As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose serious health and economic threats across our entire state, Governor Newsom and the Legislature have passed a state budget that avoids deep cuts to our safety net programs that are more important than ever. In fact, the budget makes several improvements and expansions to programs that impact the lives of many in our communities, including CalFresh, CalWORKs, and school meals.
Reductions in state revenues, combined with an increased demand for social safety net programs, has made the need for important federal investments apparent. While it is important that our State continue to invest in programs that help Californians to stay healthy, we will also continue to advocate for federal funding that is needed to ensure that these programs reach millions of Californians.
The agreement between the Governor and the Legislature avoids upwards of $2.2 billion in various budget cuts to human services related programs. It also delays possible triggers for cuts to human services programs in the future until at least July 2021.
Below is a list of anti-hunger and poverty highlights included in the 2020-2021 budget agreement announced on June 22 and signed by the Governor yesterday.
Investments in emergency food:
$8 million for CalFood, and $50 million for Emergency Food Boxes.
The budget includes unprecedented investments in the emergency food system, bringing much-needed resources to food banks and local partners given the sustained, record demand for food as a result of the health and economic crises created by COVID-19.
CalFresh: The budget makes several administrative improvements that advance long-standing CalFresh priorities, including using Medi-Cal data to identify eligible CalFresh households and provide pre-populated CalFresh application forms, advances client-friendly options to provide verifications that are often a barrier to access, creates a process to simplify the SAR-7 mid-period report that will reduce churn, authorizes greater modes of communication with CalFresh recipients, and seeks potential relief from overissuances. We thank the County Welfare Directors Association of California for their important work on these program improvements. The budget also limits counties’ CalFresh administrative costs, to prevent a counter-productive incentive for counties to reduce staff when more Californians rely on human services programs. The budget continues support for the expansion of CalFresh to SSI recipients, enrolling eligible older adults or people with disabilities.
Child nutrition funding: $112.2 million for operators of the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Seamless Summer Option, and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), that are serving meals during the COVID-19 school closures. We are hopeful that food banks and other non-profits who sponsor the SFSP will be eligible for a portion of this funding by identifying their increased costs, as part of their school partners overall higher costs incurred due to COVID-19.
SSI/SSP: Maintains current funding for SSI/SSP grants, and rejects the Governor’s May Revision proposal that would have withheld the 2021 cost of living adjustment.
CalEITC: Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit to Californians and small business owners with children under the age of six that file their taxes using ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). As a long standing member of the CalEITC coalition, we celebrate this important partial victory and look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to make the CalEITC available to every California household.
CalWORKs: Expands the CalWORKs program back to the 60 month time-clock that existed prior to the Great Recession, aligning with federal law to provide families the time they need to get back on their feet. We thank Senator Mitchell for her years of leadership to improve CalWORKs and eradicate deep child poverty in California.
Because the state tax deadline has been delayed to July 15, and the budget agreement relies on new federal support, the State may have to revisit the budget later this session. We will continue our federal advocacy for the provisions in the HEROES Act to support state and local governments, preventing cuts at a time of acute need while supporting economic recovery.
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