Over 70 Co-Sponsors Support Short Term Relief Bill for Vulnerable Families and Individuals Struggling with Pandemic Costs

March 25, 2020

Over 70 legislators have co-sponsored HD4951, Act to Provide Short Term Relief to Families in Deep Poverty, filed last week by Representative Marjorie Decker (D. Cambridge) and Assistant Majority Leader Senator Sal DiDomenico (D. Everett). The bill would provide immediate one-time supplemental cash assistance to Massachusetts’ 30,000 families with children who receive Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits and 19,000 elders and persons with disabilities who receive Emergency Aid to Elders, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefits.

Dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic is especially hard for people in poverty. Utility bills go up when people are home all day. SNAP (food stamp) benefits will run out sooner because children are not getting breakfast and lunch at school. Parents with part-time jobs may lose them or be unable to work because children can’t go to school or child care.

“With TAFDC grants so low, families were already struggling to meet their basic needs before the pandemic,” said Assistant Majority Leader DiDomenico.  “While everyone is under additional stress during these unprecedented times, this pandemic will hit low-income individuals and families the hardest. Helping our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable during this public health emergency is critical to ensuring everyone stays safe and healthy.”

Massachusetts Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits are a maximum of $593 a month for a family of three, leaving thousands of Massachusetts children below the level of Deep Poverty, currently $905 a month for three.  Costs have gone up, but grant levels have been frozen. ​

“This bill recognizes that many of the families already struggle to put food on the table and keep up with the essentials from diapers to toiletries.  The need has only increased as we are sheltered in place to avoid the spread of Covid-19,” said Representative Decker, the House lead sponsor. “We need to respond with the urgency of the time and ensure parents have enough to meet their families’ basic needs,” she added. “We don’t want any family worried about where their child’s next meal will come from or if they can buy enough diapers for their baby. During this time of incredible uncertainty and difficulty, it is more important than ever that we work together to provide essential support for those with the least resources to fall back on.”

The bill is estimated to cost $17 million for families with children and $6 million for elder and disabled households. Because the mechanism for paying benefits electronically is already in place, the money could be paid out quickly with no new administrative costs.

The deadline for co-sponsors is March 25, 2020 at 5:00 PM.

Community groups advocating for the bill are part of the Lift Our Kids Coalition, led by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) and Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). The Coalition – with 127 member organizations – formed in late 2016 to advocate for repeal of the welfare family cap, the law that until April 2019 barred benefits for children conceived while the family received assistance.

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