Family Welfare Caps Lose Favor in More States

By: - May 3, 2019 12:00 am

Since the 1990s, nearly half the states have denied additional cash assistance to low-income mothers who have more children while receiving welfare.

But in recent years, so-called family cap laws have fallen out of favor. Last week, Massachusetts became the latest state to repeal its family cap, when state lawmakers overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

Massachusetts joins New Jersey, which effectively repealed its cap last year as part of its budget — after two previous attempts were vetoed by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie. California repealed its maximum family grant rule in 2016.

Six other states — Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Wyoming — have repealed their family caps since 2002, according to data compiled for Stateline by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that tracks the laws.

Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia still have family caps in place, according to the Urban Institute.

Critics of the caps point to research showing they fail to dissuade welfare recipients from having additional children. Instead, researchers say, they can harm children’s health and development and deepen poverty.

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Teresa Wiltz

Teresa Wiltz covers welfare, housing and social services for Stateline. Previously, she worked for the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.