California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) is a vital welfare-to-work program created to help children and families lift themselves out of poverty. One of the ways the program is supposed to do that is through temporary cash assistance.
However, because the program has been devastated by the recent budget cuts, the most that a parent with two children can expect to receive from CalWORKs today is $638 per month. That is almost exactly the same amount as in 1989.
Currently, families who have been receiving aid for at least ten months are not allowed to receive an increase in their grant when they have an additional child. This outdated law called the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule is based on the belief that low-income mothers are having children just to increase their aid. That is simply not true.
Cash aid of $122 per month—because that’s how much a newborn receives on average—is not an incentive for poor women to have more children or to remain unwed. That’s barely enough to cover the cost of diapers and clothes. Furthermore, studies have shown that the birth rate of CalWORKs recipients is consistent with that of the state’s general population.
AB 271 (Mitchell) would repeal the misguided MFG rule and allow a modest increase in the families’ cash grant upon the birth of their new child, thereby helping to ensure better outcomes for the newborns and their families. In the process, it would allow poor families to make their own decisions about the size of their families and would protect women from being subjected to intrusive questions about their sexual history and birth control decisions.
All women have the right to make the best and healthiest decisions for themselves and their families. In these dire economic times, during which families who have been struggling have been forced even deeper into poverty, repealing the Maximum Family Grant would ensure that the most vulnerable among us—the newborns—are protected.