This morning Governor Newsom released his May Revise of the 2023-24 state budget plan, which outlines his priorities and vision for California. We are very grateful for the many proposals to address significant challenges California is facing today, including the unprecedented CalFresh benefits cliff and resulting hunger crisis. We urge the Governor and budget leaders to continue to proactively invest in programs to help fight hunger and poverty — which otherwise may lead to a rise in food insecurity that could last a decade.
Hunger is again on the rise, with over 1 in 5 households impacted, and a disproportionate impact experienced in Black and Latine communities. It is more important than ever to ensure that low-income Californians are centered in the State budget so that we can continue to build on the tremendous investments that prevented a full-scale hunger crisis through the pandemic.
In March, CalFresh recipients — more than 5 million Californians — received their last Emergency Allotment, which provided a critical boost to their benefits throughout the COVID-19 crisis. And this summer, California will issue the final installment of the highly impactful Pandemic EBT benefits, as a result of the ending of the Federal Public Health Emergency status. In total, the end of these two Federally funded benefits programs represents a loss of one third of the meals in California’s food safety net, and we are already seeing the impact of this at food banks who are reporting alarming spikes in demand throughout their communities.
We are grateful to Governor Newsom for protecting investments in many important anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that support millions of Californians every day:
- 加州食品: $60 million one-time, enabling food banks to distribute California grown foods. We are incredibly grateful for this investment and ask that food banks are supported in this way every year going forward.
- School Meals for All: More than $300 million in new investments to fully implement and ensure free school meals for all children.
- Summer EBT: $47 million for implementation in 2024, for outreach and automation costs to phase in the new federal Summer EBT program for children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals beginning summer 2024.
- CalFresh and CalWORKs EBT theft protection: $76.5 million for technology and EBT card upgrades to prevent EBT theft and skimming.
- Reimbursement of Skimmed EBT CalFresh Benefits: $42.9 million for administering and automating California’s plan to restore stolen benefits.
- Food 4 All: $40 million for an accelerated implementation so that California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) benefits can be issued starting October 2025, instead of January 2027.
- SSI / SSP： Grant increase of 8.6%, effective January 2024.
- CalWORKs： Grant increase of 3.6% to Maximum Aid Payment levels, effective October 2023.
In addition to these important priorities, we call on budget leaders to include the following priorities that are critical to mitigating hunger:
- Climate & Capacity Resiliency ($180 million one-time): Current one-time capacity and climate needs total more than $500 million. An investment of $180 million one-time is needed to expand capacity and improve facilities for local food banks, so that they can meet community need for food, and to be resilient in a changing climate to make sure food is available when communities need it most.
- State Disaster Food Assistance Program (SDFAP): SDFAP helps California to be responsive during times of disaster — and once the current supply of 1,000 boxes of food runs out, it will cease to operate. SDFAP needs to be made permanent and placed in the Welfare and Institutions Code where the state’s other emergency food programs reside.
- Diapers, Wipes and Menstrual Products ($60 million one-time): One-time funding is needed to sustain the eight State-funded diaper banks in California, two of which are also part of the Menstrual Products Pilot. In addition, this would allow an expansion to three additional food banks, and would allow all 11 to continue distributing diapers, wipes, and menstrual products.
- CalFresh Minimum Benefits: Currently, CalFresh minimum benefits are a meager $23 per person per month — barely enough to buy a loaf of bread, gallon of milk, and a dozen eggs. Benefits must be raised to at least $50. We are grateful that this proposal was included in the Senate Budget Plan.
The May Revise proposes a withdrawal of $450 million from the Safety Net Reserve. Health and human services investments should instead come from other reserves: the purpose of the Safety Net Reserve is for spikes in enrollment, which we do not currently have but may still occur, especially given the projection for a potential recession.
As we look to final budget negotiations in the weeks ahead, we call on Governor Newsom and the Legislature to act boldly and commit to investing in our state’s network of food banks, emergency food providers, and safety net programs as we work together to mitigate hunger.
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