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California governor links housing, transportation money

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a $1.75 billion plan for housing Thursday and threatened to withhold transportation money from local governments that don’t build their fair share, declaring he’s not playing “small ball” on California’s crisis.

The new Democratic governor also proposed spending $500 million for regions to build emergency shelters, navigation centers and other supportive housing to battle the state’s growing number of homeless.

…The issues of housing and homelessness are deeply related in an expensive state where two-thirds of renters pay more than $1,500 a month for shelter, says Paul Tepper, executive director of the Western Center on Law And Poverty, which works on behalf of poor Californians.

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Here’s What California Interest Groups Want to See in Gavin Newsom’s Budget



After Gavin Newsom took the oath of office Monday — becoming California’s 40th governor — attention in the capital is turning to the state budget, Newsom’s first opportunity to officially lay out his administration’s policy priorities.

As the most progressive Democrat elected to the state’s highest office in decades, groups on the left have high expectations for funding on issues like child care, housing and health care…

Mike Herald, director of policy advocacy, Western Center on Law and Poverty

“Western Center on Law and Poverty would like to see Governor Newsom end deep poverty for all CalWORKS (California’s public assistance program) families by increasing CalWORKS grants above 50 percent of the federal poverty level.”

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Western Center Submits Comments Opposing Public Charge Rule Change

Western Center has submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security in opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed Public Charge rule changes, joining over 150,000 others. An excerpt from Western Center’s comments are below, and the full comments are available here.

As California’s oldest and largest legal services support center, we have over
50 years’ experience fighting to reduce poverty in our state through the courts, the
legislature, and by working with state and local agencies to ensure our laws are fair and
justly implemented. We can speak directly to which federal and state policies serve to
reduce poverty in our communities thus benefitting our state and country as a whole
and which policies worsen poverty, penalize families struggling to make ends meet, and
hurt us all.

The recent notice of rulemaking proposes sweeping and very harmful changes to the
current public charge test – the test used to determine which immigrants are
inadmissible when they seek to enter the country or adjust their status to that of
permanent residents. The proposed regulations would punish immigrants, mostly those
who are people of color, for any use of a broad swath of public benefits, including
health, nutrition, and housing assistance, and further punish low-to-moderate income
families solely for their lack of wealth. This would be a radical departure from current
agency guidance that limits public charge determinations to those who are primarily
dependent on cash benefits and long term care medical services, and even then, only
after examining the totality of the circumstances.

Simply stated, laws and regulations that increase barriers to safe and affordable
housing, food, and health care are not only harmful in the short run, they have been
proven to have lasting detrimental effects throughout the lifetime of an individual and
even on the next generation. In other words, harsh and punitive short term spending
cuts generally backfire by decreasing the ability for individuals to support themselves
and their families. People cannot go to or do their best at work or school when they are
hungry or sick.

Gavin Newsom wants to redesign California’s tax system. It’s so hard, Jerry Brown didn’t try


California likes to tax the rich. A lot.

The top 1 percent of earners provides about half of personal income tax revenue, by far the largest source of funding for the state government.

The downside is that when the stock market goes bust, so does California’s budget. Experts, from Gov. Jerry Brown on down, are well aware of the problem, yet the politically perilous task of overhauling the volatile tax system has failed to gain traction for years.

Can Gavin Newsom change that? Among a laundry list of other big and ambitious policy goals, the Democratic governor-elect has expressed interest in revising the state tax structure. With revenues booming and a historic Democratic supermajority elected for the next legislative session, this may be his best chance.

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Thousands of Californians are working while homeless, and many don’t want their boss to know

Often one of the first steps to helping people out of homelessness is getting them a steady job.

But what about the thousands of homeless Californians who are already working?

Pinning down exactly how many Californians are working while homeless is not easy. Many try to hide it. And it’s certainly true that most people without a place to live are out of work.

But recent estimates suggest that it’s not uncommon for homeless Californians to hold down jobs.

A 2017 survey of the homeless population in San Francisco found 13 percent of respondents reporting part or full-time employment. That’s in a city with an estimated 7,499 people experiencing homelessness.

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Civil rights attorneys settle lawsuit accusing court of improperly suspending poor people’s driver’s licenses

Civil rights lawyers have settled a lawsuit accusing the Los Angeles Superior Court of improperly ordering driver’s license suspensions for people who couldn’t afford to pay their traffic ticket fines, saying the court has agreed to notify drivers that they can ask a judge to evaluate their ability to pay.

“Courts were required by law to look at a person’s ability to pay a fine before ordering the suspension of a driver’s license,” said Antionette Dozier, an attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, in a statement. “In Los Angeles, they didn’t follow the law.”

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Trump’s Latest Assault on Immigrants Shreds a Half-Century of Reforms

For much of the past year, anti-poverty and immigrant-rights advocates have worried that the Trump administration would reshape immigration policy on the sly. In particular, they were concerned that hard-liners in the administration would use an obscure regulatory change about how to interpret the meaning of “public charge” as a way both of slashing the total number of immigrants allowed into the United States and of reimagining which sorts of immigrants gain access.

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California Still Has The Nation’s Highest Poverty Rate (Blame Housing Costs)

By many measures, California’s economy is doing great. State unemployment is at a record low. Nearly 3 million jobs have been created since early 2010. If California were its own country, it would have surpassed the UK earlier this year to become the world’s fifth largest economy.

But still, nearly one in five Californians live in poverty. That includes 7.5 million residents, more than in any other state. According to statistics released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, no other state has a higher poverty rate than California’s. Only Florida and Louisiana come statistically close.

But how can so much poverty exist in such a booming economy? The long, complicated answer has to do with the federal government’s different methods for measuring poverty. The short answer? California’s high housing costs.

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San Francisco just got rid of unfair criminal justice fees. Other counties should do the same.

San Francisco resident Mary Vandigriff remembers when her life fell apart at age 19 and she began a 20-year struggle with addiction and cycling in and out of jail.

Since Vandigriff last left jail in March 2017, she got a job at a San Francisco nonprofit, got clean and is repairing her relationships with her kids. But she still struggles, particularly with the thousands of dollars in administrative fees she owes from her time in the criminal justice system.

In San Francisco, people can be charged a $50 monthly probation fee; $1,800 is typically charged up front since probation usually lasts for three years. They can be charged as much as $35 a day for an electronic ankle monitor, and other fees to pay for reports, collection costs or tests. These fees exist in every California county, and are among the highest in the country.

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California Hospitals Must Cough Up Millions To Meet Charity Care Rules

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has ordered three California hospitals to pay out millions of dollars to local nonprofits, declining their requests to be freed from charity obligations required under state law.

The hospitals, based in the Central Valley and Los Angeles, argued that there isn’t as much need to support charity care because millions more people have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and therefore don’t need as much financial help to pay medical bills.

Becerra’s refusal signals his agreement with health consumer advocates, who argue that patients still are struggling to pay their bills, even when they have insurance. While it applies to just a few hospitals, the decision sends a message to hospitals around the state, some of which want similar relief.

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