Po Mamaz California Budget Report

root - Posted on 01 January 2000

Po' Mamaz Research Project at POOR Magazine deconstruct the 2009 California budget impact on poor families in Califas

by Vivian Hain/PNN Po' Mamaz Research Project

As a poor mama who has barely made ends meet over the past few years on welfare while surviving houselessness, domestic violence, economic hardship and the system, I was disappointed and felt that my children were let down by our legislators who bought into the myth of the ‘true lies’ that the Governator has made against poor families and children in California.

The California State Senate has passed a budget bill with drastic cuts and changes to CalWORKs, better known to me as “Can’tWORKs”, as for the past year, I have struggled to find sustainable employment after attending two 4-8 week job readiness programs, including the CalWORKs sponsored ‘Job Club’, which failed to help me find a job in these tough economic times.

The cuts to CalWORKs included a suspension of ‘COLAs’ (cost-of-living adjustments), graduated sanctions on CalWORKs children; twice yearly “self-sufficiency reviews” with a caseworker; and a stricter time limit on aid. The California State Assembly also passed it (AB 8), which included the changes to CalWORKs in the budget bill. Here is a brief budget cut summary of the myth of ‘true lies’. So, this is my response to these cuts:

Increases Sanctions for Noncompliance, which allows for deeper grant reductions for noncompliant families than provided in current law. Establishes that if a sanctioned family continues to be noncompliant after a county intervention, the families grant (your children’s portion of the grant) would be reduced by 25 percent. If a family remained noncompliant, this sanction would grow to 50 percent of the total grant. This means that our children will be ‘penalized and punished’ for the welfare system’s inability to get low-income parents back to work, as they fail to give them the basic resources needed to get sustainable employment opportunities.

Self Sufficiency Reviews, which requires counties to conduct a self-sufficiency review six months after the determination of eligibility and after each annual re-determination. This is a waste of state funding that could be used to help families get the basic resources they need to seek sustainable employment through formal education and continual follow up for job readiness and career opportunities.

Time Limit Changes, which limit continuous eligibility for CalWORKs to 48 months, after this period the adult grant and CalWORKs services may not be provided for at least 12 months (1 whole year). Maintains current lifetime limit of 60 months of benefits. So, how are families supposed to exist for one whole year without any food, money or healthcare? How are they supposed to pay rent, have transportation, stay well, go to school, look for a job?

Cases on Aid for more than Sixty Months for all families that have been on aid for more than sixty months will see their child portion of the grant reduced by 25 percent, unless the family can demonstrate that they have met work requirements or are exempt from them. Counties would be required to conduct an intensive assessment of families entering the safety net. Honestly, I don’t understand how there can really be any ‘work requirements’, as my experience has been having a virtual ‘ghost’ for an employment counselor for the past few years, who I have never met or has never helped me with anything. And, after I completed ‘Job Club’, which was supposed to help me find employment, I was forgotten.

This budget also suspends automatic Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) for CalWORKs, which will have to be voted on every year. There has not been a Cost of Living Adjustment since 2004. Today, families on welfare in California receive just a little less in monthly cash-aid assistance than they did in 1989, yet inflation continued to rise with housing, gas and utility costs having drastically increased. What sense is this?

The only ‘sort of positive changes’ that were implemented in the budget regarding CalWORKs were:

The restoration of Child Care Services for CalWORKs families and families transitioning off CalWORKs, which the Governator wanted to ‘terminate’.

The rejection of the Governator’s proposal to increase family fees for childcare, which would have doubled fees for low income families.

Denied the Governator's proposal to eliminate funding for ROC/P and Adult Education CalWORKs Services.

And most importantly…. The Governator didn’t get his way being the ‘Terminator’ the entire welfare system, which was his original budget cut proposal. He failed to succeed in making California the first and only state in the union without a welfare ‘safety net’ system. It is time that the Governator is called out for continuing to be a ‘Predator’ of low-income families in California. The ‘Kindergarten Cop’ needs to quit telling ‘True Lies’ in order to balance the budget on California’s poor children!


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