Review of Eligibility for the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program
January 30, 2013
For the full report see:
Pursuant to Chapter 161 of the Acts of 2012, the Office of the Inspector General (Office) studied eligibility information that recipients of Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits provided to the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). TAFDC is a state and federally funded program designed to assist the Commonwealth’s poorest residents. TAFDC benefits for families living in unsubsidized housing have increased by just 10% since 1989, meaning that benefit levels have not kept pace with inflation. This reality, combined with the current difficult economic climate, has made it more critical than ever that only those who are eligible receive TAFDC benefits.
To be eligible, each TAFDC household must include either a dependent child or a woman in the last trimester of her pregnancy. School-aged children must be attending school and properly vaccinated. Recipients must provide a valid Social Security number and, in most cases, participate in a work program. Finally, to ensure that TAFDC assistance is only provided to the state’s poorest citizens, the DTA requires that recipients provide evidence that they are Massachusetts residents, that their total income is below gross and net thresholds, and that their countable assets are worth less than $2,500.
In carrying out its legislative mandate, the Office examined a statistically valid sample of Massachusetts’ active TAFDC cases as of June 1, 2012, to evaluate documentation confirming that TAFDC’s eligibility requirements had been met. The Office found substantial compliance in all of the eligibility categories, with one exception: none of the households with school-aged children within the sample complied with TAFDC’s school attendance verification requirement. The Office also found potential eligibility errors in the following areas: undisclosed assets (including real property and vehicles); undisclosed employment income; the use of placeholder Social Security numbers; and missing verifications associated with residency, participation in work programs, citizenship or immigration status, absent parent information, immunizations and the relationship status between grantees and dependent children. Extrapolating from the statistically valid sample, the potential eligibility errors identified throughout this report are expected to be present in the range of about 33.1% of the households receiving TAFDC benefits. Potential eligibility concerns that could result in the termination of benefits are expected to be present in the range of about 8.9% of the households receiving benefits. These eligibility concerns could potentially have an expected average cost to the taxpayers in the range of about $25,000,000 a year.
In general, the Office found that the DTA is complying with its eligibility rules. In addition, the DTA is in the process of implementing supplementary procedures and controls to strengthen the eligibility verification process. However, in order to make the best use of the state’s limited resources, the Office recommends that the DTA improve and standardize its documentation procedures, re-evaluate its presumption that unverified applicants do not have income or assets, re-examine its policy not to consider the assets or income of certain caretakers, increase staff training, and enhance both its enforcement and program integrity initiatives.