Earlier this week, the Senate released their powerful Senate Budget Plan. We applaud Senator Skinner, Pro Tem Atkins, and the entire Senate Budget leadership for the inclusion of many important priorities that will be critical in ensuring that the wellbeing of California’s most vulnerable residents are at the heart of our state budget.
In particular, we are grateful for the recognition of the ongoing and unprecedented strain on the state’s network of food banks and emergency food providers, particularly given the multiple fronts of COIVD-19-related demand and climate-fueled disasters that have spiked community need for food. The Senate Budget Plan includes $180 million to expand capacity and improve facilities for local food banks, so that they can meet community need for food, as well as to build resiliency in a changing climate. It’s essential for food banks to be able to meet the ongoing, increased demand for food, as well as be prepared and stay operational when communities need them most. The Budget Plan also includes permanent authorization for the State Disaster Food Assistance Program (SDFAP) to ensure that there is an adequate resource to respond to California’s disasters that often force families to make life-saving decisions overnight.
In addition to these investments, we are asking for augmentations to the proven and critically important CalFood program that enables California food banks to purchase healthy, California grown foods. We are requesting a total of $120 million in the 2022-23 budget to meet this need:
- $52 million augmentation to the $8 million ongoing base annual for CalFood, and;
- $10 million one-time (augmentation to the $50 million in the Governor’s January Budget Proposal for 2022-23).
Hunger remains alarmingly high even as the COVID-19 pandemic surges subside in California, and the larger economic and social impact will no doubt be felt for years to come. The latest data shows that 8 million Californians – or 20% of our population – are experiencing food insecurity, with deep disparities for Black and Latinx people.
At the same time, we are facing a dangerous federal food and benefits cliff. While the federal government provided a robust initial response to the COVID-19 crisis, food banks experienced a federal food cliff of more than 83% from 2020 to 2022 and a 45% drop just from 2021 to 2022. And as we approach the end of the federal Public Health Emergency as early as mid-July, people receiving SNAP (CalFresh) benefits are expected to lose on average $82 per month when Emergency Allotments sunset. This is compounded by record-setting food price inflation, from pandemic related supply shocks and other market disruptions.
Given the stark reality for millions of Californians struggling to make ends meet, we applaud the Senate Budget Plan for prioritizing programs that are critical to ensuring people have the food and resources they need to survive, and are calling for additional investments.
Support & Expand CalFresh:
- $284 million beginning in 2023-24 to build upon last year’s expansion of the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) regardless of immigration status, to expand to all ages.
- REQUEST: We also respectfully request additional state funding to ensure that CalFresh benefits are available for people who would otherwise be excluded:
- For people with Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) status that would be subject to being cut off of CalFresh due to the unfair and counterproductive 3-month time-limit work requirement, and;
- For households living on Indian Reservations that are ineligible for CalFresh benefits solely because they elect to receive USDA Foods through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).
- REQUEST: State funding for a CalFresh Emergency Allotment ramp-down approach that will continue to boost CalFresh benefits for households for several months after the federal Public Health Emergency ends.
- REQUEST: State funding to create and maintain a regularly updated, interactive dashboard for CalFresh among college students.
Further Improve School Meals for All & Education:
- Funding to ensure successful implementation of programs established in the 2021 Budget, including Universal School Meals, school facilities, and home-to-school transportation.
- REQUEST: We urge additional investments to fulfill the policy goal of ensuring that children do not experience hunger, including establishment of the Better Out Of School Time (BOOST) program for when schools are closed, ensuring secure and understandable data collection forms are available for families both electronically and as hard copies, ensuring children have adequate time to eat, and providing two meals daily unless waiver approved.
We applaud Senate budget leaders for several bold priorities to support the economic wellbeing of people and families who are struggling to make ends meet.
- Supplemental one-time monthly grant for CalWORKs families and SSI/SSP recipients, to ensure Californians struggling the most benefit, and a grant program for other low-income Californians who are not income tax filers.
- $300 million to take the final two steps to ensure No Child Lives In Deep Poverty through CalWORKs grant increases.
- $150 million to accelerate second step SSI/SSP increase, approved in the 2021-22 Budget Act to April 1, 2023.
- $150 million to end the practice of taking child support payments from struggling families.
- $400 million ongoing to provide a minimum CalEITC credit of $255 to all recipients, providing more benefit to our lowest income earners.
- Phase in expansions of targeted tax programs that support families, such as the Young Child Tax Credit and the Renters Tax Credit.
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