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With Override Vote, Massachusetts Repeals 'Cap On Kids'

The Massachusetts Statehouse.
Wally Gobetz
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/wallyg
The Massachusetts Statehouse.

Massachusetts has become the latest state to repeal a welfare rule that bars additional aid for children born into families already receiving welfare benefits.

The state Senate voted 37-3 Thursday to override Republican Governor Charlie Baker's veto of the bill. The House similarly voted to override the veto earlier this month.

Under the 1990s-era rule — a so-called cap on kids — welfare recipients do not receive any additional cash benefits if another child is born.

The cap was intended to discourage people from having more children while on public assistance. Critics called the policy outdated and harmful to thousands of low-income children.

State Senator Sal DiDomenico, who has long been pushing to eliminate the rule, said it was the sixth time the Senate voted to do away with the policy.

"We will once and for all put this policy out of business," the Everett Democrat said before the Senate voted 37-3 to override Baker's veto. Three of the Senate's six Republicans — Senators Vinny deMacedo, Ryan Fattman and Donald Humason — voted to sustain the governor's veto.

The bill previously passed the House 155-1 and the Senate 37-1, so overriding the governor with the necessary two-thirds support was not in doubt. The House voted in favor of an override two weeks ago.

Massachusetts is the ninth state to repeal such rules, which remain in place in 15 other states.

Baker had said that he did not oppose lifting the cap, but wanted additional welfare system reforms to be included in the bill. The legislature showed little interest in Baker's proposals.

"Lifting the Cap on Kids will make a critical difference in the lives of 8,700 of the lowest income children in Massachusetts," said Deborah Harris of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. "With today's vote, Massachusetts has affirmed the dignity and humanity of every child."

The bill includes a preamble that makes the change effective immediately and the legislature made its cap lift retroactive to January. The Baker administration now has until September to calculate benefits so families receive the proper amount retroactive back to January 1, according to advocates.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and State House News Service.

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