By Bob Katzen
The House 37-114, Senate 30-7, rejected Gov. Baker’s amendments to a bill that repeals the current law that denies welfare benefits to children conceived while – or soon after – the family began receiving the benefits.
The governor’s amendments still repeal the current cap but would also count adult Supplemental Security Income (SSI) when determining a family’s eligibility for the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program.
Gov. Baker said that this change would align TAFDC with the current eligibility requirements for federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and would treat SSI income the same as income like veteran benefits, retirement income and disability insurance benefits that are already counted in determining a family’s eligibility and benefit level.
“Eliminating the cap without other accompanying changes could have the perverse effect of reducing incentives for TAFDC recipients to get back to work and cause existing inequities in the TAFDC program to persist and expand,” said Baker.
Supporters of the repeal said the law currently denies an estimated 8,700 children in poverty across the state $100 per month in benefits and a clothing allowance of $300 per year. They argued the governor’s amendment would cut benefits for thousands of children with a severely disabled parent.
“We are extremely disappointed that Gov. Baker is holding hostage thousands of children excluded by the Cap on Kids in order to cut benefits for thousands of children with a severely disabled parent,” said Deborah Harris of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Naomi Meyer of Greater Boston Legal Services in a joint statement. “The welfare family cap is an ineffective policy that harms children and families and does not reflect the values of the commonwealth. The governor’s amendment is an underhanded maneuver that pits one group of vulnerable children against another.”
The House and Senate sent the bill back to the governor who vetoed it. The Legislature cannot override the governor’s veto because for the rest of year both branches are holding informal sessions that will not act on the veto.
(On the House roll call, a ”Yes” vote is for the governor’s amendments. A “No” vote is against them.)
(Please note: The Senate roll call was on rejection of the amendments so a “Yes” vote is against the governor’s amendments. A “No” vote is for the amendments.)
Rep. Christine Barber No
Rep. Mike Connolly No
Rep. Denise Provost No
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes