In order for every child to thrive, they must grow up in a healthy and financially stable home. Georgia’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is critical for those children in families working to climb up out of poverty. While other programs like SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid help families meet their nutritional and health care needs, cash assistance through TANF helps very low-income families afford diapers, wipes, car seats and similar needs.
Georgia receives about $330 million in federal funds through the TANF program to help families with low incomes gain financial independence through job preparation, temporary cash assistance and other support.
Unfortunately, Georgia’s TANF program uses a family cap that takes away benefits from children born while their mothers are on the program. The intent of the family cap when devised in the 1990s was to disincentivize women who receive assistance from having children. This outdated provision is based on inaccurate assumptions that women enrolled in safety net programs have children in order to collect additional benefits.
Here are the facts on why it is time for Georgia to repeal the cap on kids:
- Under current law, Georgia denies basic assistance to children who, through no fault of their own, are born while their mothers are on TANF.
- Georgia is one of only 13 states that still has a family cap. The number of states with a family cap still in place has been declining since 2002.
- Recent national research has shown that family caps do not affect parental choices as intended but instead penalize the babies, who are denied cash assistance, and the families, which are driven deeper into poverty.
- Georgia’s TANF caseload has fallen to 9,011 at the end of Fiscal Year 2019, from 130,000 in 1996 when the program was created. This is a 93 percent reduction in cases. The number of families receiving TANF has plummeted without the help of the family cap.
- Despite the extremely low TANF caseload, Georgia has not raised assistance levels since the 1996 law went into effect. Levels remain the lowest in the nation, at $280 per month for a family of three.
- Georgia should join states like Alabama, Louisiana and Texas that do not have the family cap and repeal the harmful rule.
- While a repeal would not affect too many GA families (and thus not cost the state much) it could really make a difference for that small group. Research shows when families in poverty have more money, it can improve children’s futures.
|Families who receive assistance and those who do not have the same average number of children: 2.||Mothers who receive direct financial assistance have large families.|
|Family caps have not lowered birth rates, namely because TANF recipients do not have additional children in order to collect slightly more cash assistance.||Cash aid incentivizes childbearing.|
|States with more generous cash allowances do not have higher birth rates among unmarried people.||Direct financial assistance disincentivizes marriage.|
 Gutierrez, Elena R. (2013, April). Bringing families out of ‘cap’tivity: The need to repeal the CalWORKS maximum family grant rule (Issue Brief). Retrieved from https://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/bccj/CRRJ_Issue_Brief_MFG_Rule_FINAL.pdf
 Ga. Code Ann. § 49-4-186 (2014) retrieved from https://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-49/chapter-4/article-9/section-49-4-186
 Urban Institute Welfare Rules Database. Retrieved from https://wrd.urban.org/wrd/query/query.cfm
 Donovan, Patricia (1998, February). Does the family cap influence birthrates? Two new studies say ‘no’ (Guttmacher Policy Review, Volume 1, Issue 1). Retrieved from https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/1998/02/does-family-cap-influence-birthrates-two-new-studies-say-no
 Division of Family and Children Services, Welfare Reform in Georgia, SB 104 Report (2019).
 Duncan, G. and Menestrel, S. L. (2019). A roadmap to reducing childhood poverty. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/25246/chapter/1