The Legislature is expected to pass a 2015-16 state budget that includes trailer bill language to repeal California’s “Maximum Family Grant” rule (MFG). The MFG rule is a ban on providing additional CalWORKs cash assistance when a child is conceived and born while any member of the family is already receiving assistance. Also known as a “family cap,” this type of rule is widely considered to be both racist and punitive. In fact, the only purpose the MFG serves is to plunge families deeper into poverty.
Currently, the maximum CalWORKs grant for a family of three fails to lift families out of deep poverty. In fact, the grant is just 42 percent of the federal poverty line. If a family of three includes a child who is subject to the MFG rule, they would have to make ends meet with the maximum CalWORKs grant for a family of two. This would leave their income at just 34 percent of the federal poverty line.
Stakeholders have been advocating for years for the repeal of the MFG, based on evidence from various research articles demonstrating that family cap rules do not affect women’s decisions to have children. What’s more, repealing the MFG would allow CalWORKs to better support children living in deep poverty, which is critical to their health and well-being in both the short and long terms.
As the Governor and legislative leaders work toward a budget deal, negotiations will likely hinge on reinvestments in health and human services — including the repeal of the MFG rule. Lawmakers seem to have made one of their priorities clear: provide more support for the 1 in 4 children living in poverty in California. Now the decision of whether or not to support these children lies with Governor Brown.
— Kristin Schumacher