply if you use your EBT card at an establishment that is not supposed to accept it. Check with an advocate if that is a problem for you.
  • You have a right to use your EBT card to make purchases outside Massachusetts if you wish. DTA may try to close your case if DTA thinks that a pattern of EBT purchases outside Massachusetts shows that you are no longer a resident of Massachusetts. Purchases in New England cities and towns near to Massachusetts should not trigger case closures. DTA Operations Memo 2013-34 (July 26, 2013). Consult an advocate if this is a problem for you. You have a right to use other money – for example, a gift from a friend – to make restricted purchases, but not money from your EAEDC grant. 

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