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133 Aging and Disability Stakeholders’ Response to May Revision of Proposed 2024- 25 State Budget

133 Aging and Disability Stakeholders’ Response to May Revision of Proposed 2024- 25 State Budget

Dear Governor Newsom, Speaker Rivas, Pro Tem McGuire, Assemblymember Gabriel and Senator Wiener:

The undersigned 133 organizations representing aging and disability stakeholders in California, write to you with our comments on Governor Newsom’s May Revision to the proposed 2024-25 state budget. The May Revision includes a number of cuts to IHSS, workforce initiatives, housing and homelessness programs, CalFresh/CFAP, APS, and CDA programs including the Older Californians Act.

Health Care

We are deeply alarmed that the Governor’s May Revision includes the elimination of the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) benefit for undocumented Californians in MediCal. The IHSS program provides essential support services to ensure that individuals can remain living in the community and avoid costly institutionalization. By eliminating IHSS, the state will be turning its back on its commitment to providing health care for all Californians regardless of immigration status. Given that the proposed cut targets immigrant and disability communities, we also have serious concerns that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead, the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution, and California’s Government Code section 11135 and recently amended regulations.

IHSS is a key health care program, and by revoking access to the program, low-income undocumented Californians will have to forgo care at home or seek long-term services and supports through institutional care, which would ultimately be exponentially more expensive for the state. This elimination also puts a significant economic burden on family caregivers, who may now have to leave the workforce to provide that care uncompensated. Family caregivers are often low-income women of color, and if they must leave the paid workforce to provide care to their aging and disabled family members, this proposal will exacerbate economic disparities.

Eliminating access to IHSS will also undermine the trust that California has worked to build with immigrant communities and will raise doubts about its commitment to health access for all Californians. Since the first expansion of Medi-Cal to children in 2016, the Department of Health Care Services, in conjunction with enrollment navigators and consumer advocacy organizations, have put in considerable work to assuage fears of enrolling in Medi-Cal. Eliminating IHSS now for this specific population will lead to confusion and fear that other Medi-Cal services or coverage entirely will be stripped away. Additionally, Medi-Cal paid placement at LTC facilities is one of the public benefits considered in the public charge assessment – making this IHSS benefit cut particularly cruel for undocumented Californians.

We are also disappointed that the Governor proposes to eliminate the IHSS Permanent Backup Provider program. The shortage of available caregivers has had a significant adverse impact on the quality of life of people with disabilities and older adults. IHSS recipients who have gaps in their care face a risk of costly hospitalization and institutional placement. Eliminating the Backup Provider system exacerbates an already critically under-resourced program. California must ensure that IHSS recipients do not go without the care they need to remain safely in their homes when their regular caregivers are sick or experience an emergency. We urge the Legislature to reject this proposal, and prioritize programs like the Backup Provider program that further health equity and support community living for all Californians.

We appreciate and acknowledge that the May Revision maintains other investments in health care eligibility and benefits, like the elimination of the asset test in Medi-Cal and the 2025 implementation of Part A Buy-In. We also appreciate that important home and community-based services programs like the Community-Based Adult Services and the Multipurpose Senior Services Program were not cut, as they were in previous cycles of fiscal downturn. However, we are disappointed in the May Revision proposal to cut funding for the Community Health Navigators who play an important role in enrolling older adults and people with disabilities in Medi-Cal.

We are disappointed that the May Revision delays the implementation of the MediCal Share of Cost reform. We recognize the difficult budget environment this year; however, the current inequitable Medi-Cal Share of Cost program forces older adults and people with disabilities to live on $600 a month in order to receive health benefits. The Legislature and Governor should remain committed to implementing this reform as quickly as possible.

Older Californians Act Modernization

We are opposed to the proposal in the May Revision to substantially reduce the funds to modernize the Older Californians Act. The May Revision proposes to eliminate $111 million of this vital funding for senior nutrition programs. Senior nutrition programs are a core service of many Area Agencies on Aging. There is incredible need in the community for meals, and cutting this funding would be shortsighted, harmful, and counter to the goals of California’s Master Plan for Aging. We urge the Legislature to reject this proposal.

Food Security

We are disappointed in the two-year delay in implementing the expansion of the California Food Assistance Program for undocumented older adults. Food insecurity is a fundamental element of the social determinants of health. All Californians deserve access to food, and low-income undocumented Californians have been unjustly excluded for too long. Further delaying the expansion only exacerbates these harms. We urge the Legislature to reject this proposal.

We are also disappointed in the proposal to eliminate the CalFresh Minimum Benefit Pilot, which would provide additional CalFresh food benefits for households that are only receiving the federal minimum allotment of $23 per month, bringing them up to $50 per month. We urge the legislature to reject this cut. Hunger needs in California remain high, and cutting this pilot program only harms older adults and individuals with disabilities already struggling to afford food.

Housing and Homelessness

California has experienced an alarming spike in older adult housing precarity and homelessness; almost half of unhoused adults are now age 50 and older, a number that continues to grow. There could not be a worse time to cut funding to programs that specifically target the housing needs of older adults and people with disabilities. The May Revision proposes cuts to Home Safe and the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program, two of the only programs focused on preventing older adult homelessness. When paired with the severe reductions in HHAP, Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program (BHCIP) and Behavioral Health Bridge Program (BHBH), localities will have few resources to help older and disabled adults get and stay housed. We urge the Legislature to reject this proposal. We appreciate the $500 million of state tax credit funds available to create more LIHTC housing.

Elder Justice

We’re also deeply concerned about the proposed cuts to Adult Protective Services, which provides important services to vulnerable older adults. The May Revision proposes to cut the expansion of the Adult Protective Services program, reduces the additional training funds for APS workers and puts the innovative Home Safe program in jeopardy. The Home Safe program has been critical in reaching older adults experiencing homelessness throughout the state. Further, without these additional training funds, the APS workforce will be unprepared to support the complex needs faced by older adults and persons with disabilities experiencing abuse and neglect. The APS program is a critical safety net program for older adults and is recognized by the State’s Master Plan on Aging as a continuum of care to promote healthy aging and equitable access to community-based services. We urge the Legislature to reject this proposal.

Workforce

We are disappointed to see that the May Revise proposes to eliminate $820 million in health care workforce development funding through Fiscal Year 2027-28. These cuts would be felt across multiple health care professions, such as community health workers, nurses, social workers and more. As our aging population grows and access to trained caregivers declines, there has never been a more critical time to bolster investments in our health care workforce.

Behavioral Health

We are disappointed in the May Revision proposal to significantly reduce the California Department of Aging’s Older Adult Behavioral Health funding. There are significant needs for behavioral health services amongst older Californians – research indicates that fewer than half of older adults with mental and/or substance use disorders receive necessary treatment. In addition, we know that older adult isolation and loneliness results in real harm and requires proactive interventions, including behavioral health support. We urge the legislature to consider ways to continue investing in the behavioral health infrastructure to support older adults.

Economic Security

We sincerely appreciate that the May Revision does not include any cuts to the SSI/SSP grants, which provide critical income support to the lowest-income Californians. In the last recession, severe cuts were made to SSI/SSP, resulting in one million older adults and people with disabilities being pushed into poverty. We are still grappling with the impacts of that recession, and it is important that the SSI/SSP grants are not cut in this current budget environment.

California’s Commitment to the Master Plan for Aging (MPA)

Over the last several years, California has been committed and engaged in the MPA development and implementation. The MPA’s goal is to remedy longstanding inequities in the systems of care for older adults and people with disabilities. We must ensure that the final budget agreement remains aligned with the goals of the MPA, and therefore we urge the Legislature to reject the harmful cuts proposed in the Governor’s May Revision.

We look forward to continuing to engage with the Legislature and Administration during this difficult budget cycle to ensure that older adults and people with disabilities are not harmed.

Sincerely,

A.B.L.E Community Development
Foundation
Abrazar, Inc.
Aging Services Collaborative of Santa Clara County
Alameda Alliance for Health
Alameda County Older Adults, Healthy Results
Alzheimer’s Association
Alzheimer’s Los Angeles
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Archstone Foundation
Ashby Village
Asian Pacific Caregiver Network
Bet Tzedek Legal Services
Brilliant Corners
Buen Vecino
CA Foundation for Independent Living Centers
California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform
California Alliance for Retired Americans
California Assocation for Adult Day Services
California Association of Area Agencies on Aging
California Association of Food Banks
California Association of Public Authorities for IHSS
California Collaborative for Long-Term
Services and Supports (CCLTSS)
California Domestic Workers Coalition
California Elder Justice Coalition
California Health Advocates
California Immigrant Policy Center
California Pan-Ethnic Health Network
California Senior Legislature
California State Association of Public
Administrators, Public Guardians and Public Conservators
California Women’s Law Center
Californians for Disability Rights
CalPACE
Cardea Health
Caring Across Generations
Central Valley Immigrant Integration
Collaborative
Centro Laboral de Graton
Chinatown Service Center
Choice in Aging
City of Oakland
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, CHIRLA
Communities Actively Living Independent & Free
Community Living Campaign
Community Resources for Independent Living
Community Tech Network
County Welfare Directors Association of California
Courage California
Crisis Support Services of Alameda County
DayBreak Adult Care
Disability Community Resource Center
Disability Justice League Bay Area
Disability Rights California
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
Disability Voices United
Eden Area Village
Elder Law & Advocacy
Empowered Aging
Fat Legal Advocacy, Rights, and Education project of Solovay Law
Filipino Advocates for Justice
Food for People
FREED Center for Independent Living
Friends Committee on Legislation of California
Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network
Hmong Cultural Center of Butte County
Home Match | Front Porch
Homebridge
Immigrant Defense Advocates
Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco
Indivisible CA: StateStrong
Inland Counties Legal Services
Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective
J Gould Consulting
Jewish Family Service LA
Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley
Justice in Aging
Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
Leading Age California
Legal Assistance for Seniors
Legal Assistance to the Elderly
Let’s Kick ASS Palm Springs (AIDS Survivor Syndrome)
Lifelong Medical Care
LifeSTEPS
Little Tokyo Service Center
Long Beach Gray Panthers
Maternal and Child Health Access
Mercy Brown Bag Program
Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP)
Mujeres Unidas y Activas
Multi-faith ACTION Coalition
National Health Law Program
Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County
Northeast Valley Health Corporation
On Lok
Openhouse
Pacific Asian Counseling Services
Pangea Legal Services
Partners in Care Foundation
Personal Assistance Services Council (PASC)
Pilipino Workers Center
Placer Independent Resource Services
PNHP California – South Bay Chapter
Resources for Independence Central Valley (RICV)
San Francisco AIDS Foundation
San Francisco Gray Panthers
San Francisco Human Services Agency
San Francisco IHSS Public Authority
San Francisco-Marin Food Bank
SEIU CA
Senior Advocacy Network
Senior and Disability Action
Senior Coastsiders
Senior Services Coalition of Alameda County
Seniors Council of Santa Cruz & San Benito Counties
Service Center for Independent Life
Service Opportunity for Seniors / SOS Meals on Wheels
SF IHSS Task Force
Silicon Valley Independent Living Center
Sistahs Aging with Grace & Elegance
Sourcewise
St. Mary’s Center
The Arc of California/ El Arc de California
The California IHSS Consumer Alliance (CICA)
The Center for Independent Living
The Central Valley Urban Institute
The East Oakland Collective
The Unity Council
United American Indian Involvement
United Domestic Workers/AFSCME 3930
United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County
United Way of Greater Los Angeles
Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, Occidental College
Venice Family Clinic
Vietnamese American Community Center of the East Bay
Western Center on Law and Poverty

Trial Update: City of Los Angeles Faces Final Trial Postponement in Street Vendor Lawsuit

Amid Ongoing Negotiations, City Council Introduces Motion to Address Harassment by Street Vending Enforcement Agency

LOS ANGELES, CA, MAY 15, 2024 – The non-profit legal team and plaintiffs in Community Power Collective v. City of Los Angeles released the following joint statement today:

“In December 2022, vendor plaintiffs Merlín Alvarado and Ruth Monroy, along with three community empowerment organizations—Community Power Collective, East LA Community Corporation & Inclusive Action for the City—filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, challenging a number of regulations in their Sidewalk Vending Ordinance. Our lawsuit alleges that these regulations violate a 2018 state law—SB 946—that legalized sidewalk vending statewide.

“The goal of this lawsuit is to ensure that the City of Los Angeles follows state law, repeals illegal policies that it previously enacted, and makes vendors whole who have been harassed with citations pursuant to clearly illegal policies. We have already successfully forced the City to repeal its most harmful policies so that vendors will not be cited for operating their businesses in lucrative pedestrian areas. However, to ensure that the City fully addresses its obligation to make those harmed by its actions whole, we have agreed to continue negotiations and will postpone our trial date until July 16, 2024. The Judge overseeing this case stated that this is the last continuance he will grant.

“The lawsuit also includes several references to harassment by Bureau of Street Services (BSS) officers, which have not only continued but tragically increased since filing our lawsuit over 18 months ago.  We are pleased to see that the City introduced a motion last Friday to consider several measures to ensure that BSS does not continue to violate its own regulations and that it treats street vendors with respect.

However, the City has still not addressed the past harm it has caused hundreds of low-income vendors. While we have reached high-level agreement with the City of Los Angeles on changing certain sidewalk vending regulations and addressing certain citations issued to sidewalk vendors, the City has yet to agree to a comprehensive plan that will enact these changes and remedies effectively. Reaching a potential settlement agreement is an urgent issue—for one because all parties involved continue to invest time and resources in this process, but more importantly because street vendors will continue to experience state-sanctioned harm and harassment until these issues are resolved.

“If a satisfactory resolution between the parties cannot be reached by July 16, the sidewalk vendors, vendor advocates, and their counsel are fully prepared to take our case to trial and ask a judge to order the City to fully comply with state law and to make vendors whole.

“Whether through settlement or in court, we are confident that this lawsuit will result in the restoration of vendor rights in the City of Los Angeles and will serve as a signal to other jurisdictions that they cannot arbitrarily exclude vendors from their local economy.

“We appreciate your understanding and support as we proceed with these negotiations for the rights and fair treatment of our street vendor community. Due to the confidential nature of these discussions, we are unable to share further details at this time.

The plaintiffs are represented by Arnold and Porter, a private, worldwide law firm, providing pro bono co-counsel support, and the nonprofit law firms, Public Counsel and Western Center on Law & Poverty.

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For media inquiries, email Josh here.

Public Counsel: Public Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice, as well as to amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. Founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model, our staff and volunteers

seek justice through direct legal services, promote healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and support community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles.

Arnold & Porter: Arnold & Porter combines sophisticated regulatory, litigation, and transactional capabilities to resolve clients’ most complex issues. With over 1,000 lawyers practicing in 15 offices worldwide, we offer deep industry experience and an integrated approach that spans more than 40 practice areas. Through multidisciplinary collaboration and focused industry experience, we provide innovative and effective solutions to mitigate risks, address challenges, and achieve successful outcomes.

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. For more information, visit www.wclp.org.

Community Power Collective: Community Power Collective builds power with low-income workers and tenants through transformative organizing to win economic justice, community control of land and housing, and to propagate systems of cooperation in Boyle Heights and the greater LA region.

East LA Community Corporation: ELACC is a Boyle Heights-based community development corporation that uses an equitable development model to engage residents traditionally left out of decision-making processes. In addition to affordable housing, they provide financial capability services through their Community Wealth department, which supports sidewalk vendors with free tax preparation, financial coaching, Technical Assistance, and social loans. ELACC is co-founder of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign (LASVC) and has worked with micro-entrepreneurs for over a decade.Inclusive Action for the City: Inclusive Action for the City (IAC) is a Community Development Financial Institution and nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles whose mission is to bring people together to build strong local economies that uplift low-income urban communities through advocacy and transformative economic development initiatives. IAC serves the community through policy advocacy, research, consulting services, business coaching, and a lending program, among other efforts. IAC is a co-founder of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign and has worked with street vendors and other small business owners for more than 10 years.

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.”

Executive Director Crystal Crawford Tapped As Weingart Foundation’s Inaugural Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships

Western Center is proud to share that the Weingart Foundation has chosen our Executive Director Crystal Crawford for a groundbreaking new senior leadership role that will aw the Foundation to increase its racial justice impact. She will serve as the Weingart Foundation’s inaugural Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships.

Crystal took the helm of Western Center nearly four years ago, and during her tenure, she has steered the organization through a series of both external and internal achievements. These include,  more deeply centering racial justice in WCLP’s approach to our work, supporting community-led efforts to transform unjust systems, and strengthening the Center’s partnerships with BIPOC communities. Internally, she greatly increased the racial diversity of the board of directors and staff, and deepened WCLP’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

During Crystal’s tenure, Western Center’s attorneys and advocates have secured numerous legislative and legal victories while confronting some of the most complex health, housing and safety net problems and challenges in recent years. The team’s strategic litigation, administrative advocacy, and policy advocacy efforts have further cemented Western Center’s legacy and commitment to working to dismantle and transform systems that keep people in poverty.

As Crystal transitions from her role, the organization is in a strong financial position with a stellar team in place that will be led by Board Co-Chairperson and longtime board member Lois Thompson, who will serve as Interim Executive Director while the organization undertakes a nationwide search process for its new leader. Previously, Lois served as Co-Interim Executive Director of Western Center, along with David Elson, immediately preceding Crystal’s tenure. She is well-equipped to lead Western Center during this season of leadership transition as she partners with the management team to ensure that WCLP’s work continues
seamlessly.

Please join us in congratulating Crystal on this exciting new role! Her achievements and contributions to Western Center add yet another chapter to the organization’s proud legacy. We know that she will be an outstanding philanthropic senior leader who will lead with courage and boldness during this time when racial justice and diversity, equity and inclusion funding are under heightened attack.

 

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

Should Sickness Lead to Bankruptcy? Help Us Protect Californians from Medical Debt

By Linda Nguy

Joy turned to concern shortly after Humberto Cruz and his wife welcomed their firstborn child into the world in 2010. Their baby required emergency services and an extended hospital stay at Queen of the Valley Hospital  in West Covina, California. 

What happened to the Cruz family next is a problem only California lawmakers can solve. 

The tough lessons began when Cruz learned his employer’s insurance coverage failed to add his newborn to his insurance coverage. He later learned the hospital failed to mention available financial assistance, forcing Cruz to shoulder all of the nearly $20,000 bill. 

Cruz’s former employer never corrected its mistake and Cruz was soon laid off from his job. When he was unable to take time off his new job to answer a bill collector’s court summons, the collection agency won a default judgment against him, later placing a levy on his bank account and a lien against his family home. 

Life events eventually led Cruz to sell his home. The agency seized $17,000 from the sale. When Cruz purchased a new home in 2016, the collection agency placed another lien on that home. Cruz eventually settled and paid off the judgment with credit cards and savings. The 12-year ordeal cost Cruz almost $23,000, leaving him emotionally spent, financially drained and uncertain about his family’s future.

Hospital debt constitutes more than 70% of medical debt, and hospital bills can be much larger than other types of medical bills, according to 2023 research by the Urban Institute. And a California Health Care Foundation survey found more than a third (38%) of Californians report owing medical debt, with Black, Latino/x, and low-income people among the most burdened.

Despite qualifying for financial assistance, patients still receive large medical bills from hospitals. Nonprofit hospitals, in particular, do not meet their community benefit obligations, according to a recent Lown Institute Fair Share Spending study.

In 2007, the Hospital Fair Pricing Act determined hospitals in California must provide charity and discounted care to patients who receive hospital care and are uninsured or underinsured. Subsequent updates, including requirements for emergency physicians and debt collectors, raising income eligibility for financial assistance, and improving oversight and enforcement have expanded patient protections, but more must be done. Home liens like those placed on Cruz’s family home by hospital debt collectors should be prohibited. 

We and our allies have successfully challenged certain hospital practices in court. Since Western Center and Consumer Law Center, Inc. settled their case against Santa Clara Valley Healthcare last year for alleged violations of hospital financial assistance laws, Santa Clara County has written off $1.48 million in patient debt and refunded more than $304,000 to patients. But more needs to be done statewide to ensure patients are not saddled with unaffordable hospital bills.

Since the Hospital Fair Pricing Act’s passage in 2016, California’s uninsured rate has been reduced by more than half with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medi-Cal and created Covered California, as well as other Medi-Cal expansions. These policies have relieved much of the burden on hospitals to cover the cost of uninsured care. 

Now, more than ever, hospitals can and should provide greater financial assistance to relieve the harmful impacts of medical debt.

Californians who want to get involved can start by contacting their Assemblymember to support AB 2297, the bill to modernize the Hospital Fair Pricing Act. It does so by:

  • Prohibiting the use of lien on homes to collect unpaid medical bills from financially eligible patients
    • For many Californians, their homes are their greatest asset, and often the main way that families build generational wealth
    • However, a loophole allows debt collectors to place liens on patients’ homes to collect unpaid hospital bills
    • Home liens should be completely prohibited in the collection of unpaid hospital bills from financially qualified patients
  • Clarifying hospitals must review financial assistance eligibility at any time
    • While the law requires hospitals to process applications at any time, many hospitals impose arbitrary deadlines – allowing hospitals to disqualify eligible patients from financial assistance to expedite collections
    • The Department of Health Care Access and Information interprets this provision of the law to prohibit deadlines for applications, which should finally be made clear in the statute
  • Eliminating the consideration of assets from charity care eligibility
    • The Medi-Cal program recently eliminated the consideration of assets, and other states are looking to bar assets as well. California’s hospital financial assistance rules should follow suit

As Assemblymember Friedman, author of AB 2297, shared at the April 9 Assembly Health Committee Hearing: “I believe in a country [and state] as wealthy as . . . California, the whole concept of medical bankruptcy and medical debt  . . . is really unacceptable. It’s an abomination. . . .The fact that we are taking people’s homes and property or putting a lien on their home just because they want to get treatment for a sickness is something that shouldn’t happen.”

To learn more about the Hospital Fair Pricing Act, read our fact sheet here. For more information about WCLP resources, click here, and to follow the progress of our recent and past legislative initiatives, please visit our newsletter page here.

 

Will the Supreme Court Criminalize Poverty and Homelessness And if it does, what will California do?

Advocates working to house California’s homeless population exhaled last week when a bill designed to criminalize poverty, SB 1011, didn’t make it out of committee and onto the Legislature’s floor for a vote.

That bill would prohibit people from sitting, sleeping or placing personal property, among other actions, or face fines and incarceration—the worst possible approach to ending this crisis. It isn’t designed to reduce the number of unhoused people, only to make them disappear from view.

Our moment of relief, however, was just that, a moment. The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering Grants Pass v Johnson, and it is entirely possible that the federal government will green light the same cruel policies criminalizing homeless people that nationally we are fighting to avert here in California.

The question to be decided by the Grants Pass case is whether a federal court can determine state policy with regard to homelessness.

In a class-action lawsuit, a group of homeless people sued Grants Pass, Oregon for making sleeping on public property illegal. Their argument: sleep is a physical need, Grants Pass has no shelters and the city is criminalizing not their behavior, but their poverty. The district court issued an injunction, halting enforcement of the law, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, writing that the city’s law violates the Eight Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.’

The Western Center joined with other civic organizations to file an amici brief with the U.S Supreme Court on April 2. The brief asserts that cities across California have unfairly scapegoated unhoused residents for a statewide affordable housing crisis that State and local governments created with decades of virulently racist anti-housing policies. As a result, thousands of long-time residents, disproportionately people of color, have been forced onto the streets. But instead of addressing the root causes of the affordable housing crisis,  California cities punish homeless residents, fining or arresting them for being poor.

But here’s what else should be understood about anti-homelessnes measures at the state and federal level that criminalize the poor; they pose a specific threat to Black people already suffering due to the state’s draconian and racially imbalanced policing laws and practices.

For context, these inhumane rhetoric and policies are surging alongside hyperbolic discourse about increased criminality supposedly plaguing our cities. The data, however, tells a different story. For example, violent crime declined 13% in 2013 according to the FBI. Similarly, retail theft appears to be down nationally.

But these policies are not just inhumane. They are anti-Black.

This shift toward punitive housing policies is occurring at a socio-political moment. Even the goal of racial justice is under attack. A drive for turning a blind eye to the racialized impact of these policy decisions, is the issue of the day.

Worse, California, the big blue progressive beacon of America, is leading the nation, not with effective policy solutions but rather with disproven policy proposals, steeped in anti-Blackness.

How do we know?

The data tells the tale. Black Californians are disproportionately impacted by houselessness and all of the on-ramps to houselessness: rental burden, evictions, and systems contact, to name a few. According to the Benioff Homeless and Housing Initiative, Black Californians make up 7 percent of the population but “represent more than a quarter of the state’s homeless population.” In addition, 70 percent of unsheltered people experiencing houselessness report a history of incarceration. The intersections between the criminal legal system and houseless are apparent from all available data.

For example, the 2024 Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board report shows that traffic stops continue to be racially driven. Specifically, the data shows that “Black individuals were stopped 131.5 percent more frequently than expected given their proportion of the population.” Moreover, Black people are searched at a rate of 1.66 times greater than White people, despite the fact the contraband is found on Black and Hispanic people less and no action is taken after a stop and search more often.

The disparities in police and systems contact don’t stop there. A report by the Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights in San Francisco analyzed non-traffic stops and found that “among people who were issued a citation under local codes as a result of non-traffic stops, Black adults were up to 9.7 times more likely to receive citations than white adults.” It also found that Black men are incarcerated at a rate nearly 5 times their share of the male population California. Black women, it determined, are incarcerated at a rate “more than 4 times higher than their share of all women in California.”

It is this population, over-policed, over-incarcerated, forcibly impoverished by the unequal application law and often pushed into homelessness, that stands to suffer the most from Grants Pass and will suffer locally if SB1011 lives on –which although held up could still yet come to the floor for a vote.

Of course, none of this is unknown to the state. I was lucky enough to testify before the state’s Reparations Task Force on the issues of homelessness and gentrification highlighting this issue. And last week I testified at the Senate subcommittee.

 

We must face the reality that houselessness is a distinctly racialized problem. It requires solutions that actually consider those most severely impacted.

The Supreme Court’s decision is likely months away, but our decision should be made how. In criminalizing the poorest and most vulnerable among us, we would be adopting not only a failed strategy, but simultaneously doing something even worse: morally impoverishing ourselves.

This article has been updated since it’s original posting.

 

 

Western Center Roundup – March 2024

Celebrating Women’s History Month and Cesar Chavez Day

This month we pause to celebrate and recommit ourselves to centering racial and gender justice. We remain inspired by the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez, whose movement to center justice for farmworkers continues to inspire the work of Western Center and its allies in California and around the world. We also salute the trailblazers and history-making women we’re privileged to partner with every day in our fight for justice. Whether it’s leading the fight to protect access to affordable housing, ensuring all Californians have access to healthcare, or continuing to uplift and promote the CROWN Act, we honor all changemakers for their contributions to advancing racial and gender equity.

Congratulations to Western Center policy advocate Sandra Poole, who Assemblymember Stephanie Nguyen recognized as a 2024 Women’s History Month Honoree for Assembly District 10, AAPI Equity Alliance Executive Director Manjusha (Manju) Kulkarni, on being named a James Irvine Foundation 2024 Leadership Award recipient; and Western Center board member Christine Chambers Goodman, on being named a Los Angeles County Bar Association Women’s History Month Honoree. Finally, our very own executive director Crystal Crawford, California Democratic Party Controller Carolyn Fowler, activist for the homeless Shirley Raines, and State Senator Lola Smallwood Cuevas were named Women’s History Month honorees by the New Frontier Democratic Club for their unwavering commitment to equity and social justice.


Blog Post: Recognizing Trailblazers This Women’s History Month 

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Western Center senior health advocate Etecia Burrell is helping us all pause to recognize the invaluable efforts of women of color in American history. In a recent blog post, she highlights a few women leaders whose work powered the abolitionist, suffrage, labor, and civil rights movements and whose stories have been sidelined to elevate men.

READ MORE


Western Center Settlement Leads to a Reduction in Medical Debt

Last year, Western Center and Consumer Law Center, Inc. settled our case against Santa Clara Valley Healthcare last year for alleged violations of hospital financial assistance laws, Since then, Santa Clara County has written off $1.48 million in patient debt and refunded more than $304,000 to patients. The settlement significantly improved the county’s hospital financial assistance program by adding more detailed information to patient notices, translating notices and posters into seven non-English languages and allowing patients to apply for financial assistance at any time during the collections process. To date, the Santa Clara Health Care Access Program is one of the most generous and innovative hospital charity care and discount payment programs in the state. This work has inspired new legislation to protect consumers from medical debt.


Blog Post: Tips On Preventing EBT Theft

More than $10 million is stolen from EBT recipients each month in California. This growing crisis thwarts access to healthy food options for California’s most vulnerable. In a recent blogpost, Western Center outreach and advocacy associate Abe Zavala-Rodriguez shares tips to help Californians avoid EBT theft and protect precious resources. 


Blog Post: Tips On Preventing EBT Theft

More than $10 million is stolen from EBT recipients each month in California. This growing crisis thwarts access to healthy food options for California’s most vulnerable. In a recent blogpost, Western Center advocate Abe Zavala-Rodriguez shares tips to help Californians avoid EBT theft and protect precious resources. 

READ MORE


ICYMI: Watch the first 2024 Meet the Advocates

ICYMI: Western Center on Law and Poverty’s policy advocates recently hosted a deep dive into our 2024 legislative agenda, including our bills on medical debt protections, increasing housing voucher utilization, reducing Black maternal mortality, expanding pre-enrollment in Medi-Cal, housing as a human right, and much, much more!

WATCH

Celebrating Notable Women in U.S. History

“Slavery was Legal. Colonialism was Legal. Jim Crow was Legal. Apartheid was Legal. Legality is a matter of Power, NOT Justice”

Western Center on Law & Poverty for over 55 years, has advocated in every branch of government, from courts to the Legislature, on behalf of Californians experiencing poverty. . Through the lens of economic and racial justice, Western Center litigates, educates, and advocates around health care, housing, and public benefits policies and administration. As advocates we recognize that some of the most powerful gatekeepers, bridgebuilders, and architects of resistance in the communities we work with are women.

Women, especially women of color, are routinely erased from public memory and historical narratives of resistance. It’s undeniable that the contributions of women of color to historical resistance movements are often overlooked or minimized. While their invaluable efforts powered the abolitionists, suffrage, labor, and civil rights movements, mainstream narratives have frequently sidelined their stories in favor of highlighting male leaders. This Women’s History Month, we choose to recognize and celebrate the pivotal role women of color have played in shaping our collective history and fighting for justice:

Sojourner Truth was an evangelist, abolitionist, women’s rights activist and author who was born into slavery before escaping to freedom in 1826. After gaining her freedom, SoujournerTruth helped enslaved people escape to freedom and traveled the country to organize for abolitionism and equal rights for all. After the Civil War, she became involved with the Freedmen’s Bureau, helping the formerly enslaved find jobs and build new lives. While in Washington, DC, she lobbied against segregation, and in the mid-1860s, when a streetcar conductor tried to violently block her from riding, she ensured his arrest and won her subsequent case. In the late 1860s, she collected thousands of signatures on a petition to provide formerly enslaved people with land, though Congress never took action.

Mary Ellen Pleasant was posthumously regarded as the mother of California’s civil rights movement.  She helped to lead the abolitionist movement during the Gold-Rush era and played a key role in helping to finance John Brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry in Virginia, a revolt by enslaved Black slaves and white abolitionists.. Pleasant also gave shelter, jobs, and money to enslaved people running to freedom through the Underground Railroad. In 1866, a street car conductor in San Francisco refused to let her board because she was Black. Pleasant sued and the case went all the way to the California Supreme Court. In a historic decision, the court ruled that segregation on streetcars was illegal in California.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a prominent journalist, activist, and researcher, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In her lifetime, she battled sexism, racism, and violence. She was a researcher, writer, and journalist. Wells-Barnett was one of the first journalists to write about the conditions of African Americans throughout the South. After the lynching of one of her friends, she dedicated her career to exposing white terrorism. Wells was a skilled investigator and worked to uncover the truth behind several cases of Black men being lynched. She published her findings in a pamphlet and wrote several columns in local newspapers. Wells-Barnett traveled internationally to bring much needed attention to lynching. Often ridiculed and  ostracized by whit suffragettes  founded the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, to promote suffrage for Black women.

Grace Lee Boggs was a Chinese American civil rights and labor activist. Her support for causes such as the Black Power movement, feminism, and the environment spanned over 70 years. During the 1950s, Boggs moved to Detroit and began editing the radical newspaper Correspondence, which supported worker-centered revolution. Throughout her life, Grace Lee Boggs maintained the core belief that if people worked together, they could accomplish positive social change.

Dolores Huerta was the co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association and is one of the most influential labor activists of the 20th century. A leader of the Chicano civil rights movement, despite racism and sexism, she helped organize the 1965 Delano strike of 5,000 farmworkers and was the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that followed.

Fannie Lou Hamer was a voting rights activist and civil rights leader. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Hamer organized voter registration drives, including the “Freedom Ballot Campaign”, a mock election, in 1963, and the “Freedom Summer” initiative in 1964. Later she became the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in that capacity.

Mae Mallory was an activist during the Civil Rights Movement and a leader in the Black Power movement. Mallory was bestknown as an advocate of desegregation and Black armed self-defense.

Sarah Deer, a member of the Muscogee Creek tribe, is a lawyer, professor at the University of Kansas, and advocate who has worked for victims rights and sexual violence prevention for decades. She was an instrumental activist in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women’s Act, which expanded tribal jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence.

The CROWN Coalition was founded in 2019 by Western Center on Law & Poverty, National Urban League, Color Of Change, and Dove to create a respectful and open world for natural hair through research, national campaigning and political lobbying. Western Center and partners worked to pass the first CROWN Act (SB 188) in the country, prohibiting discrimination based on hair style and texture by extending protection under the FEHA and the California Education Code. Today, twenty-four states across the country have passed the CROWN (“Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) Act in response to Black people, especially women regularly face discrimination in schools and the workplace based on the texture and style of their hair. Hair is often a reflection of one’s personal identity and serves as a signifier of culture and ancestry. The CROWN Act impacts racial discrimination, pay equity, and just cause protections for people of various cultural backgrounds, but especially Black people. With over 31.6 million Black people in the U.S. labor force, the CROWN Act could help reduce discrimination for more than 12% of labor force participants (U.S. Census Bureau ACS 2021a). Over 200 years before the CROWN Act, the Tignon laws of the 18th century were laws that, at the request of white women, banned Black women in the Caribbean colonies and Louisiana from exposing their natural hair in public. Their hairdos were seen as a threat to the social stability and status of white women, who protested in a letter that  Black women “who dressed too elegantly” were attracting the attentions of white men. Resembling today’s West African Gele, a tignon is a type of head covering. It is a large piece of fabric wrapped or tied around the head to form a decorative sculpture concealing the hair. Tignons were worn by free and enslaved women of African descent in Louisiana from 1786. These laws regulated appearance and enforced the dress styles for women of color in a society dominated by whiteness. Many Black women continued to wear headwraps or tignons as a sign of rebellion and resistance.

“Next to God we are indebted to women, first for life itself, and then for making it worth living.” —Mary McLeod Bethune

 

LA Street Vendors Trial Postponed: What Comes Next

Signs, people, various stands and a red food truck line a city sidewalk.Fruit and hot dog vendor Edgar Suy, center, protests on Hollywood Boulevard against the city’s no-vending zones. His sign reads “Just laws regardless of race and color.”
(Leslie Berestein Rojas/LAist)

No trial. At least for now as street vendors involved in a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles are trying to reach a settlement. The trial was scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Last week, the L.A. City Council voted to do away with no-vending zones. Seven of eight no-vending zones are now OK for vendors to work in. The eighth one in Venice Beach will continue to have restrictions that ban street vending unless it’s tied to first amendment rights.

The street vendors are seeking the reimbursement of any citations paid where the citation was issued for vending in the no-vending zones. They are also asking the city to do away with remaining 500-foot buffer no-vending zones that can be set up around schools, farmers’ markets, and swap meets.

“We hope to reach a resolution on the other regulations we challenge in the lawsuit (mainly the 500-foot buffer zones around schools, swap meets, farmers markets, etc.) and erasure of all of the citations issued for violating these regulations and the no vending zone regulations,” an attorney for the plaintiffs said.

Sidewalk vending was legalized citywide four years ago, but the no-vending zones remained in place until last week.

The lawsuit alleges that no-vending zones conflict with SB 946, the 2018 California law that decriminalized street vending.

Attorney Katie McKeon of Public Counsel, one of the attorneys representing the vendors, said according to the law, “you need to have an objective health, safety or welfare concern that justifies those restrictions or bans. The city has failed to provide any real justification or evidence justifying these bans.”

If no resolution is reached, the trial will continue starting on April 4.

A crowd of people on a city sidewalk hold brightly colored protest signs. Street vendors protesting on Hollywood Boulevard. The blue sign reads, “We are vendors, not criminals” and the orange sign reads, “No barriers to street vending.”
(Leslie Berestein Rojas /  LAist)

On the county level, L.A. County supervisors gave a unanimous final nod last week to two measures that will take effect in early March. The county is not involved in the lawsuit.

One measure applies to street food vendors under the auspices of the county health department, who for years have had trouble obtaining needed county health permits. Until recently, the state’s retail food code was geared toward larger mobile food operations, like food trucks, and not small carts. Health permit fees for these street vendors will range from $309 for “low-risk” vendors selling packaged foods to $1,186 for “high-risk” vendors preparing and selling hot food items. To that end, supervisors approved a related motion from Supervisor Hilda Solis that would make low-income street vendors in unincorporated county areas eligible for a 75% fee subsidy.

The board also voted on a formal plan to regulate street vendors in unincorporated areas. Unlike in the city of Los Angeles, the county so far has not had an official program with which to regulate street vendors in unincorporated county zones, like busy East L.A. The ordinance sets official rules for these vendors, including a $604 annual registration fee. This fee would be subsidized the first year by the county’s Department of Economic Opportunity, and partially subsidized after that.