ATLANTA – The Georgia Senate Tuesday approved a bill that would expand eligibility for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in Georgia to pregnant women.

This story also appeared in Capitol Beat News Service

Currently, federal law allows very low-income pregnant women to receive the cash assistance, but Georgia law does not. The new bill would change that, said Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick, the bill’s chief sponsor.

“Expanding eligibility to pregnant women would continue to build on the steps Georgia’s taken to improve maternal health for low-income populations, such as extending Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months,” said Hodges.  

There are 5,343 households in Georgia currently relying on TANF, with an average monthly benefit of $280, Hodges said.  

“Georgia lawmakers have … taken an important step by expanding Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to pregnant women and eliminating the TANF family cap,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, a progressive think tank.  

An amendment proposed by Sen. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, drew sharp criticism from Moore’s fellow Republicans, who argued it does not fit the GOP’s pro-life philosophy.  

Moore’s amendment would have removed a provision from the bill that increases the amount of TANF aid if a woman becomes pregnant with an additional child while already receiving the assistance.  

“I don’t feel comfortable [with] state dollars going to incentivize more children in that situation,” Moore said.  

“You’re assuming someone has made themselves a baby factory to earn a minimum amount of money per month,” responded Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton. “In that dire situation, your solution is to take the money from them … to teach them a lesson?” 

Sen. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, harkened back to the 2019 vote for Georgia’s Republican-sponsored heartbeat law, which prohibits most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.  

“This chamber’s already spoken,” Tillery said. “We spoke four years ago. We said that we believe that heartbeat began life, and if you still take that position or if you believe that you should support families, then you’re going to have to reject … the amendment.”

Moore’s amendment failed and the bill, which has already received House approval, breezed through 50-1, with the single no vote coming from Moore.  

The bill now moves to GOP Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for approval. Kemp endorsed the proposal in his annual State of the State message to the legislature in January.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Rebecca Grapevine/Capitol Beat News Service

Rebecca Grapevine is Georgia politics and policy reporter for Capitol Beat News Service. She is an experienced journalist with recent work for Georgia Health News. She earned a bachelor's degree from Washington...