MLRI and Greater Boston Legal Services lead the Campaign to Lift the Cap on Kids

Approximately 8,900 children living in poverty in the Commonwealth are denied welfare benefits from the state simply because they were born after their family began receiving benefits. This is an effect of the Massachusetts’ “Cap on Kids” policy, which the Campaign to Lift the Cap on Kids – led by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Greater Boston Legal Services – are working to see changed.

The Campaign to Lift the Cap on Kids is raising awareness about the need to Lift the Cap on Kids, supporting legislation, currently pending in the Massachusetts State Legislature. Bills in the House (H.85) and Senate (S.34) have 83 cosponsors, led by State Senator Sal DiDomenico and State Representative Marjorie Decker.

The campaign has hosted a number of events to raise awareness about the policy’s harmful effects. On October 26th, the Campaign held a “Caps and Mittens” event at the State House, where they collected hundreds of donated winter caps and mittens for children and families in need. Besides not getting a welfare benefit of $100 a month, children who are excluded by the Cap on Kids also do not receive the $300 per year clothing allowance that is paid for other children in the family when receiving welfare benefits. With winter approaching, the need for winter coats, hats, and gloves is an additional cost that is often out of reach for low-income families. All donated items were given to Cradles to Crayons and the Home for Little Wanderers to be distributed to children and families in need.

On Monday, October 30, State Representative Carlos Gonzalez, a co-sponsor of the Bill to Lift the Cap on Kids, joined with other bill co-sponsors Representative Jose Tosado and Representative Bud Williams to host a Speak Out! Event in Springfield against the Cap on Kids.  Campaign members and representatives from local organizations participated in the event. Leaders worked with families affected by the Cap on Kids to open up dialogue about the harmful effects on children.

Earlier this year, in May, the Campaign hosted “Diaper Day” at the State House, which raised awareness of the Cap on Kid’s harmful effects, and also resulted in the donation of over 9,000 diapers to be dispersed among low-income families. For many families living under the cap, diapers can be a difficult expense as well.

The Campaign’s efforts are critical. Massachusetts is one of only 17 states that still has a Cap on Kids. Massachusetts welfare benefits generally go up by about $100 a month as family size increases. Currently, the basic grant for a family of two with no income is $478 a month, and for a family of three, it is $578 a month. However, if a family of three has a child excluded by the Cap on Kids, they receive only $478 a month— a cut of 17 percent.

There is no evidence that welfare recipients have additional children to get a small increase in their families’ grants.  Lifting the Cap on Kids would mean an additional $100 per month for families currently “under the family cap,” and it could make a difference in helping them pay for basic necessities, including diapers, winter clothes, and supplies..

The statewide coalition working to Lift the Cap on Kids has the support of over 100 agencies and organizations in Massachusetts. With the support of these organizations and citizens of the Commonwealth, the Campaign to Lift the Cap on Kids can change the lives of thousands of children and families.