State Party Backs Mitchell Bill to Aid Poor Families

August 02, 2013

AB 271 would lift cap on CalWORKs aid to families when a baby is born

Sacramento - Assemblymember Holly J. Mitchell's bill to repeal the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule in the CalWORKs program, AB 271, has been declared a priority by California's Democratic Party (CDP), as it awaits action in the state 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 aid, in which case current law does not allow additional assistance despite increased need.

The average monthly CalWORKs grant for a family of three is only $464, a third of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). State Democrats join advocates for the poor in seeking to repeal the MFG. AB 271 has passed out of the Senate Human Services Committee on a 4 to 2 party-line vote and now faces a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing and vote when the Legislature re-convenes next week.

.The evidence is that CalWORKs families get poorer, not smaller, when the state tries to control family size by capping aid for the needy, argues Assemblywoman Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), whose south Los Angeles district has high CalWORKs caseloads. Driving families deeper into poverty needs to stop being state policy.

One in six Californians lives in poverty and almost one out of every four children is growing up impoverished. These children are at higher risk for an array of disabling impacts the longer they live in such conditions, including food and housing insecurity, educational setbacks and social maladaptation. These and other alarming statistics about the plight of families living in deep poverty (less than 50% of FPL) have prompted the CDP to declare passage of AB 271 a top priority, a distinction reserved for fewer than 25 acts of state legislation annually.

The best way to reduce poverty is to lift children out of it lest it become the only life they know, said Mitchell. Family planning is a useful tool, but when the state tries to dictate family size it crosses the line.