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Author: Courtney McKinney

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Tens of thousands of Californians in limbo as eviction protections end

“Tenants are facing eviction even as their landlords are given these giant checks and tenants who are eligible for assistance are being denied with these cryptic notices that don’t tell them why. It just doesn’t make sense,” said Madeline Howard, a senior staff attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty, one of the groups suing the state over the program.”

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Western Center Roundup – June 2022

The ups and downs of June…


Freedom & Roe v. Wade

June is a month to celebrate progress and the pride that comes when people have the freedom to be their true, whole selves. Pride month and Juneteenth are celebrations of hard-fought freedoms. That is what June is supposed to be about…

With the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, it’s clear who is most impacted – people with low incomes and people of color, as with most harmful policies cast down from ideological, top-down “leadership.” In a blog post this month by Dalyn Smith, Western Center’s undergraduate intern, Dalyn discusses the intersections between abortion and poverty as well as California’s lesser known access issues. Californians are fortunate that abortion is mostly protected here, but accessibility is still a problem for many people in this state, and it may get worse as people from other states come for help.

Dalyn’s post also points to Western Center’s continued advocacy to address racial disparities in maternal health and morbidity – specifically our work to implement California’s new maternal and infant health laws (SB 65: the California Momnibus Act), which we helped pass last year. That work includes efforts to ensure parents have access to resources like midwives, doulas, and culturally competent care. And of course, we are always working to make sure parents in California have the resources they need to care for their children.


Faster food assistance in LA & our second lawsuit against CA HCD

In Western Center litigation news, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted this month to enter into a permanent injunction to stop the processing delays for emergency food benefits that we and our partners sued the county for back in November. This marks an important win in the fight against hunger in Los Angeles. Find out more here.

This month Western Center and our partners also filed a second lawsuit against California’s Department of Housing and Community Development on behalf of tenant groups (we filed the first last month). The latest suit accuses the department of discrimination and denying Californians due process in the application process for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Learn more about the case here.


Good news! New Western Center staff

Fortunately, we have more good news to share from the Western Center front: the addition of new staff members on our development team! In the past month we welcomed our new Director of Philanthropy, Heather Masterton, our first Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships, Lawrence Haynes, and our Development Coordinator, Cinthya Martinez – all based in Los Angeles. We are beyond excited to have them on Western Center’s team ushering us into a new season with a spirit of collaboration and ethical stewardship. Learn more about Heather, Lawrence, and Cinthya here!


 

Western Center’s Overview of the Final 2022-2023 California State Budget

The governor and legislature have reached an agreement on the 2022-23 state budget, which includes a historic $100 billion budget surplus. Amid substantial inflation and continued economic fallout from the pandemic, the reason for the massive surplus must be named. California has 189 billionaires and counting, and substantially more extremely high-income households that do not have the same economic burdens as the 1 in 3 Californians living near or below the poverty line. Only fundamental reforms, including for seemingly untouchable issues like discriminatory tax laws, can address the significant disparities in our state. One-time investments targeting people with low incomes during flush budget years are good, but ongoing, dedicated investments are the only way to make the state better.

Despite concerns that surplus revenue would make it difficult to fund General Fund programs, the budget deal includes substantial General Fund investments. The budget also provides tax rebates to millions of Californians, with the majority going to Californians with incomes below $75,000. Even with that spending and many other investments, the state will have a $37 billion reserve.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE/ FINES & FEES

Civil Assessments – The budget substantially reforms court practices that result in tens of millions of dollars in penalties imposed on people who fail to pay traffic and criminal court fines on time or who fail to appear in court. The current $300 civil assessment is being reduced to $100. The budget agreement also discharges civil assessment debt that accrued prior to the change in law. This means tens of thousands of people will no longer have to make payments on that debt or be harassed by bill collectors. The budget also shifts all future civil assessment revenue to the state General Fund rather than to the courts. The past practice led to lawsuits alleging that judges are incentivized to impose the maximum assessment to increase court revenue. The civil assessment language will be subject to completion in August via budget trailer bill.

Tax Intercepts – The budget includes a change to the longstanding practice by the state of intercepting Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Young Child Tax Credits (YCTC) for unpaid debts. Going forward, the state’s Franchise Tax Board will no longer intercept such payments except in cases of child support or restitution.

FINANCIAL SECURITY/ FOOD ACCESS

CalWORKs – The CalWORKs budget provides a 21 percent increase in CalWORKs grants, the largest since the program began in 1998. It eliminates deep poverty for CalWORKs households of families of four or more. Deep poverty includes households with incomes below 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Level by family size. For smaller families that get tax rebates, their income will also be above the deep poverty threshold. The increase will begin on October 1, 2022 for the next two budgets, but must be renewed in 2024 when an additional grant increase will also be under consideration. Below is an estimated chart of the grants starting in October.

Child Support Pass Through – The budget includes a major change in child support policy by allowing families that receive a child support payment to receive all of it and not have it re-directed to the state and federal government to reimburse the cost for public benefits. This will begin in 2025. Currently, a CalWORKs family only gets child support for the first $100 for one child and $200 for two or more children. The governor proposed to pass through all child support to former CalWORKs households in the January budget proposal, and the legislature succeeded in expanding that into a full pass through of all child support, making California the second state in the country to do so. It is estimated that this will result in $430 million in payments going directly to families.

Food for All – The budget includes an additional $35.2 million, increasing the total to $113.4 million to expand the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to all Californians 55 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status. California will become the first state to provide food assistance to ensure all residents 55+ can access food. We will continue to work with our partners, the governor, and the legislature in future budgets to ensure all Californians have access to food.

SSI/SSP – The budget includes another increase for the state SSP grant of approximately $37/month. This will begin in January 2023. When combined with the anticipated 8.6 percent increase in the federal grant, the total grant comes to approximately $1,149, an increase of $107/month. While this grant increase is substantial, the grant is still below the federal poverty level for one person at approximately 98 percent.

Tax Rebates – The budget provides $9.5 billion in tax rebates. For families with incomes below $75,000 and who file taxes, a single person will get $350, a two-person household will get $700, and households of three or more will receive $1,050. People using ITIN tax filer status will be eligible but people receiving SSI will not be eligible. Unlike the proposal by the governor to distribute tax rebates to registered car owners via the DMV, the agreement instead utilizes the Franchise Tax Board to distribute payments. Currently, it is projected payments should arrive by October. These funds will benefit families on CalWORKs, CalFresh, and Medi-Cal if they filed tax returns.

Universal School Meals – Building upon the state’s historic investment in providing school meals for all students in California, this year’s budget provides 700 million in additional dollars to support school meals for all, with a focus on best practices and kitchen infrastructure. This funding will contribute to California students getting access to healthier options for school meals.

HEALTH CARE

Medi-Cal Expansion – The budget agreement includes notable health care investments including expansion of Medi-Cal to all adults regardless of immigration status (Health4All), with an implementation date ‘no later’ than January 1, 2024. It’s estimated that the expansion will result in roughly 700,000+ people becoming newly eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal at ongoing cost of $2.3 billion.

Medi-Cal Reform – The budget also reforms Medi-Cal share-of-cost so elders and people with disabilities can afford necessary Medi-Cal services and provides continuous Medi-Cal coverage for children up to age five. Both reforms have a delayed implementation date of January 1, 2025 and are subject to a budget appropriation at that time. The budget also zeroes out Medi-Cal premiums, expands Medi-Cal coverage of custom crowns for back teeth, and increases the Medi-Cal doula reimbursement.

Additionally, the budget provides navigator funding, Covered CA state premium subsidy funding, and establishes the Office of Health Care Affordability. More details of this budget’s health care investments can be found at Western Center’s updated 2022 Health Budget Scorecard.

HOUSING

As California faces dwindling affordable housing stock, skyrocketing rent increases, and as thousands of Californians wait for promised rent relief via the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), state leaders mostly funded existing programs in this budget and failed to make housing investments at the scale needed to tackle the housing crisis.

Eviction Prevention – Billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance have been requested, but the legislature capped assistance previously promised in SB 115 at $1.95 billion, while increasing application denials for unclear reasons. As such, this budget provides $30 million in increased funding for legal aid eviction defense to represent the thousands of tenants who will likely face eviction due to the state’s inability to properly manage ERAP.

Homelessness – This budget will result in more displacement of people experiencing homelessness with increased funding for encampment sweeps: $300 million for 2022-2023 and $400 million for 2023-24. There are no meaningful investments in permanent housing for our unhoused neighbors. This budget also does not include investments for AB 1816 (Bryan) to go toward workforce development and permanent supportive housing for people who were recently incarcerated and experiencing or at risk of homelessness; rather, this budget funds temporary programs that often contribute to a revolving door of recidivism. However, this budget does finally invest in a program created nearly eight years ago for veterans and their families experiencing homelessness by allocating $50 million to Proposition 41 (2014).

Affordable Housing – This budget makes a $2 billion multiyear investment in affordable housing. The budget allocates $150 million over two years to preserve California’s existing highly prized and disappearing affordable housing stock. Since many Californians rely on mobile and manufactured homes for affordable housing, the budget invests $100 million over two years for mobile and manufactured homes. In an attempt to add to California’s affordable housing stock, the budget allocates $250 million for the Housing Accelerator Program to build affordable housing where builders can’t access tax credits, as well as $325 million over two years for the Multifamily Housing Program, two critical programs that deserve a larger investment. The budget allocates $425 million over two years for the Infill infrastructure grant program for capital improvement projects and $410 million over two years for Adaptive Reuse to convert buildings into housing, including a $10 million appropriation of existing funding. There is also an additional investment of $50 million for ADU financing on existing lots. While greatly needed, this funding should come with more requirements for the creation of affordable units for households with low and extremely low incomes.

Homeownership – Since homeownership is nearly impossible for many first-time homebuyers in California, particularly for non-white people whose generational wealth was stripped due to intentionally racist housing policies, this budgets makes a commitment to assist first-time homebuyers by establishing the California Dream for All program, providing $500 million to assist first-time homebuyers with lower down payments, more than 1/3 reduction in monthly mortgage payments, and $350 million over two years for the CalHome program.

Housing for Farmworkers – This budget invests in farmworkers, whose hard labor keeps many of us fed, by appropriating $50 million for the Joe Serna Jr. Farmworker Housing Program. The program is intended to construct and rehabilitate housing for farm workers who often live in hazardous and uninhabitable housing conditions.

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For a PDF of this analysis, click here. For questions contact:

Access to Justice & Financial Security

Health Care

Housing & Homelessness

 

 

Auditor slams state developmental services agency

“The Western Center on Law & Poverty in November filed a lawsuit against the Harbor Regional Center in Los Angeles on behalf of a group of Latino parents, alleging racial discrimination and arguing the center failed to meet children’s needs during the pandemic when schools and day programs shut down.”

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1 in 3 applications denied California rent relief money, thousands still waiting

“People who are eligible for rental assistance are being harmed by these denials,” said Attorney Madeline Howard with Western Center on Law and Poverty who’s leading the lawsuit. “I think there’s some lack of understanding of how quickly evictions move and how many people are facing eviction because they’re not getting the rental assistance in time.”

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Meet Western Center’s Newest Staff Members!

We are excited to welcome Heather Masterton, Lawrence Haynes, and Cinthya Martinez to Western Center’s development team!

“As Western Center works to adopt community-centric fundraising principles, our new Philanthropy/Development Team will build on our strong foundation and lead the expansion of our donor community to be even more aligned with our commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice. The members of this fundraising team are champions for racial equity whose approach to philanthropy centers a racial justice and equity lens. I am confident in their ability to help take Western Center to higher heights as we continue to positively impact the lives of our sisters, brothers, and gender expansive community members with low incomes and/or low wealth across California.”

-Crystal D. Crawford, Western Center’s Executive Director 


Heather Masterton is Western Center’s new Director of Philanthropy. Heather is the driving force behind Western Center’s fundraising — planning and organizing Western Center’s development activities, and ensuring clarity and collaboration between the development team, leadership, advocates, and the finance department. She is based in Los Angeles.

Heather is a seasoned fundraising and communications professional with 26 years of experience working in the nonprofit field to ensure safe housing and a strong safety net for survivors of gender   based violence. She holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification and has successfully secured over $40M to support transformative programming and policy change in the areas of gender, racial, and economic justice.

Prior to joining Western Center, Heather served as the Chief Strategic Engagement Officer at YWCA Glendale and Pasadena where she oversaw the Mission Advancement and Community Engagement teams, directed the organization’s fundraising and communications work, and co-led local policy initiatives, which included drafting and mobilizing support for the unanimous passage of Glendale’s historic Sundown Town Resolution and the establishment of the City’s first Tenant Landlord Ad-Hoc Committee. Her past leadership roles include: Vice President of Development for Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation, a national nonprofit focused on ending domestic violence and sexual assault, Executive Director of South Valley Sanctuary, a 57-bed domestic violence shelter program in Utah, and Director of Development for Peace Over Violence, LA’s first rape crisis and domestic violence support center.

Heather holds a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies with a Minor in Public Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Heather is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and is a founding board member of the nonprofit, The Good Deed Corps, which works to eliminate barriers to voting through wrap-around voter registration and education campaigns in Texas and Georgia


Lawrence Haynes is Western Center’s first Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships, based in Los Angeles. In his role, Lawrence develops and implements strategic partnerships with corporations, foundations, and major donors on behalf of Western Center.

Lawrence is an experienced practitioner in advocacy, strategic partnerships, and program development. Driven by a passion for bringing people and purpose together, he takes pride in helping people actualize personal and professional growth. Lawrence’s passion for advocacy can be traced back to when he spent significant time assisting nonprofit organizations with structural changes, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and programming that amplified the need to address systemic disparities.

Before joining Western Center, Lawrence served as the Development and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. He worked directly with clients to forge new partnerships and served on the grant writing team, which helped to secure grants of up to $300,000. Lawrence also worked in financial services, where grant management was essential to his work, and spearheaded DEI initiatives for the company.

Lawrence has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Maryland, a Master of Science in Nonprofit and Association Management from the University of Maryland, and an Engineering Certification from the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences.


Cinthya Martinez is Western Center’s Development Coordinator, based in Los Angeles. Cinthya leads donor stewardship initiatives, manages vendor relationships, and provides event and graphic design support.

Cinthya is a resourceful and creative development and design professional with 15 years of experience. She has been in love with technology for as long as she can remember and is passionate about championing the vision of organizations and the stories of their clients, donors, and staff.

Prior to joining Western Center, Cinthya served as the Events and Development Coordinator for YWCA Glendale and Pasadena where she was instrumental in the promotion, donor management, and programming of their signature events: the Women for Racial Justice Breakfast and the Heart and Excellence Awards. She also worked to establish and maintain brand identity, develop social media content, ensure data integrity, and develop donor stewardship initiatives.

She began her career at Cal Poly Pomona’s MediaVision production studio where she worked for 7 years and discovered her love of video and audio production and editing. During her tenure at YWCA Pasadena-Foothill Valley, she evolved from volunteer to Social Media and Marketing Coordinator to Operations and Marketing Manager, and took on a leadership role in the transition to the strategic partnership with YWCA Glendale.

Cinthya holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.