High Court Void California's Second Attempt to Reduce Welfare Benefits to Newcomers

May 17, 1999 12:00 am

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Monday, May 17, 1999

LOS ANGELES -- Today's decision by the United States Supreme Court invalidates California's 12-month residency requirement for welfare applicants new to the state and reaffirms the principle that states may not fence out poor migrants.

Indeed, in our constitutional system, citizens selected states; states do not select citizens.

The statute mandated that eligible families who had lived in California for less than 12 consecutive months could not receive welfare benefits any higher than "the maximum aid payment that would have been received by that family from the state of prior residence." A family of four from Mississippi, for example, would receive $144 a month rather than California's allotment of $673.

The Court's ruling effectively voids provisions of the Federal Welfare Reform Act passed by Congress in 1995, which authorized residency requirements like those in California. In all, 13 states passed measures like California's and none survived today's decision.

This decision will be especially welcomed by mothers and their children fleeing domestic violence, who may now settle in California knowing that they will not be denied necessary assistance until they can secure employment.

The case, Anderson v. Roe, No. 98-97, was California's second attempt to cut the benefits of new arrivals. Former Governor Wilson first tried to cut these benefits in 1992 in a scheme the ACLU of Southern California successfully challenged in Green v. Anderson. The Supreme Court dismissed the state's appeal of that case in February 1997.

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