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Bill Introduced to Improve Diversity of California Grand Juries

“Cynthia Castillo, a policy advocate with Western Center on Law and Poverty, said juries “play a critical role in the lives of Californians involved in the legal system — particularly people of color and those living in poverty who are over-policed. “We need to address bias and lack of diversity in all parts of the legal system, but right now juries are disproportionately made up of white retirees who can afford to take time off to serve. AB 1792 will ensure people are fairly compensated when they serve so jury duty is more accessible for Californians with low incomes,” she added.”

Bill Introduced to Improve Diversity of California’s Grand Juries

U.S. infrastructure bill marks the beginning of a journey, not the end of a debate

Western Center’s Executive Director Crystal D. Crawford, JD, and Manal J. Aboelata, MPH, Deputy Executive Director at Prevention Institute and author of a new book, Healing Neighborhoods, reflect on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and what this once-in-a-generation public investment could mean for ensuring all Americans the human right to live in a healthy neighborhood.

As we reflect on the historic $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill President Biden signed into law at the end of last year, we’re acutely aware of the promise and peril this massive public investment holds for people in the United States. As residents and professionals who live and work in LA County, we witness firsthand the challenges and opportunities that arise when large sums of taxpayer dollars become available to improve neighborhood conditions.

In 2016, LA County voters got behind a series of ballot measures to fund high quality transportation, safe and well-maintained parks and open space, quality housing and supportive services, and storm water management systems—to the tune of $1.5 billion per year.

Our experience in LA has many lessons to offer. Just like now, the promise is a tremendous opportunity to direct public funds to where they are most needed and make a positive difference in people’s daily lives. The peril, like now, is a failure to reckon with the legacy of segregation and its far-reaching intergenerational effects on community health, safety, and well-being.

It takes years, if not decades, to see the impacts of infrastructure spending. Past measures show us that investing in the status quo can reinforce and exacerbate “winners” and “losers.” Public investments must proactively prioritize funding in the highest need communities and inclusive engagement processes.

We know that our most disenfranchised communities could immediately put government resources toward essential health-promoting infrastructure. And yet, there are few guarantees that public dollars will flow toward the communities that need them most without strategic advocacy, grassroots organizing, and sometimes litigation.

As hard as it was to secure 228 congressional votes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, it’s no wonder President Biden, Vice President Harris, and House Speaker Pelosi hail the infrastructure bill as a major victory. But our experiences in LA demonstrate that the passage of the law is a beginning, not an end. The long road to equitable implementation lies ahead. Delivering on the full promise of this much-needed law requires a fair, just, and equitable distribution of these public resources.

From 2018-2020, as a Stanton Fellow of the Durfee Foundation, Manal embarked on a journey to better understand what it would take to proactively invest public resources in LA’s marginalized neighborhoods to improve conditions for health, safety, and well-being in Black and Brown communities. She documented her observations in Healing Neighborhoods, a groundbreaking new book that provides a framework and insights that resonate with the moment in which we find ourselves.

The “6 Levers for Tackling Inequities in Public Finance Measures” outlined in Healing Neighborhoods increase the likelihood that dollars will get to where they are needed most:

  1. Ensure clear funding guidelines, set asides, and earmarks to prioritize historically disinvested low-income communities and communities of color;
  2. Design and implement high quality technical assistance programs to proactively support and engage under-resourced Black and brown communities;
  3. Create funding programs that remove barriers to community-based organizations and low-wealth jurisdictions so that they can compete for public dollars;
  4. Include racially, ethnically and economically diverse community residents in the process using popular, multicultural and multi-lingual engagement strategies;
  5. Bake accountability and transparency measures into the system to ensure that taxpayers and lawmakers can see how money is spent, and make course corrections if gaps are not closing;
  6. Make data on all aspects of implementation available in timely and easy to understand formats.

As with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2008, there will be tremendous pressure to get shovels in the ground for shovel-ready projects. The risk of over focusing dollars on shovel-ready projects to show near-term results, however, is that ideas and places that already have less infrastructure capacity will continue to be left behind and public dollars will default to existing programs and traditional resource flows.

COVID-19 and the nation’s racial reckoning have made it clear that to thrive, our nation needs healthier, safer, and more equitable conditions and outcomes. To get there, we’ll have to spend in new ways, proactively driving dollars to the neighborhoods that need them most.

What we’ve learned in LA is that it is incumbent on all of us—residents, advocates, public health practitioners, racial justice leaders and social justice lawyers–to stay focused and vigilant in the days, months, and years ahead. Public money and public trust hang in the balance. We hope that when future generations look back on this historic bill signing, they recognize it as a turning point toward health equity, racial justice, financial security, and community stability in this country.

For more information about Healing Neighborhoods, or to print your own copy, go to: Healing Neighborhoods.

 

 

 

 

Dove with Tabitha Brown Launches Campaign Against Hair Discrimination

“The CROWN Coalition was initially formed by Dove, the National Urban League, Color of Change and the Western Center on Law & Poverty. The 2019 CROWN research examined the likelihood for Black women to change their hair to be “appropriate” for the office. In the same year, CROWN Act legislation was created prohibiting public schools and employers from discriminating against Black hairstyles. In Dove’s latest research, they found Black girls are most susceptible to hair discrimination as early as five years old.”

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Analysis of Governor Newsom’s 2022-2023 California Budget Proposal

Governor Newsom released his January proposal for the 2022-23 California state budget. In total, the administration projects a $45 billion surplus — a combination of higher revenue collections for the past two budgets and higher than anticipated revenue for the 2022-23 budget. As the governor noted in his press conference, if current economic trends continue, the surplus could grow even more by the time the proposed budget is revised in May. The budget includes a record $36 billion reserve.

SUMMARY

The governor’s proposed budget includes a historic investment in health care by expanding Medi-Cal eligibility for those currently excluded from the program due to immigration status, and by eliminating Medi-Cal premiums for children, pregnant people, and people with disabilities. It does not eliminate the burdensome “share of cost” that many people on Medi-Cal still pay as a monthly deductible.

The budget also includes expanded funding to house people experiencing homelessness, a large investment in health care related workforce development, and an expansion of proposals intended to reduce poverty such as increasing CalWORKs grants, passing on all child support to families formerly on public assistance, and expanding the state child tax credit to households with no reported income. The budget also proposes to fund 36,000 new childcare slots for working families, but this means approximately 150,000 families will remain on the waiting list.

Unfortunately, this proposal misses an opportunity to build on significant progress made through existing poverty-reduction initiatives. Despite the expiration of the very effective federal child tax credit increase, the governor’s proposed budget does not backfill that lost income for California families. It also fails to fund more stimulus payments for Californians with low incomes. Additionally, it does not provide a cost-of-living increase for the SSI/SSP grant as required by state law, and it does not accelerate the SSI/SSP grant restoration scheduled for January 2024.

The need for rental and utility assistance in California has greatly outpaced federal funds allocated to the state. While California was recently allocated an additional $62 million in federal funds to address the growing need, the state needs about $2 billion. The governor missed an opportunity to supplement the federal dollars with surplus from the General Fund. However, California will continue to advocate for additional funding from the federal government.

Despite the large surplus and number of proposed initiatives, the governor’s proposal uses just $20 billion for the needs of Californians. More than half of the surplus is being used to fund reserves and to pay off long term debt. Of the $20 billion being spent, the governor proposes to use 86 percent for one-time expenditures. The reluctance to invest in ongoing needs means proposals that could make a major impact, like funding a broadly available rental assistance program, are not part of the discussion. The legislature should review the governor’s budget with an eye toward meeting more of the short- and long-term needs of all Californians.

HEALTH CARE

The governor’s proposal expands Medi-Cal to all adults regardless of immigration status. This would make California the first state in the nation to cover all adults, and together with the recent increase in the income level for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as the scheduled elimination of the Medi-Cal assets test by January 1, 2024, all adults under 138 percent of the poverty level will be eligible for free, full-scope Medi-Cal. The governor’s proposal also eliminates premiums for children, pregnant people, and the Working Disabled Program, and expands Medi-Cal coverage of custom crowns for back teeth. In addition, there are affordability, provider payment, and workforce investments.

Medi-Cal

  • Health4All: The governor’s proposal expands full-scope Medi-Cal coverage to an estimated 700,000+ undocumented adults ages 26 through 49, effective no sooner than January 1, 2024, with estimated costs of $819 million total funds ($614 million General Fund) in FY 2023-24 and $2.3 billion total funds ($1.8 billion General Fund) at full implementation.
  • Zero out premiums: The proposed budget includes $53 million total funds ($19 million General Fund) in FY 2022-23 and $89 million total funds ($31 million General Fund) ongoing and trailer bill language to reduce premiums to zero for Medi-Cal and other Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs. This includes Medi-Cal premiums for children above 160 percent of the poverty level, the 250 percent Working Disabled Program premiums, as well as the premiums for pregnant women and infants under the Medi-Cal Access Program (MCAP) and County Children’s Health Insurance Programs (C-CHIP).
  • Justice-related initiatives: The proposal includes $50 million total funds ($16 million General Fund) in FY 2022-23 to implement the CalAIM justice-related initiatives with implementation beginning January 2023. This includes pre-release applications, pre-release “in-reach” services, and coordinated re-entry. There will also be trailer bill language to extend the duration of suspension of Medi-Cal benefits when an individual is incarcerated to increase the likelihood that coverage is maintained.
  • Dental Lab Processed Crown (AKA Custom Crown) Coverage: The budget includes $37 million total funds ($13 million General Fund) in FY 2022-23 and trailer bill language to update adult coverage requirements to include lab processed crowns for posterior teeth, in place of stainless-steel crowns. Also related to dental, the administration proposes to extend dental managed care contracts and procure new contracts no sooner than January 1, 2024.
  • The governor’s proposal includes the following provider payment investments:
    • Proposition 56 Supplemental Provider Payment Backfill: To address declining tobacco revenue, the proposal includes an increase of $29 million from the General Fund to fully fund remaining Proposition 56 payments at their current level in FY 2022-23.
    • Equity and Practice Transformation Payments: To close health equity gaps in preventive, maternity, and behavioral health care measures and address gaps in care arising out of the pandemic, the proposal includes $400 million total funds ($200 million General Fund) in one-time funds, aligning with the goals of the Medi-Cal Comprehensive Quality and Equity Strategy.
    • Elimination of Certain AB 97 Provider Payment Reductions: The budget includes $20 million total funds ($9 million General Fund) in FY 2022-23 and $24 million total funds ($11 million General Fund) ongoing to eliminate AB 97 payment reductions for nurses, alternative birthing centers, audiologists/hearing aid dispensers, respiratory care providers, durable medical equipment, oxygen and respiratory services, chronic dialysis clinics, non-emergency medical transportation, and emergency air medical transportation.
  • Discontinue Child Health and Disability Program (CHDP) and Expand Children’s Presumptive Eligibility (PE): The Department is proposing to sunset CHDP by July 1, 2023 via trailer bill language and replace with the Children’s Presumptive Eligibility Program, which will include all Medi-Cal providers.
  • Mobile Crisis Services: The proposal includes $108 million total funds ($16 million General Fund) and trailer bill language to add qualifying 24/7 community-based mobile crisis intervention services as a Medi-Cal benefit as soon as January 1, 2023. The benefit will be implemented through county behavioral health delivery systems by multidisciplinary mobile crisis teams in the community.

Other Health Proposals 

  • Office of Health Care Affordability: The proposal reappropriates funding for the Office that was originally included in the 2021 Budget Act (originally $11.2 million in 2020-21 and $24.5 million in 2022-23) and proposes statutory changes for its establishment. The Office is charged with increasing cost and quality transparency, developing cost targets for the health care industry, enforcing compliance, and filing gaps in market oversight.
  • Covered California: The proposal continues to deposit into a reserve fund to be used for future Covered California affordability programs the $333.4 million General Fund that would have been used for Covered California state premium subsidies (not currently needed due to American Rescue Plan Funds).  The administration intends to work with the Legislature to determine the best use of these funds based on the recent AB 133 affordability report produced by Covered California, after determining what ongoing federal support will be available. In addition, the proposal continues to include $20 million General Fund in 2022-23 to support the One-Dollar Premium Subsidy program, which zeros the cost of Covered California consumers for health plans due to federal policy concerning abortion coverage.
  • Behavioral Health Bridge Housing: The proposed budget includes $1.5 billion General Fund ($1 billion in FY 2022-23 and $500 million in FY 2023-24) for behavioral health bridge housing to address the immediate housing and treatment needs of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness with serious behavioral health conditions by purchasing and installing tiny homes and providing time-limited operational supports in various bridge housing settings.
  • Workforce Development: The proposal includes $1.7 billion in Care Economy Workforce investments, including $350 million General Fund to recruit and train 25,000 new community health workers as well as additional health care providers.

HOUSING & HOMELESSNESS

In total, the governor’s 2022-2023 budget dedicates $9 billion for housing and $8 billion for homelessness. Largely building on last year’s efforts, this budget proposal attempts to chip away at the housing and homelessness crisis by streamlining production, increasing housing accountability, and funding homelessness solutions through a climate focused lens.

This “Housing as a Climate Strategy’’ focuses on preservation and production of affordable housing near schools, jobs, transit, density, and community hubs to fight climate change. Despite the well-placed investments in climate resilient housing, the budget falls short in supporting struggling Californians from eviction with the notable lack of state funding for eviction protection. The budget also proposes to battle the state homelessness crisis with an eye toward housing and behavioral health. While on the surface this plan addresses the long-standing need for better mental health for the unhoused community, it plays on the trope that all people experiencing homelessness have mental health conditions, rather than recognizing the very tangible fact that most Californians simply cannot afford the high cost of living, which has steepened since the start of the pandemic.

The governor is also increasing funding for “beautification” and “hazardous material removal” in encampments, which translates to increased sweeps, harassment, and further ostracization of people experiencing homelessness. With another budget surplus, we hope the budget’s May revision will use the additional funding to preserve and increase affordable housing, prevent needless evictions with increased funding for California’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and provide tangle solutions to get people off the streets and into safe, stable, affordable, and permanent housing.

Affordable Housing and Climate 

  • $300 million one-time General Fund for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program to support land-use, housing, transportation, and land preservation projects for infill and compact development that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • $100 million one-time General Fund to expand affordable housing development and adaptive reuse opportunities on state excess land sites.
  • $100 million one-time General Fund for adaptive reuse incentive grants to remove cost impediments to adaptive reuse (e.g., structural improvements, plumbing/electrical design, exiting) and help accelerate residential conversions, with a priority on projects located in downtown-oriented areas.
  • $500 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.
    • $4.6 million in farmworker Housing Assistance Tax Credits.
  • $200 million one-time General Fund for the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) to provide loans to developers for mixed-income rental housing, specifically for households with incomes between 30 percent and 120 percent of the Area Median Income.
  • $200 million one-time General Fund for the Portfolio Reinvestment Program to further preserve targeted units in downtown-oriented areas and continue increasing the state’s affordable housing stock.

Mobile Home Rehab

  • $100 million one-time General Fund for HCD’s Mobile Home Park Rehabilitation and Resident Ownership Program. These funds will finance the preservation and development of affordable mobile home parks.

Infill Housing

  • Infill Infrastructure Grant Program—$500 million one-time General Fund ($225 million in 2022-23, and $275 million in 2023-24).

Emergency Rental Assistance Program

  • California requested an additional $1.9 billion in federal funding to address the growing need for rental assistance and utility assistance for Californians. California was allocated an additional $62 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury. While grateful that California was allocated 30 percent of the total federal reallocation, this amount is woefully short of the need.  Currently, California needs almost $2 billion more than what we were originally allocated, and the need is growing. California will continue to advocate with the federal government to obtain additional rental and utility assistance.

Formerly Incarcerated Housing

  • $10.6 million one-time General Fund over three years to the Returning Home Well program that will provide transitional housing to parolees at risk of housing insecurity or homelessness.

Legal Services for Renters

  • $40 million investment in legal assistance for renters and homeowners.

Homelessness

  • $2 billion one-time General Fund, multi-year grant to cities, large counties and Continuums of Care working with the California Interagency Council on Homelessness (Cal-ICH). Cal-ICH will work with grantees on their homelessness accountability plans.
  • $500 million one-time general fund dollars in housing encampment resolution efforts that will expand program jurisdictions investment in short- and long-term rehousing strategies for people experiencing homelessness.
  • $25 million in Clean California and $20.6 million for hazardous material removal at encampments.
  • $1 million investment in homeless youth programs.
  • $1.5 billion in General Funds over two years dedicated to resources to address the immediate housing and treatment needs of people experiencing homelessness who have behavioral health conditions. This funding will be administered through DHCS’ Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure program to purchase tiny homes and facilitate bridge/transitional housing. Such funding can also be used for bridge housing including an expansion of Project Homekey Acquisition.
  • $5 million for Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA).

PUBLIC BENEFITS & ACCESS TO JUSTICE

CalWORKs Grants

The governor is proposing a 7.1 percent grant increase to CalWORKs grants starting October 1, 2022. The funding for the increase comes from Child Poverty Subaccount, a stream of revenue dedicated to CalWORKs grant increases. As a result of the 7.1 percent increase, maximum CalWORKs grants will equal 54 percent of the federal poverty level. For families not subject to sanctions, timed off aid or with an ineligible adult, the grant levels exceed the deep poverty level, which means a reduction in the well-documented, long-term negative impacts of deep poverty on children. Despite the increase in the grant level, the administration’s budget does not fulfill the commitment to increase CalWORKs grants so that no child is living in deep poverty. The so-called AU+1 approach requires significantly more investment than this budget provides. Below is a chart which shows current grant amounts, grant amounts with the 7.1 percent increase, the percent of the federal poverty level, what the grant would need to be to ensure an end to deep poverty, and lastly, the gap between the current grant and an end to deep poverty.

Workforce Development

The administration is proposing two major investments in workforce development. One is a $1.5 billion Proposition 98 General Fund effort to support the development of college and career pathways focused on education, health care, technology, and climate-related fields. Promoting pathways that allow students to move seamlessly from high school to college and career will improve the number of students who pursue and achieve post-secondary education and training.

The governor is also proposing to invest $1.7 billion over three years in care economy workforce development—across both the Labor Agency and California Health and Human Services Agency—that will create more innovative and accessible opportunities to recruit, train, and hire, and will advance an ethnically and culturally inclusive health and human services workforce, with improved diversity and higher wages. These programs will target students such as those in CalWORKs welfare to work.

Safety Net Reserve

The budget provides no increase in the safety net reserve, maintaining a $900 million level. While this amount represents an important safeguard against Medi-Cal and CalWORKs program reductions in lean budget years, the continuing growth in spending in both programs might require additional funds to preserve the effectiveness of the reserve.

Child Support Pass Through

The governor is proposing a major change to child support rules by allowing all child support paid by non-custodial parents to go to families formerly receiving CalWORKs or Medi-Cal. For decades it has been state policy for the state to retain any child support for the state to pay off the cost of providing welfare and medical benefits. In short, the state has reimbursed itself and made the families live with less income. When fully implemented, these families are estimated to receive an additional $187 million. While the idea of passing through all child support is certainly welcome, it is notable that the administration is proposing to do this only for families no longer receiving government assistance. The governor chose not to allow a 100 percent pass through to families currently on aid. The legislature may wish to consider expanding this proposal to pass through all child support to all families.

SSI/SSP Grants

The administration did not propose an increase in the SSI/SSP grants for 2022-23 budget, citing last year’s agreement to a two-step increase in SSP funding to restore grant cuts made by the state in the 2010 and 2011 budgets. The first of these grant increases went into effect on January 1, 2022, and in conjunction with a federal cost of living increase for the SSI portion of the grant, SSI/SSP grant levels went from $954 a month up to $1,040 a month for a single individual. The second step of grant increases is set to go into effect in January 2024.

In 2018, the legislature and then Governor Brown agreed to provide a state cost of living adjustment on the SSP portion of the grant beginning in January 2023. While that agreement is subject to funding in the budget, the administration chose not to include it in the January budget. As it currently stands, SSI recipients would not see any increased state funding for two years. The legislature may wish to consider whether to accelerate the second SSP increase to 2023 or to provide a cost-of-living adjustment.

Home Visiting

The administration proposes to increase funding for Home Visiting by $50 million ongoing for the Department of Public Health (CDPH) to expand the California Home Visiting Program and the California Black Infant Health Program, serving approximately 6,000 additional families over five years on top of 3,700 currently served by the Home Visiting Program and 1,650 served by the Black Infant Health Program. The administration does not propose increased funding for the CalWORKs Home Visiting program, which was cut in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic. The budget proposes greater flexibility for home visiting models offered to meet the diverse needs of families across the state, expands home visiting services to additional counties, and makes them accessible to families with the highest need. Additionally, this proposal will support early literacy by including books and early literacy programming provided by home visitors, and will be further supported by a $350 million General Fund investment to recruit, train, and certify new community health workers.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The administration is proposing to allow families with zero reported income to be eligible for the $1,000 state child tax credit so long as the family would otherwise be eligible. The concept of a zero-earnings tax credit potentially opens the door for allowing people receiving SSI, SSDI, and Social Security to get the same state assistance that families receive from the state EITC and Child Tax Credit.

Civil Assessments

The administration is proposing to reduce the impact of fines and fees on low-income Californians by reducing civil assessments from a maximum of $300 to a cap of $150. Civil assessments are imposed on people in criminal and traffic courts when they fail to appear for a hearing, or they fail to pay a fine in a timely fashion. Legal service advocates tell us that many clients receive multiple civil assessments that increase the amount they owe and make it even harder to pay court ordered fines and fees. While this proposal goes part way in meeting the goals of legislators and advocates, as proposed, civil assessments would still impact Californians with the lowest incomes most, and leaves open the question of whether retroactive civil assessment debts would continue to be subject to collection.

California Food Assistance Program

The administration proposes phasing in the expansion the California Food Assistance Program to all Californians ages 55 and older, regardless of immigration status. This year’s budget proposal includes $35.2 million for initial planning phases of the expansion and allocates $113.4 million annually starting in the 2025-26 budget year for the full expansion.

Golden State Stimulus/Grants

The administration chose not to provide another round of pandemic stimulus payments. These payments, which went out to low- and moderate-income households, were instrumental in allowing families and individuals to absorb some of the costs of the pandemic and to give breathing room in household budgets. The grants were also a method for the state to reduce state expenditures below the Gann Limit, which caps the amount the state budget can increase from year to year. The governor noted in his press conference that the door is not closed on this and it may be under consideration for the May Revise.

For questions, contact:

  • Public Benefits/ Access to Justice: Michael Herald, Director of Policy Advocacy – mherald[at]wclp.org
  • Food Access: Christopher Sanchez, Policy Advocate – csanchez[at]wclp.org
  • Health Care: Jen Flory, Policy Advocate – jflory[at]wclp.org; Linda Nguy, Policy Advocate – lnguy[at]wclp.org
  • Housing: Cynthia Castillo, Policy Advocate – ccastillo[at]wclp.org; Tina Rosales, Policy Advocate – trosales[at]wclp.org

Banning Hair Discrimination Emerges as Racial Justice Issue

“The campaign to pass the CROWN Act in every state and Congress began in 2019, when Dove, which makes shampoo and other personal care products, and advocacy groups the National Urban League, Color of Change and the Western Center on Law and Poverty co-founded a coalition to press for the hair anti-discrimination law. The law clarifies that Black people should be allowed to wear their hair as it grows naturally and not be forced to use chemicals to relax or straighten it.”

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EPIC News – November 2021

We’re headed into the last month of the year, which means this is the last EPIC Newsletter of 2021!
Keep your eyes peeled in December for our end-of-year message to round out 2021 and welcome 2022.


Latinx Families File Lawsuit Against Harbor Regional Center 

Western Center and Disability Rights California filed a lawsuit on behalf of a parent group in Torrance, CA to stop discrimination against Latinx families at Harbor Regional Center. The regional center is supposed to provide services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The parent group, Padres Buscando el Cambio, is comprised of families whose needs have been ignored, and who’ve faced explicitly discriminatory comments from Harbor Regional Center staff.

As a recipient of state funds, Harbor Regional Center’s actions are not only unfair, they are also illegal. Our lawsuit seeks to compel the regional center and state to deliver services that meet the needs of everyone the center serves.


L.A. County Sued for Failing to Provide Timely Food Assistance

Western Center, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, and The Public Interest Law Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of two organizations fighting hunger in Los Angeles and one CalFresh (aka food stamp) recipient who had to wait over a month for CalFresh when he and his father had no money for food, despite a state mandate requiring such benefits be distributed in three days.

The lawsuit demands that the county comply with its legal obligation to grant expedited access to critical food benefits for those most in need.


Giving Season is Here!   

Tomorrow, November 30th, is Giving Tuesday – a global movement to amplify the power of radical generosity. There are so many ways to participate in Giving Tuesday, from random acts of kindness, to telling a friend how much you appreciate them, to making a donation to Western Center – the goal is a day filled with giving and generosity. How do you plan to participate?

If you were unable to join us for this year’s virtual Garden Party event, or just want to re-watch the festivities, you can find the recording of the program here. It’s also not too late to make a donation to support the event! Click here to make a donation.


Native American Heritage Month  

November is Native American Heritage Month, which according to the National Congress of American Indians “is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.”

The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum paid tribute to the traditions and ancestry of Native Americans with a collection of events and resources throughout November. PBS also offers a collection of film, documentaries, and programs to inform and celebrate the history, influence, and contributions of Native Americans.


PRESS RELEASE: Latinx Parents Sue to Stop Discrimination by Harbor Regional Center when serving People with Developmental Disabilities

For Immediate Release

Latinx families already get fewer services than white families and are hit harder by closure of schools and day programs during the COVID pandemic.  

TORRANCE, CA—A group of Latinx families known as Padres Buscando el Cambio filed litigation to fight for more services for intellectually and developmentally disabled children and young adults who rely on Harbor Regional Center. The regional center, which has offices in Torrance and Long Beach, is supposed to provide respite services, one-to-one aides, in-home supports, day programs and other services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. The parent group is made up of families whose children’s needs have been long ignored.

During the pandemic, when schools and day programs closed, these children and their families were left with little to no help during the day. Members of Padres Buscando el Cambio say that they were overwhelmed and in need of more help from Harbor Regional Center before the pandemic. During the pandemic, Latinx families’ lack of equal access to regional center services became unbearable.

In addition to challenging the actions of Harbor Regional Center, the lawsuit also names the California Department of Developmental Services, which is responsible for ensuring its regional centers comply with the law.

Mayra Jimenez, the leader of Padres Buscando el Cambio, says: “Harbor [Regional Center] and the state do not seem to recognize how much our children are suffering, especially during the pandemic. For example, young people with autism are upset that they cannot go to school and need support coping with the changes. Families need help but instead the regional center insists on proof that the school denied us first. That takes time, and we need help now. They need to take an individual look at each child’s needs and approve services to make up for not only what was lost, but also the new challenges we face because of the pandemic. Also, Harbor makes us jump through so many hoops and procedures to get even a little help and overstressed families cannot cope.”

The inadequate COVID services for Latinx families also make existing service inequities worse. Harbor Regional Center spends only 37 cents on Latinx individuals for every dollar it spends on white individuals. As a recipient of state funds, Harbor Regional Center’s actions are not only unfair, they are also illegal, according to the group.

“There is no justification for the way Latinx families at Harbor Regional Center are treated,” said David Kane, an attorney for Western Center on Law & Poverty. “Regional Centers like Harbor are mandated by the state to provide the kind of care these families are asking for. It’s bad enough they must fight to receive services — the racial discrimination takes the urgency of the situation to another level. This needs to be addressed ASAP.”

Latinx parents seeking help for their children from Harbor Regional Center also faced explicitly discriminatory comments from regional center staff. For example, when requesting more services or service hours for their children, service coordinators sometimes chastised parents with comments including, “It was your decision to have so many kids,” and “It is a parent’s responsibility to care for her own child.”

Citing unanswered requests issued months ago, the parent group first demanded that Harbor Regional Center – and then the California Department of Developmental Services – take urgent, corrective action to avoid a lawsuit. When these demands were not addressed, the group was forced to file its lawsuit.

Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi, Senior Attorney with Disability Rights California, agrees. “There is no denying that disabled people and their families are hurting, and that Harbor Regional Center and the Department of Developmental Services have a legal obligation to meet their individualized needs throughout this pandemic and beyond. We remain hopeful that the regional center and the state will recognize this suffering and work with us to develop a comprehensive approach to service delivery that meets the needs of the Latinx community.”

Contact: Courtney McKinney, cmckinney[at]wclp.org 

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Disability Rights California (DRC) – Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. View a full copy of the complaint: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/cases/pbc-v-hrc.

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.