By Ashley Morris
Dear Governor Brown:
While the holidays can be the most magical time of the year for some families – a time to reflect, connect and give – the holidays can be the toughest time of year for families who are living in deep poverty.
Unfortunately, for more than 20 years, California has maintained a policy of denying financial support to babies born while their families are receiving CalWORKs basic needs grants for older siblings. This unfair policy is known as the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule.
Intended to coerce poor women, particularly women of color, into having fewer children, the MFG rule endangers the health and wellbeing of babies born into poverty while simultaneously pushing their families deeper into poverty.
During the winter, these families may be forced to keep their homes colder than comfortable to avoid a high utility bill in order to buy diapers, pay for gas to travel to visit loved ones or put food on their holiday table. They are forced to explain to young children that, even though they’ve been nice all year, Santa might not be bringing them the gift at the top of their list. But the negative impacts of this policy go beyond the holiday season. In fact, children who experience the toxic stress of deep poverty are more likely to experience health and physiological problems than those who do not.
While repealing the MFG rule won’t be enough to pull impacted families out of poverty, it’s one small thing California can do to help give poor families a foundation to stand on.
So this holiday, while you’re surrounded by your family and friends and food and warmth, take a moment to think about the responsibility you have as governor of California to ensure that every family has a chance to flourish. All parents, regardless of income, deserve dignity and the right to make decisions that are best and healthiest for themselves and their families. At a time when one in five California children live in poverty, we should be doing everything in our power to make sure parents are not punished for their family planning decisions and that they and their children are able to lead safe, healthy and successful lives.
You can help by fully funding the repeal of the MFG rule in your budget proposal.
Join us and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and call on Governor Brown to repeal the MFG rule!
Ashley Morris is grassroots advocacy manager and senior organizer at the ACLU of Northern California.