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Safety Net Needed to Keep California’s Families Afloat

Our effort to end hunger doesn’t stop with bags of groceries for our neighbors in need — we also work toward policies that will create a culture in which hunger can be eradicated. These days, stopping cuts to our safety net are our top priority. Food Bankers, pantry and soup kitchen volunteers and staff, nutritionists, food bank supporters, homelessness service providers and others from across the state concerned about the more than 7 million Californians experiencing hunger marched and spoke to legislators on May 17 for Hunger Action Day. We made known that California can do better than a budget that asks only that our children, seniors and people with disabilities sacrifice again and again.

Hunger Action Day opening remarks

This year, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano along with the Monument Crisis Center, Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church food pantry and a community advocate volunteer joined 400 other California Hunger Action Coalition (CHAC) advocates at the Capitol. We heard personal stories from people who have benefited from the very programs the governor proposes to cut. Without the safety net their families would not have been able to improve their situations and make a better life for themselves. One woman had experienced a time of homelessness and through CalWORKS was able to go back to school. It was amazing to hear how she turned her situation around with a little help and she even earned her Bachelor’s degree.

Rally around the Capitol (photo by Monument Crisis Center staff)

Our group had 7 meetings with legislative staffers and asked our representatives to protect the most vulnerable among us — the children, seniors and working families we serve each day. The response we got each time was the Assemblymember/Senator supports what you are saying but it is going to be tough.

That’s why we need your help. Even if you weren’t able to join us in Sacramento yesterday, you can get involved now! Please help us send a CLEAR message to Governor Brown to save our safety net.

Governor Brown has proposed drastic cuts to our safety net programs, particularly CalWORKS, which would instantly cut 100,000 children out of the safety net and reduce families’ grants to what they were in the 1980s if his proposal is enacted. We need to stand up for our communities and fight against policies that balance our state budget on the backs of children, seniors and working-class families.

Use the sample email below to send a message to Governor Brown. You can contact him through his website. Please let him know what you think about his budget cuts and advocate for a budget that isn’t balanced on the backs of low-income children, seniors and the disabled.

Sample letter

Governor Brown,

Over 400 advocates from across the state went to Sacramento on May 17 to stand up against hunger, and call on you and the Legislature to stand down on your attacks against California’s safety net.

After three years and $15 billion in cuts to vital social programs, it is unconscionable to allow California’s safety net to be further dismantled at a time when our families need it most. When a family’s income falls short, the first place they cut is their food budget, leading to unacceptable hunger throughout our state.
Stop allowing the California’s child poverty rate to continue to climb dangerously and keep all Californians afloat. It’s just the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

Your name

Thank you to all the amazing advocates for their passion, energy and heart on Hunger Action Day and every day. It was an amazing experience and I hope you will join us next year!

If you want to learn more about the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s advocacy efforts and how you can help, please contact me at lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.

Governor Releases May Revision to 2012-2013 State Budget

The following is an excerpt from the California Budget Project’s report: Governor Releases May Revision: Tax Collections Down and Deeper Cuts Proposed, Highlighting Need for a Balanced Approach With Significant Additional Revenues. We have included information about cuts to the two programs most likely to impact Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano clients directly: CalWORKS and Medi-Cal.To read the full report, visit http://cbp.org/pdfs/2012/120514_May_Revise.pdf.

Governor Jerry Brown released the May Revision to his proposed 2012-13 budget on May 14. The May Revision updates policy proposals, revenue projections, and estimated expenditures for the current year as well as the upcoming budget year, which begins on July 1. The May Revision estimates a two-year budget gap of $15.7 billion, up from a $9.2 billion gap as estimated in January. The May Revision identifies lower-than-anticipated tax collections as the primary cause of the widening gap. The Governor outlines $16.7 billion in “solutions” to close the budget gap and provide a $1.0 billion reserve. Spending reductions make up nearly half ($8.3 billion) of the “solutions.”

In addition, the May Revision assumes that voters pass a tax measure that the Governor is attempting to place on the November 2012 ballot. The measure would temporarily increase personal income tax rates on very-high-income Californians and boost the sales tax rate by one-quarter cent, raising an estimated $8.5 billion in 2011-12 and 2012-13 combined. The May Revision specifies $6.1 billion in spending cuts – primarily to schools, colleges, and universities – that would automatically take effect in January 2013 if voters do not approve the proposed tax measure in November.

Regardless of whether voters pass the tax measure, the May Revision proposes deeper cuts to the Medi-Cal and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) programs than those proposed in January. The May Revision also includes new proposals to reduce spending on state employee compensation by more than $400 million and to use the “cash assets” of redevelopment agencies – entities that were eliminated in February of this year – in order to offset $1.4 billion in state spending for schools and community colleges in 2012-13.

The Governor’s $16.7 billion in budget “solutions” include:

  • $8.3 billion in spending reductions, including a $1.2 billion cut to Medi-Cal, an $879.9 million reduction to the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program, and deep cuts to IHSS, child care, the courts, and the Cal Grant college financial aid program;
  • $5.9 billion in additional revenues, nearly all of which is attributable to the proposed tax measure;
  • $2.5 billion in fund shifts, loan payment deferrals, borrowing from special funds, and other onetime measures; and
  • A $1.0 billion reserve.

The following update provides a “quick and dirty” summary of key provisions of the May Revision.

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program

The May Revision includes most of the deep cuts proposed in January for the CalWORKs Program, which provides cash assistance for 1.1 million low-income children while helping parents to find jobs and overcome barriers to employment. The May Revision retains the Governor’s proposed CalWORKs restructuring, while making modifications that reduce the 2012-13 cuts to $879.9 million, slightly less than the $946.2 million reduction proposed in January.

Medi-Cal Program

The May Revision maintains the Governor’s January proposal to shift more than 1 million seniors and people with disabilities who currently qualify for both Medi-Cal and Medicare – so-called “dual eligibles” – from fee-for-service Medi-Cal into managed care. However, the May Revision modifies or clarifies the original proposal in a number of ways, including phasing in the integration of long-term care services as each county transitions into managed care, delaying the implementation date from January 1 to March 1, 2013, and specifying that IHSS participants would continue to “select and direct” their home care provider. The proposal, as modified by the May Revision, is estimated to reduce state spending by $663.3 million in 2012-13 and by $887 million per year when fully implemented. However, budget documents indicate that implementation would depend on achieving a “six-month stable enrollment period,” as well as on securing an agreement with the federal government that would allow the state to share 50 percent of the Medicare savings that result from this proposal.