February 20, 2019

California: Stop Punishing Poor Families!

Over one million children living in poverty in California rely on CalWORKS, the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program, for cash assistance each month. But California is one of 24 states that implemented a classist, prejudiced, and harmful policy in the mid-1990’s capping the amount of cash aid a family can receive. California is now one of 17 states left with this unethical policy and it is critical that our state legislators and Governor Brown repeal it. Unfortunately, on Friday, May 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee held the bill, meaning they are not advancing it for a vote on the Senate floor. But, we can still get it passed through the budget process (info on how to help is at the end of this post).

The Maximum Family Grant rule bars families from receiving additional assistance from CalWORKS if they have a child while having received aid for the ten consecutive months prior to the baby’s birth. There are exceptions to the rule such as in cases of rape, incest, or a contraceptive failure, but these exceptions inflict shame and embarrassment on the women who have to disclose such personal information. Exceptions, furthermore, are not the solution to the greater problem. The Maximum Family Grant rule infringes upon the rights of women and families to make their own reproductive decisions, has been proven to be ineffective in its goal of reducing the number of children born into poverty, and is explicitly prejudiced against poor families and children born into poverty.

When the MFG rule was passed as a budget trailer bill in 1994, according to “>Urban Institute, family cap or MFG rules actually increase the deep poverty rate of mothers by 12.5% and of children by 13.1%. The “>Guttmacher Institute has found that family cap policies has no effect on birth rates.  With over 80 advocacy organizations and local government agencies having “>$205 million. I was in State Senator Holly Mitchell’s office just a few weeks ago in Sacramento. Mitchell authored SB899. When asked about the potential costs of passing the bill, she said: “What we spend our money on in California reflects our values.”

Do we want to be one of the small group of states that continues to put children into deeper poverty, or do we want our spending to reflect our values of honoring and helping those less fortunate than ourselves? Do we want to be the ones saying to the rest of the country that we care for our poor and want to see our children succeed and come out of poverty? Or do we want to send the message that a poor child is not as important as the rest?

During what apparently was a “heated floor debate” in July of 1994, Assemblymember