In this op-ed by Mike Herald, Western Center’s Director of Policy Advocacy, Mike explains why the Newsom administration and California Legislature must allocate steady rather than temporary funding for rental assistance and the creation of permanent, supportive housing.
- June emergency allotments for CalFresh food benefits will be issued on July 17th for CalSAWS and July 24th for CalWIN. May allotments were issued on June 12th for CalSAWS and June 19th for CalWIN.
- COVID-19 vaccines are free. Click here for more information.
- Rapid COVID tests are also free, and can be shipped to you. Click here to order.
- Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is covered at no cost for all Californians.
- California’s eviction moratorium has ended, but you should still apply for rent relief if you need it! If you receive an eviction notice, do not ignore it. Seek local legal help right away.
- California’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program can be accessed here, or call 833-430-2122.
- Federal Child Tax Credit payments are not considered income for any family, and will not change receipt of public benefits.
Food and Financial Security
- Federal Child Tax Credit payments are not considered income for any family, and will not change receipt of public benefits, including unemployment insurance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, SSDI, TANF, WIC, Section 8, or Public Housing. Find out more about California’s Golden State Stimulus payments — if you qualify, and how to get it. También en español.
- Restaurant delivery service is available for older Californians. Information and sign-up details for interested participants and restaurants are available here.
- California households receiving SNAP food stamp benefits (CalFresh) can now purchase groceries online through a USDA pilot program.
- Here is a Distance Learning Student Resource Guide from the California Department of Social Services. The guide includes information on free or low-cost internet, English language learning, adult education and workforce skills, video conferencing resources, and more.
- Keep your Medi-Cal contact information current. Make sure your county has your current address, phone number, and email address – especially if you moved since 2020. Later this year, counties will start contacting people to help them renew their Medi-Cal. If they cannot contact you, your Medi-Cal may end so you want to make sure they have your current information. Find your local county at this link.
- COVID-19 vaccines are free. Click here for more information. All health plans must cover vaccine administration for free, and Medi-Cal covers vaccine administration for free.
- Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is covered at no cost for all Californians. You will need to go to a state testing site, one run by your county, or get a test at a medical provider that can enroll you in a special Medi-Cal program for people without insurance. You can contact your county public health department, local clinic, and medical provider to receive information about your options for free testing.
- There is a conflict between the California regulation governing health plans for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and federal testing requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act. This conflict in current law might result in a health plan billing you for testing. If this happens and you want assistance with reviewing the bill, please contact Helen Tran at htran[at]wclp.org or (213) 235-2638.
- Everyone is encouraged to seek care if they are sick, regardless of income or immigration status. For more information about your right to health care, visit the Health Consumer Alliance’s COVID-19 information site.
- Here is Western Center’s Know Your Rights toolkit for California tenants. Inquilinos de California: Conozca Sus Derechos.
- California’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program helps eligible renters and landlords with unpaid/future rent and utility payments due to COVID-19, regardless of immigration status. Get info, check eligibility, and apply here, or call 833-430-2122.
- The fact sheet below explains the current protections and financial assistance available to California renters and landlords. Versions are also available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Vietnamese.
- The Eviction Laws Database captures state, territorial, and local laws covering the eviction process — from pre-filing to post-judgment, as of January 1, 2021. The database was launched by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in partnership with the Center for Public Health Law Research, and consists of two datasets:
- State/Territory Dataset – covers eviction laws, regulations, and court rules that were in effect as of January 1, 2021 in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and eight U.S. territories
- Local Dataset – covers eviction laws, including those at the county and local level, in 30 local jurisdictions in effect as of January 1, 2021
- California “Housing is Key” webpage
- California Labor Federation Resources for Workers
- California Department of Public Health Coronavirus Guidance page
- USDA Guidance on Human Pandemic Response
- Information on Workers’ Rights
- Worker’ Guide: Your Rights During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) – (Español)
- California Lawyers Association public resources page
- California COVID-19 Website
Western Center senior attorney Lorraine Lopez was on KPFA Radio in the Bay Area to discuss the lawsuit Western Center and our partners filed on behalf of tenant groups, accusing California’s Department of Housing and Community Development of discrimination and denying Californians due process in applications for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
Listen Here (Interview starts at one hour 34 minute mark)
Western Center senior attorney Madeline Howard was on KPFA Radio in the Bay Area to discuss the lawsuit Western Center and our partners filed on behalf of tenant groups, accusing California’s Department of Housing and Community Development of denying Californians due process in the application process for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). As of June 1, 2022, the department denied 31% of ERAP rental assistance applications without meaningful explanation or a transparent appeals process.
“The groups claim the program has denied funding to hundreds of thousands of tenants without specific reasons or adequate opportunities to appeal. HCD has also made it more challenging for non-English-speaking tenants to communicate with program officials, the lawsuit said. The groups are represented by the Western Center on Law & Poverty, Public Counsel, and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. They filed the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court.”
“California tenants rights groups have sued the state, claiming its process for denying emergency rental assistance isn’t fair. The lawsuit comes as pandemic-related eviction protections are set to expire at the end of the month.”
Listen here (6 minute mark)
For Immediate Release
Department denied 31 percent of rental relief applications without offering meaningful explanation of denial or a transparent appeals process
Oakland, CA – Community-based tenant organizations Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) along with research and action institute PolicyLink have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for administering the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in a way that is opaque and disproportionately harms tenants on the basis of race, color, and national origin. The suit also challenges HCD’s refusal to provide public records that would shed light on its administration of the program. The organizations are represented by Western Center on Law & Poverty, Public Counsel, and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
“Our analysis of the program data shows that denials have spiked since the program closed, and that 92 percent of denied applicants have incomes low enough to qualify them for the program,” said Sarah Treuhaft, vice president of research at PolicyLink. “So many renters have staked their families’ futures on this program, and they deserve every opportunity to access the relief they’ve been promised.”
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program was created by the federal government to keep vulnerable tenants housed as a result of the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. California received $5.2 billion in federal funds and HCD was charged with creating an application process, screening tenants for eligibility, and distributing the federal funds.
“This lawsuit is necessary to stop the unfair and arbitrary rental assistance denials,” said Jackie Zaneri, senior attorney at Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). “Tenants deserve to have their rental assistance applications fairly considered and to know why they were denied.”
The application process requires extensive paperwork, access to email and an ability to regularly check it, and the ability to navigate the system in English even if it isn’t the tenant’s preferred language. Tenants with limited English proficiency, disproportionately Latinx and Asian tenants, receive notices and requests for documents only in English. After going through that complicated process, tenants wait months for a response, and are receiving a variety of vague responses including approval for partial payments or a full denial of payment without adequate explanation. When PolicyLink requested public records about denials of rental assistance, HCD did not respond.
Vilma Vasquez, a tenant who worked with SAJE described navigating the process, “it was stressful, in psychological terms because sometimes I worried about not being sure if I would receive the payment or not, housing is vital for the life of any person.”
HCD does allow for a 30-day appeal window, but since tenants are not informed as to why they were denied, appeal is a struggle. There is also no transparency in the process around who reviews appeals, and tenants can’t make their case directly with a decisionmaker. As of June 1 2022, 138,000, or 31 percent of households whose applications have been reviewed, have been denied, putting thousands of people at risk of eviction. After an application is denied, a landlord can seek to evict a tenant under state law.
“Tenants are being denied rental assistance that they need to stay housed without being told the reason, or getting a fair chance to contest the denial,” said Madeline Howard, senior attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty. “The process is profoundly unfair, doesn’t meet constitutional standards, and fails to meet its most basic function – keeping Californians housed.”
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is a nonprofit law firm that seeks to achieve equal justice for people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. LAFLA changes lives through direct representation, systems change, and community empowerment. It has five offices in Los Angeles County, along with four Self-Help Legal Access Centers at area courthouses, and three domestic violence clinics to aid survivors.
Public Counsel is a nonprofit law firm and the nation’s largest provider of pro bono legal services. It serves communities locally and nationwide by advancing civil rights litigation, advocating for policy change and providing free legal services to thousands of clients annually.
Western Center on Law & Poverty fights in courts, cities, counties, and in the Capitol to secure housing, health care, and a strong safety net for Californians with low incomes, through the lens of economic and racial justice.
“Antionette Dozier, a senior attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said people may decline diversion because of work or childcare issues, or because of concerns that such programs won’t be conducted in a culturally sensitive way.”
The Newsom Administration released its 2022-23 May Revise budget, which includes a massive three year budget surplus of over $90 billion. While the budget includes many noteworthy proposals, overall it fails to provide robust help to those who need it most. Rather than target the surplus on increased tax credits and emergency relief for people with low incomes, the budget proposal provides more than $11 billion in tax credits to car owners, including households with incomes up to $250,000.
Paradoxically, the state has so much extra revenue that General Fund spending is limited since the increased revenue exceeds the State Appropriations Limit (aka the Gann limit). As such, the May Revise proposes large infrastructure spending that is not counted towards the Gann limit. While those proposals are not without merit, the Revise fails on fundamental anti-poverty measures, like backfilling the lost federal child tax credits proven to reduce child poverty, leaving hundreds of thousands of children at risk of unnecessarily falling back into poverty. The Revise also fails to fully eliminate civil assessment fees that disproportionately punish people experiencing poverty who cannot afford to pay a traffic ticket or take time to appear in court.
The governor proposes $65 million to fund a new court process called Care Court, which would force unhoused individuals with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders into a court ordered treatment plan. Western Center has been tracking the proposal and vocal about our opposition since the governor revealed it in March, as it touches on each of our issue areas.
The Revise provides $39 million to the Judicial Council to run the court process, $10 million to finance a supporter program within the state Department of Aging, and $15 million to counties for training and technical assistance.
With its lack of necessary interventions, like a clear budget strategy and mechanisms for creating housing, we believe the framework of the proposal is fundamentally flawed. If implemented, it is likely CARE Court will lead to unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities and unhoused people and likely create a chilling effect that will prevent people from seeking services for fear of being institutionalized. Additionally, by involving the court system the proposal will perpetuate institutionalized racism and exacerbate existing disparities in health care delivery since Black, Indigenous and other people of color are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with psychotic disorders than white people. All evidence shows that adequately-resourced, intensive, voluntary outpatient treatment – not court-ordered treatment – is most effective for treating the population CARE Court seeks to serve.
HOUSING & HOMELESSNESS
The governor’s May Revise proposes a $2.5 billion dollar increase for housing and homelessness programs from last year for multi-year investments to build housing and behavioral health housing. The Revise includes an additional $150 million to fund Homekey projects, $50 million to build interim housing and $500 million to accelerate affordable housing production and conversions of retail space in downtown corridors.
Even with the economic fallout of the pandemic raging on, the proposal does not include additional funding for tenants at the brink of eviction for their inability to pay rent. To confuse matters, the governor announced a $2.7 billion budget allocation for rental assistance, but it is not a new commitment. Rather, it’s part of the commitment the legislature made in February via Senate Bill 115, designed to ensure full coverage for rental assistance applications submitted before March 31. However, because of the burdensome application process, tenants accrue debt while they wait for approval and still face the threat of eviction for the months their application was being processed.
The governor’s proposal fails to comply with the legal requirement for the state to fully fund rental assistance applications submitted before March 31 by paying those tenants 100% of their accrued debt at the time they are approved. To keep tenants housed and fulfill the promise of the rental assistance program, the massive budget surplus must be used to fully fund tenants’ rental debt and ensure that vulnerable Californians remain housed.
Western Center will continue to advocate for other sponsored proposals missing in the May Revise, including $500 million in the Community Anti-Displacement and Preservation Program (CAPP) to acquire unsubsidized affordable housing and make them permanently affordable, $200 million in the Reentry Housing and Workforce Development Program to provide stable housing and supportive services to formerly incarcerated people as outlined in AB 1816 (Bryan), and $150 million for eviction defense funding and community education and outreach.
PUBLIC BENEFITS & ACCESS TO JUSTICE
The May Revise proposes an 11.1 percent increase in CalWORKs, the largest one-year increase in the grant levels in recent memory. The funding for this comes from the Child Poverty subaccount which has seen a significant increase along with the overall budget. Even with this increase, CalWORKs grants for most families are still not out above deep poverty (50 percent of the federal poverty level). That is because most families have an excluded adult. We are calling on the legislature to fulfill the commitment made four years ago to fund CalWORKs grants at the assistance unit plus one level. See the chart below for what the gap will remain at:
Child Support Pass Through
The May Revise makes no change in the administration’s proposal to pass through all child support to former CalWORKs families. While advocates support the proposal, we seek to have it extended to current CalWORKs cases where families have lower incomes and could use the child support assistance immediately.
The May Revise makes no change to the governor’s January proposal seeking to expand the California Food Assistance Program to Californians regardless of immigration status for those 55 years of age and older. Western Center stands with our partners advocating for the expansion of the program to include Californians of all ages. Many immigrant families were excluded from pandemic relief and continue to be left behind as we rebuild the state’s safety nets.
The governor’s May Revise budget makes no proposal to increase grants for blind, aged and disabled Californians. There is a provisional agreement to restore the remainder of the 2009 SSP grant cuts beginning in January 2024 but the governor did not include CA4SSI’s request to accelerate the grant increase to January 2023. By delaying the second restoration, the value of the grant will decline when compared to the federal poverty level.
The governor’s May Revision maintains the expansions proposed in the January proposal, including expanding Medi-Cal to all adults regardless of immigration status (Health4All), zeroing out premiums and copayments for Medi-Cal, and expanding Medi-Cal coverage of custom crowns for back teeth. In addition, the May Revision makes new investments to increase the Medi-Cal doula reimbursement rate, provides navigator funding, and permanently extends presumptive eligibility for older adults and individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, the May Revision does not update the Medi-Cal share of cost, fully fund SB 65, or implement Health4All sooner than January 2024.
Below is summary of health proposals in the May Revision, which still needs to be negotiated with the legislature by the budget deadline of June 15th.
- Increased Doula Reimbursement Rate: The May Revision proposes to increase the average doula service reimbursement rate from $450 to $1,094, which includes antepartum visits, delivery, and postpartum visits. The implementation date for the doula benefit will be shifted from July 2022 to January 2023 resulting in $974,000 total funds ($377,000 General Fund) in 2022-23 for this benefit.
- $60M One-time Navigator Funding: The May Revision proposes to add $60 million total funds ($30 million General Fund) to the Health Enrollment Navigators available over four years through fiscal year 2025-26 to assist in outreach, application assistance, enrollment, and retention for difficult-to-reach populations, including the implementation of Health4All.
- Presumptive Eligibility for Individuals 65 +, Blind, or Disabled: The May Revision includes $73 million total funds ($37 million General Fund) to continue Medi-Cal presumptive eligibility for older adults and individuals who are blind or disabled. Already permanent for other populations, this gives eligible older adults and individuals who are blind or disabled instant Medi-Cal eligibility for a limited time. Advocates are working to ensure this means two Presumptive Eligibility periods per year, as is currently available during COVID.
- Equity and Practice Transformation Payments: To close health equity gaps in preventative, maternity, and behavioral health care measures, and to address gaps in care, the May Revision proposes an additional $300 million ($150 million General Fund) to the $400 million proposed in January for a combined $700 million in total funds.
- Transitions to Managed Care: Under CalAIM, various populations are shifting to mandatory managed care effective January 2022 and January 2023. The May Revision proposes to delay the transition of ICF/DDs and Subacute Care Facilities into managed care from January 1, 2023 to July 1, 2023 to prepare for the transition. The administration also identified additional individuals subject to mandatory managed care that were assumed to already be included and will provide details on specific populations once determined.
- LA Care Sanctions: The May Revision proposes budget bill language to use monetary sanctions collected from LA Care in the budget year to award grants to qualifying non-profit legal aid programs and organizations that serve Medi-Cal managed care enrollees in Los Angeles County or other impacted counties, for purposes of improving access to care in the Medi-Cal program.
- Medi-Cal Media and Outreach Campaign: In an April budget change proposal prior to the May Revision, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) requested $25 million ($12.5 million General Fund) for a media and outreach campaign to encourage members to update their contact information with their counties, and to educate members of potential Medi-Cal termination if requested information is not submitted.
- Additional AB 97 Provider Payment Reductions Elimination: In addition to elimination of AB 97 payment reductions in the January proposal, the May Revision proposes to include doula services, community health worker services, asthma prevention services, health care services delivered via remote patient monitoring, dyadic services, Medication Therapy Management, and continuous glucose monitoring system, supplies and accessories.
Other Health Proposals
- Covered California: The May Revision proposes $304 million to extend California’s premium subsidy program for middle income Californians with incomes between 400 and 600% FPL. This represents a fraction of potential loss if federal relief is not extended.
- Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative Grants: The May Revision includes $85 million General Fund for Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) grants to schools, cities, counties, tribes, and/or community-based organizations. This includes grants to wellness and mindfulness programs as well as parent support and training programs.
- Reproductive Health: The May Revision includes $57 million one-time General Fund to support safe and accessible reproductive health care, for a total of $125 million including investments in the January budget. Specifically, $40 million to DHCS for uncompensated reproductive health care, $15 million for the California Reproductive Justice and Freedom Fund at the Department of Public Health (DPH); $1 million to DPH for the Comprehensive Reproductive Rights Website, and $1 million to DPH for research on unmet needs for reproductive health care.
For questions contact:
- Housing & Homelessness:
- Health Care:
- Linda Nguy, Policy Advocate – [email protected]
- Public Benefits/ Access to Justice:
“Lorraine Lopez, from the Western Center on Law & Poverty, explains the situation. “So folks are now being left, pretty much being in the cold once the application closed,” Lopez said. Her group has filed a lawsuit on behalf of tenant rights advocates, saying the state is violating the law by not providing up to a full 18 months of rental assistance.”