Lift Kids Out of Deep Poverty, a set of bills being introduced by Representative Marjorie Decker and Senator Sal DiDomenico, would provide financial assistance to Massachusetts families with children living in poverty. The bills are targeted at families who are below 50% of the federal poverty level, or $915 a month for a family of three, and would increase financial assistance rates by 20% a year until families reach 50% of the federal poverty level. 

Massachusetts families in poverty rely on benefit payments through the Commonwealth’s Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program to support basic necessities. Refugee families with children in the Commonwealth are often disproportionately low-income and rely on the Commonwealth’s TAFDC program to support them as they work hard to become self-sufficient. 

For many of the refugee families we serve at IINE, a question we hear too often is, “As I’m building my English skills and looking for work, how do I pay for rent, food, and diapers?” As rental housing costs have risen in the state by 94% over the last five years, TAFDC-level rates have not kept pace and today cover an average of only 38% of the monthly costs of housing, food, and living expenses for a refugee family of three.

The International Institute of New England applauds the MA Legislative Representatives and Senators who are sponsoring Lift Kids Out of Deep Poverty legislation.  If enacted, the increased state aid—the first significant increase in nearly two decades—would bring struggling families in the Commonwealth up to what is considered “deep poverty,” or half the federal poverty level. It’s not a living standard to guarantee dignity and erase suffering, but it’s a start.