• With override vote, Massachusetts repeals 'cap on kids'

    By: BOB SALSBERG, Associated Press

    Updated:
    BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts on Thursday became the latest state to repeal rules that deny additional welfare benefits for children born into families that already receive assistance from the state.

    The Senate voted 37-3 to override Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's veto of the bill abolishing the so-called "cap on kids." The House voted to override the veto earlier this month.

    The legislation would "once and for all put an end to this unjust and ineffective cap that has been in effect for decades," said Democratic Sen. Sal DiDomenico, of Everett.

    The repeal means that a parent receiving benefits under the program known as Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children will now receive $100 in additional monthly cash benefits for each child born, regardless of whether the child is born before or after the parent became eligible for benefits. Families will also receive an additional $300 annual clothing allowance per child.

    Massachusetts was among more than 20 U.S. states that enacted the family caps in the 1990s amid rising welfare costs and the derogatory and unproven narrative that some welfare recipients were conceiving children for the purpose of boosting their monthly benefits.

    Opponents said the laws were outdated and often forced families to scrimp on diapers and other necessities.

    Other states that established the caps but have since repealed them include California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Wyoming, according to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

    While expressing support for lifting the cap, Baker twice vetoed legislation to do so in the past 12 months.

    The governor insisted repeal should be accompanied by other changes in the welfare program, notably one that would allow for the inclusion of Social Security disability benefits in calculating eligibility for families with dependent children benefits. Baker argued such a change would align welfare with veterans' benefits and other government assistance programs.

    Democrats rejected the proposal, saying it could harm the children of disabled parents.

    Baker's veto of a repeal measure approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature last summer could not be overridden because it came after formal sessions had ended for the year. Legislative leaders moved to pass the measure early in the current session to avoid a repeat.

    Three Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, of Gloucester, joined all 34 Senate Democrats Thursday in voting to override the veto. Republican Sens. Vinny deMacedo, of Plymouth, Ryan Fattman, of Webster, and Donald Humason, of Westfield, voted to sustain.

    A proposed state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 includes the estimated $13 million cost of repealing the rule.

    "Lifting the cap on kids will make a critical difference in the lives of 8,700 of the lowest income children in Massachusetts," Deborah Harris, senior staff attorney of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, said in an emailed statement. "With today's vote, Massachusetts has affirmed the dignity and humanity of every child."

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