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Truth and Justice in Child Support Coalition Celebrates Full Passthrough of Child Support to Former CalWORKs Families

Beginning this month, California will pass through 100% of child support payments to families who formerly received CalWORKs benefits, putting $160 million back in the pockets of low-income families.

(Sacramento, CA – May 14, 2024)

This month, California stopped intercepting child support payments intended for families who formerly received CalWORKs benefits. As a result, an estimated $160 million per year will go to families and children, instead of being kept by the government to reimburse itself for providing public benefits to custodial parents in the past. With this policy change, California becomes a national leader, joining a small handful of states that have taken similar actions to end the practice of seizing child support payments from low-income children and families. The state’s action is in response to years of advocacy from the Truth and Justice in Child Support Coalition and others.

The Truth and Justice in Child Support Coalition applauds this policy win, but there is still much more work to do. The state continues to intercept approximately $150 million each year from low-income families that currently receive CalWORKs rather than sending the money directly to parents and children who need it. Additionally, struggling families are saddled with $6.4 billion in debt to the government for past-due child support while their families are receiving public benefits and accruing a 10% interest rate, which is one of the highest rates in the country.

We ask the Legislature and Governor to keep up the momentum and continue to position California’s child support program as a truly family-centered, poverty-alleviation program. Specifically, we ask that they:

1. Plan for the 100% passthrough of child support to families currently receiving CalWORKs;

2. Provide debt relief for old and uncollectible child support debt owed by low-income parents to the State for past due child support while their families were receiving public benefits; and

3. Eliminate the egregious 10% interest rate on government-owed child support debt.

These child support issues are racial and economic justice issues; passing these policy priorities can help get families out of debt and towards economic security with relatively little cost to the state in a difficult budget year.

Moreover, the California Reparations Task Force recommends the elimination of interest on past-due child support and recommends eliminating child support debt to address the harms created by the government’s pathologizing of Black families. We urge the legislature and the Governor to make amends by supporting families that need it most.

The Truth and Justice in Child Support Coalition is a statewide coalition of organizations that seeks to change state policy on child support pass-through, payments, and collections to better support low income children and their families and reduce child poverty in California. Contact us at [email protected] for additional information.

Newsom’s proposed spending cuts spur backlash from affected California groups

Just minutes after Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a revised state budget with billions of dollars in spending reductions on Friday, advocates for affected programs began showering reporters with statements of dismay.

The gist of the complaints was that after Newsom and the Legislature had devoted attention and money to expanded health care coverage, prekindergarten education, income supports for the poor, undocumented immigrant assistance, homelessness, climate change and a myriad other left-of-center causes, the new budget would punish their recipients.

Building the California Dream Alliance, a consortium of nearly 60 groups, was among those disappointed with Newsom’s budget, issuing a compendium of comments from its members, including the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

“Although we appreciate the governor maintaining previous expansions and grants, his approach balances the budget on the backs of low-income Californians through over $3 billion in cuts,” Linda Nguy, an associate director of the organization, said. “Instead of considering additional revenue solutions, the governor proposes to cut in-home supportive services for people who were previously excluded from Medi-Cal due to their immigration status, deeper CalWORKs cuts, and continued cuts to housing and homelessness prevention programs.”

Analysis Of Governor Newsom’s May Revision of California’s 2024-2025 Budget

May 10, 2024

The Governor released his May Revision on May 10, estimating that the budget shortfall for the 2024-25 fiscal year grew by approximately $7 billion from the January Proposal to approximately $44.9 billion. This differs from the Legislative Analyst’s Office earlier estimate of $73 billion, with differences attributed to higher revenue projections and different Proposition 98 calculations. After accounting for the early action budget package that included $17.3 billion of solutions, the remaining budget problem is approximately $27.6 billion.

Western Center on Law and Poverty appreciates that the Governor maintains some of the previous expansions and grants proposed in the January budget. However, we oppose the Governor’s approach to address the current budget shortfall through cuts to critical safety net programs. This approach balances the budget on the backs of low-income Californians through over $3 billion in cuts. Instead of considering additional revenue solutions, the Governor proposes to cut In-Home Supportive Services for people who were previously excluded from Medi-Cal due to their immigration status, deeper CalWORKs cuts, and continued housing cuts. We look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature on a final budget that reflects our values and protects vulnerable Californians.

HEALTH CARE

Cuts In-Home Supportive Services for Undocumented Individuals — Despite historic investments in Medi-Cal expansions, the May Revision proposes treating people who were previously excluded due to their immigration status differently. Specifically, the May Revision cut IHSS services for those who were previously excluded at a reduction of $94.7 million. IHSS allows seniors and people with disabilities to safely stay in their home.

Managed Care Organization (MCO) Tax — Sweeps $6.7 billion over multiple years from the Medi-Cal provider rate increases, Medi-Cal workforce funding, and equity payments planned for January 2025 and proposes amendment to include Medicare health plan revenue resulting in an additional $9.7 billion in total MCO Tax funds over multiple years. The related November ballot initiative raises uncertainty. If the measure passes, billions of dollars could be diverted, resulting in budget deficit that may result in future cuts to safety net programs.

Cuts Acupuncture as Medi-Cal Benefit — Eliminates acupuncture as a Medi-Cal benefit starting January 2025 at reduction of $5.4 million this budget year and $13 million ongoing.

Healthcare Workforce Reduction— Eliminates about $900 million various healthcare workforce initiatives including community health workers, nursing, social work, Song-Brown residencies, Health Professions Career Opportunity Program, and California Medicine Scholars Program as well as eliminates $189.4 million Mental Health Services Fund for programs proposed to be delayed to 2025-26 at Governor’s Budget.

Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative Reduction— Reduces $72.3 million onetime in 2023-24, $348.6 million in 2024-25, and $5 million in 2025-26 for school-linked health partnerships and grants, behavioral health services and supports platform, public education campaign, and youth suicide reporting and crisis response pilot.

Eliminates Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program and Reduces Bridge Housing Program— Eliminates $450.7 million from the last round of the Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program and reduces funding for the Behavioral Health Bridge Housing Program.

Eliminates Public Health Funding—Eliminates $52.5 million in 2023-24 and $300 million ongoing for state and local public health.

2022 Health Trigger Investments not Included: • Share of Cost Reform so that seniors and people with disabilities can afford to access needed Medi-Cal services • Continuous Medi-Cal Coverage for Children Aged 0 through 4.

HOUSING

One of the highest priorities for California lawmakers and residents is the housing and homelessness crisis, which requires more investment in affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs. We are concerned about the proposed cuts to these crucial programs, especially as Californians are grappling with housing insecurity and the continued legal attacks on our unhoused neighbors.

The May Revision proposes a total $1.76 billion in continued cuts to the following program (with additional cuts to January Proposal noted):

• Adaptive Reuse Program – additional $127.5 million cut

• Foreclosure Intervention Housing Preservation Program – additional $236.5 million cut

• Multifamily Housing Program – additional $75 million cut

• Infill Infrastructure Grant Program – additional $35 million cut

• Homeless Housing Assistance Program (HHAP) – additional $260 million cut

• Veteran Housing and Homeless Prevention Program – additional $26.3 million cut

The May Revision will include funding of $500 million to the state LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credits) program.

PUBLIC BENEFITS AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE CalWORKs

While the May Revision does not propose to cut CalWORKs grants, the proposal continues the deep cuts proposed in January, including:

• The elimination of the Family Stabilization Program (FSP), which provides housing assistance, mental health, substance use and domestic violence services. This is a core program within CalWORKs that keeps people housed, safe, and well.

• The elimination of the Subsidized Employment Program, which provides additional job opportunities to participants to provide job experience and a path to unsubsidized employment.

• The draining of the safety net reserve, which was created to protect human services programs against cuts. The use of these funds results in a double cut to the CalWORKs program.

Additional cuts to CalWORKs include:

• The reduction of $47.1 million for the CalWORKs home visiting program ongoing, which is a cut of 45%. This highly effective program, which pairs professionals with new parents, prepares families for new infant household members and provides early supports to ensure a successful transition to new and increased parenting responsibilities. This cut could result in new referrals to child welfare services.

• The permanent elimination of the CalWORKs Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services program which is a cut of $126.6 million. These are critical services that stabilize a family and can also prevent referrals to child welfare services.

SSI/SSP

The Governor’s proposed budget did not propose a cut to SSI/SSP grants, but additional investments are still needed for this program which provides grants to seniors and people living with disabilities. The grant for individuals is currently 94% of the 2024 Federal Poverty Level (FPL). We hope to work with the administration in future budget years to strengthen these programs to bring the individual grant to at least 100% of the poverty line and to reinstate the annual cost of living increase. We would also request a revival of the special circumstances program to assist SSI recipients with unexpected expenses.

Child Support

Despite 2022 budget trigger language, the May Revision did not include a provision to fund full pass-through of child support payments to currently assisted CalWORKs families. Based upon current revenue, this trigger was not pulled and there is a need to renew this language in the 2024-25 budget.

Child Care Slots

The May Revision pauses the promised expansion of child care slots and keeps them at the current level. By pausing this expansion, the state will reduce support for California’s working families by $489 million in 2024-25 and $951 million in 2025-26.

In-Home Supportive Services for Undocumented Individuals

As previously mentioned, the May Revision cut IHSS services for people who were previously excluded from Medi-Cal due to their immigration status at a reduction of $94.7 million. IHSS allows seniors and people with disabilities to safely stay in their home.

California Food Assistance Program Expansion

• The May Revision delays the promised expansion of the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for two years, pushing benefits back to the 2027-28 budget year. CFAP is the state-funded CalFresh counterpart that serves some immigrants who are excluded from CalFresh due to their immigration status.

• This delay prevents California from fulfilling the promise to expand food benefits to undocumented older adults, therefore perpetuating poverty, food insecurity, and again inflicting harm specifically on California’s low-income immigrant communities.

Download the full analysis here: WCLP Analysis of 2024-25 May Revision

Electronic EBT Theft & Organizer Toolkit

In 2019, the problem of electronic theft of EBT funds became a front and center issue for many California officials. At the time it was estimated that monthly losses increased from less than $10,0000 to an average of $36,000. That number has now reached $10 million a month in benefits theft.

Many Californians continue to have their benefits stolen from their EBT cards. This typically happens in two ways. Either the person has had their EBT card “skimmed” with electronic equipment that picks up and takes your information. Or people are scammed by an unauthorized third party by giving out their EBT card number and/or personal identification number.

“I’ve been eating one meal a day for the last 3 days. I need help figuring out where my money went,” said Angelica Anon in email, who did not want to disclose her real name. She shared that she is unhoused and living in her car at the moment and was struggling to use her card at the grocery store. She had tried multiple times to use it but each time she tried she was told her balance was at zero. She knew she was in trouble. For certain, she had $223 dollars remaining on the card. She was there in person to speak to someone. She wasn’t the only one and she won’t be the last. This is an ongoing obstacle in the lives of many Californians.

Community members often reach out for assistance on getting stolen funds back. As community activists / organizers we are always looking for ways to share and popularize information. Share this wherever community convenes:

With electronic theft of EBT benefits impacting many Californians who need access to food, what can we do?

Briefly here are some things you should consider:

  1. Report the theft – You have 90 days to report the theft. Report right away!
  2. Cancel your card – contact EBT Customer Service Hotline at (877) 328-9677 (open 24 hours a day) to cancel.
  3. File a claim – File the “EBT 2259” claim form with the county within 90 days of electronic theft.
    1. You will need to identify the transactions that were illegal.
    2. The EBT Hotline can get you a 60-day transaction history.
    3. BenefitsCal has 3 months
    4. EBT Edge has 365 days
    5. Or you can ask the county to help you identify the illegal transaction(s)

For more detailed information, please see guide below:

ACTIVIST / ORGANIZER TOOLKIT: SPOTLIGHT ON ELECTRONIC EBT THEFT       Community Guide

 

EBT Electronic Theft Resources (ca.gov)

Western Center’s 2024 Legislative Agenda

Western Center’s 2024 Legislative Agenda

February 28, 2024
Following is a list of bills to help secure housing, healthcare, and a strong safety net for low-income Californians that will be sponsored or co-sponsored by Western Center on Law & Poverty during the 2024 legislative session.

Healthcare

AB 2297 (Friedman): Medical Debt Protection
This bill would modernize the Hospital Fair Pricing Act by prohibiting the use of home liens to collect unpaid medical bills from financially eligible patients, clarifying hospitals must review financial assistance eligibility at any time, clarifying Medi-Cal and Medicare cost sharing amounts can be deducted under financial assistance policies, defining charity care as free care, and other changes.
(Co-sponsored with Bet Tzedek)
AB 2297 Fact Sheet

AB 2319 (Wilson, Weber): Reducing Black Maternal Mortality through Implicit Bias Training
This bill would reduce the disproportionate maternal mortality rate of Black women and other pregnant persons of color by ensuring successful implementation of the California Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act of 2019 (SB 464 (Mitchell)) by clarifying which facilities are mandated to administer anti-bias trainings, confers enforcement powers to CDPH and the Attorney General, establishes administrative penalties for noncompliant facilities and requires compliance data to be posted online.
(Co-sponsored with Attorney General Rob Bonta, Black Women for Wellness Action Project, Reproductive Freedom for All California, California Nurse-Midwives Association and the California Black Women’s Collective)
AB 2319 Fact Sheet

AB 2753 (Ortega): Rehabilitative and Habilitative Services: Durable Medical Equipment and Services
This bill would clarify that durable medical equipment is a covered essential health benefit in California-regulated health plans and policies when prescribed by a doctor for rehabilitative or habilitative purposes. The bill would also remove limitations such as annual caps on durable medical equipment coverage.
(Co-sponsored with National Health Law Program)
AB 2753 Fact Sheet

AB 2956 (Boerner): Protecting Medi-Cal Coverage for Californians
This bill would allow people to keep their Medi-Cal coverage for a full 12 months, regardless of changes in their income and would direct California to seek federal approval, when necessary, to make permanent the federal Medi-Cal flexibilities to reduce and remedy procedural terminations, simplify income verification requirements, increase automatic Medi-Cal renewals, and improve program outreach and customer service. (Co-sponsored with The Children’s Partnership and Latino Coalition for a Healthy California)
AB 2956 Fact Sheet

AB 3170 (Ortega): Drug Testing of Pregnant People
This bill will be amended to indicate that any drug or alcohol test or screen performed by the staff or contractor of a health care institution on a pregnant or perinatal person or newborn, or any information on drug or alcohol use in the pregnant or perinatal person or newborn’s medical records, shall not be admitted in any criminal or civil proceeding, including juvenile dependency proceedings, over the objection of the person who was tested.

SB 1289 (Roth): County Call Center Oversight and Reporting
This bill would remedy the barriers at county call centers by directing the promulgation of regulations that set basic standards for things like wait times and requiring DHCS to publish online call center data from all 58 counties.
(Co-sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

Housing

AB 653 (Reyes): Increasing Voucher Utilization
This bill would create a competitive grant program for public housing authorities (PHAs) to fund housing navigation services, landlord incentives, and deposit resources to increase lease-up success rates for tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers. This bill would require PHAs to annually report their success rate and require those with a success rate below 60% to adopt certain policies to increase housing choice and work with HCD to analyze and improve their policies.
(Co-sponsored with Housing California, Corporation for Supportive Housing, United Ways of California, and the National Housing Law Project).

AB 846 (Bonta): Low-income housing Credit.
This bill would establish anti-price gouging protections for rent in properties funded by the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program.
(Co-sponsored with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and Public Advocates)

AB 2304 (Lee): Masking Limited Civil Unlawful Detainer Cases
This bill will close the gaps in the state eviction masking laws and ensure that all tenants are protected as originally intended.
(Co-sponsored with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation).

AB 2347 (Kalra): Protecting Tenant Due Process Rights
This bill would preserve the due process rights of tenants by preventing evictions when a tenant has not been properly served.
(Co-sponsored with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation).

ACA 10 (Haney): Housing is a Human Right
ACA 10 will recognize that every Californian has the fundamental human right to adequate housing on an equitable and non-discriminatory basis. Should the measure pass in the legislature, California voters will have the opportunity to vote to add this right to the state’s constitution, creating an obligation on the part of state and local governments to take meaningful action to fully realize the right.
(Co-sponsored with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action, End Poverty in California (EPIC), Housing Now, ACLU California Action, Abundant Housing LA, National Homelessness Law Center, and PowerCA Action)

Public Benefits and Access to Justice

AB 274 (Bryan): CalWORKs: CalFresh: Eligibility: Income Exclusions
This bill would exempt any grant, award, scholarship, loan, or fellowship benefit provided to any assistance unit member for educational purposes from consideration as income or resources for purposes of determining CalWORKs eligibility or grant amounts. The bill would also require the State Department of Social Services to exercise a federal option to exclude, for purposes of calculating a household’s income under CalFresh, any type of income that the department excludes when determining eligibility or benefits for CalWORKs.

AB 1815 (Weber): Discrimination: Hairstyles: Amateur Sports Organizations
This bill expands upon the CROWN act by prohibiting an amateur sports club or organization from discriminating against any person based on race, inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles in the operation, conduct, or administration of a youth or amateur sports competition, training, camp, or club.
AB 1815 Fact Sheet

AB 3170 (Ortega): Drug Testing of Pregnant People
This bill will be amended to indicate that any drug or alcohol test or screen performed by the staff or contractor of a health care institution on a pregnant or perinatal person or newborn, or any information on drug or alcohol use in the pregnant or perinatal person or newborn’s medical records, shall not be admitted in any criminal or civil proceeding, including juvenile dependency proceedings, over the objection of the person who was tested.

SB 1107 (Durazo): Public Social Services: County Departments: Mail Programs
This bill would require a county human services agency that administers public benefits to develop and implement a program to ensure that, at a minimum, homeless residents of a county can pick up and receive government-related mail addressed to the resident at a place designated by the agency.

Contact our Sacramento Advocates: For more information about Western Center on Law & Poverty and our advocacy priorities, go to www.wclp.org.

Brandon Greene, Director of Policy Advocacy
[email protected]
916-282-5112

Health
Linda Nguy
[email protected]
916-282-5117

Sandra O. Poole
[email protected]
916-282-5141

Housing
Cynthia Castillo
[email protected]
916-282-5103

Tina Rosales
[email protected]
916-282-5118

Public Benefits and Access to Justice
Christopher Sanchez
[email protected]
916-282-5104

Rebecca Gonzales
[email protected]
916-282-5119

New EBT Card Protection Available

A new application (for phones) is now available that can help you protect your EBT cash and food benefits. The EBT website now also has these additional security measures. The electronic thefts of benefits has dramatically increased, and these different options can help you keep your benefits safe.

 

The mobile phone application is called “ebtEDGE.” You can install that application on your phone through GooglePlay or the iStore. For computer and tablet users, you can access the card functions through the EBT cardholder portal at this link.

 

People with existing cardholder accounts set up on the website portal will have their information carried over to the new system. The first time you log in, however, you will be asked to set up challenge questions and answers for increased security. People first setting up their website accounts will also need to set up those questions/answers.

 

If you get a message that the username/password is ‘invalid’ OR you want to register for the first follow the instructions on the login page of the application.

 

EBT Customer Service will be available to help you: · Customer Service Email: [email protected]

· Toll-Free Customer Service Number* 877-328-9677

*also found on the back of EBT card

 

EbtEDGE will allow you to easily change your PIN – even turning it off until you want to use the card, so people cannot electronically steal your card and PIN information. You can also stop the card from being used out of your county or state, and other security measures. Click here to see all the new ways you can protect your benefits.

Congress’ Games Mean People Go Hungry

I can’t keep track of the number of days I’ve gone without lunch. Oftentimes, I eat breakfast at 8 a.m. and then wait 12 hours and eat dinner at 8 p.m., all so I don’t go to bed hungry. Being a full-time student and part-time preschool teacher, it was hard to be my best for myself and my young students.

As someone who experienced homelessness at age 19, I know how to make ends meet with meager funds. I know how to stretch my meals and what to purchase that won’t perish quickly. But no one should ever have to face the difficult circumstances and impossible choices I had to make.

As one of the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), brought by Western Center on Law and Poverty and Impact Fund, I am sharing my story because food should not be treated as “optional.” Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits are not a “nice to have,” they are a “need to have” for 40 million Americans, many of whom are children, seniors and people with disabilities. In a major victory, we secured October benefits for this year and years to come, but each month after is another fight.

Congress averted a shutdown on Sept. 30 by passing a continuing resolution. If Congress can’t get their act together, millions will go hungry as the new year starts, thanks to their political games.

I make $1,300 a month as a part time preschool teacher. I am studying full-time to continue my impactful work with preschoolers and work toward more opportunities and better financial stability that are opened up to me with a degree. My monthly expenses for my basic needs such as rent, utilities, car insurance and gas needed to go to work, and out-of-pocket medical expenses, are almost identical to my monthly take-home income. I try to save any extra income from the months where I can work more hours to use in the months when my basic expenses go over my take-home pay. CalFresh, California’s version of SNAP, provides me with $88 in food benefits a month, down from $250 during the pandemic.

 

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Inequality Insights

Millions of low-income households will continue receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits through November and December, even if there is a federal government shutdown, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said this week.

More than 2.9 million California households receive federal food assistance through CalFresh, CalMatters’ Justo Robles reports. Twenty percent of Californians are food insecure — meaning they lack reliable access to healthy food.

Jacqueline Benitez is one of them. She earns about $1,300 a month working part-time as a preschool teacher in Los Angeles County. The 22-year-old also is a junior at California State University, Long Beach.

Monthly rent for her Bellflower apartment recently jumped $200, she said, not leaving much for food. Now more than ever, Benitez said, her $88 monthly CalFresh benefit is essential. Eating properly helps her focus while studying and working with children.

“With $88 I try to buy things that will last, like rice, pasta, popcorn chicken,” she said.

“Without CalFresh benefits, I would be eating half a burger and leave the rest of it for tomorrow.”

In prior threats of federal shutdowns, welfare benefits were guaranteed only through September, the end of the government’s fiscal year. A federal shutdown would risk more than 40 million people’s access to food and nutrition assistance programs nationwide.

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Marin City fathers find relief in debt reduction plan

Tino Wilson, a Black man and business owner from Larkspur, has been buried by child support payments for decades.

With three children: Julian, 31; Tino Jr., 19; and Malachi, 14; Wilson, 50, owed about $70,000 in child support to the state.

“It’s hard to get out from under it, but I had to try to do it,” Wilson said.

This year, the Phoenix Project, a Marin City-based advocacy and aid group, and the county Department of Child Support Services stepped into help, assisting Wilson with reducing his debt by about $30,000 and setting up a regular and more manageable payment plan.

“I felt stuck and couldn’t get anywhere,” he said. “But they are very, very helpful and they are working fast with me. There’s a whole lot of people like me getting help.”

The state’s debt reduction program aims to assist parents like Wilson, who have past-due child support payments owed to the government, called arrears. The money is owed if the children received public assistance or were in foster care when child support payments were not being made.

Federal law requires that the state be reimbursed for expending taxpayer dollars for supporting the children.

The problem, said Felecia Gaston, director of the Phoenix Project, is that these arrears become so staggering that working adults, especially Black men in Marin City, are unable to get out from under them. The debt owned to the state compounds at an interest rate of 10% a year, often causing the payments to be even further out of reach.

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LA County supervisors want to erase $2.6 billion in residents medical debt

Billions of dollars of medical debt owed by nearly a million Los Angeles County residents could be purchased by the county and retired, according to a proposal set in motion on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to explore a plan to purchase $2.6 billion in medical bills owed by people throughout the county for pennies on the dollar. If implemented, the action would relieve families of what can become a lifetime burden and often prevents them from seeking medical care.

“Medical debt can contribute to food insecurity and housing instability,” said Fourth District Supervisor and board chair Janice Hahn, co-author of the motion along with Second District Supervisor Holly Mitchell. “Once someone has medical debt it becomes a barrier to assessing their healthcare.”

Hahn said the motion is a way to address medical debt experienced by up to a million county residents. The process would cost the county only a fraction of the amount owed to buy the debt, then retire it, the county reported.

Here’s how it would work:

When people accumulate debt from unpaid medical bills, eventually hospitals and medical establishments sell the debt to for-profit collection agencies. If not paid, these agencies often win judgments in court that can result in liens on payroll and properties against the patients.

Los Angeles County intends to intervene by buying out the residents’ debt for pennies on the dollar.

The proposal could wipe out billions of dollars in medical debt at a cost to the county of only millions, Hahn explained. The potential cost to the county would be $24 million to retire $2 billion in medical debt spread over the next two to three years, according to the county Department of Public Health (DPH).

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