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New Law: Repeal Of '90s Welfare Rule Takes Effect


As of Jan. 1, California no longer prevents additional welfare payments for families who have more children while receiving state aid, removing a rule that called discriminatory and invasive.

The 1994 rule known as the "maximum family grant" was expressly promoted at the time as a way to discourage people on welfare from having more children.

It included exemptions for mothers who tried sterilization or permanent intrauterine contraception, and they failed--or in cases of rape.

"But only if she reported the rape within 12 months, and if she brought a copy of her very personal, private rape report with the police," says Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, which sponsored repeal legislation. "And what we’re talking about here is $130 (a month). This barely pays for diapers."

Vivian Thorp is now a legal advocate for low-income communities in Alameda County. For ten years prior to that she received state aid, except for her third child, because of the maximum family grant.

"It made it really difficult to adequately clothe my children, to sometimes feed them. I had to rely on local food pantries," says Thorp, who has also testified against the rule.

"When I suffered, my children suffered," she says. "The children do suffer. They are adversely impacted by this rule, so to see this rule go away, for me, is peace."

A wide array of groups, from the Catholic Church to Planned Parenthood, opposed the rule in recent years, but—until this year—Democratic lawmakers prioritized other spending, while Republicans have argued the $200 million a year it will cost for repeal could be better spent on jobs programs.

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