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Author: Heather Masterton

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Western Center Reactions to Supreme Court Rulings on Affirmative Action

Western Center Reactions to Supreme Court Rulings on Affirmative Action  

On June 29th, 2023, the Supreme Court announced their long-awaited rulings on race-based college admissions. In an unsurprising, yet still deeply disappointing move, the court ruled affirmative action as unconstitutional. Western Center is guided by our North Star: “we seek to eliminate poverty and advance racial and economic justice by dismantling and transforming systems so all communities in California can thrive.” To do so, we must acknowledge the painful and persistent history of racism in our nation and its continued impact on the people we serve, permeating health, housing, public benefits, and access to justice. We will continue our righteous work for equity and justice in the face of these challenges. 

Below are reactions from Western Center staff and interns on this ruling: 

“I am deeply disappointed and downright angry about the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule its prior precedent permitting race to be one of many factors used in the higher education admissions process. It is quite profound that this historic blow hit us on the same day as the release of the historic CA Reparations Task Force final report. We weep and we rejoice simultaneously! We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes! I’m grateful for all the social justice warriors making a difference every day! Keep fighting the good fight! We need you!” 

  • Crystal D. Crawford, Executive Director   

“We cannot allow six people to facilitate further backsliding and complicity in bowing to anti-Black forces. Western Center on Law and Poverty fights for equity and representation in our own workplace, and in the courts, capitol, counties, and beyond. This may set us back, but it will not stop us from finding new ways to continue pushing for that equity/representation, and reparations. For this to work, we need to stop seeing affirmative action and reparations as ‘taking’ from one group and ‘giving’ to another. Just look at what happened in California after Prop. 209, and how without affirmative action things got worse, even if institutions innovated and adapted.” 

  • David Kane, Senior Attorney  

“As an Asian American, I am disappointed and saddened by the central role that a few in my community have played to defeat the use of race conscious admissions in higher education. Many Asian Americans have benefitted and continue to benefit from the use of affirmative action, not just in education but in spaces like employment and government contracting. To deny that history is ignorant. I want to offer that today’s Supreme Court decision is not reflective of the opinions of all Asian Americans, and we will continue to stand with our fellow BIPOC students and communities to ensure there is truly equal opportunity for all.” 

  • Helen Tran, Senior Attorney  

“Refusing to acknowledge or address racism and the need for remedies to address historic discrimination under the guise of ‘colorblindness’ and ‘equal protection’ instead continues to deprive ALL students of the benefit that results by providing a way to help reverse historic discrimination by providing for a diverse student body. The decision entrenches ‘racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society…. racial inequality will persist so long as it is ignored,’ wrote Justice Sotomayor in a powerful dissent.” 

  • Jodie Berger, Senior Attorney  

While the Supreme Court’s majority ruling on affirmative action today was expected, it makes it no less disappointing and painful. Our work at the Western Center shows us every day that our society needs to take affirmative steps to counter the persistency of anti-Blackness and racism, not only in education, but in housing stability and opportunity, in health care access and care, in economic and financial security, and access to justice. As Justice Jackson says in her powerful dissent, “deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.” I take some comfort from Justice Sotomayer’s wise words: “Notwithstanding this Court’s actions, however, society’s progress toward equality cannot be permanently halted. Diversity is now a fundamental American value, housed in our varied and multicultural American community that only continues to grow. The pursuit of racial diversity will go on. And our pursuit of racial justice goes on.” 

  • Nisha Vyas, Senior Attorney  

“It’s ironic that on the same day that the California Reparations Task Force released a comprehensive report documenting the historical, present and ongoing discrimination faced by students in marginalized communities who seek the promise of higher education, the Supreme Court in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc v. President and Fellow of Harvard College issued a decision that espouses a “‘colorblind society.” This decision will have a profoundly negative effect on institutions of higher education to eliminate barriers of discrimination and increase opportunities for underrepresented Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people. The Supreme Court’s recent decisions have given license to discriminate against marginalized communities. Now more than ever we must take up the social justice fight of those who came before us and stand against these repressive policies and decisions.”  

  • Sandra O. Poole, Policy Advocate 

“While grieving the recent SCOTUS decision on affirmative action I reflected on my own journey to law school. As a first-generation minority student, I am the first in my family to attend a four-year university and graduate. I am also the first in my family to go to graduate school and I am going to be the first lawyer in my family. My college education means everything to me and my family. For students like me, a college education is not just about education. It’s about breaking out of the cycle of poverty and inspiring those who may come after me. In fact, I have chosen to use my education in political science and criminal justice to uplift those voices that have been traditionally unheard. Speaking from experience, affirmative action is so much more than considering race in admissions. Affirmative action is not giving a seat away or turning down an equally qualified candidate just because they are not a minority. Affirmative action is giving minority students a chance to even be considered. Additionally, affirmative action gives non-minority students a more enriching college experience by adding different life perspectives into classroom discussion. Young people today are becoming a powerful voice in politics and in their own education. Today’s SCOTUS decision does not reflect the voices of the young people who will be affected. Instead, today’s decision reflects the recent warfare on public education. My heart goes out to the prospective students who may come after me.” 

  • Selena Sanchez, Law Clerk  

Western Center Round Up – June 2023

California Reparations Task Force Releases Historic Report 

Despite today’s SCOTUS ruling, we have much to celebrate today. After two years of research and public convenings, the California State Reparations Task Force released their groundbreaking official report to the Legislature today, outlining recommendations for reparations for Black Californians descended from slaves to compensate for harms caused by enslavement and racial discrimination practices. In Western Center’s 2022 Annual Report, Crystal Crawford, Executive Director lifted up the task force’s significance and impact on our work, “Defining and implementing meaningful and achievable reparations for the Black descendants of enslaved people (who remain unable to reap the benefits of the American economy and continue to be shut out from opportunities to thrive), is the next critically important phase in California’s groundbreaking reparations journey. Western Center deals with the fallout of our country’s anti-Blackness and legacy of slavery every day when we work to protect people impacted by poverty. The legacy of American racism has resulted in worse social outcomes by most measures — from COVID-19 death rates, to incarceration rates, to homelessness, to employment and education.”

We applaud the task force for their tireless and first-in-nation work to create this roadmap for change and invite you to read their recommendations. “California can very well be the test case and the blueprint for what can and should be done when it comes to this issue,” says Senator Steven Bradford (Gardena), Reparations Task Force Member.

READ THE REPORT

Celebrating PRIDE by Safeguarding Civil Rights

As we close out Pride Month, we celebrate the beauty and power of our LGBTQIA+ family and the history of radical advocacy. Last year, we were honored to co-sponsor SB 923 (Wiener), a historic bill that creates a workgroup to establish first-in-the nation quality standards for transgender, gender diverse, and intersex (TGI) patient experience and recommends related training curriculum, mandates health plans to require TGI cultural competency training for their staff, and requires plan provider directories to identify providers who offer gender affirming services and we celebrated the signing of SB107 (Wiener), a historic bill to protect the civil rights and basic dignity of LGBTQIA+ people, helping trans kids and their parents have a safe place to go if they are threatened with prosecution or criminalization for being who they are and seeking the care they need. This month, and every month, we commit to the fierce advocacy required to protect the rights of our LGBTQIA+ family in the courts and in the Capitol.

 Tenants’ Rights Advocates Reach Landmark Settlement On Behalf Of Californians Struggling With Pandemic Rent Debt

Earlier this month, Western Center, along with co-counsel Public Counsel, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Covington and Burling LLP announced a landmark settlement in ACCE Action v. California HCD, a case brought by tenants’ rights advocates alleging that the California Department of Housing & Community Development unconstitutionally operated the state’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which led to qualified applicants missing out on the assistance they were promised after the pandemic destroyed many Californians’ livelihoods. More than 100,000 households are still waiting for a decision on their applications—and many of them are being served with eviction notices and being harassed by their landlords for rent they still owe. The settlement agreement will offer a renewed chance for applicants who remain in limbo to receive Covid-19 rental assistance, which remains essential to supporting and stabilizing families as the housing and homelessness crisis worsens in California.

The rental assistance program was intended to provide housing stability for low-income tenant families who were impacted by Covid-19, but delays and dysfunction left far too many eligible families facing eviction because they could not access this critical assistance,” said Madeline Howard, Senior Attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty. “We are hopeful that this settlement will create an opportunity for these tenants to finally receive the help they need.”

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Families, Youth To Receive Cash Reimbursements From Riverside County Following Lawsuit Settlement

National Center for Youth Law and Western Center on Law and Poverty recently settled Freeman v. Riverside, a class action lawsuit that challenged Riverside County’s practices of charging and collecting detention fees from parents and guardians with a child in the juvenile system. The court granted approval of a settlement that establishes a $540,307 fund to reimburse parents and guardians who made a detention fees payment to Riverside County in a juvenile case between December 21, 2016 through April 21, 2020. More information about the settlement and the notice for class members can be found here.

So many families in Riverside are able to breathe a sigh of relief as these unjust juvenile fees are wiped away and reimbursed,” said Rebecca Miller, Western Center’s Senior Litigator. “But many people in California are still burdened with unaffordable criminal and juvenile debts, even with laws that require the government to consider their ability to pay. Families with low-incomes and families of color face the brunt of this debt, stripping wealth from their communities and denying them a chance to thrive economically.

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NEW BLOG: How I Went from a Street Vendor to Organizing Street Vendors

For decades, street vendors provided food for their communities and law enforcement and health departments across the city of Los Angeles criminalized them for doing so. These vendors were disproportionately Black and Brown, often immigrants who provided food in low-income communities of color disproportionately harmed by food insecurity and food deserts. All of them operated in the informal economy, in a segregated system – upheld by outdated municipal codes and state retail food laws – that favored enforcement against and criminalization of street vendors.With SB 946, the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, and SB 972, the California Retail Food Code Act, street vending has been decriminalized, and food codes have been modernized to include and welcome sidewalk food vendors into our economy. This complete one-eighty occurred because of community organizing done well. And yet, enforcement of these wins has been a challenge. Western Center recently joined as counsel in a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, challenging their unlawful and discriminatory “no vending zones.”
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How I Went from A Street Vendor to Organizing Street Vendors: A Conversation with Ana Cruz Juarez and Miguel Lucas Tax

For decades, street vendors provided food for their communities and law enforcement and health departments across the city of Los Angeles criminalized them for doing so. These vendors were disproportionately Black and Brown, often immigrants who provided food in low-income communities of color disproportionately harmed by food insecurity and food deserts. All of them operated in the informal economy, in a segregated system – upheld by outdated municipal codes and state retail food laws – that favored enforcement against and criminalization of street vendors. 

With SB 946, the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, and SB 972, the California Retail Food Code Act, street vending has been decriminalized, and food codes have been modernized to include and welcome sidewalk food vendors into our economy. This complete one-eighty occurred because of community organizing done well. And yet, enforcement of these wins has been a challenge. Western Center recently joined as counsel in a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, challenging their unlawful and discriminatory “no vending zones.”  

A successful organizer not only engages one person and mobilizes them to take action. They also create such investment in the work that they develop new leaders who become organizers themselves and grow and lead the movement. In short, a great organizer doesn’t just bring people in at critical moments of mobilization. They facilitate those individuals’ growth as leaders in the movement and support developing their existing strengths. 

Ana Cruz Juarez and Miguel Lucas Tax are two such organizers. They actively work across Southern California, organizing street vendors from a non-profit organizing hub called the Community Power Collective (CPC). 

CPC has organized one of the most exciting policy campaigns in recent years. The LA Street Vendor Campaign began decades ago and has expanded into a massive statewide network, known as the California Street Vendor Campaign, which has numerous partners up and down the state. This growth stems from CPC’s vision to have the most impacted lead their own battles. And their hiring of Ana and Migueltwo influential leaders in the street vending community did just that. 

Ana Cruz Juarez 

When Ana Cruz Juarez began vending in Hollywood, other vendors shared their yearslong experience of harassment and inhumane treatment while working in the area. 

“If you think about it, street vendors who were selling before SB 946 lived a completely different experience from those selling after,” Ana shared.  

She was told that before vendors organized with the LA Street Vendor Campaign, many faced obstacles and feared harm from law enforcement. And with every story of harm, Ana began to visualize something bigger – an organizing program that not only spanned the city but was powerful enough to grow beyond the city’s boundaries. 

“I started to align my emotions to the emotions of others; the obstacles of others were my obstacles. What is happening to me locally as a street vendor is happening citywide, statewide, and in other states like New York. Our struggle is not just here but everywhere,” Ana said. 

Ana credits her successful organizing to understanding that movement leadership will continue to develop out of the meetings she is helping sidewalk vendors organize. She constantly uplifts other street vendors organizing and sees herself as a convener or facilitator of these spaces.  

She shares that vendors who are learning to organize themselves go from being one-time activists who attend council meetings to organizers themselves “who are building power by recruiting and educating other vendors.”  

Miguel Lucas Tax 

Like Ana, Miguel Lucas Tax went from vending to organizing other vendors. He would set up in Exposition Park, where street vendors like him were often targeted for selling hot dogs to sports fans and museum goers. “Vendors were intimidated. They felt voiceless, and they felt unheard,” he shares. 

Miguel was inspired by other street vendors he saw on YouTube defending themselves in street vending food hubs. Together with others, Miguel supported the early training of street vendors to use this tactic to stand their ground against harassment, intimidation, and unjust enforcement.  

“We learned to stand together with each of us providing security from the police. We’d say, ‘Don’t run. Stand next to your comrade; defend each other.” 

Local legal allies documented attacks on street vendors by the LAPD. This documentation would later form the basis for a lawsuit, leading to officer resignations.  

“I learned that when we organize ourselves and unite, we can win,” Miguel said. 

Organizing disrupts the power of the elite that sustains poverty and injustice. It seeks to live beyond a moment, a social media post or a spontaneous protest, and instead, aims to harnass that momentary energy to wage a planned and strategic campaign led by a collective or cadre who know the community. There is no “I” in organizing. Organizing calls on the “We” to lead. And at the heart of organizing is ordinary people. People directly impacted by the issue know they have power and can lead, if only they are given the space and time to grow as leaders of their community. They are the pulsing heart that drives movements. Without them, there is no hunger for change.  

That is who Ana and Miguel are. They collectively analyze and decipher the hidden social, political, and economic power that impacts vendors locally and across the state. They plan direct actions and recruit new street vendors daily who have never been involved in the movement. For them, the only way forward is to organize, struggle and win.  

 

‘A disaster waiting to happen’: Do staff shortages threaten Medi-Cal plans for renewing recipients

In one report after another earlier this year, counties from Los Angeles to Sacramento warned Medi-Cal officials that they don’t have enough trained staff — or simply don’t know whether they do — to process the millions of Californians whose cases come up for renewal starting in June.

For three years now, ever since federal officials declared a public health emergency in March 2020, U.S. law has prohibited Medi-Cal from kicking millions of Californians off its rolls, even if their incomes pushed past eligibility limits.

The end of so-called continuous coverage will come over a rolling 12-month period, based on the last date when a Medi-Cal enrollee’s eligibility was determined. If enrollees don’t submit the proper documentation by time their eligibility month ends, they will lose their benefits.

State officials estimate that 2 million to 3 million Medi-Cal enrollees could lose coverage because counties can’t manage the volume of cases or they don’t have the right addresses for enrollees or they can’t get critical information in time.

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Federal Housing Voucher Utilization Promoted in Bill by California Assembly Majority Leader Reyes – Tens of Thousands of Federal Housing Choice Vouchers Are Left Unused Each Year

Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes says, “AB 653 will prevent Californians from falling into homelessness, increase oversight and accountability, and invest in proven solutions to house Californians.”

SACRAMENTO – While affordable housing demand remains high, tens of thousands of federal housing choice vouchers are left unused each year. In order to increase use of these vouchers, Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes has announced legislation, AB 653, which would create the Federal Housing Voucher Acceleration Program.

The program would:

  • Pair voucher recipients with services to find and secure housing,
  • Incentivize landlords to get their units approved to accept vouchers, and
  • Require public housing authorities with the lowest voucher utilization rates to follow evidence-based practices for improvement.

“I hear from people throughout my district and the state whose eligibility for federal vouchers does nothing to house them,” said Reyes. “When someone receives a voucher to make rent affordable, but they cannot find an available unit to accept it, we see federal dollars left on the table and a household who remains housing insecure. We have to do something to make sure we are maximizing the use of federal resources. This bill provides a common sense way to ensure the state is using federal funding to pair individuals and families with places to live.”

“It has been very hard to use my housing voucher in the Inland Empire,” said Traci, an individual who has gone through the process. “It took me forever to get into a place, and the apartment was vacant for three months. I even tried other places while I was waiting, but was constantly declined.”

AB 653 is sponsored by the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Housing California, National Housing Law Project, United Ways of California and Western Center on Law and Poverty. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 33% of families in San Bernardino have to return their unused voucher back to the local PHA and only 44.7% of LA County recipients have success finding housing with a voucher.

Millions of Californians expected to lose Medi-Cal coverage as pandemic-era protections end

Pandemic-era protections have ended and concern is growing around the health insurance benefits to low-income Californians as Medi-Cal recipients will have to go back to renewing coverage every year to determine their eligibility.

Across the country, about 95 million people, including children, are enrolled in low-cost coverage such as Medicaid or CHIP.

In California, there are about 15 million people covered by Medi-Cal, but that number is expected to decrease by 2 or 3 million. And there are a number of concerns surrounding the proper documentation to stay in the program.

“The renewal packet that somebody receives can be nearly 20 pages. They might receive it in a language that they do not understand or speak. They might not be able to get to a post office to turn it in. They might still turn it in and for whatever reason, a county is not able to process it,” said David Kane, a senior attorney at the Western Center on Law & Poverty.

Kane adds that if the information is not marked as received, it could be enough to keep someone off Medi-Cal. Under Medi-Cal, people have to completely recertify and show that they’re eligible every year.

Those most likely to be impacted are children, and Black and Latino communities. Currently, one-third of Californians are covered under Medi-Cal and half of the recipients are Hispanic or Latino.

“Some information that we’ve seen so far available in English and Spanish, but we also know that there are a lot of groups in California that speak other languages,” said Cary Sanders with the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.

Anthony Wright with Health Access California added that reinstating the yearly renewal means that a three-year backlog is expected, which is why health officials in the state are planning to stagger Medi-Cal changes over the course of 12 to 15 months, and they’re partnering with community-based organizations for their outreach efforts.

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LA, Riverside And Orange Counties Will Be Among The First In California To Implement Judge-Ordered Mental Health Care

On a recent afternoon Diana and Lorrin Burdick share pictures and swap stories with three other parents over a lunch of chicken curry sandwiches and fruit salad. They’re hosting an informal but semi-regular support group at their home in suburban Rancho Cordova east of Sacramento.

“Yeah, she loves having family dinners. Sunday is family dinner day now,” says Elizabeth Kaino Hopper as she and husband, Marvin, show a recent picture of their 37-year-old daughter, Christine.

This ordinary lunch with friends is also a vital one: Every parent here has an adult child with a severe mental illness; a son or daughter who’s also struggled with homelessness, substance abuse and arrests. The gatherings give them the chance to share stories, strategies and challenges of having a child with a serious and untreated mental disorder.

“That’s pretty much what he looks like now,” says Diana Burdick as she shows the others a phone shot of her son, Michael, 49, who has lived on the streets for a nearly a decade.

“Aww, see, anybody looking at him would say, he’s not right, he doesn’t feel good,” Elizabeth Hopper says, shaking her head in between lunch bites.

Eight California counties are going first in a planned statewide, controversial experiment to try to fix a seemingly intractable problem every parent around the table is grappling with: How to get treatment and support for loved ones with serious mental health challenges, mostly schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

Some of these people end up cycling in and out of police holds, jails, emergency rooms and homeless shelters and encampments. The nationwide problem is particularly acute in California, which accounts for nearly one third of all people in the United States experiencing homelessness.

Some cities including Los Angeles estimate that 10% to 17% of individuals who are unsheltered have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness. But the fact that so many go without a formal diagnosis, experts say the true percentage is likely far higher.

The CalFresh Hunger Games: Free falling into food insecurity with no rescue in sight.

“For politicians our hunger is a game, they want to see you starve to death before they help and say, ‘I saved these people’s lives and I took action to stop hunger in our community,’” Jesus Zavala reflects. Jesus Zavala and Alicia Zavala are both retired seniors living in East Los Angeles. They are also my parents. And after working in difficult environments their entire lives, I had hoped they could settle into an easy retirement. Instead, they have faced hardship, including constant food instability in recent years, an uneasy retirement.

 

Before coming to the United States, my father and mother worked the fields of Alta and Baja California. When they moved here with my grandfather, who came to the U.S through the Bracero Program after World War II ended, my parents naturally found work throughout the Imperial Valley right over the border from Mexico. Eventually they migrated north to the neighborhood of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles where they have lived ever since.

 

Like many retirees, my parents were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbated existing economic inequity. During the pandemic, they rushed to sign up for SNAP/CalFresh. Thanks to this cushion of federally funded emergency allotments, they have managed to get by.

 

According to the U.S Department of Agriculture over 80% of SNAP beneficiaries across the country are working class families, people with disabilities, or seniors. Individual SNAP recipients on average received around $100 dollars while families received benefits based on their household size during the pandemic.

 

Although the federal government has extended the public health emergency until early May, it has stopped all funding for food stamps that began during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

As of March 2023, food benefit amounts are now based on household income rather than the size of a household. This means that right now these federal funding cuts to CalFresh are tearing through the food security of nearly 3 million households in our state. 

 

“We lost $160 in food benefits, which leaves us with $250 to eat for the rest of March,” shares Alicia. She is a retired Teamster School Bus Driver. She smiles as she greets the adversity she is sharing with the hope and grit you find in strong union mujeres.

 

Jesus adds, “Picture this… we get around $1,900 collectively from Social Security, our mortgage is around $1,700 that leaves us with $200 cash to survive with, plus car payments, car insurance, gas, and other expenses that we all know too well.” He has worked on classic cars since he arrived in Los Angeles. He learned the trade of building muscle car engines under direction of famed hot-rodder John Geraghty.

 

He continues “At this point I have knee issues, it’s difficult to work the same way I did 30 years ago and even if I could work on classic cars on the side, the government would automatically take any current food benefits I have. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

 

More changes to SNAP programs are sure to come when the federal public health emergency ends on May 11, 2023, especially with SNAP benefits being eyed for potential federal cuts in the ongoing debt limit debate in Congress.

 

While politics are at play on the national scene, in our state there are some legislative efforts forming to respond. A bill was introduced in the California legislature on February 15 that would establish a minimum benefit in the CalFresh program by January 2025.

 

Jesus and Alicia are getting by with a tight budget. They budget in the face of rising inflation where prices on milk, eggs, and bread are skyrocketing. For them community driven food banks have been a blessing. “This is the reality for many Californians, we are doing our best to get by, our neighbors who are also retired are in a similar situation, others we know live in a house or apartment where multiple families are living in under one roof, it is the only way to survive, but we are running out of time,” says Jesus. 

 

For many time has run out, these are difficult times for far too many people in California whether we are talking about the unhoused, low-income, people of color  or working-class communities. Californians are falling off a hunger cliff at this very moment and there are no permanent policy solutions to address the food insecurity many in our state are facing.  

 

As the contradictions of today’s financialized capitalist system unravel, we must imagine new ways to address this persistent economic bifurcation of a state of prosperity and a state of precariousness.We must address the growing gap between rich and poor that continues to spread under the contagion of monopoly-finance capital. 

 

Make no mistake the gilded facade of California is peeling, and we can not sweep the flakes under the rug. Californians in poverty need a New Deal, and they need it now. 

Millions of Children on Medicaid at Risk of Losing Coverage

More than 6.7 million children are at risk of losing insurance coverage once pandemic-era restrictions on Medicaid income eligibility checks are lifted on April 1, according to a report by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.

Legislation enacted early in the pandemic in 2020 temporarily increased federal funding for state Medicaid programs under the condition that states continuously cover beneficiaries until the end of the public health emergency. The ranks of Medicaid beneficiaries grew by nearly 20 million people as the program acted as a health insurance safety net. However, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 slowly unwinds the federal continuous coverage requirement through May 2024, allowing states to start eligibility redeterminations next month for all 83.5 million Medicaid beneficiaries—including more than 34.2 million children.

To protect children in low-income families, the Consolidated Appropriations Act requires states to provide 12 months of continuous Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program eligibility to children under 19 beginning Jan. 1, 2024, if they don’t already do so. Most states have some form of continuous eligibility for children to protect them from losing coverage during redeterminations of their parents’ eligibility, but 17 states and the District of Columbia do not have such a provision, the Georgetown center found.

Redeterminations require beneficiaries to reapply for health insurance, verifying their income and ensuring that they meet all the other eligibility criteria to continue to receive benefits. However, the process can be complicated and take up to 14 months, and families who fail to complete it on time may lose coverage.

The impact of redeterminations on children’s health-care access concerns many Medicaid stakeholders across the country. Eligibility checks have traditionally caused coverage losses due to bureaucratic roadblocks, said Jennifer Wagner, director of Medicaid eligibility and enrollment at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute.

“Historically, we lose a lot of people during the renewal. Recipients are often sent a form by mail to the last known address, which may have changed. Some people might not get the notice they got a renewal in the mail. Others might not act timely because they have very complex situations and may not respond in time. Some might not even understand the notices that they are getting. They’re historically very confusing,” she said.

Public policy advocates also fear that chronic staffing shortages will cause state Medicaid agencies to face backlogs in processing redetermination applications, leading to more unintended policy cancellations.

survey by the National Association of Medicaid Directors found that over a fifth of all state Medicaid agencies have job vacancy rates of over 20%, with some states seeing up to 40%.

The problem is nationwide, even in well-funded states like California, which invested $146 million into its unwinding strategy, stakeholders say. California has done little to rectify the chronic shortages in front-line Medicaid workers in its 58 counties, David Kane, senior attorney at the Western Center of Law & Poverty, said.

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Inland Empire Politicians Ignoring Housing Crisis While Conjuring Warehouse Crisis

The telltale signs of income inequality, skyrocketing housing costs and chronic homelessness point to a grim reality. California is in a severe, escalating affordable housing crisis.

Again and again, leaders in Sacramento have identified the lack of available, suitable land as one of the main obstacles to affordable housing development. State and local agencies have expended millions in planning efforts to identify such available lands and prioritize them for housing.

But in the Inland Empire, decision makers seem unfazed by this reality and are enacting policies as if there were a warehouse crisis instead.

An astonishing 1 billion square feet of warehouse space has been built in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, with an additional 170 million square feet already approved or pending approval. Warehouses are increasing at a rate five times faster than population growth.

What’s most alarming is that cities and counties are approving massive logistics centers on land zoned for homes. At a time when we should be investing in affordable housing near transit and jobs, our decision makers vote to demolish neighborhoods, displacing residents and rolling out the welcome mat for industrial developers.

These untenable land-use decisions permanently eliminate prime real estate from home construction and bring in pollution that poisons the air for those who remain.

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