LAWMAKERS KNOCK BENEFIT CAP FOR CHILDREN CONCEIVED WHILE ON PUBLIC ASSISTANCE [+VIDEO]
By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 7, 2017.....Drawing on life experiences she said gave her a "master's in poverty," Rep. Marjorie Decker on Thursday urged support for legislation that would ease certain restrictions on welfare benefits to families.
Speaking at a Women's Bar Association advocacy breakfast, Decker, a Cambridge Democrat, recounted growing up in public housing with a father who was a disabled veteran and a mother whose wages as a nursing aide were "not enough to feed myself, my brother and her and my father."
"There are a lot of challenges out there facing parents that cannot be overcome on their own," Decker said. "It doesn't matter how hard they work. Living in poverty is a full-time job, in addition to trying to actually get to the job and take care of your children."
Decker and Sen. Sal DiDomenico sponsored bills that would remove a welfare benefit cap for children conceived while a family is receiving assistance.
According to supporters of the legislation, Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits increase about $100 a month as family size increases, but benefits do not increase if a child is born to a family already receiving welfare.
"There's plenty of women who don't have control over their reproductive choices," Decker said. "They don't get to control when that next child is coming along, nevermind wanting to plan a larger family. It's the opposite."
WATCH: Remarks from WBA Breakfast
Seven states with similar caps have repealed them, leaving Massachusetts as one of 17 states that have such a policy, according to a flyer distributed at the event, which said 9,400 children in Massachusetts do not receive benefits because of the cap.
The fact sheet said benefits for a family of three would be $578 a month, and $478 a month if a child was excluded by the cap. Dr. Deborah Frank, the director of the Grow for Children Clinic at Boston Medical Center, said the extra $100 a month would provide a family with money to "attend to basic hygiene" of a new baby, coming close to the amount needed to pay for laundry and buy enough diapers.
"You can't prevent children from being born by telling them that if a child is born it will be hungry and sick," Frank said. "The family cap doesn't prevent children, it prevents their chances of growing up healthy." Decker and DiDomenico's bills are among the Women's Bar Association's legislative priorities for the 2017-2018 session, along with bills establishing a paid family and medical leave program; requiring protections for pregnant workers; seeking to prevent female genital mutilation; and requiring insurance coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods.
Rachel Biscardi, the Women's Bar Association's deputy director, said the goal of the advocacy day is to motivate lawmakers to advance measures in line with the association's mission of creating "a just society." "Now is the time, because as federal protections for women are eroded and laws are repealed, including the protections in the Affordable Care Act, it is more important than ever for Massachusetts to put our foot down and say, not on our watch," Biscardi told the News Service.
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