General Laws of Massachusetts - Chapter 18 Department of Transitional Assistance - Section 30 Overpayments of assistance; repayment agreement; assignment of income

Section 30. (a) This section shall apply to the collection of overpayments of financial assistance paid by the department to persons receiving benefits under any program of such assistance administered by the department. An overpayment obligation is one established by a judgment or order of a court, by an administrative hearing decision of the department, or by voluntary agreement.

Whenever this section provides for a hearing, said hearing shall mean a proceeding before the court in which the overpayment obligation was established unless the overpayment obligation was established by the division of hearings established under section sixteen of this chapter or by voluntary agreement, in which case the hearing shall be before said division.

The amount of an overpayment obligation, once established, shall not be the subject of any subsequent hearing.

Any judgment or order of court requiring repayment to the department of financial assistance, any overpayment obligation established by the administrative hearing, and any voluntary agreement to repay such overpayment shall include an assignment to the department of a portion of the obligor’s salaries, wages, earnings, or other periodic income, in an aggregate amount sufficient to comply with the judgment, order, decision or agreement as limited by section thirty-four of chapter two hundred and thirty-five.

In establishing the periodic amount of an assignment, except those determined by voluntary agreement, a court or hearing officer shall consider the following factors in determining the amount of the assignment: the amount of assistance to be reimbursed, the income and reasonable expenses of the obligor, and other factors found by the court or hearing officer to be relevant to the obligor’s ability to repay the overpayment of financial assistance.

Nothing in this section shall affect the availability of any other method for collecting repayment of financial assistance received.

(b) At the time of the assignment, the obligor shall inform the department of the name and address of his employer, and shall notify the employer of the existence of the assignment. The department shall then notify the employer whether the assignment is in effect under subsection (c). When the obligor changes employers, the obligor shall notify the department, within three days after beginning the new employment, and shall notify the employer of the assignment. The department shall then transfer the assignment to the subsequent employer.

If an assignment is in effect under said subsection (c), but cannot be implemented because the obligor has no employer, the obligor shall notify the department of any employment as soon as it is obtained, and the department shall transfer the assignment to such employer.

If the obligor is self-employed, the assignment shall be ordered in compliance with said subsection (c).

(c) Such assignment shall take effect immediately when the obligor is found in violation or contempt of an order, judgment, hearing decision or agreement. Such assignment shall also take effect immediately in all other cases, unless the court or the department finds good cause exists to order that the assignment be suspended and makes written findings in support of suspension. If the department suspends such assignment, the department shall inform the obligor that under the provisions of subsection (d), such assignment, even if suspended, will take effect without further hearing if an arrearage accrues as described in subparagraph (1) or (2).

In the event that an assignment is suspended in the first instance, it shall take effect:

(1) when a total arrearage equaling the amount owed for a sixty-day period has accrued; or

(2) in cases where payment is to be made once per month, thirty days after the payment is missed; or,

(3) at the request of the obligor at any time prior to the accrual of an arrearage described in subparagraph (1) or (2).

Assignments pursuant to this section shall terminate when the underlying obligation terminates and all arrears are paid.

(d) When the department determines that an arrearage has accrued it shall immediately send the notice of assignment to the obligor’s employer and shall send a notice to the obligor.

The notice of assignment sent to an employer shall contain notice of subparagraphs (1) to (5), inclusive, of this subsection, and shall also state the amount of income to be withheld.

(1) The assignment shall begin on the first payment of income that occurs more than three days after an employer receives notice of the assignment and shall continue until the obligor ceases employment or the employer is notified by the department that the assignment should be terminated.

(2) An employer shall send the amount required by the assignment to the department within three days after the day the obligor is paid.

(3) An employer may deduct from said earnings a sum not exceeding one dollar per pay period per obligor as reimbursement for costs incurred in processing any assignment, and may submit to the department a single check covering all employees whose income is assigned along with a statement enumerating each employee’s obligation and amount paid.

(4) If any employer fails to comply with an order of income assignment executed pursuant to this section the court may summon the employer to appear in court and show cause why the employer should not be held in civil contempt for failure to obey said order. Said employer shall also be liable to the department in a civil action, action for contempt, or other appropriate proceeding for the full amount of the income assigned and a civil penalty of five hundred dollars.

(5) If the obligor ceases employment, the employer shall notify the department of the employee’s departure and any subsequent employer, if known, prior to the time that the next payment to the department is due. Any subsequent employer of the obligor shall, upon notice of an income assignment, comply with the provisions of this section.

(e)(1) If the obligor requests a hearing to challenge the revocation of the suspension of an assignment, a hearing shall be held within fifteen days from receipt of the request. If at the hearing the obligor establishes that no arrearage satisfying the requirements of subparagraph (1) or (2) of subsection (c) existed at the time notice was given or at any time thereafter, or that the obligor is not the person owing such arrearage, the court or hearing officer may order that such assignment be suspended until such an arrearage does accrue. A suspension shall not be ordered upon any other grounds, including the fact that an arrearage satisfying said subparagraph (1) or (2) of subsection (c) does not exist at the time of the hearing if such an arrearage existed at the time when the notice was mailed or any time thereafter.

If the court or hearing officer orders that the assignment be suspended, the department shall promptly notify the employer.

(2) The obligor may also request a hearing, under the same procedure and with the same notice, if the obligor contends that the total arrears owing is incorrect. If the court or hearing officer determines at the hearing that the total amount of arrears calculated is erroneous, the amount calculated shall be adjusted to correct the amount.

(f) Each obligor making payments to the department under this section shall be sent a notice describing: the obligor’s duty to report changes in address or employment under subsection (b), the suspended income assignment under subsection (c), the obligor’s right to a hearing under subsection (e), and the obligor’s right to access to the information compiled on this case at the time when the obligation was established, and once each year thereafter.

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Last modified: September 11, 2015