More States Ditch Family Caps on Welfare Assistance

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As many as 22 states once had family cap policies -- also known as "welfare queen" laws -- in place. Find out which states are repealing the family caps and why.

Welfare benefits are typically calculated based on family size. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, 22 states enacted so-called “welfare queen” laws, which deny additional benefits to families who have additional children while on welfare.

The theory behind family welfare caps was that it would reduce birthrates among welfare recipients, discouraging a woman from becoming a “welfare queen,” a term suggesting a woman has more babies to get more money from the state.

Since the caps were enacted, research has revealed that denying women on assistance an increase in benefits if they have another child has no impact on births.

Research by the Urban Institute and a study published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender both found that family caps are harmful to children and their health, trapping them in poverty.

Now, a growing number of states have repealed their family cap rules. California ditched its family cap in June, making it the seventh state to repeal the contentious “welfare queen” law since 2002, PBS reports.

Other states that have scrapped their family caps include:

  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • Wyoming

California State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, worked for four years to repeal California’s family welfare grant cap.

“It is not the universal answer to poverty alleviation, but it is the most significant step we’ve taken of late to address the needs of those living in deep poverty across the state,” Mitchell told the Associated Press.

The California Department of Social Services says repealing the maximum family grant law benefits roughly 126,000 children in 93,000 families in the state.

NPR says lawmakers in New Jersey voted to repeal that state’s maximum family grant rule in June, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the repeal. Christie noted that other New Jersey residents don’t “automatically receive higher incomes following the birth of a child.”

New Jersey capped its family payments in 1992. It was the first state to put a law in the books capping assistance, according to NPR.

What do you think of repealing so-called “welfare queen” laws? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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