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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.

California’s Child Poverty Task Force Pushes for End to Deep Child Poverty

On Monday, December 3rd — swearing-in day for California’s new legislators — the Lifting Children Out Of Poverty Task Force held a press conference and public hearing at the Capitol to announce the release of its recommendations for ending deep child poverty in California.

Western Center’s Jessica Bartholow, Chairperson of the Safetynet Committee of the task force, was joined by End Child Poverty CA, the California Poor People’s Campaign, and coalition members to call on the new legislature to address the critical issue. Elected officials in attendance included Assemblymember Autumn Burke — author of AB1520, which created the task force, Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, and Senator Scott Weiner.

Priority recommendations from the task force include increasing CalWORKs grants to families with children, a child tax credit that would serve as a base-level income for families with children, and guaranteed child care for children ages 0-8 for low-income families. The full recommendations are available at the End Child Poverty in California website.

Bartholow’s full statement from the press conference is below. To see photos and video from the event, visit Western Center’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

Jessica Bartholow’s Comments – December 3, 2018

California has the 5th largest economy in the world, and we have a budget surplus in the billions. Yet, in spite of that prosperity, we also have a childhood poverty crisis.

Here in California, 450,000 children and their families live in deep poverty, and are unable to meet their basic human needs. When children live in deep poverty (defined as below half of the poverty line), they endure hardships that impair their ability to thrive,[i] impact their capacity to learn, and lead to increased hospitalizations and elevated death rates.

Deep poverty is particularly dangerous for children because their families are more likely to experience homelessness,[ii] or to have other basic human needs chronically unmet. They are deeply impacted by the toxic stress that results from chronically unmet needs,[iii] which undermines their long-term physical and mental health.[iv] What’s more, parents who are unable to adequately care for their children as a result of deep poverty experience higher rates of maternal and/or parental depression,[v] a condition associated with reduced parent-child interaction, which is known to undermine school readiness among poor children.[vi] 

Deep poverty harms a child’s brain development and early functioning, disrupting their ability to succeed in school and in life.[vii] These challenges have been documented to reduce the ability of children to cope during difficult situations — the very skill they need most as a child living in poverty, or as a young adult trying to escape it.  

Ultimately, deep poverty undermines a child’s chance to escape poverty and fuels an intergenerational cycle that damages our economy, our state’s budget health, and our democracy. Children who are born in deep poverty are three times as likely to be deeply poor at age 40 than children not born in deep poverty.[viii] One study found that growing up in deep poverty more negatively impacts a child’s life than neonatal exposure to cocaine.[ix]  

Our state has a moral and practical obligation to provide a stronger foundation for the children growing up here, and to help their families move toward greater safety, achievement, and success.[x] For those reasons, and because I have experienced multiple indignities of childhood poverty myself, I was so very proud to serve as Chairperson of the Safetynet Committee of the Lifting Children Out Of Poverty Task Force. The Task Force plan lays out the steps necessary to end childhood poverty altogether, starting first with the urgent steps necessary to end childhood deep poverty.

Among the immediate actions called for by the plan are that the Legislature pass and the Governor sign the following:  

  • A budget that makes the investments necessary to end childhood deep poverty among CalWORKs recipient families. Last year, the legislature began to address deep poverty for the 60% of impoverished families who receive a CalWORKs grant. With a current average grant at just $556/month for a family of three, which is 33% of the federal poverty level (FPL), these families’ monthly incomes are much too low to support the healthy growth and development of our state’s children.[xi] Led by Senator Holly Mitchell, the Legislature passed the single largest investment in grants ever made, but CalWORKs will need three times that investment to end deep poverty for families in the program.
  • A targeted child tax credit to be issued monthly to ensure that the 40% of poor families who do not receive CalWORKs are also given the ability to exit deep poverty. This tax credit, which acts like a guaranteed income for families with children, is not the robust guaranteed living wage income for all envisioned by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the first Poor People’s Campaign, but it represents an essential first step in that direction. The credit is targeted to impact Californians who need it the most and who have the most to benefit — our poorest families with children.

Giving families more money, and ensuring a guaranteed family income above deep poverty, will help families prevent harm and produce positive results for the most impoverished in our state. Doing so will be a first step to achieving an end to poverty for all people who call California home– strengthening our economy, our state and our democracy.[xii]

 

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[i] “Family Poverty, Welfare Reform, and Child Development.” Greg J. Duncan and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn Source: Child Development, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Jan. – Feb., 2000), pp. 188-196. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1132232
[ii] CW grants relative to housing costs: http://calbudgetcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/CalWORKs-Grants-Fall-Short-as-Rents-Continue-to-Rise.pdf  and http://calbudgetcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/CalWORKs-Grants-Fall-Short-of-Covering-Housing-Costs-02252016.pdf and http://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/the-calworks-grant-is-lower-than-cash-assistance-for-families-in-22-states-when-compared-to-housing-costs/
[iii] Evans, G. W. and English, K. 2002. The Environment of Poverty: Multiple Stressor Exposure, Psychophysiological Stress, and Socioemotional Adjustment. Child Development, 73: 1238–1248. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00469
[iv] Duncan, G and Magnuson, K. 2011. The Long Reach of Childhood Poverty. http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/_media/pdf/pathways/winter_2011/PathwaysWinter11_Duncan.pdf
[v] http://news.yale.edu/2013/07/29/no-money-diapers-depressing-reality-poor-mothers
[vi] http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412199-infants-of-depressed.pdf
[vii] Harvard University Center on the Developing Child. Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development.  https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/toxic-stress-derails-healthy-development/
[viii] Cuddy, E., Venator, J. and Reeves, R. 2015. In a land of dollars: Deep poverty and its consequences. Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/research/in-a-land-of-dollars-deep-poverty-and-its-consequences/
[ix] http://articles.philly.com/2013-07-22/news/40709969_1_hallam-hurt-so-called-crack-babies-funded-study
[x] Brain Studies Highlight Importance of Anti-Poverty Policies for Children: https://www.cbpp.org/blog/brain-studies-highlight-importance-of-anti-poverty-policies-for-children
[xi] CalWORKs Grants are Overdue for a Significant Investment: http://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/calworks-grants-overdue-significant-investment/
[xii] Summary of the research on topic of cash welfare benefits impact on outcomes: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/03/welfare-childhood/555119/

 

 

Western Center stays vigilant to protect assistance for low-income Californians during disaster

This year, Californians have faced an unprecedented number of natural disasters. Wildfires from Southern to Northern California continue to devastate communities, and have left tens of thousands without homes and food security.

Fortunately, low-income Californians experiencing devastation from disaster no longer have to go at it alone. In 2017, Western Center on Law & Poverty, the California Association of Food Banks, and the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank sponsored Assembly Bill 607 (Gloria), which was signed by the Governor and has been implemented by the California Department of Social Services. AB 607 was the first ever legislation in California and across the country to require the state and every county to have a disaster plan to prevent hunger among low-income Californians during and following a disaster.

Prior to AB 607, a Presidential major disaster declaration wouldn’t necessarily trigger the state to request disaster food assistance for low-income Californians. The new legislation requires the Department of Social Services to request food assistance for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients each time a disaster declaration is made. Before AB 607, no such protections were in place, so low-income Californians experienced additional hardships acquiring food during disasters.

Stipulations like work requirements, paper verifications and timely reporting requirements for California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program recipients were not required to be waved during times of disaster. That meant people in disaster situations could still be required to prove they were working, verify information with paper documents they didn’t have, or to report a change in address or employment within a short period of time in the midst of devastating loss. AB 607 changed that.

As a continuation of this work, California became the first state to issue a disaster SNAP handbook, which was released in October. Western Center served on the committee responsible for the creation of the handbook and lead advocates in review prior to publication. The handbook provides guidelines for counties on how to implement disaster SNAP, best practices for disaster planning, and general information about the ends and outs of disaster SNAP. Just last week, a letter went out to every California county to ensure they know how to implement disaster SNAP.

In addition to leading advocacy efforts to ensure CalWORKs and SNAP assistance is available during disasters, Western Center is also leading the charge to secure replacement benefits for low-income Californians when power outages or floods destroy food supplies, but the conditions are not bad enough for a declaration of disaster. For example, when hundreds of SNAP beneficiaries lost power in rural northern California earlier this year, Western Center made sure individuals received assistance to replace spoiled food. Western Center not only led the way to make sure programs for replacement benefits were in place, we also tracked down the exact locations of outages from PG&E to ensure that all recipients who needed assistance received it.

For low-income Californians currently experiencing wildfire-related devastation in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Plumas, Tehama, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Sutter, Yuba, and Ventura counties, relief is on its way.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) has requested approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for large-scale replacement of SNAP benefits lost in the fire. They have also requested permission to administer the Disaster SNAP program in December, serving people who are not currently aided through the program with a benefit for a limited time.

Until then, people who are currently aided will benefit from two waivers already received by the USDA. First, the Timely Reporting Waiver will allow households in affected counties to request replacement benefits for SNAP benefits through December 10, 2018 to replace food lost in the Camp and Woolsey Fires. Without the waiver, recipients would have been required to report lost food within a 10-day window. Additionally, The Hot Foods Waiver will allow hot foods to be purchased at SNAP authorized retailers through December 17, 2018. 

For more information on how wildfire victims can access disaster benefits, visit the Disaster CalFresh website, or call the state’s SNAP hotline at 877-847-3663. 

As pleased as we are with the progress made for disaster SNAP in California, there is still more to be done to protect vulnerable Californians during disaster.

Many children in low-incomes families rely on school meals to eat, and when schools are shut down during disasters, those two missing meals can be a tremendous obstacle to their food security. This is also true for pregnant women and families with young children who rely on the California Department of Public Health’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Western Center would like schools, school districts and WIC agencies to adopt disaster plans to ensure children still receive meals in the midst of school closures or following a disaster. Other states have developed these types of disaster plans so children don’t go hungry during or after disasters; as these events become California’s new normal, we must encourage California to do the same.

Western Center will continue to lead advocacy efforts for improved preparation and response for disasters, which will ensure relief and resiliency for low-income Californians who are impacted by disaster.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISCHARGES NEARLY $90 MILLION IN JUVENILE DETENTION FEES

Advocacy groups call on all California counties to follow suit and bring about “Debt-Free Justice” for youth and families

Los Angeles, CA —Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to discharge nearly $90 million in fees previously imposed on tens of thousands of families with children in the juvenile justice system, marking the single largest discharge of juvenile justice fees in history.

Read the full press release here.

 

23 Bills Signed!

Western Center had another landmark year in Sacramento with 23 of our sponsored and co-sponsored bills on behalf of low-income Californians signed into law. Victories included the elimination of the predatory commercial bail industry, proactive measures to dismantle segregation and end housing discrimination, and defending Medi-Cal expansion against back door federal cuts. Here is the full list of signed bills:

 

ECONOMIC JUSTICE
Ending Money Bail – SB 10 (Hertzberg) removes the consideration of wealth in the determination of freedom or incarceration for arrested individuals pending trial, effectively eliminating the predatory commercial bail industry, and establishing that conditions of pre-trial release must be non-monetary.

Ending Lawsuits on Old Debts – AB 1526 (Kalra) reforms California’s statute of limitations for consumer debt (including medical debt) so that a collection agency or original creditor cannot sue after the statute has run, and requires notice to the consumer that a debt may not be litigated or reported to a credit reporting agency when such activities are time-barred.

Increasing the Value of Community Service – AB 2532 (Jones-Sawyer) sets the value of community service performed in lieu of a fine for individuals convicted of an infraction at twice the minimum wage for employers of 25 or less, rather than minimum wage.

Ensuring the Availability of Payment Plans for Parking Tickets – AB 2544 (Lackey) clarifies that cities must offer payment plans for all parking tickets, notwithstanding when they were issued.

Removing Barriers to Youth Employment and Training – SB 1428 (McGuire) prohibits the denial of a youth’s work permit on the basis of a pupil’s grades, grade point average, or school attendance, if the pupil is applying for the work permit in order to participate in a government-administered employment and training program that will occur during the regular summer recess or vacation of the school that the pupil attends.

RACIAL JUSTICE
Addressing Discrimination and Segregation in Housing – AB 686 (Santiago) requires the state and
local governments to “affirmatively further fair housing,” including concrete plans and proactive measures to dismantle segregation and end discrimination in housing. The bill enshrines in state law groundbreaking Obama-era regulations that have been gutted by the current Administration.

EDUCATION
Requiring Charter Schools to Feed Poor Children – AB 1871 (Bonta) – requires charter schools to provide each needy pupil with one nutritionally adequate free or reduced-price meal during each school day.

Ending the Collection of Parent’s School Debts from Children – AB 1974 (Gonzalez Fletcher) provides that a pupil or former pupil can never owe, be billed or be penalized for a debt owed to a public or charter school, other than for vandalism. It also prevents schools from reporting school debt to collection agencies.

Reducing College Student Hunger – AB 1894 (Weber) permits universities and colleges to apply for the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program, even if the local county does not participate in that program.

HEALTH CARE
Defending the Medi-Cal Expansion Against Backdoor Federal Cuts – SB 1108
(Hernandez) prohibits the CA Dept. of Health Care Services from obtaining a federal Medicaid waiver that includes work requirements, waiting periods, time limits, coverage lockouts, drug testing or any other condition that prevents low-income Californians from accessing health care services.

Improving Access to Children’s Health Care Services – SB 1287 (Hernandez) ensures that the correct medical necessity standard will be applied to children so that they and their providers do not have to use special terminology to get the health care they are entitled to through the Medi-Cal program.

TENANT PROTECTIONS
Giving Tenants More Time to Cure and Respond in Evictions – AB 2343 (Chiu) gives tenants three court days, rather than calendar days, to pay rent or comply with other terms of the lease, and give them five court days to respond to an eviction lawsuit, making it more likely tenants can resolve issues and avoid eviction.

Stopping Discrimination Against Tenants Receiving Help With Rent – AB 2219 (Ting) requires landlords to allow a tenant to pay rent through a third party, such as a government assistance program, charity, or family member.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Ensuring Affordable Housing in Coastal Areas – AB 2797 (Bloom) reverses a court decision that undermined the application in the state’s coastal zone of key laws, such as Density Bonus Law and the Mello Act, that ensure the production and replacement of affordable housing.

Applying Uniform Planning Requirements to All Cities – SB 1333 (Wieckowski) requires charter cities (as is required of other cities) to act consistently with their adopted land use plans, including obligations with respect to affordable housing, when making development and planning decisions.

Requiring Fair and Equitable Housing Planning – AB 1771 (Bloom) reforms the regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) process, which drives local planning and zoning for housing, to create more equitable, data-driven city and county housing goals, remove exclusionary barriers in higher-opportunity neighborhoods, and ensure that wealthier communities are creating meaningful opportunities for the production of affordable housing.

FOOD SECURITY
Bridging CalFresh Benefits – AB 1892 (Jones-Sawyer) requires the state to instruct counties on how to provide transitional SNAP benefits to households that are terminating their participation in cash assistance programs.

WELFARE
Requiring the State to Recognize Electronic Theft Resulting From Scams – AB 2313 (Stone, Mark) requires the State to reimburse recipients when benefits are stolen electronically as a result of a scam or security breach of the statewide electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system.

Modernizing Welfare Systems to Allow Electronic Communications – AB 1957 (Berman) allows welfare program applicants and recipient to opt-in/out to electronic communications.

Expanding Services to People with a Disability and Survivors of Domestic Violence – AB 2030 (Limón) require the State Department of Social Services to ask welfare applicants and recipients about disabilities, the need for accommodation due to disability, or any experience of domestic violence.

Fixing the Welfare Overpayment Collection System – SB 726 (Wiener) increases the lower limit for the collection of welfare overpayments from $35 to $250 and requires a county to expunge an overpayment if the county determines that the overpayment has been caused by a major systemic error or negligence.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Defining Sales Tax as a “Tax” for Taxpayer Suits – AB 2376 (Stone) establishes that sales tax, property tax, and business license tax are “taxes” that establishes the right to bring a taxpayer lawsuit.

Protecting Due Process Rights of Welfare Applicants – AB 3224 (Thurmond) requires welfare departments to use qualified public employees to determine eligibility in the Medi-Cal, CalWORKs, and CalFresh Programs, rather than contracting out for this determination.

Western Center’s Statement On Public Charge Proposed Rule

Making sure our families have enough food so they don’t go hungry, have a safe place to live, and have what they need to lead a healthy and meaningful life are among the most basic values we all share and that Western Center on Law and Poverty and our clients fight for every day. But the Trump Administration just published a proposed rule that, if adopted, would severely punish millions of Californians and families across the country for simply living by these values.

The proposed Trump Administration rule attacking these values would turn decades of sound policy on its head by denying basic needs and work supports like health care and nutrition that help families thrive. The administration’s proposed changed policy, known as the “public charge rule,” would block families trying to use the lawful immigration process from reuniting with loved ones and penalize people already lawfully present and seeking permanent lawful status if they participate in certain basic needs and work supports programs. Those programs include non-emergency Medicaid (Medi-Cal), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP), known as CalFresh, and Section 8 housing assistance–programs that give help and stability to families who might be one medical crisis away from losing their home or who struggle, despite holding down multiple jobs, to feed their families during that last week of the month. The rule would punish these families while allowing wealthy families to pay a bond in order to be exempted from the rule. That is simply cruel and unfair.

But the Trump proposed rule is not final—it has not gone into effect. The public has until December 10, 2018, 60 days after the proposed rule was published, to submit written comments on it. We can all take action against the proposed rule by educating ourselves and telling the Trump administration why the rule would be so harmful using the Protecting Immigrant Families comment webpage.

Western Center believes that a family’s health, wellbeing, and opportunity to thrive should not depend on the level of wage they earn or a family member’s immigration status. If you share these values, join Western Center and Protecting Immigrant Families in the fight against the Trump Administration’s shortsighted and harsh proposed rule. Comments from both organizations and individuals are encouraged.

Judge Orders County to Halt Unlawful Practice of Terminating Patients from Medi-Cal

Children, pregnant women and people with serious conditions and disabilities will no longer be left without medication and care simply because the county failed to process their Medi-Cal renewals

LOS ANGELES, CA – A judge ordered Los Angeles County to halt its unlawful practice of terminating Medi-Cal recipients from critical coverage after failing to process their annual renewal forms. The ruling Thursday is the result of a 2016 lawsuit accusing the county’s Department of Public Social Services of failing to timely process renewal applications and then terminating Medi-Cal—leaving people without the health care they need and lawfully deserve—in clear violation of state law.

The lawsuit—filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Western Center on Law & Poverty—demonstrated the harm suffered by sick and disabled Medi-Cal recipients who were unexpectedly cut from life-sustaining medications and care.

Read more here

Settlement Protects Hundreds of Thousands Each Month from Potential Loss of Medi-Cal

The state will no longer terminate eligible recipients without sending translated forms and complete information, ending practices that cost countless beneficiaries their critical healthcare

LOS ANGELES, CA – Before advocacy organizations sued the state in 2014, hundreds of thousands of termination notices were sent out each month informing Medi-Cal recipients across California they would lose their healthcare because they failed to complete renewal forms. But many of those being terminated had no way of knowing they had to complete the forms, which the state failed to translate into the primary languages spoken by many Californians. The state’s forms—already some of the most confusing in the nation—were incomprehensible to many recipients.

“The process was so broken it seemed as though the intention was to push beneficiaries off of Medi-Cal,” said Helen Tran, an attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County who represents the plaintiffs. “Not only were people terminated without proper notice, they were also never told that they had 90 days to rectify the situation and restore their benefits without having to reapply.”

A coalition of legal services groups sued the state to improve the process and prevent wrongful terminations. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit included organizations serving impacted communities.

“So many people were calling us for help after learning they had lost their coverage when they were denied care at the doctor’s office or clinic or dialysis center,” said Jenny Seon, whose organization—the Korean Resource Center—served as a plaintiff in the case.

A settlement earlier this month helps ensure significantly improved renewal forms and other critical notices that go out to Medi-Cal beneficiaries, requires translation of this information into the state’s 11 most prevalent non-English languages, and ensures recipients are informed of their right to restore their benefits.

“We are pleased that the state has agreed to these basic protocols,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Cori Racela of Western Center on Law & Poverty. “Now, when a person gets a Medi-Cal termination notice, they are told what eligibility information is missing, about their right to reinstate Medi-Cal, and—if the person’s primary language is Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Chinese, Farsi, Hmong, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, or Vietnamese—they get this critical information in that language.”

The coalition of legal groups—including the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Kirkland and Ellis LLP, Bay Area Legal Aid, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, and the National Health Law Program—brought the lawsuit on behalf of nonprofit organizations that help people with limited English proficiency access their health benefits. The Korean Community Center of the East Bay and the Los Angeles-based Korean Resource Center were seeing an influx of people who were shocked to learn they no longer had healthcare benefits.

“We were getting so many calls from people with serious medical needs,” said June Lee from the Korean Community Center of the East Bay.

People receiving termination notices who need assistance should contact their local legal aid program at 1-888-804-3536.

 

Gov. Jerry Brown signs two immigrant protection bills

Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills today that continues California’s challenge to Trump’s deportation machine and goes further than any state to put immigrant protections into law.

The bills, both authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), are AB450, the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, that affirmatively protects workers from immigration enforcement through disruptive workplace raids. AB 450 comes as arrests of immigrants with no criminal record have more than doubled so far in 2017, and many advocates for immigrants fear that worksite raids are next. The Act will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

“Governor Brown understands that in an environment of division and fear, California must continue to defend its workers, to guard its values, and to ensure that its laws protect all of our residents,” said Assemblymember Chiu, a son of immigrants and a former civil rights attorney.  “AB 450 demonstrates California’s determination to protect our economy and the people who are working hard to contribute to our communities and raise their families in dignity. At the same time, we are offering employers clarity about what to do when ICE agents target their places of business with indiscriminate raids.”

The second bill AB 291, the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act, strengthens state law to protect immigrant tenants from intimidation and retaliation in their homes. The measure will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

“Tenants should not have to live in fear simply because they are immigrants or refugees. Trump’s escalating war on immigrants is ripping apart families and mass deportations could be our new reality,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “This bill will deter the small minority of landlords who unscrupulously take advantage of the real or perceived immigration status of their tenants to engage in abusive acts. I appreciate the leadership of Governor Brown on this civil rights issue.”

“We need this law to protect families with undocumented members from this type of abuse,” said Maria, a grandmother from Oakland who testified earlier this year in committee about her experience with a landlord who threatened to report her family members to ICE if they did not stop asking for much-needed repairs. “No one should have to experience the fear, pain, or harassment my family has suffered just because they are undocumented.”

“AB 291 makes clear that immigration status should not be used as leverage against tenants by landlords who want to profit off of slum conditions or unlawfully evict families to take advantage of rising rents.  In a year that has brought unimaginable levels of fear into immigrants’ lives, we hope that this bill will offer them some measure of security in their own homes,” said Jith Meganathan, Policy Advocate for Western Center on Law & Poverty, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

AB 291 bars landlords from disclosing information related to tenants’ immigration status for the purpose of retaliation, harassment, or to influence a tenant to vacate the home. The bill would also prohibit landlords from threatening to report tenants to immigration authorities, whether in retaliation for engaging in legally-protected activities or to influence them to vacate.

Landlords are in possession of sensitive information about tenants such as their social security numbers, the number of people in their household, the language(s) they speak, what they do for a living, and when they are home. This measure will make sure that this information is not misused by landlords and will take away one avenue that the Trump Administration could use to deport our immigrant neighbors.

 

Read more here 

Graham-Cassidy Threatens the Health Coverage of Low-Income Californians: Seven Key Takeaways

Call to Action

Western Center encourages all of its partners, allies, and supporters to contact Congress todayIndivisble has set up a webpage, Calls to Kill Trumpcare, which allows for peer-to-peer calling to constituents in states with key swing Senators.  SEIU, Health Access, and others are setting up phone banks around the state at FightandResist.org. Should Graham-Cassidy pass through the Senate, it will be given an up or down vote on a very short timeframe in the House.


The Graham-Cassidy bill, the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is an all-out attack on health programs serving low-income people and goes beyond prior proposals to roll back the gains made with the ACA.  States like California that expanded their Medicaid programs (known as Medi-Cal in California) are specifically targeted through an unequal funding scheme.  Graham-Cassidy is worse than previous repeal attempts because it would end all funding for the Medicaid expansion group, not just phase it down.  Graham-Cassidy replaces federal funding and the subsidies available through Covered California with a meager, temporary block grant that does not match current expenditures.  It then spreads those meager funds more widely by including the states that chose not to expand their Medicaid programs until it ends them completely.

Here are Western Center’s Seven Takeaways on how the Graham-Cassidy Bill would hurt our Medi-Cal population:

  1. Graham-Cassidy would raise the number of uninsured Californians, reversing the historic gains in coverage achieved under the ACA.

While proponents of ACA repeal efforts argue that the ACA is failing, the numbers don’t support that claim in states that followed the law and implemented the Medicaid expansion.  According to recent US Census data, California dropped its uninsured rate from 17.2% in 2013 to 7.3% in 2016.  Based on the California Health Interview Survey, the poor and people of color made the biggest gains in health coverage since the ACA was implemented – precisely the groups who were previously left out of health coverage, and stand to be shut-out again under Graham-Cassidy.

  1. Millions of Californians would lose their coverage – mostly people on Medi-Cal.

UC Berkeley Labor Center estimates 6.7 million Californians would lose coverage should Graham-Cassidy pass.  This includes nearly 4 million people in the Medi-Cal expansion adult category that would be zeroed out by the bill, 1.3 million Californians who would lose their Covered California plans (the majority of whom need the financial assistance offered by the program to be able to afford the cost of health coverage), and another 1.4 million children, seniors, and persons with disabilities on Medi-Cal.

  1. The state of California would lose $27.8 billion a year by 2026; $57.5 billion in 2027.

The combination of the elimination of the Medicaid expansion replaced with a small temporary block grant and the per capita cap would result in a loss of $27.8 billion a year in federal funds to the state of California.  Once the temporary block grant disappears and the per capita caps deepen, California would lose $57.5 billion a year in federal funds beginning in 2027.  To put this in context, our entire state General Fund (amounts raised through state taxes to run our state government including programs like Medi-Cal), is just over $125 billion for the next fiscal year, meaning we cannot simply replace such large losses at the state level.

  1. All Medi-Cal populations are at risk, including children, seniors, and persons with disabilities.

The Graham-Cassidy bill does not just eliminate the Medi-Cal expansion and Covered California plans that came with the ACA.  It also contains a per capita cap measure that would threaten children, seniors, and persons with disabilities as California is forced to deal with significant cuts.  The per capita cap limits federal payments to states based on historic spending and an annual growth rate that does not match the projected growth rate of the Medi-Cal program.  California already runs a fiscally tight program with provider reimbursement rates among the lowest in the nation.  Faced with such a cut in federal funds, California would be forced to cut eligibility for poor children, seniors, and persons with disabilities; cut benefits; or cut provider rates even further.

  1. Graham-Cassidy removes key consumer protections from Medi-Cal.

Medi-Cal has some key consumer protections that create a “no-wrong door” structure designed to make it easier for low-income people, who often have additional language and health coverage literacy barriers, to access health care.  Medi-Cal application has been simplified, eligibility is renewed through a streamlined, prepopulated form, and there are many places to apply.  Like its predecessors earlier this year, Graham-Cassidy cuts at these gains by stopping hospitals from enrolling eligible patients, and not allowing states to pay bills that applicants incurred prior to signing up for the program.

  1. Graham-Cassidy adds bureaucratic barriers designed to keep eligible people from getting Medi-Cal.

Similarly, Graham-Cassidy allows states to impose additional renewal periods in their Medicaid program or impose work requirements as a condition of receiving Medicaid.  As mentioned above, additional renewal requirements undermine the “no-wrong door” structure that has enabled so many people get health coverage.  Work requirements impose additional hurdles while ignoring that many adults who are not working and receiving Medicaid are not working because they are sick.  While California leaders may be philosophically opposed to adding such barriers to its program, when faced with a $57.5 billion loss of federal funds, they will have little choice.

  1. Block grants destroy antipoverty programs.

Even in if the block grant portion of Graham-Cassidy is renewed before 2027, we have already seen what happens to antipoverty programs when they are converted from entitlement programs to block grants. Block grants do not grow with program need and do not guarantee coverage to all who are eligible. Before welfare reform, the Aid to Families for Dependent Children covered 60-80% of the eligible population.  Once federal cash welfare was converted to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (known as CalWORKs in California), we saw a decline that led to only 23% of eligible families nationwide receiving assistance – that’s 23% of families living below 50% of the federal poverty level.

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