Over 100 legislators (21 Senators, 86 Representatives) have co-sponsored ‘An Act to Lift Kids Out of Deep Poverty’ sponsored by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Marjorie Decker. This legislation would raise maximum cash assistance grants by 20% a year until they reach half of the federal poverty level, $915/month for a family of three. Families living below half the poverty level are considered to be in Deep Poverty. Under the bill, grants would reach Deep Poverty in July 2023 and then would keep pace with inflation as the poverty level goes up.
Raising cash assistance grants would help meet the basic needs of 26,000 families with children and 20,000 elders and persons with disabilities.
“It is simply unacceptable that we have nearly 50,000 children in this Commonwealth living so far below half the federal poverty level,” said Senator DiDomenico, the lead sponsor of the Senate bill. “Lifting Kids Out of Deep Poverty must be one of the highest priorities for the legislative session. We have made great progress but we still have work to do. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Legislature to make this happen.”
The Legislature took the historic first step of raising benefits by 10% in the FY 21 budget. But the maximum TAFDC grant for a family of three with no income is still only $652/month. Governor Baker’s FY 2022 budget proposed to roll back the 10% increase, leaving grants frozen at their levels from a generation ago.
“Poverty is not an identity, it is the result of policy choices’’ said Representative Decker. “It is critically important that we increase assistance to families. This will continue to be a choice we make. Last year, we made an important step in the right direction by increasing Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Emergency Assistance to Elderly, Disabled and Children for the first time in over 20 years with a 10% increase. I am thankful to the majority of our colleagues in the House and Senate who agree that we must continue increasing assistance. The Governor has a strong record of trying to reduce resources to the most economically vulnerable. While he is trying to roll back the increase of $31 for the elderly and children with disabilities, we know that now is the time to expand resources.”
“We are thankful for legislators’ commitment to making sure kids have what they need,” said Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, one of the Coalition’s lead organizations. “Over the years, cash assistance grants have lost value to inflation, leaving families with children struggling in deep poverty. Parents can’t afford basic necessities like diapers, cleaning supplies, and internet access. They run out of money for food. It is time to take the next step to Lift Kids Out of Deep Poverty.”
“No one should be living in deep poverty,” said Naomi Meyer of Greater Boston Legal Services, another of the Coalition’s lead organizations. “Children and families who receive cash assistance face tremendous hardship, making difficult decisions every day in order to survive. Increasing cash assistance grants would help them make ends meet and make a real difference in their lives.”
The Lift Our Kids Coalition, comprised of 146 organizations, formed in late 2016 to advocate for repeal of the welfare family cap, the law that barred benefits for children conceived while the family received assistance. The Legislature repealed the family cap in 2019, overriding the Governor’s veto of the repeal by an almost unanimous vote. The Coalition then successfully advocated for a 10% increase in cash assistance grants that went into effect in January 2021.