Senator Eldridge Votes To Boost Effective Welfare Policies

Senate bill eliminates the ‘Cap on Kids’ and includes
$30M for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program

(Boston, MA) – State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) last week voted to pass a supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2019 of $143.9 million in spending to help low-income working families who are struggling from federal cuts to welfare programs, and expand assistance to 8,700 children living in poverty. The proposal is $21.4 million less than what Governor Baker originally proposed in January.

Furthering the Senate’s continued commitment to support working families, seniors, and veterans, the Senate’s proposed supplemental budget eliminates the so-called ‘Cap on Kids’ and includes $30 million for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), among other considerations.

“I’m happy that we’re starting the year with a clear commitment to investing in critical welfare programs,” Senator Eldridge said. “Eliminating the cruel Cap on Kids policy is an important step towards taking a more proactive position on poverty reduction. I want to thank Chair Rodrigues and Senate President Spilka for moving this supplemental budget forward, and Senator Sal DiDomenico for his work over the last 2 years to lift the cap on kids.”

The Massachusetts ‘Cap on Kids’ policy was established in 1995 and was designed to discourage welfare clients from having additional children while receiving aid by excluding additional children from the calculation of benefits. The Senate’s supplemental budget repeals this discriminatory policy, and an amendment adopted on the floor makes the repeal retroactive to January 1, 2019. Upon implementation, those 8,700 children who are, or would be, excluded from grant calculations will now be included, resulting in higher monthly benefits for their families. The fiscal year 2019 budget already provides funding for this change, which was included in the House and Senate conference committee report but vetoed by the governor.

This year, Massachusetts received a 7.6% cut in its federal fuel assistance (LIHEAP) allocation, which had already dropped from $200 million to $136 million in recent years. In response to this shortfall in federal funding, the Senate proposes to provide an immediate state allocation of $30 million to the LIHEAP program. This will help over 40,000 vulnerable low-income households–including low-income families with children, seniors and veterans–stay warm through the winter. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on household size and the annual income of every adult household member, and it provides assistance for electric and gas utility bills and other heat sources including oil and propane.

Building on the commitments of last session’s criminal justice reform, the Senate’s supplemental budget also includes $16 million for sexual assault evidence kit testing by the State Police Crime Lab to end the backlog of untested rape kits.

The Senate’s proposal also includes $1 million to the Massachusetts Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and Pediatric SANE Programs. These programs provide trauma-informed, expert forensic nursing care to sexual assault patients, including children, across the state.

The proposed supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2019 also includes:

  • $39M for collective bargaining agreements;
  • $28.1M for the Department of Correction for a new medical vendor contract and CARE Act implementation;
  • $16.5M for the Health Information Technology Trust Fund;
  • $10M to fund emergency assistance shelters;
  • $1.5M for Gas Infrastructure Evaluation;
  • $680K for the Contingency Contract retained revenue account;
  • $495K for the Sex Offender Registry Board;
  • $438K for the DCAMM Rents retained revenue account; and
  • $230K for the Department of Labor Standards.

In addition, the supplemental budget also includes a number of legislative fixes to address the administration and implementation of paid family leave and the expansion of the room occupancy excise to apply to short-term rentals, as well as allowing for permits to grant the growing of hemp on Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) land.

The supplemental budget will also allow the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) to declare an emergency related to care and protection cases in a county and authorizes CPCS to temporarily raise the rates for new assignments by not more than $75 per hour. It also waives the annual cap on billable hours, up to 2,000 hours until July 1, 2020.

The Senate’s Fiscal Year 2019 supplemental budget will now be reconciled with the House’s version, which was passed last week.

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