According to a new report,1 it’s estimated that 3 out of 4 single mother families in Massachusetts don’t earn enough to make ends meet.
For this reason, a great deal of state resources have been in place to benefit the state’s most disadvantaged residents.
This is in line with the government’s effort to both fund and directly serve low-income families with children.
From cash benefits to food and medical assistance, Massachusetts ensures that no single mother is left behind.
The Massachusetts Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program provides temporary cash assistance to families with children and pregnant women with little or no assets or income.
As a condition of eligibility for TAFDC, participants may be required to perform a work-related activity in order to receive benefits.
To apply for TAFDC, please contact your local Transitional Assistance Office (click here). If you are not sure which office to contact, please call the Application Information Hotline at 1-800-249-2007.
SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) helps low-income people and families in Massachusetts with cash assistance to buy a month’s worth of healthy food they need for a nutritionally adequate diet.
The amount of SNAP benefits you get depends on your household size, income, and expenses. In 2014, the average monthly food stamps benefit in Massachusetts was about $210 per household.
In Massachusetts, SNAP households are automatically eligible for discount rates on their utility bills and telephone services. Call 1-866-950-FOOD (1-866-950-3663) for additional details.
The WIC Program provides supplemental foods, nutrition education and referrals to health care, at no cost, to Massachusetts families who qualify.
The program pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are determined to be “at nutritional risk”. Single fathers and other caregivers of kids under 5 are encouraged to apply.
Many Massachusetts communities have diaper banks or other free diaper programs. Families may receive up to 30 disposable diapers per month per child, but benefits may vary depending on where you live.
To apply for free diapers, you should either contact the diaper program directly (click here), or contact the WIC office or other family service agency that distributes diapers for your local diaper bank.
In Massachusetts, Medicaid and SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) are combined into one program called MassHealth — a public need-based health insurance program for low income residents in Massachusetts.
As Massachusetts is expanding Medicaid coverage, MassHealth is now available to all adults age 19-64 with income up to 138% of the federal poverty level.
Massachusetts is operating a State-Based Marketplace, known as Massachusetts Health Connector — through which you can apply for MassHealth or other health insurance.
In Massachusetts, child care assistance is provided through DTA Child Care that provides free or low-cost child care for TAFDC families.
Current TAFDC recipients who qualify get first priority for child care. While former TAFDC recipients get child care right away, but may have to pay a fee based on income and family size.
You must apply at your local Department of Transitional Assistance office. Talk to your TAFDC case worker or call 1-800-249-2007 for more information on how to apply.
Low-income non-TAFDC working families who need help paying for child care may apply for Income-eligible Child Care. This program is limited to families with incomes not exceeding 50% of the state median income (SMI).
To apply, call your local child care resource and referral agency (CCR&R) or call Mass 211 (dial 2-1-1) to have your name put on a statewide centralized waiting list.
Head Start and Early Head Start are free early childhood programs for pregnant women and for children from birth to age 5. Both programs are for families with limited incomes.
If you need help determining if your child is eligible, call Head Start at 1-866-763-6481 to find a program in your community.
LIHEAP, commonly referred to as fuel assistance, helps low-income families and individuals in Massachusetts pay their heating bills during the winter.
Priority is given to those who are truly vulnerable — the lowest-income households with the highest heating costs. Special provisions are also made for those households whose heat is included in their rent and those living in subsidized housing.
To qualify for the LIHEAP program, you must have an income that falls within the program guidelines. For more details, call the Massachusetts Heat Line toll-free at 1-800-632-8175.
Emergency Assistance (EA) is a Massachusetts program that gives shelter and other emergency housing services to low-income families with children, and to pregnant women, who are homeless with no safe place to live.
To apply for EA shelter, you must have proof that your housing situation meets the shelter eligibility requirements such as domestic violence, natural disaster, no-fault eviction, or substantial risk to health and safety.
Unemployment insurance (UI) provides temporary financial assistance to workers unemployed through no fault of their own — for up to 30 weeks. As a condition of eligibility, you are required to actively seek suitable employment each week that you are collecting benefits.
In Massachusetts, you may receive additional $25 per dependent child — capped at 50% of your benefit rate. For example, if you are receiving $100 per week in UI and have three dependents, your allowance is capped at $50.
You can file your initial claim using UI Online or if you wish to file your claim over the phone, please call TeleClaim Center at 1-877-626-6800.
The MASSGrant is the state’s flagship need-based award program for undergraduate students who reside in Massachusetts. Award amounts vary according to each applicant’s EFC & the type of institution.
To be eligible for a MASSGrant, you must submit & complete your FAFSA by May 1st and have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $5081 or less.
For working adults and part-time, non-traditional students, the Massachusetts Part-Time Grant Program is an alternative to MASSGrants, which carries many of the same eligibility requirements. Awards range from $200 to a maximum that depends on the type of institution that the student attends.
- Crittenton Women’s Union, Massachusetts Economic Independence Index — What does it really take to make ends meet in Massachusetts? [↩]