With increased unemployment and poverty brought on by the continuing economic downturn, more individuals and families are relying on public programs for food assistance, health coverage, income support, and other services. This rising demand comes at a time when budgets at all levels of government are stretched thin.
Last week in Sacramento, CBP Executive Director Jean Ross participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) that looked at the condition of – and challenges facing – California’s safety net in the wake of the Great Recession. Moderated by David Lesher, PPIC director of government affairs, the panel featured Jean along with Caroline Danielson, PPIC policy fellow (pictured here) and Bruce Wagstaff, countywide services agency administrator for Sacramento County. The full video is below.
In the mid-1990s, Congress “ended welfare as we know it,” putting in motion a bipartisan effort in California to create a new welfare-to-work program – CalWORKs – with a strong work incentive, a broad range of work-related activities, a safety net for children, and child care and other supportive services to help low-income families transition from welfare to work. California designed a program that helps many low-income parents find jobs and overcome barriers to employment, while providing families with basic monthly assistance that primarily supports more than 1 million children – who make up more than three-quarters of the CalWORKs caseload.
Rather than preserving or building on these program strengths, however, Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed significant reductions to CalWORKs, including deep cuts to cash assistance and the elimination of eligibility for recent legal immigrants. In addition, the Governor proposes to eliminate CalWORKs if the federal government does not provide California with $6.9 billion in new funds to help close the state’s budget shortfall. Two CBP fact sheets released today document the local impact of the Governor’s CalWORKs proposals, which come at a time when Californians continue to struggle with the impact of the deepest and longest recession since the 1930s. Our analyses – by county and legislative district – show that the Governor’s proposal to cut monthly payments by 15.7 percent would reduce or eliminate cash assistance for more than 1.4 million low-income children and their parents by a total of nearly $650 million between June 2010 and June 2011.
Our analyses also show that eliminating CalWORKs as of October 1, 2010 would cause California to lose three-quarters ($2.8 billion) of the state’s federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant in 2010-11, and to lose our entire annual $3.7 billion TANF block grant every year thereafter. California would also be at risk of losing more than $500 million in 2010-11 from a new federal pot of money established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that Congress is considering extending into 2011.
California made big cuts to safety-net programs even as the demand for services rose with the recession. In a new podcast, CBP Senior Policy Analyst Scott Graves talks about the cuts that were made in the February and July budget agreements and why they may be difficult to restore soon.