DiDomenico Leads the Fight to End Deep Poverty

Sen. Sal DiDomenico has once again partnered with the Lift Our Kids Coalition to sponsor legislation to help the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children and families. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, DiDomenico filed alongside his House partner Representative Marjorie Decker bill H.4622, An Act to provide short-term relief for families in deep poverty.

This legislation would provide one-time supplemental assistance to 30,000 Massachusetts families with children who receive Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits and 19,000 elders and persons with disabilities who receive benefits under the Emergency Aid to Elders, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) program.

TAFDC and EAEDC assistance is already very low– the maximum TAFDC benefit for a family of three with no countable income is $593 a month. The maximum EAEDC benefit for an elder or disabled person with no countable income is $303 a month. These families and seniors were already struggling to pay for basic necessities like toilet paper, food, and medicine before the COVID-19 pandemic, and this crisis has only exacerbated their financial struggle. 

“During my years the Senate, I have been working to lift families out of poverty, and this legislative session those efforts have centered around lifting families out of deep poverty, meaning helping those living below half the federal poverty line,” said Senator DiDomenico. “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I once again partnered with the Lift Our Kids Coalition to provide families living in deep poverty with additional assistance. While everyone is under additional stress during these unprecedented times, without question, this pandemic has hit our Commonwealth’s low-income families and individuals the hardest. While many people have needed additional help and assistance during these trying times, it is critical we do not overlook our most vulnerable families and elders.”

After months of quarantine, families who were already living far below the poverty level before the crisis are suffering from the accumulated strain of trying to meet the added costs of the pandemic. When people are home all day, they use more utilities and basic supplies like toilet paper and soap.  Feeding meals and snacks to kids who are home all day also puts significant strains on families.  Laundry and cleaning products, already a stretch for many, are more critical than ever. Additionally, with schools now remote, many low-income households have had to pay for internet access so children can learn virtually.

On Monday, April 13th, the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held the Commonwealth’s first ever virtual public hearing on this legislation. Senator DiDomenico and advocates from across the state testified to the increased need and importance of this legislation during COVID-19 crisis. This legislation received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities and is now pending before the House Committee on Ways & Means. Additionally, DiDomenico, Decker and the Coalition are working to include additional funding in the state budget to provide one-time additional assistance– $593 for a family of three or $303 for an elder or disabled individual–using funds from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Cash assistance such as TAFDC AND EAEDC is one of the most effective and fastest forms of economic stimulus because it quickly injects money into the economy and benefit increases can be implemented virtually immediately. Low-income individuals generally spend all of their income to meet daily needs such as shelter, food, and transportation; by providing more resources for basic necessities, TAFDC & EAEDC assistance can help to free up cash for poor households to buy other essential items that they previously may not have been able to adequately afford, like diapers and medication.

This is the second legislative session that Senator DiDomenico has partnered with the Lift Our Kids Coalition. This coalition, comprised of 127 organizations, began in late 2016 to advocate for Senator DiDomenico and Representative Decker’s bill to repeal the state’s family cap law, which barred assistance for children conceived while or soon after the family began receiving assistance. The Legislature repealed the family cap in 2019 by a nearly unanimous vote. Because of Senator DiDomenico, Representative Decker, and the Lift Our Kids Coalition’s efforts, about 11,000 previously excluded children are now receiving benefits.

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