Lift the Cap on Kids


Legislature overwhelmingly supports Family Cap repeal!

The Family Cap will soon be history!

On April 10, 2019, the Massachusetts House voted overwhelmingly (155-1) to override the Governor's third attempt to block repeal of the family cap. See the vote here.

The Legislature voted to include family cap repeal in the budget in July 2018. Governor Baker sent back the repeal provisions with a "poison pill" amendment. The Governor's amendment would have repealed the family cap only if the Legislature agreed to cut benefits for 7,300 children with a severely disabled parent. The Legislature rejected the amendment and re-enacted family cap repeal.  The Governor vetoed the re-enactment on August 3, 2018, choosing to keep in place a law that harms children. The Governor issued his veto after the formal legislative session ended, so the Legislature could not take action until 2019.

In January 2019, Representative Decker and Senator DiDomenico again filed bills to repeal the family cap (H.104 and S. 37.  The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held a hearing on the bills on March 5, 2019 and immediately voted to report them favorably. 

The House voted (155-1) on March 13, 2019 to "engross" the bill (a near-final step before enactment).  The Senate voted (37-1) to "engross" on March 28, 2019. The bill was enacted in the House and Senate on April 4, 2019 and sent it to the Governor.

Despite the overwhelming legislative support for family cap repeal, the Governor again vetoed it. 

The House voted on April 10, 2019 to override the Governor's veto. The Senate is expected to schedule an override vote for April 25, 2019.  

What is the Cap on Kids?

The Cap on Kids – also called the Family Cap – denies welfare benefits to children conceived while – or soon after – the family received benefits.

Massachusetts denies benefits to 8,700 children because of the Cap on Kids.

What is the impact of the Cap on Kids?

  • The Cap on Kids causes everyone in the family to suffer – including the excluded child’s older siblings.
  • Welfare benefits are very low – $593/month for a family of three, but only $491 if one of the children is excluded by the Cap on Kids. Welfare benefits go up by about $100 a month as family size increases.

 “[Family cap] children are undernourished not because of acts of God, but acts of legislation.  Malnourished children increase health costs in the short term and jeopardize Massachusetts’s future work force in the long term.” Deborah A. Frank, MD, Director, Grow Clinic for Children, Boston Medical Center

See "Why Pediatricians Urge Family Cap Repeal," Children's Health Watch. 

  • The Cap on Kids does not reduce births to mothers on welfare. Welfare families on average are the same size as families in the general population.

  “I don’t know a woman – and I don’t think she exists – who would have a baby for the sole purpose of having another [$100] a month.” State Senator Holly Mitchell (D. CA), successfully advocated for 2016 CA repeal

Massachusetts is one of only 16 states that still have a Cap on Kids or similar policy. 

Eight states that had kids cap policies have repealed them. See map

We can afford to lift the Cap on Kids. 

Massachusetts’s spending for TAFDC is less than 20% of what it was in 1995 when the Cap on Kids was enacted. The "savings" from the drop in the caseload can be used to lift the Cap. See chart here.

Please Support the Campaign to Lift the Cap on Kids

Ask your organization to join the Campaign to Lift the Cap on Kids

124 organizations support Lifting the Cap on Kids. To add your organization, complete and send us this form for organizations

Join the Campaign as an individual.  

Complete and send us this form for individuals


Please Help Our Most Vulnerable Kids.  

Ask your state Representative and Senator to urge the Speaker and the Senate President to Lift the Cap on Kids without delay. Go here to find your state Representative and Senator. 

See Recent Press on the Campaign to Lift the Cap on Kids

Boston Globe, Cap on Kids Was Failed Welfare Experiment March 6, 2019

Mass Live: House Votes Again to Lift Welfare Cap  March 13,2019

States Rethink Rules that Cap Welfare to Children, Associated Press:  May 28, 2018

Debbie Rambo, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, Time to Undo Failed Family Cap Policy, Commonwealth Magazine, July 5, 2018.

Governor’s Family Cap Move ‘devious’, MassLive, July 27, 2018

MA Legislators Undo Cruel Family Cap Policy, Rewire News, updated July 30, 2018

Beacon Hill Rejects Baker’s Welfare Reforms, Gloucester Times, July 31, 2018; Salem News, July 31, 2018

MA Governor really really wants to restrict welfare benefits, Rewire News, Aug. 1, 2018

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For more information, please contact:  Deborah Harris, Mass. Law Reform Institute,, 617-357-0700 x 313, or Naomi Meyer, Greater Boston Legal Services,, 617-603-1621.