Greenlining Stop California from Penalizing Poor Families

16 Aug Repeal the Maximum Family Grant Rule

By Aysha Pamukcu

Source: The Greenlining Institute Blog

Thanks to a decades-old law called the “Maximum Family Grant,” California’s CalWORKs program punishes babies for being born poor and, by extension, punishes their entire family. CalWORKs is California’s welfare-to-work program, and its cash grants allow families to survive while adults seek work. It’s this survival money that’s at stake.

Under the Maximum Family Grant rule, a CalWORKs family who has been receiving aid over nine months can’t receive additional aid upon having a baby—unless the mother can prove that she was sterilized, using Norplant, or on the Depo Provera shot.

The message there is loud and clear: legislators two decades ago feared that impoverished families would try “gaming the system” by having more children. If you’re wondering who in their right mind would have a baby to get a $122 check from the government, you’re not alone. The whole idea is rooted in outdated stereotypes about poverty and race that have nothing to do with the very real burdens of low-income families.

For the record, government studies quickly refuted the unfounded claim that restricting aid would lead to fewer children. What’s more, women receiving public benefits have families of one to two children on average—a figure consistent with the general population’s birthrate. That means that the Maximum Family Grant rule serves no purpose except to punish poor families.

We finally have the opportunity to make this right. Advocates like California Partnership and theWestern Center on Law and Poverty are working hard to pass AB 271, a bill which would repeal the Maximum Family Grant rule.

As someone who works for a racial justice organization, I want to emphasize how critical this bill is for communities of color.

The context of this is unpleasant. For decades, the government involuntarily sterilized or otherwise coerced women—especially women of color and low-income women—into sterilization. California once held the shameful distinction of performing one-third of all government-funded sterilizations in the US. And sadly, coerced sterilizations are still not a thing of the past.

The Maximum Family Grant rule, with its encouragement of sterilization and long-lasting contraception, is an echo of ugly policy that allowed only certain classes of families to have children.

Today, race still matters. Most of the women affected by the Maximum Family Grant rule are women of color—54.7% are Hispanic, 22.1% are Asian, and 17.4% are black. The rule also disproportionately affects families with less English proficiency. In a state where people of color are the majority, it’s no surprise that these are the faces of families who are punished for having children.

We should be helping families leave poverty through saving and building assets. Asset-building is key to fighting the persistent racial wealth gap that hurts our entire nation. But under policies like the Maximum Family Grant rule, families will slide deeper into the poverty cycle. These kinds of laws can increase the poverty rate of children by 13.1%.

In fact, women whose welfare benefits were capped reported higher levels of family hardship and distress, including heightened housing and food insecurity. Their hardships ranged from difficulty buying diapers to increased hospitalizations of their children.

No matter how you look at it, the Maximum Family Grant rule is bad for families and an embarrassment for California.

The good news is that we can fix this. The fight isn’t over and there are many ways to get involved:

  1. Join the social media campaign, from Tumblr to Twitter. Sound off on any of these trending topics: #RepealMFG#AB271#TalkPoverty#StandWithWomen. Let @KDLeon,@JerryBrownGov, and @ProTemSteinberg know that you want AB 271 passed!
  2. Sign the petition.
  3. Send a letter of support by fax to Senator President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (916-323-2263). Please email a copy to sngouy@apalc.organd
  4. If you can’t write a letter, please call Senator Steinberg (916-651-4006) to tell him that you support AB 271.
  5. Join the mailing list to receive information, action alerts and other opportunities to get involved.

They Were Right Then! Can They Make it Right Now? Repeal the MFG Rule

7 Aug

Will California leaders step forward to call for the repeal of the State law that should have never passed? How about if it was a policy they voted against 20 years ago and that has only lost credibility through the years?  What about if this policy pushes California’s poorest kids even further into poverty and violates the reproductive privacy rights of half a million Californians? We hope so.

Nearly 20 years ago, AB 473 (Brulte) was barely passed off the floor of the Assembly.  It enacted California Welfare and Institutions Code 11450.04 which denies basic needs CalWORKs assistance to infants born to a poor family on aid unless their parents were sterilized, their mother was using an Inter Uterine Device or Norplant, or their mother discloses private information to reveal that her child was conceived as a result of rape or incest.

Yes, this is what the law says. It is still on the books. In 2013.

This rule applies regardless of the parents’ personal, religious, relational objections to the use of contraception or whether the types of contraception required by the statute are available and affordable to the parent or recommended by the health practitioner.  It applies a disrespectful and dangerous government intrusion to the reproductive privacy of low-income families and disregards decades of research proving that the policy does not reduce the number of kids living in poverty – but instead increases the numbers.

AB 473 barely passed, with 26 Assembly Members and several Senators voting against the bill in 1994 and earning strong statements in opposition from then-Assembly Members John Burton, Deborah Bowen and Mayor Tom Bates.

This 20 year old policy wasn’t right then and it isn’t right now.  We are hoping we can count now on the legislators who voted against this policy then to step forward now and deliver this message to Senate Pro-Tem Steinberg and Governor Brown to enact AB 271 to repeal it. AB 271 is authored by Assemblywoman Holly J. Mitchell and co-authored by Senator Hancock and Assembly Members Ammiano, Blumenfield, Buchanan, Dickenson, Garcia, Lowenthal, Pan, E.M.Perez, and Skinner.  It has no opposition.

The following people voted “No” on AB 473 (Brulte) on the Floor of the Assembly or the Senate in 1994.  They were right then.  Can they help make it right now?


They Were Right: Assembly Members in 1994 Voted No on AB 473

Marguerite Archie-Hudson          Joe Baca                               Tom Bates                           Debra Bowen

Vivien Bronshvag                             John Burton                       Louis Caldera                     Delaine Eastin

Martha Escutia                                  Barbara Friedman            Gotch*                                 Thomas Hannigan

Phillip Isenberg                                 Barbara Lee                        Burt Margolin                    Diane Martinez

Juanita Millender-McDonald*    Gwen Moore                     Kevin Murray                     Grace Napolitano

Richard Polanco                              Byron Sher                          Hilda Solis                            Curtis Tucker, Jr.

Vasconcellos                                      Willie Brown


They Were Right: Senators in 1994 Voted No on AB 473

Ralph Dills*                                         Teresa Hughes*                               Marks*                                 Henry Mello*

David Roberti                                     Herschel Rosenthal*                    Diane Watson


* Indicates that the person has diseased

Sign Our Petition!

22 Jul

Repeal CA Law Encouraging Sterilization of Poor Women

By Jessica Bartholow

Petition Statement

Repeal the California law that encourages parents to be sterilized or use permanent forms of birth control, and requires rape victims to disclose private information if they are to receive basic needs assistance for children resulting from rape. This 20-year-old law pushes the boundary of appropriate governmental intervention, violates the reproductive privacy and autonomy of low-income parents, and pushes poor families even further into poverty. Sign our petition HERE.

ACLU of Northern CA: Family Cap Rule Punishes California Kids

23 May

By Ashley Morris, Senior Organizer with the ACLU of Northern California

Low-income families in California are punished by a two decades-old policy that limits financial assistance for kids. The results, as you might imagine, can be disastrous for families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

California’s maximum family grant (MFG) rule, also known as a family cap, was instituted in 1994 as part of the national push to reform welfare. While California’s CalWORKS welfare program provides cash assistance to parents to support both them and their children, the family cap excludes those children who are born after the parent is already receiving benefits. To read more, CLICK HERE.

3 New Co-Authors to AB271!

23 May

Assembly Member V. Manuel Perez, Assembly Member Roger Dickinson, and Assembly Member Richard Pan have agreed to co-author AB271.  The other co-authors are Assembly Member Ammiano, Blumenfield, Buchanan, Garcia, and Lowenthal.  AB271 will come out of Assembly Appropriation Committee on Friday, Mary 24th, 2013. 

TAKE ACTION: Send Support Letters for AB 271 (Mitchell) by May 15th!

6 May


Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for your ongoing support for AB 271 (Mitchell)! As you may have heard, AB 271 passed out of the Assembly Human Services Committee in a 5-1 vote with 1 abstention on April 2. The bill has moved to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and is on the suspense file.

Authored by Assemblymember Holly Mitchell [D-54], AB 271 seeks to repeal the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule under the CalWORKs program. The MFG rule excludes any child from receiving basic needs assistance if his/her family is receiving CalWORKs cash assistance for ten or more months prior to birth. As a result of this rule, California families have been forced into deeper pits of poverty. The MFG rule has increased suffering among our state’s poorest infants, children and families.

According to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, children in at least 28,128 very poor families are denied aid as a result of this policy. But the harm reaches far beyond these children. It impacts all the families in the program who are forced to make contraception choices and reproductive decisions that are not right for them, or else face even deeper poverty and hardship.

The time is now to repeal the MFG rule and restore reproductive privacy of CalWORKs recipients and protect the health of all infants born into poverty, regardless of the circumstances of their conception.

Please support us by taking the following action:

Write a letter of support for AB 271 and send it by May 15th. CLICK HERE for a sample support letter.

Please fax your letters to:
* Assemblymember Mike Gatto, Chair of Assembly Appropriations –: FAX – (916) 319-2 143
* Assemblymember Holly Mitchell, Author: FAX – (916) 319-2154
* Suely Ngouy, Asian Pacific American Legal Center: FAX – (213) 977-7595

If you are able to please send a copy to the following Assembly Appropriation Committee Members:
* Diane L. Harkey (Vice Chair) – Fax (916) 319-2173
* Franklin E. Bigelow- Fax (916) 319- 2105
* Raul Bocanegra-Fax (916) 319- 2139
* Steven Bradford- Fax (916) 319- 2162
* Ian C. Calderon- Fax (916) 319- 2157
* Nora Campos- Fax (916) 319- 2127
* Tim Donnelly- Fax (916) 319- 2133
* Susan Talmantes Eggman- Fax (916) 319- 2113
* Jimmy Gomez- Fax (916) 319- 2151
* Isadore Hall, III – Fax (916) 319- 2164
* Chris R. Holden- Fax (916) 319- 2141
* Eric Linder – Fax (916) 319-2160
* Richard Pan- Fax (916) 319-2109
* Bill Quirk- Fax (916) 319-2120
* Donald P. Wagner- Fax (916) 319-2168
* Shirley N. Weber- Fax (916) 319-2179

Thank you!


AB 271 Repeal the CalWORKs Family Maximum Grant Fact Sheet

4 Apr

To learn more about AB 271 click here for the fact sheet.

%d bloggers like this: