California Budget Continues to Boost Prisons, Lacks Definitive Commitment to Poor Communities
by Frank Tamborello, Hunger Action LA
Still time to chime in on some budget items—Safe Drinking Water : We highlight here the CalFresh Safe Water Initiative, a one time budget investment of $5 million to provide temporary supplemental benefits to purchase water for those residents in California without safe drinking water. Call Governor Jerry Brown at (916) 445-2841 and urge them to support this. Sample wording:
“I’m calling to support the Legislature’s $5 million CalFresh Safe Water one-time budget investment to provide temporary, supplemental nutrition assistance to residents without safe drinking water. CalFresh would deliver temporary benefits to alleviate the cost of buying water when the public water system is consistently unsafe. People shouldn’t have to choose between buying water or food. We need effective temporary solutions when residents wait years for permanent infrastructure improvements that bring safe water.”
From California Partnership:* The California budget makes a few positive changes in the Health and Human Services sector, but still lacks definitive commitment to funding and investments in CA’s poor and marginalized communities.
California Earned Income Credit:* Some good news is that the $125 billion budget expands California’s 1 year old Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor people. Adults with three children are eligible if they earn less than $14,161 a year. The deal will lift the threshold to about $22,000 and allow people to qualify even if their income is from self-employment, such as driving for ride-sharing companies.
Corrections budget grows even larger
While several social safety net programs have either taken a cut or remained stagnant in funding, the Corrections’ Budget only seems to get bigger. The state corrections budget is more than $11 billion, California will soon have the dubious distinction of spending more than $75,000 per inmate. That’s up from the $71,000 per inmate California spends now and roughly $26,000 more than the state spent per inmate in 2010-11, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
CalWORKs remains underfunded. In 2017-18, total funding for CalWORKs from all funding sources will have decreased by more than $400 million relative to 2014 15, largely due to declining caseloads. This program is already extremely underfunded and will only continue to keep poor and working class families in an abysmal cycle of poverty.
The proposed budget does not include any increased funding for its portion of the SSI/SSP grants for seniors and people with disabilities, who remain below 100% of the poverty level. However, the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that total maximum monthly SSI/SSP grants will increase by $15.44. which would come from the pass-through of an anticipated increase in the federal portion of the grant. While this may be the case in the short term, the federal government controlled by the safety-net-slashing Republicans is pondering a budget that would likely include reductions in SSI funding. It’s important that if the state is not going to help this vulnerable population, our representatives need to advocate fervently at the federal level to keep even further rollbacks from happening.
(Based on releases by Mary Koharchick, Erick Lemus, Jared McCreary, Jeff Green, Karen Kandamby, Maribel Nunez and Ipyani Lockert, with additional comment thrown in.)