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Progress for California: Western Center’s Statement on 2019-20 State Budget

Governor Newsom’s first budget adopts many Western Center proposals, and moves the needle on poverty, inequality, and addressing homelessness

The budget signed by Governor Newsom today for FY 2019-20 includes important anti-poverty measures that Western Center has pushed for years. Most notably, the budget more than doubles the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), ends the “senior penalty” for accessing Medi-Cal, and expands Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults. It also provides a major boost to CalWORKs grants, and includes a significant investment in affordable housing and homelessness programs.

Unfortunately, the budget does not include funding to restore massive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) grant cuts from a decade ago, or to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented seniors. Additionally, CalWORKs grants still keep most CalWORKs families in deep poverty, and while the governor’s closing of tax loopholes to boost low wage workers’ income through the EITC was creative and bold, it continues to exclude ITIN tax filers.

There is much more work to do, but the Governor’s first budget demonstrates both empathy for those with the least, and imagination in finding ways to address their needs.

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PRESS RELEASE: Advocates file Motion to Intervene in Huntington Beach v. State of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Western Center on Law & Poverty and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation submit Motion to Intervene in the case of Huntington Beach v. State of California

 

The Motion is submitted on behalf of advocacy organizations Housing California and the California Coalition for Rural Housing

 

Los Angeles, Calif. (June 28, 2019)  Western Center on Law & Poverty and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation have filed a Motion to Intervene in the matter of Huntington Beach v. State of California, on behalf of their clients, Housing California and the California Coalition for Rural Housing (CCRH). The Motion will be heard in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on July 23, 2019.

 

In February, Huntington Beach filed suit against the State, claiming the requirements via Senate Bills 166 and 1333 that make sure cities can accommodate high density housing are unconstitutional. The city asserts that zoning is a local issue, and that California’s 121 charter cities should be free to make their own decisions. “Charter cities like Huntington Beach must stop pretending like their actions don’t affect housing affordability across the state; the poorest and most vulnerable among us are who pay for their bad actions. We are filing this motion to intervene for Housing California and CCRH – organizations that fight for affordable housing for Californians with the lowest incomes, because our state can’t rely on reluctant cities like Huntington Beach, of which there are many, to do the right thing. The costs are too great.” – Navneet Grewal, Senior Attorney at Western Center.

 

The claims made by the City of Huntington Beach in the matter fundamentally threaten the ability of both Housing California and CCRH to carry out their missions to facilitate increases in affordable housing throughout the state on behalf of low-income Californians. “Low-income families are disproportionately affected by California’s housing shortage crisis. As part of our mission to ensure social justice and equity for California’s rural poor, CRLAF works vigorously to ensure the development and maintenance of safe, clean, and affordable homes for rural workers and their families,” said Cecilia Guevara Zamora, Staff Attorney at California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

 

Housing California works to curb homelessness and promote the development of affordable housing. Should Huntington Beach find success with its claim that charter cities do not have to plan for the development of affordable housing, Housing California’s efforts and strategies to expand affordable housing in communities across California will be significantly impacted; charter cities make up over 50 percent of the state. “What affects one part of our state affects us all. Providing affordable homes in all communities ensures that people can live where they work, which means less traffic, cleaner air, and healthier communities for everyone. The future of our state relies on a more inclusive California – if Huntington Beach wins its case, we will be taking a step backwards.” – Lisa Hershey, Executive Director of Housing California.

 

Similarly, CCRH’s work to promote and preserve affordable housing in rural California communities, which have unique land and development constraints, would be severely impacted by such a decision as well. There are approximately 45 charter cities in rural California – the negative consequences for those communities could be severe. “Cities in rural California have a long history of erecting barriers to affordable housing through land use and zoning – including onerous limits on the production of multifamily housing and higher density development, as well as requirements for parking that restrict how many units can be built. That’s why state legislation to relax those barriers is critical to our members whose mission it is to build homes for hard-working, low-wage workers who live in rural communities,” said Executive Director of CCRH, Robert Wiener.

 

In light of its dramatic housing crisis, California cannot afford for cities, charter or otherwise, to eschew zoning requirements that facilitate the creation of high-density housing that accommodates low- and moderate-income households. When an individual city does not do its part, it harms its neighbors and the state. As stated in the lawsuit filed by the State against the City of Huntington Beach in January, “The failure of local governments to plan for the necessary housing supply has been a key factor contributing to this crisis.”

 

The decision made in the case of Huntington Beach will not only impact the Proposed Interveners, it will also have impacts that ripple all over California. This intervention seeks to ensure that the City of Huntington Beach’s actions do not expand to other municipalities, posing significant harm to low- and moderate- income families, and exacerbating California’s housing crisis.

 

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Dove & The CROWN Coalition Joins Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (NY) To End Hair Discrimination In New York State With S6209 The CROWN Act

Dove and fellow co-founding members of the CROWN Coalition (National Urban League, Color Of Change and Western Center on Law & Poverty) are excited to extend their support to Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (NY) and congratulate Senator Jamaal T. Bailey (Democrat | NY) as NY S6209 ‘The CROWN Act’ passed the Senate, 46-16 on Monday, June 17 to prohibit discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles.

…”A person’s professional capacity has nothing to do with whether or not they process their hair to conform to an idea of professionalism or beauty rooted firmly in European standards,” said Courtney McKinney, Communications Director, Western Center on Law and Poverty. “We are a multiracial society in need of diverse thought, leadership, and experience. Simply put, our collective success relies on our commitment to respect every person in every form — hair and all.”

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Read Western Center’s analysis of 2019-2020 Budget Bill

Budget Bill 2019-20: AB 74

 Includes important anti-poverty measures: expands Earned Income Tax Credit, increases CalWORKs grants, expands access to Medi-Cal, and provides significant funding for anti-homelessness measures

Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature have reached a budget deal for FY 2019-20. Some details are still being negotiated, including housing provisions and the state Earned Income Tax Credit; we will provide updates as additional details are available. The Budget Bill must be passed by midnight on Saturday, June 15, 2019.

The budget will result in significant positive gains for California’s most vulnerable residents. The budget includes many Western Center priorities, most notably, it increases the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) for families, ends the “senior penalty” for accessing Medi-Cal, and expands Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults. It also provides a major boost to CalWORKs grants, and includes $650 million in funding to address homelessness. Unfortunately, the budget does not include funding to restore massive SSI (Supplemental Security Income) grant cuts from a decade ago, or to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented seniors.

The increased spending in the 2019-20 budget is made possible by a three-year $21.5 billion surplus. The surplus is from a combination of higher revenue than estimated, and lower state spending than anticipated. The budget includes reserves and a Rainy Day Fund that exceed $20 billion, the largest in state history.

Read our full analysis

Californians for SSI Coalition (CA4SSI) Responds to the Governor’s May Revise

The 2019-20 Budget Must End Poverty for 1.2 Million Living on SSI/SSP

CA4SSI is disappointed that the Governor’s May Revise does not address the crisis of poverty for the 1.2 million California children, seniors and people with disabilities who receive combined Supplemental Security Income & State Supplemental Payment grants (SSI/SSP). We appreciate the Governor’s proposal for $25 million to support SSI advocacy. That program helps stabilize individuals and support their SSI application, but does not address poverty and hardship for the 1.2 million Californians on SSI/SSP face every day.

Read the full statement.

Western Center Summary and Analysis of Governor Newsom’s Revised Budget

Governor Gavin Newsom has submitted his May budget revision to the Legislature, signaling the beginning of the annual budget process. The Governor’s budget builds upon the January budget, which included a host of new investments in CalWORKs, affordable housing, health care and the state earned income tax credit.

The May revision adds new proposals for an expanded child tax credit, additional child care slots, and an end to taxes on diapers and menstrual products. The budget does not include funding to restore massive SSI grant cuts from a decade ago or to prevent seniors and persons living with disabilities from having to pay high share of costs for their medical coverage.

The revision rightly undoes a budget cut from a decade ago by restoring eyeglasses for adults on Medi-Cal. Unfortunately, the May Revision continues to exclude low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, and undocumented adults over age 25 from full-scope Medi-Cal. The Medi-Cal Aged & Disabled income eligibility threshold for full-scope Medi-Cal remains at 122% FPL, meaning seniors and persons with disabilities are subject to a lower income eligibility threshold.

We are happy that the Governor has recognized that our housing crisis requires a multi-pronged approach: near-term interventions for those struggling with homelessness, protections for renters at risk of homelessness, and a simultaneous investment in producing desperately needed affordable housing for those hit hardest by the crisis. To that end, we are pleased to see an increase in funding to cities and counties to address ongoing and increasing homelessness, and an expansion of the eligible uses of those funds.

We look forward to continuing our work with the Legislature and with the Governor to bring the budget and state policies in line with solutions that will lift Californians out of poverty. Those priority investments are not optional if we are truly striving for a California for all.

Read our full analysis here.

PRESS RELEASE: Judge approves class action settlement for California’s failure to arrange Medi-Cal in-home nursing care for children

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Over 4,000 children in California are eligible for in-home nursing — many don’t receive the care they are prescribed

San Francisco, Calif. – A federal judge granted preliminary approval for settlement of a class action lawsuit that will enable children and youth with complex medical needs to get the in-home nursing they need to remain healthy and safe. The judge’s ruling will allow the state to inform over 4,000 affected families about the settlement, giving them a chance to weigh in before granting final approval.

The case was filed on May 24, 2018 by two children, I.N. and J.B., against the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), claiming that the state failed to fulfill its commitment to provide them and thousands of other Medi-Cal beneficiaries like them with sufficient Medi-Cal in-home nursing services to keep them safely at home.

“Obtaining private duty nursing is a difficult and complicated process and for too many years families have received little or no support in securing the health care their children on Medi-Cal are entitled to receive,” says William Leiner, an attorney with Disability Rights California, one of the firms that brought the case.  “Under this settlement, the Department of Health Care Services accepts that it is ultimately responsible to help these families.  In the future, every family that needs assistance will get a case manager whose job will be to arrange for all approved nursing hours.”

Plaintiff I.N. is seven years old and lives with her adoptive family. Due to cerebral palsy and epilepsy, she needs help with all of her daily needs, uses a wheelchair, and receives food and nutrients through a feeding tube. She requires round the clock care, including 63 hours per week of in-home nursing care as prescribed by her doctor and approved by the Medi-Cal program. But she has always received far less than the 63 hours she needs. Her mother hopes that the settlement, which will improve the services available to families like hers, will change that.  “With this settlement, I am hopeful that my family and others like mine will finally receive the help we need to obtain nursing care for our children.”

I.N.’s story is not unique. More than 4,000 Medi-Cal-eligible children have been approved by the state to receive Medi-Cal in-home nursing care. Yet because the state lacks an effective system for arranging nursing, many children make do with far fewer hours than they need, which creates an unacceptable risk of medical complications, hospitalization, and placement outside of the family home. According to a 2016 DHCS study, 29 percent of authorized Medi-Cal in-home nursing hours go unstaffed.

Sarah Somers, an attorney with co-counsel National Health Law Program, has litigated similar cases across the nation. “Under federal Medicaid law, states are required to do more than simply authorize services. They have an affirmative obligation to arrange for those services to be provided to the children who need them. We are pleased that California has recognized this responsibility and is taking action to improve their system so that children will be better served.”

Robert Newman, General Counsel with co-counsel Western Center on Law and Poverty, sees a moral, legal, and fiscal imperative for the state to act. “DHCS settled this case quickly, because they understood the gravity of the circumstances for thousands of families. Enabling children to remain safely at home and avoid costly hospitalization is the right thing to do.”

To learn more about this case and the Plaintiffs, read the complaint here.

 

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Disability Rights California (DRC) is the protection and advocacy agency for the state of California.  DRC works to advance the rights, dignity, equal opportunities, and choices for all people with disabilities through impact litigation, policy advocacy, investigations, training and outreach. For more information, visit www.disabilityrightsca.org.

Founded in 1969, the National Health Law Program protects and advances the health rights of low-income and underserved individuals and families. The Health Law Program advocates, educates and litigates at the federal and state levels. Our lawyers and policy analysts stand up for the rights of the millions of people who struggle to access affordable, quality health care. We are guided by the belief—a challenge—that each generation should live better than the last. www.healthlaw.org.

Western Center on Law & Poverty fights for justice and system-wide change to secure housing, health care, racial justice and a strong safety net for low-income Californians. Western Center attains real-world, policy solutions for clients through litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, and technical assistance and legal support for the state’s legal aid programs. Western Center is California’s oldest and largest legal services support center. www.wclp.org.

 

PRESS RELEASE: Western Center bill package could strengthen Medi-Cal for seniors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Assemblymembers Wood, Carrillo and advocates promote package of bills to strengthen Medi-Cal for seniors

 

AB 715, AB 1088, AB 1042 (Wood), and AB 683 (Carrillo) will work together to make Medi-Cal more equitable while creating greater stability for seniors and adults with disabilities

 

Sacramento, Calif., (April 2, 2019) – Today, Assemblymembers Wood and Carrillo joined advocates from Western Center on Law & Poverty, Justice in Aging, and Disability Rights California to highlight a package of new bills that, if passed, will work together to make Medi-Cal more equitable and accessible, while creating greater stability for seniors and adults with disabilities. The bill package is in committee this afternoon. Footage from the press conference is available here

 

“Seniors are California’s fastest-growing population,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa). “Between now and 2026, the number of Californians 65 and older is expected to climb by 2.1 million, according to projections by the state Department of Finance — the only age bracket to grow in scale. Within this ever-growing population, we have some of our most vulnerable seniors who often have to make difficult choices – to pay for their rent and utilities, see a doctor, or purchase groceries or the medications they need. My goal this year, with three bills and two significant budget requests, is to make a positive difference in their lives.”

 

Currently, four separate Medi-Cal rules limit Medi-Cal’s effectiveness. The four new bills in the “Senior Package” would address those pitfalls, ensuring California seniors and adults with disabilities have access to the care they need.

 

“The Affordable Care Act made health care more accessible for a lot of people, but we left seniors out,” said Jen Flory, Policy Advocate at Western Center. “Seniors on Medi-Cal face stricter program rules and risk losing their health care at a time when senior poverty is on the rise. No one should lose their health care because they turn 65.”

 

The four bills in the package include:

 

AB 715 (Wood) – Eliminates the Senior Penalty

Raises the Medi-Cal income eligibility limit for seniors and adults with disabilities to 138% of the federal poverty level. Resolves unfair situations in which seniors and adults with disabilities are subject to a lower income eligibility limit than others in the Medi-Cal population. Will create parity between other Medi-Cal programs that serve adults and the Medi-Cal Aged & Disabled program. It will also reduce the number of low-income seniors who have a share-of-cost, which is typically an unaffordable monthly amount that seniors must pay before Medi-Cal will cover costs.

 

AB 1088 (Wood) – Improves Continuity of Medi-Cal Coverage

Stops seniors and adults with disabilities from flipping between free and share-of-cost Medi-Cal. Currently, this happens because the Medi-Cal income counting rules deduct an individual’s out-of-pocket payment of the Medicare Part B premium from their income, but stops deducting that payment when it comes from the state as a benefit of free Medi-Cal, creating a nonsensical loop—a senior can yo-yo on and off of the free Medi-Cal program simply because of the difference created by one income deduction, despite no change in their actual income. AB 1088 stops this yo-yoing by creating an income deduction when the state payment of the Part B premium would disqualify someone from free Medi-Cal, thus ensuring the individual’s stable enrollment in Medi-Cal.

 

AB 1042 (Wood) – Helps Seniors Keep their Home

Updates and expands the home upkeep allowance, which helps ensure seniors and adults with disabilities who have a short-term stay in a nursing facility do not lose their home or belongings. Currently, an individual who resides in a nursing home should have access to the home upkeep allowance, which allows an individual to keep money for up to 6 months to pay for rent or mortgage so they don’t lose their housing while in a nursing home. In practice, however, the allowance is rarely used, limited in scope, and is such a small amount—$209—that it is insufficient. AB 1042 corrects this by increasing the amount of the home upkeep allowance and allowing the individual to use it to preserve their home, or set up a home (e.g., pay a rental deposit or costs of a storage space).

 

AB 683 (Carrillo) – Increases Financial Stability for Low-Income Seniors

Increases and simplifies the asset eligibility limit for Medi-Cal and eliminates those limits for the Medicare Savings Programs, which makes Medicare more affordable. This bill is needed because the current asset rules are so low that they affect seniors’ financial stability and perpetuate racial inequity within the Medi-Cal program. Currently, the asset limit is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. That limit has remained unchanged since 1989. Although asset exclusions exist, including property used as a primary residence, people of color are much less likely to own real property. This means that a senior with $4,000 in the bank is ineligible for Medi-Cal, but a senior who owns a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is eligible. AB 683 helps address this disparity by allowing individuals to have up to $10,000 of assets and a couple to have $15,000; ensures more people qualify for the Medicare Savings Program; and simplifies asset rules so low-income seniors and adults with disabilities have an easier time understanding and complying with the rules.

 

 

For more information, contact:

Jen Flory, Western Center on Law & Poverty, jflory@wclp.org

Claire M. Ramsey, Justice in Aging, cramsey@justiceinaging.org

Western Center, Debt Free Justice Coalition Sponsoring Bill to End Criminal Justice Admin Fees

Senate Bill 144, introduced by Senator Holly J. Mitchell, was amended with text that will end the assessment and collection of administrative fees imposed against people in the criminal justice system. By doing so, it would dramatically reduce the economic hardships caused by court-ordered debt and enhance the economic security of system-involved populations, their families and their communities. SB 144 will usher in an era of criminal justice policy that does not rely on stripping wealth from communities of color and low-income communities. The Debt Free Justice Coalition is sponsoring the legislation and has issued the following statements:

“Eliminating administrative fees will allow formerly incarcerated people to devote their already limited resources to critical needs like food, education, housing and health insurance. Repealing criminal fees will result in improved employment prospects for formerly incarcerated people and put more money in the pockets of economically insecure families, aiding successful reentry and reducing California’s recidivism rate.”

— Jessica Bartholow, Western Center on Law and Poverty

Read full statement here.