Mitchell Law to Offer Early Help for Young Expectant Mothers

September 11, 2012

Governor who cut CalWORKs Signs Bill to Extend Eligibility for Benefits

SACRAMENTO – Governor Brown, who earlier this year cut benefits for the unemployed poor to help balance the state budget, has signed into law AB 1640, allowing pregnant teens to receive CalWORKs basic needs grants when a pregnancy is confirmed, instead of waiting until the final trimester.

California is taking a giant step toward eliminating 'no-room-at-the-inn pregnancies,' when a young woman gets minimal financial aid only shortly before delivery – if at all. said Assemblymember Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City), whose district includes part of South Los Angeles. The policy of ‘delayed help' has become an international disgrace, given studies which consistently show that poverty in pregnancy puts newborns at risk for premature birth, low birth weight and associated consequences. I felt we needed to start giving help when it matters most to those who need it most.

California law currently delays eligibility for these basic needs grants until a teenager is in the last three months of pregnancy, if she is not also eligible for the Cal-Learn program which helps teen-aged mothers complete high school graduation requirements. The new law, which goes into effect January 1, provides modest financial aid for expectant mothers aged 18 years or under, who have no other children.

The Bill targets the most vulnerable pregnant young women – teens with no parental support and no independent means of financial support, the Assemblywoman added. These are teens in truly dire circumstances, at risk of rejection, homelessness and poor nutrition, which can affect their babies' health and needs for the rest of their lives.

AB 1640, sponsored by the Western Center on Law and Poverty and by the California Black Women's Health Project, had broad support, including local governments, unions, faith based organizations, anti-poverty advocates and child advocacy groups.