Last week, Senator Sal DiDomenico testified alongside Lift our Kids Coalition members and allies before the Legislature’s Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee in support of his proposal to raise cash assistance grants for families in “Deep Poverty.”
The Act to Lift Kids Out of Deep Poverty, S.75 and H.144 (sponsored by Sen. DiDomenico and Rep. Decker with 115 co-sponsors), sets a floor for cash assistance at 50% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Families living below this level are officially in “Deep Poverty.” Once grant amounts reach half of the federal poverty level, the bills would require grants to be adjusted annually for inflation, so they don’t lose their value over time.
The Committee favorably reported prior versions of these bills in two previous legislative sessions. Those favorable reports laid the groundwork for the Legislature’s inclusion – after decades of frozen funding – of four grant increases in General Appropriations Acts, with the first increase effective January 2021 and the most recent increase effective April 2024.
However, even when the fourth increase goes into effect next April, the maximum grant for a family of three with no income will be only $861 a month, still well below the projected 2024 Deep Poverty level of $1,076 a month for a three-person family.
“It is unconscionable that children in Massachusetts go to bed hungry, without basic necessities, because grant amounts are so low,” said Sen. Sal DiDomenico, lead sponsor of the Senate bill. “I am grateful to Legislative leaders for recognizing our moral imperative to raise cash assistance grants,” he said. “But whether and how much to raise grants should not be left to the annual budget process. We need to make an ongoing commitment to the Commonwealth’s neediest children.”