Determined whether Nebraska, in passing law denying welfare benefits to a child because the child's family was already receiving welfare when the child was born, intended the law to apply to children whose parents were unable to work because of disability.
Legal Momentum and co-counsel Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest won an important victory for the families of disabled Nebraska parents who rely on welfare. In a unanimous opinion issued December 5, 2003, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the state’s "family cap" or "child exclusion" law does not apply to families that are unable to leave public assistance because parental disabilities make it impossible to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Thus, the state cannot apply to these families its policy of denying all cash assistance to children born more than 10 months after the family began receiving welfare.
In protecting families of disabled parents from the harsh consequences of the state’s family cap law, the Nebraska Supreme Court decided that the family cap statute itself and its legislative history showed that it the legislature never intended for the family cap to be used to freeze benefits when disabled parents who receive welfare have additional children. The Supreme Court also accepted Legal Momentum's argument that applying the family cap to families with disabled parents would be contrary to one purpose of Nebraska’s Welfare Reform Act: to provide "continuing assistance" to families that cannot achieve economic self-sufficiency.