AB 271 would lift cap on CalWORKs aid to families when a baby is born
Assemblymember Holly J. Mitchell delivered 17,000 signatures to Kevin De León, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee recently in support of her bill, AB 271. The measure, designed to repeal the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule in the CalWORKs program, has been declared a priority by California’s Democratic Party (CDP), and has garnered support from 80 organizations that advocate for the poor, social and reproductive justice. AB 271 would repeal a law passed under the Wilson Administration, which denied basic aid to infants born into a family already receiving aid. Similar laws were passed in several states in a bid to reduce out-of-wedlock births and, ironically, reduce childhood poverty. But many states have repealed the law as studies have shown that it helped to create greater rates of childhood poverty.
"The evidence is that CalWORKs families get poorer, not smaller, when the state tries to control family size by capping aid for the needy," said Mitchell, whose south Los Angeles district has high CalWORKs caseloads. "Driving families deeper into poverty needs to stop being state policy."
Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin was serving in the Assembly when the original law instituting the Family Cap passed by a slim margin in the Legislature after a last minute, “gut and amend.” In a letter delivered to the Senate Appropriations committee, she wrote to the chairman of the committee that the MFG “remains in state law today as a shameful vestige of a 1990’s war on the poor that was both classist and racist.” In the letter she urges the committee to pass AB 271 to the Senate floor for a vote of the full body.
Alarming statistics about the plight of families living in deep poverty (less than 50% of FPL) have prompted online petitions demanding the repeal of the MFG to go viral. 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.
"I am pleased and humbled by the overwhelming response from constituents who have spoken up on behalf of our most vulnerable families," said Mitchell. "Now it is time for those in elected office to heed their call.”