Makes Historic Investments in California’s Nutrition Safety Net & Significant Steps Toward a Hunger-Free Future
Late last night, Governor Newsom signed AB 129, the 2021 Budget Act. This landmark legislation includes a range of investments that will make sweeping steps towards fighting hunger in our state. We thank Governor Newsom and the Legislature for prioritizing low-income Californians and using the State’s unprecedented surplus to fuel a more equitable economic and pandemic recovery, and build toward a hunger-free future for all Californians.
We are elated and thankful that the Governor heard our call, and included all of our primary requests in the State Budget. The simple fact is that the hunger crisis is far from over: right now, 2,690,000 adults and 806,000 children report experiencing the most critical form of hunger, This is nearly 11% of Californians, nearly triple the pre-pandemic rate. Food banks and the millions of Californians we serve need continued support.
In addition to providing ongoing support to our state’s food banks, the Budget makes historic investments in school meals for all, supplemental security income (SSI), and other programs that address causes of hunger.
We offer our sincere thanks to Governor Newsom, Budget Chairs Senator Skinner and Assemblymember Ting, Speaker Rendon, Pro Tem Atkins, the Budget Subcommittee Chairs, and our legislative champions who have been true leaders on these critical issues.
“Budgets are statements of values, and this budget makes transformational investments in the programs that make ending hunger plausible. We appreciate all that Governor Newsom and Legislature continues to do to support hungry Californians through the hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Food banks know first hand that hunger persists long after economic recovery begins, and thankfully this budget makes long-term investments that take steps toward a hunger-free future for California.” Andrew Cheyne, director of government affairs
Here is a partial summary of anti-hunger investments in the 2021 Budget Act:
- Emergency food $110M one-time for food banks COVID-19 response – (Sen. Laird & Asm. Wicks) + $8M for food banks to purchase California produce food
- Food bank capacity (Asm. Daly) & climate resilience (Sen. Newman & Asm. Villapudua) – $182M one-time to ensure food banks can meet the need and remain operational during disasters
- Healthy food donation tax credit – 5-year extension for donations of food to food banks (Sen. Eggman & Asm. Levine)
- School meals for all (Sen. Skinner, Asm. McCarty & Luz Rivas)
- First-in-the-nation legislation ensures access to free school breakfast and lunch for all students, support healthy California grown foods, and invest in school nutrition workforce and kitchens
- State Supplementary Payment (SSP) grants – by 2023, restore the cuts of the Great Recession.
- We renew our call to end poverty for SSI recipients, raising grants to at least 100% of the current federal poverty level
- Prevent the lifetime loss of food aid in the CalFresh Expansion Transitional Nutrition Benefit hold harmless program
- Diaper assistance program – $30M expand the successful program (Asm. Lorena Gonzalez)
- Menstrual products pilot – $2M to distribute through food banks (Asm. Christina Garcia)
- Permanent sales tax exemption for diapers and period products
- Expansion of the California Food Assistance Program to advance food for all (Sen. Hurtado)
- Many CalFresh investments, including:
- Simplified application for seniors and telephonic access (Sen. Wiener)
- Equitable Consumer Compensation so low-income Californians are adequately compensated for participating in the user-centered design process creating the new CalFresh web portal (Asm. Calderon)
- Support for counties to continue the CalFresh expansion to higher education students and implement CalFresh program simplifications
- College student support, including:
- Provides basic needs centers at community colleges, as well as support for basic needs at California State Universities – $30M ongoingCollege students
- Overhaul of the financial aid awards to advance debt-free community colleges and California State University access for low-income students
- Affordable student housing to fight student homelessness – $2 billion
- Several improvements to CalWORKs including raising the income disregard and improving aid to pregnant mothers. CAFB renews our call to fulfill the agreement to increase grants so that no family lives in deep poverty
- Advance health equity through health for all older adults, eliminating the asset test penalizing “senior savings,” and other improvements in Medi-Cal
- Several improvements to child care, including more than 200,000 slots and restoring funding for meals served in child care
- More than $12 billion to fight homelessness and build affordable housing
- And many more wins that eliminate fines, reduce debt, and improve reentry that have proven to trap low-income families in food insecurity
A full summary of the budget agreement is available here, and many of these investments will be passed and implemented through subsequent trailer bill legislation.
Despite the combined impact of these proposals, we were disappointed not to see AB 221 (Santiago) included. This would provide food benefits to immigrant Californians excluded from CalFresh. This is still greatly needed given the ongoing, chilling effect of public charge. We applaud Asm. Santiago’s leadership and the bipartisan support for the bill, and ask that this be enacted.
We call on President Biden, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, and the Congressional delegation to follow California’s lead and adopt healthy school meals for all and enact EBT during school breaks and disasters to prevent children from going hungry,
Access to food is a fundamental right, and while there’s still much work to do to achieve this for all Californians, this budget is a significant step toward that reality.
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