Mid-year budget cuts prevent planned increase to MA cash assistance

Balancing budgets should not come on the backs of our poorest families.  

Earlier this month, the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced mid-year budget cuts that will prevent a planned increase to the state’s Transitional Aid for Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly and Disabled Children (EAEDC) programs. This cut will squeeze already limited household budgets for thousands of our most vulnerable residents, rolling back promised financial resources to help meet their most basic needs.  

As pediatricians and child health researchers who have monitored the impact of changes to cash assistance for more than 25 years, we know that this cut will have significant consequences for the health and well-being of families with low incomes. Children’s HealthWatch research on the front lines of health care demonstrates that terminating or reducing cash assistance benefits is associated with poor child health, maternal depression, increased child hospitalizations, and food insecurity 

More than 350,000 Massachusetts residents live in deep poverty (earning less than half of the federal poverty level). For a family of three, this means earning less than $1,076 per month. TAFDC and EAEDC temporarily support the poorest families in the Commonwealth through cash assistance grants, providing up to $783 per month for a family of three – an amount notably still below the deep poverty level. Unfortunately, due to restrictive rules excluding many of these families, less than half of those residents benefit from the program. But, for those who participate – approximately 43,000 families with children and 29,000 older adults and people with disabilities, these modest cash benefits are a lifeline. A planned 10% increase to the maximum grant amount is a necessary and incremental step to lift Massachusetts families out of deep poverty. The Administration’s 9c cuts block this increase to the benefit that  was set to take place in April.  

The cut to cash assistance is a policy choice that will keep families in poverty. We are deeply alarmed that hard-fought policy improvements to support the health and stability of our poorest children have been sacrificed to plug budget holes. It is imperative that the final FY2025 budget restores this increase, and moves us towards a benefit level that will lift families out of deep poverty.