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Many discussions about safety-net programs tend to focus on financial cliffs—how the impact of getting a raise or working additional hours may make participants ineligible for the very benefits they need to move into economic stability. Marriage is rarely part of this discussion, even though numerous studies show marriage is an important tool for moving families out of poverty.1 That marriage is often absent from these discussions is especially ironic, since the promotion of family stability—by encouraging marriage and discouraging nonmarital births—was among the chief policy rationales for welfare reform in 1996.
After reviewing research stressing the importance of eliminating marriage penalties, we developed and successfully advocated for legislation that would create a “honeymoon” period for newly-married couples receiving assistance through Minnesota’s version of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The legislation (HF 1453/SF 1165) received strong bipartisan support and was enacted by a Republican Legislature and Democratic Governor Mark Dayton in 2017. In our view, it represents the bi-partisan possibilities of enacting legislation based on the consensus that marriage is a vital tool for reducing poverty and fostering child well-being.
Crafting a Policy
Minnesota’s version of TANF is the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), which provides work support and cash assistance for children and their parents, who are often low wage workers between jobs. There has been no increase in the amount of the cash benefit to participants in over 30 years. Both of our organizations were involved in advocating for an increase.
As we talked with people of faith across our state, especially religious leaders, we kept hearing about couples who wanted to be married but couldn’t afford to make this decision because adding another adult to the family’s income would put them over the poverty threshold used to determine eligibility.2 The concerns were often strongest for couples expecting a baby who wished to be married before birth of their child. Unfortunately, marriage would result in a loss of benefits at the exact time the new mother would be unable to work. We sought to address this marriage disincentive.
Framing the Legislation
In our experience, all elected officials want to help families and individuals in poverty. They desire all our citizens to be economically stable and prosperous, but they often have different ideas about how to make that happen. Our goal was to frame our bill in a way that showed a commitment to helping children live in stable, secure homes that lawmakers from both parties could champion.
To that end, we drafted a bill to create an 18-month window after marriage in which a new spouse’s income would not count when determining eligibility—a “honeymoon” period. This income disregard was modeled on an existing statute that addressed child support for children on MFIP. Due to constitutional concerns related to marriage incentive programs, we consciously chose to structure the bill in a way that would allow couples to choose to marry rather than reward those who married.
Making the Pitch
In seeking bill sponsors (and later other supporters), we spoke about the benefits of marriage to children and the challenges to couples that wanted to marry but knew the very real financial impact this would have on their families. We shared that the federal TANF Program, which is used to fund MFIP, specifically lists two marriage-related goals: to promote marriage and to reduce the number of children born out of wedlock.
We provided data from a joint American Enterprise Institute/Los Angeles Times study3 in which people in poverty were asked: “How often do you think unmarried adults chose not to get married to avoid losing welfare benefits?” Twenty-four percent of participants answered, “almost always,” and an additional 23% answered, “often.”
We also gave legislators highlighted copies of a 2009 study of the federal TANF program that showed participation in the TANF program had a negative effect on the probability of marriage, an effect that disappeared once participants moved off the program.4
In building strong bipartisan support for the legislation, we addressed some concerns along the way. For example, we made it clear that we were not judging single parents but instead creating a viable option for couples who wanted to be married. We also clarified that nothing in the bill would trap a parent in a relationship that was dangerous for the parent or children.
Our House author identified a concern we hadn’t anticipated—should the state allow continued participation in the MFIP program if a participant marries a middle or upper-class individual? We addressed this by amending the bill to include a cap on the income disregard, set at 275% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, the standard used to determine whether pregnant women and children are eligible for Medicaid.
In both chambers, the bill passed unanimously and was included in an omnibus bill signed by our Governor. Ultimately, the bill had to be amended to provide an income disregard for 12 months instead of the original 18. This change was unfortunate given that, ideally, this honeymoon period would last two or three years. Despite this amendment, the new law will likely make a significant impact by removing an obstacle to marriage for low-income households in our state.Stacy Adams Men's Canton 20119 Black Leather Oxfords,Men Runway Real Leather Floral Embroidery Chain Slipper Slip on Mule Casual Shoe,Mens Patent Leather Driving Moccasins Rivets Slip On Casual Loafers Nightclub Sz,Lacoste it spirit elite mens sneakers in light grey size 13,Skechers for Work 77115 Mens Ossun Evartis Shoe- Choose SZ/Color.Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski Size 9.5 Medium Olive Green Orange Black 333824 280,Finsbury Gamme Latina NAVY Blue Suede Fashion Sneakers Shoes Mens / US 9Men's Runway Printing Slip on Round Toe Loafers Casual Fashion Moccasins Shoes,Converse X John Varvatos CTAS Mini Stud Hi Mens Size 9.5 Shoes Sneakers Black,SUNKO Fishing Boots Shoes Anti-Slip Nails Spikes Waterproof Yellow US Size 7-10,men's shoes FDF SHOES 7 () elegant brown leather BZ336-B,New 8.5 adidas Originals Mens ZX FLUX Prism 2 Shoes Red White Black AQ4023 Waves,Asics Tiger Gel-Vickka TRS Triple White Men Casual Shoes Sneakers 1193A132-100,Clarks Originals Men's Desert Boot Black Leather 26163710 US Size 12,New Men Tommy Hilfiger Suede Leather Loafer Moccasins Driving Brown Black Navy,Puma Blaze Of Glory X STAMPD 35980602 Black Leather Shoes Medium (D, M) Men,Men's Donald J Pliner DACIO 2 Blue Suede Leather Casual Loafers Size 9.5 D,BIRKENSTOCK Men Shoes ARRAN Denim Blue Size 11 () Regular Width Canvas,Men's/Women's Hush Puppies Men's Venture Oxford Aesthetic appearance Environmentally friendly buy onlineCole Haan Mens Grand Crosscourt II Sneaker, Tan Leather Burnished, Size 16,Men's Loafers Real Leather Driving Shoes Pointy Toe Tassel Business Driving New,Florsheim Work FS2416 Work Fiesta Non-Metallic Composite Toe Oxford Size 13EEE,DS NIKE 2014 AIR MAX 2013+ BLACK M 8 / WMN 9.5 ATMOS CAMO SAFARI 1 90 180 95men's shoes DI MELLA 7,5 () loafers brown shiny leather BZ29-B,Demonia White/Black Leather Classic 2" Mod Punk Creepers Goth Gothic Mens 4-13,Lacoste Mens Carnaby Evo 118 Shoes Pink Leather Casual Fashion Sneaker NEW,Mr/Ms NEW REPLAY MENS LOAFER Reasonable price Pleasant appearance Elegant and robust menu,NEW FRYE JAMES OXFORDS 84618 Men’s DARK BROWN Leather Shoes SZ US 9,Mr/Ms Eastland Men's Plainview Moderate price Settlement Price SimpleFiretrap Colt Casual Trainers Mens Black Fashion Trainers Sneakers Footwear,
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