Last Wednesday, March 30, a California Assembly budget subcommittee passed an action that may help repeal the Maximum Family Grant Rule (MFG), which since 1996 has restricted cash aid to women on the family welfare program CalWORKs. Repeal of the rule would lead to increased benefit payments to families under CalWORKs, which provides financial help and services to families in need.
Under the Maximum Family Grant Rule, if a woman has a baby ten months after becoming a CalWORKs recipient, she will not receive additional cash aid for the infant. Exceptions to the rule include pregnancies resulting from rape, incest, or the failure of specific types of contraception like an IUD, often considered a more invasive form of birth control.
Members of ACCESS, an Oakland-based reproductive health organization that assists women seeking abortions, has co-sponsored SB 23, the bill to repeal the rule. If passed, SB 23 would repeal the exclusion of children born while a mother is enrolled in the program and prohibit the denial of aid to these families.
The text of SB 23 states that the bill is necessary to protect “infants born to families receiving CalWORKs from experiencing lifelong cognitive impairments due to the toxic stress of deep poverty and to ready those children for participation in California’s public school system,” as well as reinforce reproductive and privacy rights. The bill is also co-sponsored by the East Bay Community Law Center, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the ACLU of Northern California, the County Welfare Directors Association, and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.
Along with the bill’s other co-sponsors, ACCESS first partnered with State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) to repeal the law in 2013. In the past, Mitchell had worked for the Western Center on Law and Poverty along with the largest child and family development organization in California, Crystal Stairs.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” Mitchell said in reference to last Wednesday’s vote. “The Assembly Budget subcommittee has stepped up to the plate, yet again, to support elimination. We have done what the governor consistently asks that we do. A funding source has now been identified to provide ongoing critical support to our state’s poorest children. We hope he, too, will step up to the plate and eliminate this failed public policy.”