Wonk Note #1: Implementing the Repeal of MFG

After a four-year battle to repeal a provision in the state’s welfare program that prohibited payments for children born while their mother’s were receiving CalWORKs, counties throughout the state have moved forward to notify eligible parents they will be receiving additional benefits.

Senator Holly J. Mitchell campaigned tirelessly to repeal what is known as the Maximum Family Grant (MFG), succeeding last year with a budget provision that removed the restriction. Senator Mitchell worked with a coalition of over 100 organizations, led by the Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP) and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ).

Earlier this week, Jessica Bartholow from WCLP appealed to coalition members to work with California’s 58 counties to ensure full implementation of the MFG repeal and provided this fact sheet in both English and Spanish.

Single Moms in Poverty – Are Programs Designed to Serve Them?

Prosperity Threatened: Perspectives on Childhood Poverty in California is a new report from Next Generation worth checking out.

This section in particular is a wake-up call for policymakers and advocates:

Rates of poverty among single mothers in California also stand out, particularly when observing this trend at the county level. Single mothers make up 22 percent of all households in California with children under the age of 18 years of age.

Among all single parent households, women make of nearly 73 percent of the total, making poverty among single households an issue disproportionately affecting mothers.

As expected, the rates of poverty for single mothers were highest in counties with higher overall poverty rates, as seen in Appendix D, yet the persistence of single mother poverty rates may be their defining feature. In no county outside of Calaveras County do single mother poverty rates dip below 20 percent. And while the statewide poverty rate for single mothers is at a shocking 35.5 percent, there are six counties where the majority of single mothers live in poverty.

If policymakers and advocates were to really consider the implications of single moms and poverty, I think there would be a seismic shift in how we design programs and deliver services.  

Frequently the focus in policy debates is on protecting or expanding existing programs.  Rarely do you hear this question:  If a program is primarily intended to serve single MOMS, how would we design the program?

Take, for example, welfare.  If you were designing a welfare-to-work program to serve a single parent, you would insist upon part-time work as a real option — so that mothers could be available to their children, providing support and nurturance and stopping the generational cycle of poverty.

You would insist upon flex-time, so that doctor’s appointments and parent-teacher conferences would be a priority — not a reason to lose a job.

Schools would offer easy access to social services.  Child care, after-school care and school meals would be available, dependable and engaging for the kids.

Educational training would be a priority — not a hurdle — to help single parents jump-start their financial independence.

Rather than offering one-0n-one counseling and oversight, county services might build social networks to help single parents support one another.

For a host of reasons, the shift to single-parent families is a trend that will not be reversing, despite the admonishments of conservative politicians.  Quite the opposite.

In fact, unless we want to see an economic restructuring of society along gender lines, we better start thinking about how our social services and our workplaces support single moms and do more to design programs that meet their needs.

Women & Families Hurt by Recession and Budget Cuts

Here’s a link to an opinion piece, Women, families hurt most by recession, budget cuts, I wrote for HealthyCal.org.

The article covers a game-changing study released by the California Budget Project and the Women’s Foundation of California.  Here a link to Falling Behind: The Impact of the Great Recession and the Budget Crisis on California’s Women and their Families.