February 13, 2023

Few may get aid as Georgia House backs cash to pregnant moms

A few pregnant women could get cash from Georgia’s government under a bill the state House approved Monday.

By Jeff Amy, AP News

ATLANTA (AP) — A few pregnant women could get cash from Georgia’s government under a bill the state House approved Monday.

The measure would allow poor pregnant women to seek cash assistance under the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. But because of Georgia’s work requirements and long-frozen income guidelines, its unlikely to aid many people.

Representatives voted 173-1 to pass House Bill 129, sending it to the Senate for more debate.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and others say it’s another way Georgia can support women before and after birth, aiming to reduce the rate at which new mothers and babies die. It’s also driven in part by Georgia’s ban on abortion except in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. The state in November extended Medicaid coverage for new mothers for a year after birth.

“There are a lot of very needy families that are taking advantage of TANF benefits and this bill would expand that to pregnant women,” said Rep. Soo Hong, a Lawrenceville Republican sponsoring the measure.

But the measure is unlikely to lead to a boom in payments. Currently, fewer than 500 adults get aid under the program statewide, officials said in a hearing earlier this month. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute estimates about 300 women might benefit, said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a Decatur Democrat.

That’s because of state and federal work requirements imposed in the 1990s. The program requires 30 hours of work or training per week, but a family of three must make less than $784 a month to be eligible for TANF. So anyone making more than minimum wage, at $7.25 an hour, would have too much income to be eligible.

The maximum income threshold for a family of three works out to about $9,400, while 30 hours of minimum wage work per week would earn someone $11,310 in a year. The federal poverty level of a family of three is about $23,000.

Some House members argued the bill sounds nice but will do little to help mothers if the income thresholds aren’t updated from where they have been frozen since 1991. Rep. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat, said “the math simply does not add up.”

“I think we’d be remiss not to take this opportunity to look at out TANF qualifications overall, as they have not been updated in the last three decades,” Au said. “Let’s ensure that we are in fact having the effect we think we’re having by passing this bill.”

About 4,800 children who aren’t being raised by their parents also get child-only TANF benefits in Georgia.