Senate OKs Mitchell’s Repeal of Cap on Family Aid

June 03, 2015

Ban on increased aid when child is born to a CalWORKs family makes the poor poorer

Sacramento – Senator Holly J. Mitchell's bill to repeal the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule in the CalWORKs program has been approved by the Senate. CalWORKs benefits are normally based, in part, on the number of family members in a household – except when a child is born into a family that is already receiving those benefits.

"Forcing families to spread meager resources thinner just to teach them a lesson isn’t policy, it’s punishment," maintained Senator Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), whose district includes parts of south Los Angeles which have high CalWORKs caseloads. "When we were taught to help those in need because ‘there will always be poor people,’ there was no small print that read, ‘but let’s use government to make their lives harder.’"

The MFG policy was included in Proposition 165, a welfare reform and budget powers initiative placed on the ballot in 1992 and rejected by voters, 54-46%. Nonetheless the MFG rule was signed into law by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994, making it illegal to increase state aid to a family to provide care for a newborn’s basic needs.

In the 15 years since the family cap became state policy, there is still no evidence that it has worked to disincentivize welfare abuse or to slow the birth-rates of affected families. Yet one out of six Californians lived in poverty as of 2011, including nearly one out of four of the children in the state. Children in poverty are statistically more likely to experience homelessness, hunger, become teen parents, or become victims of crime and sex trafficking. Research underscores the biological and economic costs of failing to intervene and prevent the negative impacts of poverty early in children's lives.

"It’s time to quit telling the tale that women on welfare will have babies to get an extra $122 a month," said Mitchell, referring to the average increase to the basic needs grant for which a CalWORKs family would be eligible if such aid weren’t banned.  "Those who spread that slur only reveal how much less they know about the cost of raising a child than the mothers they’re trying to smear."

Passed on a bipartisan vote of 27 to 6, the bill now proceeds to the Assembly for passage.