By Bob Katzen
The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that temporarily eliminates the maximum countable assets that a welfare family is allowed to have in order to qualify for state funding for people who have lost incomes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal prohibits the state from denying a family assistance under Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) because the family’s countable assets exceed $5,000. It also prohibits the state from denying financial assistance under the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) program on the basis of that program’s exceptionally low asset limits which are $250 for an individual and $500 for a couple. If the recipient owns a car, $1,500 of its value and the home the person lives in are not accounted as assets.
The bill, estimated by supporters to cost $571,000 would remain in effect from the time Gov. Baker signs it onto law until 120 days later or 45 days after the March 10, 2020 state of emergency is terminated, whichever is sooner.
“With the widespread loss of jobs and income due to the pandemic, the Legislature must break down as many barriers as we can between people and crucial safety net programs,” said Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), chair of the Senate COVID-19 Working Group. “For many people right now, the small stipend provided by TAFDC and EAEDC could allow them to just hang on, but the [current] asset limit requirement would force these families to start erasing their savings, liquidating stocks and bonds and their retirement savings at the worst possible time.”
“Supporting our vulnerable residents is one of the most important things we can do during this public health crisis and doing so has been a priority of the Senate since this emergency began,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “I am grateful for the efforts of the Senate working group to advance this important legislation, and to all of the senators who contributed to the final bill, which will help thousands in need of assistance during this challenging time.”