ACTION: Emails in support of S34 to members of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. Email Senate & House Chairs, others if time allows. Hearing is scheduled for 5/16/2017.

Background | Opposition  |  Proponents  | Social Justice  |  Email text

Committee Members: 

Jennifer L. Flanagan, Senate Chair
Joan B. Lovely, Vice Chair
Linda Dorcena Forry
Julian Cyr
Thomas M. McGee
Donald F. Humason, Jr.

Kay Khan, House Chair
Aaron Vega, Vice Chair
John H. Rogers
Carolyn C. Dykema
Jonathon Hecht
Paul A. Schmid, III
Tricia Farley-Bouvier
Steven Ultrino
Jack Lewis
Shauna L. O’Connell
William L. Crocker, Jr.

Bill S34: A bill to eliminate the welfare cap on families with children.

Background: Massachusetts currently does not provide increased welfare benefits to families who conceive or adopt a child while receiving benefits. With the birth of a child there is no increase in benefits.

This bill would essentially eliminate the welfare cap on families and children, and allow for increased benefits. The program has work requirements based on the age of the children, as detailed below.

“The program shall 18 require that the head of household in each such family, or both parents in a 2-parent family, shall participate in work-related activities for 20 hours each week if the youngest child in the family is 20 between the age of 2 and the age at which full time schooling is mandatory, and for 30 hours 21 each week if the youngest child in the family is the age at which full time schooling is mandatory 22 or older.”

What is a “Family Cap?”: “In states with “family cap” or “child exclusion” policies, newborn children conceived while their mothers receive welfare are excluded from the calculation of the family’s cash grant.1 This deviates from basic welfare policy in which a family’s cash grant is typically based on the family’s size, independent of when a child was conceived. States determine this incremental difference in benefits for families of different sizes.” (source:

Opponents of S34: Family cap policies are controversial. For most proponents of family caps (aka, keeping the law the way it is), the goal is to diminish the fertility of welfare recipients. They argue that the policy creates an economic incentive for parents to abstain from intercourse or improve contraceptive practices, at least while they are receiving welfare. In addition, they note that the salaries of nonwelfare families do not increase when a new child is born—so why should a welfare grant?

Proponents of S34:  Most common arguments against the family cap: that the policy may propel some women to seek abortions; that, while salaries do not respond to family size, tax policy often does; and, most importantly, that reducing grants compromises the well-being of children.

Social justice component: “A particularly startling research finding is that there’s a possible link between a state’s decision to institute a family cap policy and the racial make-up of the state’s population. One analysis found that family cap policies are more likely in two types of states: “those with a higher percentage of African Americans in their [welfare] caseloads and those with higher percentages of Latinos in their [welfare] caseloads.”

Modifiable email text: Please personalize the text below. This is just to get you started 🙂

I am writing today in support of S34, a bill to remove the welfare benefit cap for children conceived while a family is receiving assistance. The “family cap” is an outdated rule that punishes primarily low-income mothers and their families for having children. Most of all, it punishes kids for being born poor.

Furthermore, family cap rules fail at their intended purpose, doing nothing but punishing the most disadvantaged communities and widening the racial wealth gap. Family cap policies have been proven to increase poor health amongst children living in poverty.

Massachusetts is one of 17 states that still have the family cap in place. This policy is a relic from the 1990’s that has been disastrous for families. Lawmakers across the political spectrum have supported the repeal of the Family Cap rule: now it is up to you to stand in solidarity with children and families living in poverty in Massachusetts. I hope I can count on you to support S34.


Sign letter to support H 773: An Act to protect victims of rape and children conceived during the commission of said offense. Letter will be available at May 11 huddle.

Background: Massachusetts does not permit a rape victim who conceives a child to terminate the parental rights of her rapist, and Massachusetts is not alone. Nineteen states, including the District of Columbia, have no protections for rape victims who become pregnant as a result of the assault. Not all women who are raped and become pregnant will carry the fetus to term, but research indicates that most will give birth to the child. One study reveals that 73% of women who are raped carry the child to term, 36% place the child up for adoption, and 64% raised the child conceived from
the rape.44 Another study found that 50% of women who had a rape-induced pregnancy underwent abortions, 5.9% placed the child up for adoptions, and 32.3% kept their child. Rape-induced pregnancies often occur within the context of abusive relationships, which creates an environment with increased legal and safety barriers for survivors. (source: American Bar Association)

Call to Action: Sign a letter to support H773. This letter will be submitted to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on Monday, May 15, 2017. A hearing on this bill is scheduled for the afternoon of May 15.