GHIAA Welfare Lien Writing Guide

Welfare Lien Letter Writing Guide

The Issue:

When falling on hard times or facing vulnerable circumstances, Connecticut families are offered what appears to be genuine recovery support. Families are encouraged to seek support from the State by the mission of the Department of Social Services (DSS), which expresses a commitment to “provide person-centered programs and services to enhance the well-being of individuals, families and communities” in order to ensure a “Connecticut where all have the opportunity to be healthy, secure and thriving.”

Unfortunately, in violation of the DSS mission and vision, the reality for many welfare recipients is close to a betrayal, leaving home-owners with malignant mortgages. Connecticut has adopted and maintained the dangerous policy of welfare liens, which undermines genuine efforts to restore and “make whole” families facing vulnerable circumstances who are seeking stability, security, and self-sufficiency. In fact, since 1973, over 30 states repealed their welfare lien laws because findings show that welfare liens are bad policy and practice.

Anyone who receives benefits from Temporary Family Assistance (TFA), State Administered General Assistance Cash Assistance (SAGA), and State Supplemental Cash Assistance can expect Connecticut to intervene and “recover” the funds in the form of a lien on the recipient’s assets, demanding repayment when the person:

  • Sells or refinances a home
  • Receives a legal settlement (for example, personal injury)
  • Receives any inheritance, or
  • Dies and attempts to leave any inheritance to his/her heirs.

This lien will remain with the recipient for life… and even gets passed down to their children.

As a result, individual and generational self-sufficiency may be jeopardized, and return to relief hastened, pushing welfare recipients back into poverty when they have a chance to climb out.

Solution: Repeal (or dramatic, equitable reform) of welfare liens is needed to ensure:

  1. Government resources and efforts are transparently, efficiently and effectively used
  2. The Department of Social Services adopts policies of restorative practices rather than deterrence (in line with departmental vision and mission), and
  3. Vulnerable individuals, families and communities are genuinely supported and obstacles to opportunity are removed.

Potential Talking Points:

  1. (Transparently, Efficiently and Effectiveness)
    Without transparency, no one knows how well the policy is working to recover budgetary dollars or to restore vulnerable families.

    • Even as far back as the enactment of Connecticut’s welfare lien policy (1969), critics called out the lack of protocols and protections to provide advanced notice of the lien/loan terms and transparency on the terms of repayment.
    • Since that time, there has been no disclaimers or information on the website to provide notice, and unlike traditional mortgages there is no easy way to track accruing debt or make early repayment.
  2. (Liens and Loans)
    The practice of welfare liens produces hidden, malignant mortgages and other dangers lying in wait for welfare recipients and their children. Every other state in America (except New York) has either repealed welfare liens or never adopted the policy in the first place, because the state budget should not be balanced on the back of our most vulnerable community members.
    • Since 1973, over 30 states repealed their welfare lien laws
    • CT recovers $30 million a year from former welfare recipients, adding another unnecessary barrier to breaking the cycle of poverty
    • Connecticut’s Annual Budget is $17 billion. Welfare liens account for less than 0.2% of CT’s budget.
  3. (Support for Vulnerable and  Populations)
    Available data from New York suggests that welfare lien policies chill rises to homeownership and negatively impact these voting populations:
    • Divorced women who received the home as the only asset in their divorce
    • Elderly individuals and their families seeking to sell the family home
    • Homeowners seeking to refinance to avoid foreclosure/obtain home equity loans

Sample Outline for Letter to your Senator and Representative

Dear Senator/Representative (find your rep/sen and their contact info at

  1. Introduce yourself and state that your congregation is a member of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance.
  3. Share why you support this bill. Draw from talking points above.
  4. Sign it with your name, home address, and phone number.