Learn about SB 899: Repealing the Maximum Family Grant Rule - Women's Foundation California


(left to right) Mari Lopez, Visión y Compromiso; Sierra Harris, ACCESS Women’s Health Justice; Suely Ngouy (last year’s fellow with the Reproductive Justice team); Natantara Mehta, Alliance for Justice–West Coast.

Did you know that a child born to a mother who’s already receiving CalWORKs (welfare-to-work) assistance is ineligible for aid? While the older sibling qualifies, the younger is automatically denied help.

Our Women’s Policy Institute fellows Mari, Nayantara and Sierra are working to solve this problem through public policy. And this is their second year doing it. Last year, they worked with then-Assemblymember Holly Mitchell on a bill called AB 271, Repealing the Maximum family Grant (MFG) rule. They garnered a lot of support among the legislators and the public, but unfortunately their brave bill died in Senate Appropriations. You can learn about the last year’s bill by reading our 2013 blog post about AB 271.

This year, the powerful team is back. Senator Holly Mitchell has introduced the bill again and it’s known as SB 899. This bill aims to address three challenges facing low-income women and children due to the MFG policy:

  1. A newborn is denied life-saving cash assistance ($122/month);
  2. A struggling mother has to spread the meager assistance she receives, inflicting hardship on the older sibling(s); and
  3. CalWORKs program is not fulfilling is mandate to temporarily aid low-income families in need.

What does SB 899 aim to do? It aims to ensure equal opportunity and access to assistance for all children living in poverty. Currently, children born to mothers who are already receiving CalWORKs assistance are automatically ineligible for assistance. Imagine: the older sibling qualifies, but the newborn doesn’t. That’s simply not fair. Why disadvantage one child from the moment it draws its first breath?

Mari, Nayantara and Sierra are passionate about this bill because they believe that denying assistance to infants in need is wrong and unfair. Because they believe that every child deserves the opportunity that the extra $122 in benefits can provide. (While it may seem like a small amount, $122 enough to buy a month’s supply of diapers.) And because they know that the dream of progress and prosperity for all won’t be realized until every child is given a fair chance to experience economic security.

“California has a long history of supporting women’s personal decisions regarding their reproductive choices. However, our current law does not uphold this value for poor women choosing to parent,” said Sierra Harris, one of the Women’s Policy Institute fellows working on AB 899.

“We know all mothers want their children to have a fair chance to thrive. By repealing the MFG rule, we will be restoring dignity to the CalWORKS program and providing mothers with the basic resources they need to build healthier and happier families,” said Sierra.

To learn more about this bill, read this powerful article: Why Is California Penalizing Poor Women for Wanting to Be Parents?

Mentor for this WPI team is Dion Aroner, AJE Partners, former California assemblymember.


Download the Fact Sheet for SB 899 (PDF) >>

See the bill language >>

2013-14 Women’s Policy Institute Teams

College and Career Access

Criminal Justice

Domestic Violence

Healthcare Sector Workforce Development

Maximum Family Grant Repeal

Safety Net Policy


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