Welfare Reform: Family Cap Policies

1/31/2011

Welfare benefits are most often calculated based on family size. Many states passed family cap policies, which deny additional benefits or reduce the cash grant to families who have additional children while on assistance. According to the Welfare Rules Database from the Urban Institute, and NCSL legislative summaries, at least 19 states currently have a family cap policy and an additional two states have a flat cash assistance grant regardless of family size. Most of these state policies were passed in or around 1996-1997. 

Since 1997, some states have revised their policies. Minnesota first implemented their policy in 2003. Illinois repealed its family cap effective January 2004, and Maryland repealed their provision in September 2004.

Welfare Family Cap Policies

STATE

SPECIAL TREATMENT OF ADDITIONAL CHILDREN

SPECIAL TREATMENT IF CHILD IS BORN MORE THAN X MONTHS AFTER CASE OPENING

INCREASE IN CASH BENEFIT FOR ADDITIONAL CHILD (AND SPECIAL PROVISIONS)

SPECIAL TREATMENT DISCONTINUED IF CASE IS CLOSED X MONTHS[i]

NOTES

Alabama

No

--

--

--

 

Alaska

No

--

--

--

 

Arizona

Yes

10[ii]

None (disregard)[iii]

Always capped

 

 

Arkansas

Yes

1

None

6

 

California

No

 

 

 

repealed via budget/appropriations

Colorado

No

--

--

--

 

Connecticut

Yes

10

50

Always capped

 

Delaware

Yes[iv]

10

None

Always capped

 

D.C.

No

--

--

--

 

Florida

Yes

10[v]

Half of normal increase for adding first child; none for additional children

Always capped

 

Georgia

Yes

10

Varies[vi]

Always capped

 

Hawaii

No

--

--

--

 

Idaho

No[vii]

--

--

--

 

Illinois

No

--

--

--

 

Indiana

Yes

10

None

Always capped

 

Iowa

No

--

--

--

 

Kansas

No

--

--

--

 

Kentucky

No

--

--

--

 

Louisiana

No

--

--

--

 

Maine

No

--

--

--

 

Maryland

No

--

--

--

 

Massachusetts

Yes

10

None (disregard)[viii]

Always capped

 

Michigan

No

--

--

--

 

Minnesota

No

 

 

 

repealed eff Jan 2015, legislation HB 2092 in 2015 to bring it back

Mississippi

Yes

10

None

Always capped

 

Missouri

No

--

--

--

 

Montana

No

--

--

--

 

Nebraska

No

--

--

--

 

Nevada

No

--

--

--

 

New Hampshire

No

--

--

--

 

New Jersey

Yes

10

None (earner exemption)[ix]

12[x]

 

New Mexico

No

--

--

--

 

New York

No

--

--

--

 

North Carolina

Yes

10

None

Always capped

 

North Dakota

Yes

8

None

12

 

Ohio

No

--

--

--

 

Oklahoma

No

--

--

--

 

Oregon

No

--

--

--

 

Pennsylvania

No

--

--

--

 

Rhode Island

No

--

--

--

 

South Carolina

Yes

10

None (voucher)[xi]

Always capped

 

South Dakota

No

--

--

--

 

Tennessee

Yes

10

None

1[xii]

 

Texas

No

--

--

--

 

Utah

No

--

--

--

 

Vermont

No

--

--

--

 

Virginia

Yes

10

None

Always capped

 

Washington

No

--

--

--

 

West Virginia

No

--

--

--

 

Wisconsin

No

--

--

--

 

Wyoming

No

--

--

--

 

 

[i] This column describes the number of months a unit must remain off assistance to regain eligibility for a previously capped child. Some states permanently exclude capped children, even if the unit cycles on and off assistance, while other states may include previously capped children in benefit and eligibility calculations if the unit has not received assistance for a specified period.

[ii] The 10-month grace period only applies to the first child born after Nov. 1, 1995. All subsequent children born to the family are capped unless they were conceived during a 12-month or longer period of nonreceipt.

[iii] Units subjected to the family cap receive an additional earned income disregard equal to the lost benefit amount. This additional disregard is allowed for each month the member is excluded due because of cap.

[iv] The family cap provision does not apply to units who did not receive notification of the rule at least 10 months before the birth of the child or units who leave assistance for at least two consecutive months during the 10-month period leading up to the birth.

[v] In addition to the family cap policy, any child born after Dec. 31, 1998, to an unmarried minor parent is ineligible for cash assistance, regardless of whether the minor was receiving aid at the time of the birth. If the minor received benefits within 10 months of the birth of the child, the child will always be capped. If the minor did not receive benefits within 10 months of the birth of the child, the child will be eligible for assistance once the minor turns 18. Units in which the child is not permanently capped may receive noncash assistance services in the form of vouchers upon request, but s/he will not be automatically given each month. Receipt is based on need, and the total monthly value of the vouchers is capped at $69.

[vi] If the family reapplies for assistance after a break of six or more continuous months, the family cap will apply again to any child born more than 10 months from the date of reapplication, and there will be no increase in the benefit.

[vii] The additional child increases the standard of need but not the family maximum. If the family has no income, the cash benefit will not increase. However, if the family has income, the benefit may increase, but cannot increase higher than the maximum payment for the family size excluding the capped child.

[viii] The state provides a flat maximum benefit, regardless of family size. However, the work incentive payment increases with family size, so the benefit for a unit with income may increase with an additional child, but never beyond the maximum benefit level.

[ix] Units subject to the family cap receive an additional earned income disregard equal to the first $90 of income received by or on behalf of a capped child in any month.

[x] The family cap applies only to the cash assistance portion of the benefit the additional child would receive. The child will still be eligible for the food portion of the benefit.

[xi] Units in which at least one adult member of the unit is working (any number of hours) are not subject to the family cap.

[xii] After case closure, if the recipient is employed for three months and loses the job by no fault of his/her own and then reapplies for assistance, the previously capped child is included in the unit. These units, however, do not receive a new 10-month grace period for any subsequent pregnancies.