California State Holly Mitchell who lead efforts to repeal welfare reform

To some it is obvious. To others it is a myth.

Some see it as a reality based on cold, hard facts, while others believe it is based on cold, hard racism and sexism.

State lawmakers around the country have been engaged in an emotional debate on the question of whether mothers already receiving welfare benefits for children were planning additional pregnancies solely for the purpose of increasing the amount of their monthly benefits.

At one time, over twenty states had a “family cap” barring the receipt of additional benefits under these circumstances.

California is no longer among them.

The California state legislature wrapped up its session with a $122.5 billion budget and a repeal of the state’s “cap” law enacted in 1994.

Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown was active in negotiations during the budget drafting process, and is expected to sign the bill into law.

Most of the “cap” laws, referred to as “workfare,” were enacted during President Bill Clinton’s welfare reform push with the idea of moving benefit recipients off welfare rolls and into gainful employment.

The repeal will impact more than 130,000 children in nearly 100,000 families at a cost to the state of $220 million, with mothers receiving approximately $136 per month for a child conceived while she is already on welfare.

Critics of the decades-old policy claimed it was based on the racial stereotype of “welfare mothers” deliberately having large families, often by different fathers, for the sole purpose of increasing their monthly welfare check.

Bethany Renfree, a former benefits recipient, and says she herself “struggled to get by” under the rule when she was a single mother of five, eligible to receive aid for only four of her children.

The irony of that statement may have escaped Renfree, now 34, who is currently the policy director for the California State Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.

She may indeed have struggled under the “cap,” but in fact, she did not have a sixth child that she couldn’t afford, and clearly took the steps necessary to move from a life of dependency on government aid to one of having an important position where she is productive and making a difference.

It seems arguable that the “cap” worked exactly as intended.

Sources: Mercury News, KCRA


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