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Western Center’s Overview of the Final 2023-2024 California State Budget

Summary 

The Governor and Legislature reached their 2023-2024 budget agreement, including a package of implementing bills detailing how California will spend $310 billion in revenues, manage a deficit, and maintain reserves for future uncertainty.  

After years of a budget surplus, California is forecasting a downturn in funding due to a combination of capital gains losses and delayed tax filings due to natural disasters, but California remains strong. The final budget reflects $37.8 billion in total budgetary reserves and additional funds from the Managed Care Organization tax.   

While the budget agreement avoids cuts to critical programs that communities with low incomes and communities of color rely on and investments in our safety net, there are still major gaps in the investments needed to build an equitable and thriving California. 

HEALTH CARE 

Health4All: The budget maintains full funding to expand full-scope Medi-Cal eligibility to all income eligible adults ages 26-49 regardless of immigration status on January 1, 2024.  

Managed Care Organization (MCO) Tax: The budget includes a larger and accelerated MCO tax with an earlier start date (April 2023 through the end of 2026). This results in $19.4 billion in total funding, which will offset the General Fund with the majority going to Medi-Cal investments. Medi-Cal investments include increasing reimbursements rates to 87.5% of Medicare rates for primary care, birthing care, and non-specialty mental health care. Other provider reimbursement will be decided and spent over a 4-to 5-year period instead of 8- to 10- year period originally proposed by the Administration 

Covered California Affordability Funding: The budget rejects the proposed sweep of individual mandate penalty funds to the General Fund. Funds will be used as intended to lower costs of Covered CA plans and provides $82.5 million ($165 million ongoing) from penalty funds to lower copays and deductibles for about 900,000 Californians beginning January 1, 2024. The budget includes a $600 million loan from the Health Care Affordability Reserve Fund to the General Fund, to be repaid in 2025-26. 

Medi-Cal Transitional Rent: Funding to Medi-Cal plans under CalAIM community supports to allow up to six months of rent or temporary housing to eligible individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. 

Medi-Cal Asset Test Clean-up Language: The budget includes cleanup language from the 2022 Budget that expands Medi-Cal access for older adults and people with disabilities by eliminating the Medi-Cal asset test effective January 1, 2024. 

Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act: The budget includes additional funding to support the implementation of the CARE Act, including funding for earlier implementation for Los Angeles County and to double the number of hours per participant for legal services from 20 hours to 40 hours. 

HOMELESSNESS 

The Budget invests $3.5 billion in additional funding for homelessness programs, including $1 billion for the Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention grant program, which funds housing, outreach at encampments, emergency shelters and more. While there were no cuts, these investments represent a small portion of what it would take to tackle the crisis. With an estimated 171,521 unhoused residents living on the streets or in their cars, California is home to nearly one-third of the country’s entire homeless population. Looking forward, we will continue to advocate for ongoing long-term investments to ensure that deeply affordable housing units do not continue to languish in the pipeline, unhoused Californians need not wait months or years to access an affordable and accessible housing option, and we stem the inflow of Californians into homelessness through protecting their rights and preserving their affordable housing options. 

2023-24 Homelessness Investments include: 

Behavioral Health Bridge Housing Program: $1.5 billion over three years. 

Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program: $2.2 billion over five years for the Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program, of which $50 million in 2022-23 is for the Department of General Services, with short-term statutory exemption, to deploy an estimated 1,200 small homes in the City of Los Angeles, County of Sacramento, City of San Jose, and County of San Diego as rapidly as possible. 

CalAIM Transitional Rent: $175.3 million ($40.8 million General Fund, $114.9 million federal funds, and $19.6 million Medi-Cal County Behavioral Health Fund) at full implementation to allow up to six months of rent or temporary housing to eligible individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. 

Encampment Resolution Funding Grants: $400 million in one-time General Fund for a third round of Encampment Resolution Funding grants. 

HOUSING 

The 2021 and 2022 Budget Acts invested a combined $21.5 billion over multiple years to advance the greater availability of housing throughout California. The 2023 Budget largely maintains a portion of these commitments and includes a housing package of $14.7 billion for 2023-24. Overall, the proposal includes $500 million continued annual investment in the state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, $100 million for the Multifamily Housing Program, and $100 million for the Portfolio Reinvestment Program. These programs have a proven track-record of addressing housing affordability and homelessness across California.  

2023-24 Housing Investments include:  

Multifamily Housing Program: $100 million in 2023-24 for the Multifamily Housing Program for a total of $325 million in 2023-24.   

Dream For All:$500 million one-time General Fund to the California Housing Finance Agency for the Dream for All program, which provides shared-appreciation loans to help low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers achieve homeownership.  

CalHome:$350 million one-time General Fund ($250 million in the 2022 Budget Act and $100 million committed for 2023-24) for the Department of Housing and Community Development’s CalHome program, to provide local agencies and nonprofit agencies with grants to assist low- and very-low-income first-time homebuyers with housing assistance, counseling and technical assistance. The Budget withdraws $50 million one-time General Fund in 2023-24, leaving $300 million for this program.   

Foreclosure Intervention Housing Prevention Program:The 2021 Budget Act included $500 million one-time General Fund for the Foreclosure Intervention Housing Prevention Program, which provides funds to various non-profit organizations to acquire foreclosed property and operate as affordable housing. The Budget defers $330 million of the $500 million one-time General Fund over four fiscal years—for a revised allocation of: $82.5 million in 2023-24, $85 million in 2024-25, $100 million in 2025-26, and $62.5 million in 2026-27.   

Downtown Rebound Program:The 2000 Budget Act included $25 million one-time General Fund for the Department of Housing and Community Development to provide funding for adaptive reuse of commercial and industrial structures to residential housing. The Budget reverts $17.5 million in unexpended funding that remained in this program after the Notice of Funding Availability.   

One-time investments, especially at this limited scale, are not sufficient to meet our state’s affordable housing and homelessness needs. While the final budget falls short of our requests to meet the housing and homelessness crisis at scale, we look forward to continuing our budget advocacy in the coming years to encourage the Governor and Legislative leadership to prioritize a comprehensive, long-term investment strategy that prioritizes significant, ongoing funding to solve homelessness and ensure that every Californian has a safe, stable home that they can afford. Ongoing investments can address the disproportionate harms of skyrocketing housing costs, housing instability, and homelessness on Black, Indigenous, and people of color, people living in poverty, and other marginalized communities. 

PUBLIC BENEFITS AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE  

CalWORKs: The budget includes a 3.6% increase to CalWORKs grants to continue efforts for No Child in Deep Poverty and makes permanent the 10% grant increase that took effect last October so no longer subject to a cut in 2024. Additionally, the budget requires CalWORKs grant display to account for households where the Assistance Unit does not account for all the people in the family, which applies to 60% of CalWORKs households. Unfortunately, the budget does not include Legislature’s proposal to implement the first phase of Reimagine CalWORKs despite UCSF’s new report that shows economic shocks are a key driver of homelessness that can be mitigated by reforming sanction. 

Food Assistance: The budget maximizes the new Summer EBT program, which will provide $40 per month in summertime food benefits to approximately 4 million children beginning in Summer 2024, bringing about $480 million in federally funded food benefits to California; initiates the CalFresh Minimum Nutrition Benefit Pilot Program, a $15 million pilot program to raise monthly minimum food benefits to $50 minimum from the current minimum of $23; approves the expansion of the California Food Assistance Program for adults age 55 and older, regardless of immigration status, to begin in late 2025, instead of January 2027; and approves improvement to EBT card security to protect CalFresh and CalWORKs families from theft. 

SSI/SSP: The budget includes an 8.6% increase to SSI/SSP grants and Cash Assistance for Immigrants (CAPI) program. Effective January 2024, this allocation will provide recipients with an increase in grant levels to $1,134 per month and $1,928 per month for couples. 

Humanitarian support: The budget approves $150 million for the Rapid Response program, which funds sheltering and humanitarian support at the Southern border.  

Safety Net Reserve: The budget rejects the May Revision proposal to draw $450 million from the safety net reserve.   

For questions, contact: 

  • Health:  Linda Nguy, Senior Policy Advocate – lnguy[at]wclp.org; Sandra Poole, Policy Advocate – spoole[at]wclp.org 
  • Housing and Homelessness: Cynthia Castillo, Policy Advocate – ccastillo[at]wclp.org; Tina Rosales, Policy Advocate – trosales[at]wclp.org 
  • Public Benefits/ Access to Justice:  Linda Nguy, Senior Policy Advocate – lnguy[at]wclp.org; Christopher Sanchez, Policy Advocate – csanchez[at]wclp.org 

Tenants’ Rights Advocates Reach Landmark Settlement on Behalf of Californians Struggling With Pandemic Rent Debt

TENANTS’ RIGHTS ADVOCATES REACH LANDMARK SETTLEMENT ON BEHALF OF CALIFORNIANS STRUGGLING WITH PANDEMIC RENT DEBT

The agreement requires the California Department of Housing & Community Development to give pending and denied applicants a fair chance to receive Covid-19 rental assistance

LOS ANGELES—A landmark settlement has been reached in a case brought by tenants’ rights advocates alleging that the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) unconstitutionally operated the state’s Covid-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP or Housing is Key), which has led to qualified applicants missing out on the assistance they were promised after the pandemic destroyed many Californians’ livelihoods. More than 100,000 households are still waiting for a decision on their applications—and many of them are being served with eviction notices and being harassed by their landlords for rent they still owe. The settlement agreement will offer a renewed chance for applicants who remain in limbo to receive Covid-19 rental assistance, which remains essential to supporting and stabilizing families as the housing and homelessness crisis worsens in California.

California’s Covid-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program was created to provide direct assistance to low-income families struggling to pay rent during the pandemic. The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE Action), Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), and PolicyLink—represented by Western Center on Law & Poverty, Public Counsel, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Covington & Burling LLP—sued HCD in June 2022 for several systemic failures in the program, including a confusing application process that led eligible tenants to be wrongfully denied assistance.

“The rental assistance program was intended to provide housing stability for low-income tenant families who were impacted by Covid-19, but delays and dysfunction left far too many eligible families facing eviction because they could not access this critical assistance,” said Madeline Howard, Senior Attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty. “We are hopeful that this settlement will create an opportunity for these tenants to finally receive the help they need.”

“This settlement will mitigate some of the worst long-tail impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on our local communities, and Covington is very proud to have partnered with our co-counsel and clients in this important work,” said Neema Sahni, Partner at Covington & Burling LLP.

California identified more than $6 billion in rental assistance from the state and federal government for the Housing is Key program, which came at a critical time and should have made a profound difference for the hundreds of thousands of families impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic. More than half a million households applied to the program. Thus far, HCD has denied nearly 30 percent of applicants, according to an analysis of program data conducted by the National Equity Atlas (a research partnership between PolicyLink and the USC Dornsife Equity Research Institute). The vast majority of those denied (93 percent) have incomes below 80 percent of the area median income—the income threshold to be eligible for the program. Tenants did not receive any meaningful explanation of why they were being denied the help they needed to avoid eviction, and many had difficulty accessing the appeal process.

“We filed this case because we started to see a sharp rise in denials for tenants we knew were eligible, including clients of legal aid organizations across the state, who were relying on rental assistance to stay housed and off the streets,” said Faizah Malik, Senior Supervising Attorney at Public Counsel. “With the settlement of the case, many thousands of families will have another chance to receive the aid that they were promised.”

As part of the settlement, HCD has agreed to take several steps to improve its process for the remaining ERAP applications, including:

  • Providing tenants who are going to be denied all or part of the assistance they requested with a detailed explanation of the reason for denial, so they can address issues with the application and have a fair opportunity to appeal;
  • Ensuring that tenants subject to “recapture” of rental assistance funds have a fair opportunity to challenge the state’s decision;
  • Providing better access to the appeal process; 
  • Expanding funding to the Local Partner Network, which will assist tenants with navigating their pending applications and appeals;
  • Conducting an audit of prior denials to correct wrongful denials of assistance;
  • Improving language access and reasonable accommodation procedures; and
  • Providing greater transparency about who is receiving rental assistance and who is not, with data about the race, ethnicity, and zip code of people denied assistance.

Tenants who have been waiting for a decision on their applications will receive an update in the coming months and should regularly check their email, application portal, and postal mail for notifications. Tenants who have been evicted or moved since they applied for rental assistance should contact the Housing is Key program to update their contact information and ensure they receive any important notices. Those who receive a denial will have 30 days to file an appeal.

“SAJE has assisted hundreds of tenants on their rent relief applications, and many of the most vulnerable tenants are still in the waiting pool, confused and scared,” said Cynthia Strathmann, Executive Director of SAJE. “We hope that tenants now will finally get the information they need to get their applications approved so they can pay off their pandemic rent debt, a major source of continued stress and harassment.”

“This case brought us in contact with so many families who were evicted or facing eviction because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Jonathan Jager, LAFLA staff attorney. “We encourage any renters who are still waiting for an ERAP decision to not give up hope. Keep your contact information up to date with Housing is Key and reach out to the Local Partner Network if you have questions about any communications you receive from the program.”

Rent debt across California remains at crisis levels: an estimated 688,000 households across the state remain behind on rent, according to the National Equity Atlas. Altogether, they owe nearly $2.6 billion in total rent debt, with the average rent debt per household hovering around $3,700. The vast majority of these renters are low-income people of color who have suffered job and income losses due to the pandemic. This persistent and mounting debt further illustrates the importance of this settlement to keeping families in their homes and curbing the surge of evictions that have followed the end of pandemic eviction moratoriums.

“I lost everything I had because of issues with the rent relief program. Right before the pandemic, I put my life’s savings into opening a restaurant. I was then forced to close down, and as a result lost my income, my business, and my entire savings trying to hold on to what I had. I applied for rent relief and at first was denied without explanation. Then I appealed, got approved, but have now been waiting for nearly 2 years for the money to come through. I tried calling the program for help dozens of times but got no help. A year into waiting for the funding, my landlord pressured me to move out, and I became homeless. Thousands of lives have been destroyed because of the failure to get the money out to families that they are due. I am hopeful that this settlement will finally bring us closer to some relief,” said Blake Phillips, former resident of Los Angeles.

“In creating the Covid-19 rent relief program, the state promised to cover 100 percent of pandemic rent debt for tenants in California. We brought this case to ensure that the state lived up to that promise so hundreds of thousands of Californians could survive the pandemic,” said Jefferson McGee, State Board Chair of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). “Housing is health and housing is a human right and we will keep fighting to make that a reality for our members.” 

More information on the details of the settlement can be found here. 

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About Western Center on Law & Poverty

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.

About 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.

About Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is a nonprofit law firm that seeks to achieve equal justice for people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. LAFLA changes lives through direct representation, systems change, and community empowerment. It has five offices in Los Angeles County, along with four Self-Help Legal Access Centers at area courthouses, and three domestic violence clinics to aid survivors.

About Covington & Burling LLP

In an increasingly regulated world, Covington & Burling LLP provides corporate, litigation, and regulatory expertise to help clients navigate their most complex business problems, deals, and disputes. Founded in 1919, the firm has more than 1,300 lawyers in offices in Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, and Washington. Since its founding, Covington has demonstrated a strong commitment to public service. The firm is frequently recognized for pro bono service, including 11 times being ranked the number one pro bono practice in the U.S. by The American Lawyer. 

About the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action (ACCE Action)

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action is a grassroots, member-led, statewide community organization working with more than 16,000 members across California. ACCE is dedicated to raising the voices of everyday Californians, neighborhood by neighborhood, to fight for the policies and programs we need to improve our communities and create a brighter future.

About Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)

SAJE is a 501c3 nonprofit organization in South Los Angeles that builds community power and leadership for economic justice. Founded in 1996, SAJE focuses on tenant rights, healthy housing, and equitable development. SAJE runs a regular tenant clinic, helps connect local residents to jobs, organizes for tenant rights, and fights for community benefits from future development through private agreements and public policies. We believe that everyone, regardless of income or connections, should have a voice in creating the policies that shape our city, and that the fate of city neighborhoods should be decided by those who live there in a manner that is fair, replicable, and sustainable. 

About PolicyLink

PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity by Lifting Up What Works®. With local and national partners, PolicyLink works to ensure all people in America — particularly those who face the burdens of structural racism — can participate in a just society, live in a healthy community of opportunity, and prosper in an equitable economy. PolicyLink is guided by the belief that the solutions to the nation’s challenges lie with those closest to these challenges.

Familias y jóvenes recibirán reembolsos en efectivo del Condado de Riverside luego de un acuerdo de demanda

Familias y jóvenes recibirán reembolsos en efectivo del Condado de Riverside luego de un acuerdo de demanda

Condado en el sur de California pagará $540K relacionados con multas y cuotas juveniles 

CONDADO DE RIVERSIDE, CALIF. – Patricia Segura pasó casi una década tratando de pagar una deuda de la que a veces no estaba segura de que se iba escapar.

La residente del Condado de Riverside y madre soltera de cinco hijos luchó para hacer los pagos que le dijeron que debía, lo que provocó que perdiera los reembolsos de impuestos y sufriera daño en su puntaje de crédito en el camino. Todo porque el Condado de Riverside quería que pagara miles de dólares en cuotas por el tiempo que su hijo, en ese entonces un adolescente, pasó en una colocación juvenil.

“Se sintió tan injusto,” dijo la Sra. Segura sobre la situación en la que se encontraba. “Estaba tratando de hacer lo mejor que podía por mis hijos, y el Condado me cobraba y me quitaba el dinero que necesitaba para cuidarlos.”

La familia de la Sra. Segura es uno de los 1,200 miembros de la comunidad del Condado de Riverside que ahora son eligibles para el reembolso.

El 2 de junio, un juez otorgó la aprobación definitiva de un acuerdo en una demanda colectiva, Freeman contra County of Riverside, presentada contra el Condado por padres y guardianes afectados por multas y cuotas de detención juveniles. En la demanda, los demandantes alegaron que el Condado violó la ley estatal y federal cuando cobró millones de dólares en cuotas a familias con niños en detención juvenil, pero no se aseguró de que las familias pudieran pagar las cuotas ni informar a las familias sobre su derecho a desafiar las cuotas.

Según el acuerdo, el Condado acepta pagar $540,307 en reembolsos a los miembros colectivos. Esto es después de que el Condado acordó, luego de la presentación de la demanda en marzo de 2020, dejar de cobrar $4.1 millones en cuotas administrativas y de detención de menores pendientes. Las familias demandantes están representadas por el National Center for Youth Law (traducción: el Centro Nacional para las Leyes de Menores) y el Western Center on Law and Poverty (traducción: el Centro Occidental de Leyes y Pobreza).

“La colección de estas cuotas por parte del Condado ha devastado a las familias en apuros,” dijo Michael Harris, un abogado y Director Senior de Abogacía Jurídica y Equidad en el National Center for Youth Law. “Esas familias ahora recibirán ayuda financiera, y este acuerdo pone sobre aviso a otras jurisdicciones que están evaluando y recaudando dinero ilegalmente.”

Gran victoria

El acuerdo marca una victoria significativa para las familias del Condado de Riverside, algunas de las cuales, como la Sra. Segura, se han visto atrapadas en ciclos de turbulencias financieras que duran décadas como resulto de las prácticas de colección del Condado.

Los demandantes Shirley y Daniel Freeman también fueron perseguidos por el Condado durante más de 10 años por cuotas relacionadas con el tiempo que pasó su nieto en detención juvenil.

“Shirley y yo presentamos esta demanda porque queríamos ayudar a otras familias a recibir justicia por lo que sucedió,” dijo Daniel Freeman. “Después de un largo viaje, estoy orgulloso de lo que ha logrado este caso.”

“Muchas familias en Riverside pueden dar un suspiro de alivio cuando estas cuotas juveniles injustas se eliminan y reembolsan,” dijo Rebecca Miller, abogada con el Western Center on Law and Poverty.  “Pero muchas personas en California todavía están agobiadas por deudas penales y juveniles inasequibles, aun con leyes que exigen que el gobierno considere su capacidad de pago. Las familias con bajos ingresos y las familias de color enfrentan la peor parte de esta deuda, despojando la riqueza de sus comunidades y negándoles la oportunidad de prosperar económicamente.”

La Sra. Segura dijo que estaba encantada de saber que calificaba para el reembolso cuando recibió una carta por correo.

“Espero que otras familias a las que les haya pasado lo mismo también se enteren del acuerdo y recuperen parte del dinero que pagaron,” ella dijo.

Las familias de las cuales el Condado de Riverside colectó cuotas de detención juvenil deberían haber recibido un aviso por correo sobre el acuerdo. Los padres y guardianes que creen que podrían ser miembros de la demanda colectiva con derecho a reparación en virtud del acuerdo, pero que no han recibido un aviso por correo, deben visitar el sitio del Administrador del Acuerdo en www.riversidejuvenilefees.com o llamar al (833) 472-1997.

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El National Center for Youth Law centra a los jóvenes a través de la investigación, la colaboración comunitaria, el litigo de impacto y la defensa de políticas que transforman fundamentalmente el enfoque de nuestra nación en la educación, la salud, inmigración, el cuidado de crianza y la justicia juvenil. Nuestra visión es un mundo en el que todos los niños prosperen y tengan la oportunidad plena y justa de lograr el futuro que imaginan para sí mismos. Para más información, visite http://www.youthlaw.org.

Western Center on Law and Poverty lucha en tribunales, ciudades, condados, y en el capitolio para asegurar vivienda, atención médica y una sólida red de seguridad para los Californianos con bajos ingresos, a través del lente de la justicia económica y racial. Para más información, visite www.wclp.org.

Families, youth to receive cash reimbursements from Riverside County following lawsuit settlement

Families, youth to receive cash reimbursements from Riverside County following lawsuit settlement

Southern California County to repay $540K related to juvenile fees

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — Patricia Segura spent nearly a decade attempting to repay a debt she sometimes wasn’t sure she’d ever escape from under.

The Riverside County resident and single mother of five struggled to make the payments she was told she owed, causing her to lose out on tax refunds and suffer damage to her credit score along the way. All of it because Riverside County wanted her to pay thousands of dollars in fees for time her son, then a teenager, spent in a juvenile placement.

“It felt so unfair,” Ms. Segura said of the situation she found herself in. “I was trying to do the best I could for my kids, and the County was charging me and taking away the money that I needed to care for them.”

Ms. Segura’s family is among some 1,200 Riverside County community members now eligible for reimbursement.

A judge on June 2 granted final approval of a settlement in a class action lawsuit, Freeman v. County of Riverside, brought against the County by parents and guardians impacted by juvenile fees. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged the County violated state and federal law when it charged millions of dollars in fees to families with children in juvenile detention but failed both to ensure that families were able to pay the fees and to inform families of their right to challenge the fees.

Per the settlement, the County agrees to pay $540,307 in reimbursements to class members. This is after the County agreed, following the filing of the lawsuit in March 2020, to stop collecting $4.1 million in outstanding juvenile detention and administrative fees. The plaintiff families are represented by the National Center for Youth Law and the Western Center on Law & Poverty.

“The County’s collection of these fees has devastated struggling families,” said Michael Harris, an attorney and Senior Director of Legal Advocacy and Justice and Equity at the National Center for Youth Law. “Those families will now receive financial relief, and this settlement puts other jurisdictions who are illegally assessing and collecting money on notice.”

Major victory

The settlement marks a significant victory for families in Riverside County, some of whom, like Ms. Segura, have been caught in decades-long cycles of financial turmoil as a result of the County’s collection practices.

Plaintiffs Shirley and Daniel Freeman were also pursued by the County for more than 10 years for fees related to their grandson’s time in juvenile detention.

“Shirley and I brought this lawsuit because we wanted to help other families receive justice for what happened,” said Daniel Freeman. “After a long journey, I am proud of what this case has accomplished.”

“So many families in Riverside are able to breathe a sigh of relief as these unjust juvenile fees are wiped away and reimbursed,” said Rebecca Miller, attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “But many people in California are still burdened with unaffordable criminal and juvenile debts, even with laws that require the government to consider their ability to pay. Families with low-incomes and families of color face the brunt of this debt, stripping wealth from their communities and denying them a chance to thrive economically.”

 

Ms. Segura said she was elated to learn she qualified for repayment when she received a letter in the mail.

“I hope other families that had the same thing happen to them will also hear about the settlement and get back some of the money they paid,” she said.

 

Families from whom Riverside County collected juvenile detention fees should have received a mailed notice about the settlement. Parents and guardians who believe they might be members of the class action entitled to relief under the settlement but have not received a mailed notice should visit the Settlement Administrator’s website at www.riversidejuvenilefees.com or call (833) 472-1997.

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The National Center for Youth Law centers youth through research, community collaboration, impact litigation, and policy advocacy that fundamentally transforms our nation’s approach to education, health, immigration, foster care, and youth justice. Our vision is a world in which every child thrives and has a full and fair opportunity to achieve the future they envision for themselves. For more information, visit www.youthlaw.org.

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.

Sacramento City Unified School District Settlement in Race and Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Increases Accountability

FOOTAGE OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE

Sacramento City Unified School District Settlement in Race and Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Increases Accountability

Agreement requires five-year monitoring period and action plan for all students to receive an equal education

Sacramento, Calif. — A group of plaintiffs that includes the Black Parallel School Board and several individual students has reached a settlement agreement with the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) in a lawsuit that challenged the district’s longstanding harmful practices of excluding and segregating students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities.

The settlement was reached Friday in the class action suit, which was initially filed in 2019. The suit accused the district of discriminatory segregation of students with disabilities and Black students with disabilities into highly restrictive classrooms and schools, plus other harmful practices laid bare in a 2017 report (https://bit.ly/3Ike971), based on a district self-audit. The suit also highlighted the District’s failure to provide these students with the educational and supportive services that the law requires. Plaintiffs alleged this failure contributed to grossly disparate rates of suspension and expulsion of Black students—among the very worst in the state for Black boys in 2018-2019 (https://bit.ly/3pXkPSA) —as well as for students with disabilities.

“In the 2018-2019 school year, Black students with disabilities at SCUSD were more than ten times more likely to be suspended from school than other students with disabilities — a group disciplined at much higher rates to begin with,” said Michael Harris, an attorney for the plaintiffs with the National Center for Youth Law. “This effectively deprives Black students with disabilities of their right to an equal education.” 

Within months of filing the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were able to negotiate an interim agreement with the District. 

“Shortly after we sued, the District sat down with us and then agreed to halt all suspensions based on ‘willful defiance’ for students from K-8 before it became state law, and lower the threshold for reviewing a student’s suspension to determine if the student’s behavior was due to a disability,” recounted Darryl White, Chair of plaintiff Black Parallel School Board. “Those reforms remain in effect today and the full settlement agreement we have now significantly builds on those early achievements.”  

LaRayvian Barnes has a son who is a Black middle-schooler with autism attending SCUSD. As with generations of Black students with disabilities and their families in the District, they went through years of struggle to redress her son’s mistreatment and finally get him into the learning environment where he is now doing well with the help of a teacher who understands and supports him. 

Barnes said she’s hopeful that “the settlement agreement will hold the District accountable to adopt policies, provide services, and create and maintain the right kind of integrated learning environments so that students like my son will not be punished and mistreated because of who they are, but instead can learn and thrive alongside their classmates from the start.”

Said Meeth Soni, an attorney for plaintiffs with Disability Rights California: “The settlement agreement’s accountability measures will help SCUSD ensure students with disabilities are receiving the services and supports they need to succeed in school rather than being segregated from their non-disabled peers or subjected to unfair exclusionary discipline.” 

The settlement agreement requires the appointment of an independent monitor not employed by the District to review existing reports and data on the District’s special education and school discipline practices. Based on that review, the independent monitor must develop and implement an Action Plan to bring SCUSD in compliance with the law and ensure all students have equal access to a quality education. The agreement also gives the independent monitor the power to enforce the agreement. 

“We are optimistic about the independent monitor component of the settlement; it will create accountability and help guide and direct the District as it undertakes the essential work of dismantling a discriminatory system,” said plaintiff attorney Antionette Dozier of the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

The Action Plan will take into account initiatives and programs SCUSD has recently begun to implement and also requires the District to reduce the disproportionate discipline of Black students and students with disabilities. The Action Plan must also impose measures to increase inclusive placements, provide ongoing support and training for school staff, and help create a reliable data collection system. Further, the Action Plan must hold the district to measurable goals and deadlines for the completion of the Action Plan items. 

The independent monitor is required to provide community progress updates and reports to the plaintiffs and District. The settlement period will span five years after approval of the final Action Plan, or until the date that SCUSD fully implements all the actions that the agreement and Action Plan require. 

“This settlement is the result of years of advocacy, not just by the Black Parallel School Board and the plaintiff families in this case, but by the broader community of Sacramento advocates for disability rights and racial equity in education as well. We appreciate SCUSD working with the plaintiffs to come to an agreement that creates accountability and requires detailed plans and actions for positive change to benefit students and their families,” said Mona Tawatao of the Equal Justice Society, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Equal Justice Society (EJS), Disability Rights California (DRC), National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), and Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP).

Visit https://blackparallelschoolboard.com to learn more.

Analysis Of Governor Newsom’s 2023-2024 May Revision Budget

The Newsom Administration released its 2023-24 May Revision budget, projecting a $31.5 billion deficit. After years of a budget surplus, California is forecasting a downturn in funding due to a combination of capital gains losses and delayed tax filings due to natural disasters, but California remains strong. The May Revision reflects a $37.2 billion in total budgetary reserves and additional funds from the Managed Care Organization tax.  

Governor Newsom maintains many of the Administration’s and legislature’s previous commitments and proposes no new trigger cuts. He also proposes no new corporate or personal taxes, despite calls from the Senate and advocates to increase taxes on wealthy corporations and the state’s highest earners.  

We appreciate that the May Revision maintains past budget agreements including expansion of Medi-Cal to all regardless of immigration status, reforming the Medi-Cal share-of-cost, and on-time implementation of food assistance for Californians 55 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status 

As the fourth largest economy in the world, California has made great strides in addressing poverty and systemic inequities, but there is more work to be done. We look forward to working with the legislature and Administration to protect low-income Californians as the State enters more uncertain fiscal circumstances.  

Below are our initial reactions to the proposed budget by issue area, with a focus on changes from the January budget proposal.   

HEALTH CARE 

Health4All: The May Revision maintains full funding to expand full-scope Medi-Cal eligibility to all income eligible adults ages 26-49 regardless of immigration status on January 1, 2024. The May Revision includes increases for previous expansions for adults 50 and older and ages 26-49 due updated managed care rates, higher share of state-only costs, higher caseloads, and higher acuity members. 

Managed Care Organization (MCO) Tax: The May Revision proposes a bigger MCO tax with an earlier start date (April 2023 through end of 2026). This results in $19.4 billion in total funding, including $3.4 billion for 2023-24. $8.3 billion is proposed to offset General Fund and $11.1 billion is proposed to support Medi-Cal investments that improve access, quality, and equity over an 8- to10-year period. These investments include rate increases to at least 87.5% of Medicare for primary care, birthing care, and non-specialty mental health providers and the remainder will be put into a special fund reserve for future consideration.  

Covered California Affordability Sweep: The May Revision maintains proposal to sweep Covered California reserve fund to General Fund totaling $333.4 million. 

Distressed Hospital Loan Program: The May Revision includes up to $150 million one-time General Fund to provide interest-free cashflow loans to not-for-profit and public hospitals in significant financial distress or to governmental entities representing a closed hospital, for purposes of preventing the closure of, or facilitating the reopening of, those hospitals.  

Home and Community-Based Services Spending Plan Extension: The May Revision includes a six-month extension until September 30, 2024 for specified programs such as the IHSS Career Pathways Program and the Senior Nutrition Infrastructure Program to fully spend allocated funding based on critical programmatic needs.  

Doula Services Implementation Evaluation: To align with later implementation date, TBL is proposed to extend the timeline of the Doula Stakeholder Workgroup (from April 1, 2022 until December 31, 2023) and to extend the evaluation of the doula benefit implementation in the Medi-Cal program (from April 1, 2023 until June 30, 2025).  

Medical Interpreter Pilot Program: Through TBL, the May Revision proposes to extend the expenditure authority of the Medical Interpreter Pilot Project for 12 months, from June 30, 2024 to June 30, 2025.  

988 Update: The May Revision includes a one-time augmentation of $15 million for a total of $19 million, from the 988 State Suicide and Behavioral Health Crisis Services Fund for California’s 988 centers. This increase will support workforce expansion to handle increased answered call volume, extensions of service hours, and the availability of chat and text options for callers utilizing the 988 services.  

BH-CONNECT Demonstration (formerly referred to as CalBH-CBC Demonstration): The May Revision includes an update to the BH-CONNECT Demonstration to include a new Workforce Initiative and includes $480 million in funding for each year of the five-year demonstration period ($2.4 billion total funding and no General Fund).  

CalRX and Reproductive Health: The May Revision includes TBL and $2 million one-time General Fund reappropriation from the Capital Infrastructure Security Program and allows the use of these funds for reproductive health care if necessary. 

Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act: The May Revision includes additional funding to support the implementation of the CARE Act. Compared to the Governor’s Budget, the annual increase is between $43 million and $54.5 million to account for refined county behavioral health department cost assumptions, additional one-time $15 million General Fund for Los Angeles County start-up funding. The May Revision also includes an additional $16.8 million in 2023-24, $29.8 million in 2024-25, and $32.9 million ongoing to double the number of hours per participant for legal services from 20 hours to 40 hours. 

HOMELESSNESS

The May Revision preserves the full $3.7 billion in funding for homelessness programs, as committed in previous budgets, including $1 billion for the Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention grant program. 

May Revision Adjustments:  

Behavioral Health Bridge Housing Program: $500 million one-time Mental Health Services Fund in 2023-24 in lieu of General Fund. This investment eliminates the January Budget proposed delay of $250 million General Fund to 2024-25 and restores the $1.5 billion commitment funded in the 2022 Budget Act for the program. 

HOUSING

While the May Revision reflects a steady commitment to Homelessness investments, the May Revision also culminated in a weakening of housing investments totaling $17.5 million in General Fund reductions and $345 million in deferrals related to housing programs. Funding for housing programs remains at approximately 88% of the allocations made in 2022-23 and proposed for 2023-24 ($2.85 billion). This outlook could change if there are sufficient General Fund dollars in January 2024. If that occurs, the Governor has committed to restoring $350 million of these reductions. Overall, the proposal includes $500 million continued annual investment in the state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, $225 million for the Multifamily Housing Program, and $100 million for the Portfolio Reinvestment Program. These programs have a proven track-record of addressing housing affordability and homelessness across California. 

May Revision Adjustments: 

Foreclosure Intervention Housing Prevention Program: Provides funds to various non-profit organizations to acquire foreclosed property and operate as affordable housing. Deferral of $345 million of the $500 million one-time General Fund over four fiscal years—for a revised allocation of: $50 million in 2023-24, $100 million in 2024-25, $100 million in 2025-26, and $95 million in 2026-27 

Downtown Rebound Program: Funds adaptive reuse of commercial and industrial structures to residential housing. Reverts $17.5 million in unexpended funding that remained in this program after the Notice of Funding Availability. 

In contrast, the Senate’s Budget Plan, which was released two weeks ago, both prevents funding cuts and delays, and builds on our progress by including ongoing investment in homelessness and resources for key housing production programs. Notably, that Plan provides $1 billion in ongoing funds to support the Homeless Housing Assistance, and Prevention Program, $1 billion towards the state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, and an additional $300 million flexible allocation towards affordable housing programs.  

Western Center is a proud member of a coalition of California’s leading affordable housing, homelessness, and housing justice advocacy organizations championing a comprehensive coalition investment strategy for affordable housing production, preservation, and tenant stability. While the May Revision falls short of our requests to meet the housing and homelessness crisis at scale, we look forward to continuing our budget advocacy and encourage the Governor and Legislative leadership to finalize a budget that includes ongoing, significant resources like those included in the Senate budget plan and our coordinated housing budget letter. 

PUBLIC BENEFITS AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE  

CalWORKs Grant Increase: The May Revision reflects a 3.6-percent increase ($111.2 million in 2023-24) to CalWORKs Maximum Aid Payment levels, effective October 1, 2023. These increased grant costs are funded through the Child Poverty and Family Supplemental Support Subaccount.  

Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP): The May Revision continues to include an 8.6% increase in funding for the SSI/SSP and Cash Assistance for Immigrants (CAPI) program providing a $3.6 billion from the general fund. This allocation provides recipients with an increase in grant levels to $1,134 per month and $1,928 per month for couples. 

California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Expansion Update: The May Revision moves up the issuance of food benefits for older undocumented immigrants to start October 2025, instead of the January Proposal that delayed it until 2027, which we appreciate but we still need Food4All regardless of age and immigration status. 

Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Program: The May Revision includes $47 million ($23.5 million General Fund) for outreach and automation costs to phase in a new federal Summer EBT program for children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals beginning summer 2024.  

Safety Net Reserve: The May Revision withdraws $450 million (half of $900 million) from the Safety Net Reserve. The reserve is intended to maintain existing Medi-Cal and CalWORKs program benefits and services when program cost may increase due to economic conditions, which may occur if recession occurs, so we argue it is prudent to not draw from Safety Net Reserve until those conditions are met. 

Services for Survivors and Victims of Hate Crimes Augmentation: The May Revision includes an additional $10 million General Fund to support services for victims and survivors of hate crimes and their families and facilitate hate crime prevention measures in consultation with the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs. 

For questions, contact: 

  • Health: Linda Nguy, Senior Policy Advocate – lnguy[at]wclp.org; Sandra Poole, Policy Advocate – spoole[at]wclp.org 
  • Housing and Homelessness: Cynthia Castillo, Policy Advocate – ccastillo[at]wclp.org; Tina Rosales, Policy Advocate – trosales[at]wclp.org 
  • Public Benefits/ Access to Justice: Christopher Sanchez, Policy Advocate – csanchez[at]wclp.org 

Homelessness Prevention Act Passes Senate Judiciary with Leadership Majority

Sacramento (Calif.) — Today a major step forward to stem the rise of homelessness and protect California renters and tenants —the Homelessness Prevention Act (SB 567) authored by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles)—passed through the Senate Judiciary committee with a leadership majority. As evictions rise and homelessness increases, SB 567 responds to the lived experience millions of California’s renters face by strengthening The California Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482) to protect families from falling into homelessness. Hundreds of our neighbors who rent in California—including labor, advocates, and faith leaders—gathered at the state capitol to tell their stories and voice their strong support of SB567. The Homelessness Prevention Act closes easily exploitable loopholes used by unscrupulous corporate landlords and provides enforcement tools that protect our neighbors—workers, families, and seniors—from arbitrary evictions and displacement. 

The Homelessness Prevention Act is being co-sponsored by ACCE, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, PICO California, Public Advocates, and Western Center on Law and Poverty. With over 250 diverse organizations supporting the bill, this powerful coalition is led by a steering committee composed of the co-sponsors as well as Housing Now!, Inner City Law Center, the Million Voters Project, PolicyLink, and Tenants Together, united in an effort to make housing affordable and disrupt the displacement crisis that is disproportionately impacting working class communities of color. 

“I want to thank our community and partners for working diligently with us to pass a key policy vote. SB 567 is committed to closing existing loopholes in state tenant protections law and ensuring it is enforced,” said Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles).  “These are key components to advance as we seek to proactively address the state homelessness humanitarian crisis, by keeping our families in their homes. I look forward to continuing to see this measure move ahead.”

“As a single mom of two kids that is currently receiving a no-fault ‘substantial renovation’ eviction for a plumbing job that only takes a few days, passing Senate Bill 567 feels like a life and death situation for me. If we are not allowed to return to our home at the rent amount we had paid before our plumbing was repaired, we will likely be homeless. Everyone deserves safe, healthy and affordable housing – and that means repairs without rent hikes or evictions. I am grateful that the Senate Judiciary committee took an important step forward towards realizing that value today, and at ACCE we look forward to working with legislators to lower the rent cap moving forward.” – Patricia Mendoza, leader with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), resident of Imperial Beach

“For our low-income rural and farmworker clients, this bill provides vital improvements to the Tenant Protection Act and we are pleased that the measure approved by the Judiciary Committee retains critical provisions to close loopholes in the Act that have left too many of our clients vulnerable to eviction,” said Brian Augusta, Legislative Advocate, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

“SB 567 passing means that my family doesn’t have to fear our landlord kicking us out onto the streets just to raise rents. These protections give us the peace of mind to know our home is safe from predatory landlords exploiting loopholes in AB 1482.” Alejandra Velasco, leader with Faith in the Valley, a PICO California Federation, resident of Taft.

“There’s never a dull moment in the legislature. A last minute agreement helped move this bill forward, unfortunately without the rent cap,” said Michelle Pariset, Director of Legislative Affairs, Public Advocates. “Closing the loopholes in just cause protections will benefit millions of California renters and we need to make these laws enforceable. We’re excited for the next step.”

California legislators must use every tool available to keep people housed as we’re facing a housing and homelessness crisis. The passage of this bill is a step in that direction to prevent unjust evictions. We look forward to working with legislators on advancing key enforcement protections,” said Tina Rosales, policy advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty.

In order to address California’s growing affordable housing and homelessness pandemic our state’s leadership must first prevent more community members from being unhoused; creating stronger renter protections that help every Californian have access to safe shelter is one cost-effective solution. As inflation soars and state and local eviction protections enacted during the pandemic come to an end, the gaps in existing state protections are impacting more and more renters, who are facing significant rent increases and a spike in “no fault” evictions. The Homelessness Prevention Act will provide critical safeguards to stop abuses and ensure that renters can stay in their homes.

We hope our elected leaders will partner with Senator Durazo to help keep families housed and our diverse communities together.

###

Additional Resources: SB 567 Homelessness Prevention Act Fact Sheets are available in Armenian, Chinese, English, Filipino, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.  

Western Center’s 2023 Legislative Agenda

Western Center’s 2023 Legislative Agenda

March 6, 2023
Following is a list of bills to help secure housing, healthcare, and a strong safety net for low-income Californians that will be sponsored or co-sponsored by Western Center on Law & Poverty during the 2023 legislative session.

Healthcare

AB 1085 (Maienschein): Medi-Cal: housing support services.
The bill would require the Department to seek federal approval to make housing support services a Medi-Cal benefit for Californians experiencing homelessness. Housing support services help people access housing, remain stably housed, and are essential for individuals experiencing homelessness to access meaningful care.
(Co-sponsored with Corporation for Supportive Housing)
Fact Sheet

AB 1094 (Wicks): Consent and Reproductive Equity (CARE) for Families Act.
This bill will ensure that a pregnant or perinatal person provides informed consent prior to drug or alcohol tests or screens being conducted on them or their newborn.
(Co-Sponsored with Drug Policy Alliance, Black Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, A New Way of Life, Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers)

AB 1157 (Ortega and Wilson): Rehabilitative and habilitative services: durable medical equipment and services.
This bill would clarify that durable medical equipment is a covered essential health benefit in California-regulated health plans and policies when prescribed by a doctor for rehabilitative or habilitative purposes. The bill would also remove limitations such as annual caps on durable medical equipment coverage.
(Co-sponsored with National Health Law Program)
Fact Sheet

SB 595 (Roth): Minimizing gaps in health coverage.
This bill is follow-up legislation to ensure that last year’s SB 644, which required Employment Development Department (EDD) to share information about those who applied for income-replacing benefits with Covered California to allow Covered California to outreach and help enroll these individuals in Medi-Cal or Covered California, is implemented timely.
(Co-sponsored with California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Health Access)
Fact sheet

Housing

AB 653 (Reyes): Department of Housing and Community Development.
This bill would create a program to pair housing navigation, incentives, and deposit resources with housing choice voucher tenants to find and secure a unit. The bill would also require housing authorities that have low successful placement rates to work with the Department of Housing and Community Development to analyze and improve their policies.
(Co-sponsored with Housing CA, Corporation for Supportive Housing, United Ways of CA and the National Housing Law Project (NHLP))
Fact Sheet

AB 846 (Bonta): Low-income housing credit.
This bill would limit rent increases in properties funded by the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program.
(Co-Sponsored with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation)

AB 920 (Bryan): Discrimination: housing status.
This bill would add housing status to the list of protected categories under California’s anti-discrimination statute in order to prevent the routine discrimination of unhoused people by public and private entities that receive state funding.
(Co-Sponsored with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Disability Rights California (DRC), Housing California, and Public Advocates)
Fact Sheet

AB 1082 (Kalra): Authority to remove vehicles.
This bill would prohibit towing or immobilizing a vehicle due to unpaid parking tickets, increase the number of unpaid tickets from one to eight before the DMV can place a registration hold, and improve the guidelines for parking ticket payment programs.
(Co-Sponsored with End Poverty in California (EPIC), FreeFrom, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR))
Fact Sheet

AB 1085 (Maienschein): Medi-Cal: housing support services.
The bill would require the Department to seek federal approval to make housing support services a Medi-Cal benefit for Californians experiencing homelessness. Housing support services help people access housing, remain stably housed, and are essential for individuals experiencing homelessness to access meaningful care.
(Co-sponsored with Corporation for Supportive Housing)
Fact Sheet

AB 1418 (McKinnor): Limiting Racially Motivated Crime-Free Housing Programs and Nuisance Ordinances.
This bill would limit local crime-free/nuisance ordinances (CFNH) housing programs and nuisance ordinances, which typically include harmful provisions such as requiring landlords to evict tenants for alleged criminal activity. Often touted as crime-fighting tools, these policies represent a new phase in the evolution of segregationist housing laws designed to exclude people of color from communities.
(Co-Sponsored with California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Disability Rights California, National Housing Law Project, and Root & Rebound)
Fact Sheet
Register support here

ACA 10 (Haney): Housing is a Human Right.
ACA 10 will recognize that every Californian has the fundamental human right to adequate housing on an equitable and non-discriminatory basis. Should the measure pass in the legislature, California voters will have the opportunity to vote to add this right to the state’s constitution, creating an obligation on the part of state and local governments to take meaningful action to fully realize the right.
(Co-sponsored with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action, End Poverty in California (EPIC), Housing Now, ACLU California Action, Abundant Housing LA, National Homelessness Law Center, and PowerCA Action)
Fact Sheet
Register support here

SB 460 (Wahab): Fair Chance Housing.
The bill would establish the first statewide Fair Chance Housing Ordinance (FCH), which would provide a pathway for individuals with criminal records reentering society to access, obtain, and sustain housing. This bill would prevent rental housing providers from screening for criminal history of housing applicants during the advertisement, application, selection, or eviction process, unless required by federal law.
(Co-Sponsored with All of Us or None, Just Cities, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and Root & Rebound)
SB 460 Fact Sheet
Register Support here

SB 567 (Durazo): Homelessness Prevention Act.
This bill would close the gaps in existing law that leaves millions of California renters at risk of exorbitant rent increases and allows housing providers to abuse “no-fault” just cause eviction protections.
(Co-Sponsored with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, PICO California, and Public Advocates)
SB 567 Fact Sheet
Register Support here

Public Benefits and Access to Justice

AB 94 (Davies): Administration of public social services: blocked telephone calls.
This bill would prohibit county departments of social services to call recipients from a blocked phone number.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 274 (Bryan): CalWORKs: CalFresh: eligibility: income exclusions.
This bill would exempt any grant, scholarship, loan, or fellowship as income for CalWORKs.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 310 (Arambula): CalWORKs.
This spot bill would provide various reforms to the CalWORKs program.
(Co-sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations, GRACE/End Child Poverty California, John Burton Advocates for Youth, and Parent Voices)

AB 325 (Reyes): Human services: noncitizen victims.
This bill would provide social services to immigrants who have applied for humanitarian relief including applicants who have applied for Asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and survivors of domestic abuse who have applied for relief through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 380 (Arambula): California Labor Trafficking Prevention Act.
This bill would establish a Labor Trafficking unit within the Department of Industrial Relations the Division of Labor Standards.
(Co-Sponsored with Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Initiative, Loyola Law School)

AB 843 (J. Carrillo): Restoration of electronically stolen CalFresh benefits.
This bill would place into law that recipients of the CalFresh program who have been victims of electronic theft are able to have their benefits restored. Today electronic theft of public benefit programs has become rampant and lucrative for thefts as these programs lack adequate protections from these forms of theft.
(Co-Sponsor with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 964 (Ortega): Prevention of human trafficking through state contracts.
This bill would enhance prevention of human trafficking through state contracts by requiring awardees of state contracts to submit a human trafficking prevention plan.
(Co-Sponsor with the Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Initiative, Loyola Law School)

AB 991 (Alvarez): Modernizing public benefit communication.
This bill would allow recipients of public benefit programs to provide information that has been requested by county departments of social services via email.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 1094 (Wicks): Consent and Reproductive Equity (CARE) for Families Act.
This bill would ensure that a pregnant or perinatal person provides informed consent prior to drug or alcohol tests or screens being conducted on them or their newborn.
(Co-Sponsored with Drug Policy Alliance, Black Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, A New Way of Life, Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers)

AB 1266 (Kalra): End Debtor’s Prison Act.
This bill will remove the possibility of bench warrants being issued for infractions. Today courts are able to issue bench warrants if someone fails to appear in court or doesn’t pay a fine.
(Co-Sponsoring with the Debt Free Justice Coalition, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area)

SB 36 (Skinner): Safe Haven for Abortion & Gender-Affirming Care Act.
This bill would strengthen our safe haven protections by making it illegal for bail agents or bounty hunters to apprehend people in California who have left another state to avoid criminal prosecution or imprisonment related to that state’s criminalization of abortion or gender-affirming care. The bill would also ensure that benefits such as CalFresh and CalWORKs would not be denied to individuals who left another state and traveled to California for purposes described above but would otherwise be eligible for such benefits.
(Co-Sponsored with Black Women for Wellness, Equality California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

SB 491 (Durazo): Access to Mail for Unhoused Californians.
This bill would create an option for unhoused Californians to pick up government related mail from a county department of social services such as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, election ballots, public housing waiting list notifications, student report cards, and much more.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

SB 727 (Limón): Forgiveness of coerce debt for survivors of human trafficking.
This bill would provide a pathway for survivors of human trafficking to have coerced debt forgiven that accrued during the time they were trafficked.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice)

Contact our Sacramento Advocates: For more information about Western Center on Law & Poverty and our advocacy priorities, go to www.wclp.org.

Health
Linda Nguy
[email protected]
916-282-5117

Sandra O. Poole
[email protected]
916-282-5141

Housing
Cynthia Castillo
[email protected]
916-282-5103

Tina Rosales
[email protected]
916-282-5118

Public Benefits and Access to Justice
Christopher Sanchez
[email protected]
916-282-5104

JOINT PRESS RELEASE: Attorneys for Community Groups Denounce California’s Move to Appeal Ruling in Covid-19 Rent Relief Lawsuit

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2023

Media Contact: Joshua Busch, 310-991-2503, [email protected]

 

Attorneys for Community Groups Denounce California’s Move to Appeal Ruling in Covid-19 Rent Relief Lawsuit

In January, a Superior Court judge ordered the state to develop denial notices that satisfy constitutional due process protections for applicants

OAKLAND, CA – March 2, 2023 – Attorneys representing three community groups suing the State of California for wrongfully denying applicants without adequate process in its Covid-19 rent relief program released a statement today denouncing the State’s decision to appeal a recent ruling in the case. In January, a Superior Court judge said that in rejecting an application for rent relief, the state must “specify the facts supporting the denial” in order to satisfy the applicant’s right to due process–meaning the denial notice must provide enough information for applicants to understand why the state rejected their application, and potentially appeal the decision. The state has been barred from issuing denial notices to the approximately 140,0000 remaining applicants until this requirement is met.

The state’s lawyer argued that this requirement would be too burdensome, and that in order to provide such information to applicants, the state would have to pay all remaining rent relief funds to the private contractor it hired to administer the program. Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch rejected the state’s argument and its implications that “a constitutional principle can be ignored because of budgetary reasons.” Last Friday, the state turned again to the Court of Appeal, requesting it throw out the lower court’s order.

In response, the legal team representing the community groups that filed the suit has issued the following statement:

“Our clients are simply asking the State of California disburse rental assistance funds to eligible tenants so that they can avoid eviction, and for those that are found ineligible for assistance, provide a notice that explains why the tenant is being denied so they have a fair chance to appeal. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeal have agreed that tenants need to be told the specific reason they are being denied assistance.Yet, rather than provide applicants with the basic information both courts have said is required—information we know the program keeps track of—the state continues to dispute its obligation to the public, and has filed yet another writ in the Court of Appeal to end the injunction and continue issuing unacceptably opaque denials.

At the same time the state refuses to inform tenants who are still waiting for help nearly a year after the program closed why their applications are not being approved. We are disappointed by the state’s decision to put its resources towards litigation instead of distributing funds to eligible tenants and landlords. The state’s refusal to provide transparency is preventing much-needed relief from getting into the hands of tens of thousands of Californians . Many of these tenants have started to get eviction notices for nonpayment of rent, and the state’s inaction will harm Californians who need help now. If the state moves forward with denying the 140,000 remaining applications as it proposes, the program’s total denial rate could be nearly 50%, a shameful track record for the state with the highest need in the country. This denial rate does not include tens of thousands of additional applicants for whom the state only approved part of the rental assistance requested without explanation, leaving tenants vulnerable to eviction for the balance.

We are concerned that the state erroneously continues to label the program as ‘in limbo.’ The only part of the program impacted by this lawsuit is the state’s ability to issue denial notices. Nothing is stopping the state from reaching out to applicants to help them fix mistakes on their applications, ask for missing information, or even disperse funds to approved applicants. Frustratingly, we hear from dozens of applicants every week who have been waiting patiently for a year or more with no follow-up, information, or assistance from the state.

Rather than fix the numerous widespread issues with the program, the state continues to drag this case out and delay rental payments by refusing to amend their flawed notice, repeatedly running to the Court of Appeal, and engaging in legal delay tactics. They are now alarmingly turning around and blaming our clients —tenant rights organizations who have assisted thousands of tenants navigate the difficult application process—for the lack of payments to suffering Californians. But our clients have only ever had one goal in bringing this case: to make sure that our most vulnerable residents get the rent relief promised and avoid eviction. We hope the state begins to act with the same goals in mind.”

The state was sued last June by community groups Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE Action), Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), and PolicyLink for issuing flawed notices that provided little or no explanation for why an applicant was denied, making it difficult for wrongfully denied tenants to appeal. The groups are represented by Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), Public Counsel, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and Covington & Burling LLP.

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Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is a nonprofit law firm that seeks to achieve equal justice for people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. LAFLA changes lives through direct representation, systems change, and community empowerment. It has five offices in Los Angeles County, along with four Self-Help Legal Access Centers at area courthouses, and three domestic violence clinics to aid survivors.

Public Counsel is the nation’s largest provider of pro bono legal services, utilizing an innovative legal model to promote justice, hope, and opportunity in lower-income and communities of color in Los Angeles and across the nation. Through groundbreaking civil rights litigation, community building, advocacy, and policy change, as well as wide-ranging direct legal services that annually help thousands of people experiencing poverty, Public Counsel has fought to secure equal access to justice for more than 50 years.

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.

Letter to Assemblymember Josh Hoover in Opposition to AB 257

Assemblymember Josh Hoover
Capitol Annex
1021 O St Suite 4540
Sacramento, CA 95814
February 3, 2023
Re: AB 257 (HOOVER) – OPPOSE

As organizations and individuals who work to end homelessness and protect the human and civil rights of all Californians, the undersigned join together to oppose AB 257 (Hoover), which seeks to further criminalize the very existence of our unhoused neighbors in public space. AB 257 would make it a crime to sit, lie, sleep, or store, use, maintain, or place personal property upon any street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way within 500 feet of a school, daycare center, park, or library. The bill would also make it a crime to resist, delay, or obstruct a police officer or public employee attempting to enforce this measure. We are gravely concerned that AB 257 would further demonize, destabilize, criminalize, and violate the human rights of unhoused Californians while failing to address the underlying driver of homelessness: the lack of affordable and accessible housing to Californians with the lowest incomes. However, we would welcome a chance to work with you and other members of the legislature to advance solutions that address the urgent housing, economic, and health needs of Californians experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.

Given the ubiquity of schools, parks, libraries, and daycare centers, this policy would effectively make it a crime for any unhoused Californian to exist in public space, and put police officers at the frontlines of responding to our state’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis. By framing the bill as means to enhance public safety, this measure perpetuates false narratives that unhoused people are inherently dangerous. It also ignores that our unhoused neighbors include families and children who attend schools and visit parks and libraries. Further, given the fact that Black people and other people of color disproportionately live without housing or  shelter and are unjustly targeted by law enforcement, AB 257 also reinforces dangerous  racialized stereotypes that continue to reproduce systemic inequity in housing, health, employment, and legal outcomes.

Only housing ends homelessness, and at present, California is experiencing a housing affordability crisis decades in the making, with a statewide shortage of 1.2 million affordable homes. Without housing options, criminalizing basic activities of living cannot solve homelessness and may make it worse. As shown by recent research and reporting from across the state, sweeping encampments and criminalizing unhoused people with nowhere else to go is traumatic, destabilizing, and ineffective. People displaced by sweeps regularly lose access to important belongings, including identity documents, medication and healthcare resources, and irreplaceable belongings such as photographs or family heirlooms or have them seized and destroyed. Criminal penalties for sleeping create legal and financial barriers that may make it harder to access housing or services in the future. Sweeps can disrupt service provision and exacerbate well-founded mistrust of government workers and institutions. Under AB 257’s proposed enforcement zones, people would almost certainly be pushed to areas far away from critical services and resources. Finally, a police-based response to homelessness is extremely costly to local governments, diverting critical resources away from long-term solutions like affordable and supportive housing, mental health services, infrastructure, and other critical life-affirming resources.

Criminalizing unhoused people because they are homeless violates their constitutional and civil rights. Courts have found that, where people experiencing homelessness have no alternative housing or shelter, the state is prohibited from criminalizing acts such as sitting, lying, sleeping, or other life-sustaining activities. People cannot be restricted from public spaces by reason of their housing status, especially given that decades of underinvestment mean that services, shelters, and housing options do not exist in this state for everyone who needs them. The effect of such a blatantly discriminatory law will lead to further stigmatization and discrimination of people experiencing houselessness. This discrimination also compounds considering that people experiencing homelessness are also disproportionately comprised of other marginalized groups, including people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people.

AB 257 perpetuates a harmful trend of scapegoating our unhoused neighbors and wasting public resources on inequitable and ineffective enforcement-driven homelessness policy. If the legislation’s goal is, as its author states, to increase safety surrounding encampments, there are many ways to do so that do not require police or criminal penalties: ongoing sanitation services, regular trash pickup, housing navigation resources, and on-site support services at encampment sites while people wait to be connected to interim and permanent housing and services.

While we vehemently oppose AB 257, we reiterate our interest in working with the Legislature to secure additional state resources to deliver on our neighbors’ basic health and housing needs, including through budget investments in supportive and affordable housing, service provider outreach, community-based mental health and substance use treatment services to support our unhoused neighbors in connecting to the housing and care the want and need.

To discuss these concerns further, please reach out to Cynthia Castillo, [email protected].

Signed,
The following organizations:
ACLU California Action
Housing California
Western Center on Law and Poverty
Active San Gabriel Valley
All Home
Ascencia
AVALANCHE
Bet Tzedek Legal Services
Black Women for Wellness
Break the Cycle Project
Brilliant Corners
Build Affordable Faster
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
California Housing Partnership
Californians for Safety and Justice
Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice
Centro Legal de la Raza
Climate Resolve
Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco
Community Works
Corporation for Supportive Housing
CURYJ
Disability Community Resource Center (DCRC)
Disability Rights California
Downtown Women’s Center
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
Elder Law & Disability Center
Ella Baker Center
Ensuring Opportunity Campaign to End Poverty in Contra Costa
First to Serve, Inc.
Friends Committee on Legislation of California
GRACE/End Child Poverty CA
Haven Hills, Inc.
Homebase
Homeless Health Care Los Angeles
Housing Equity & Advocacy Resource Team (HEART LA)
Housing is a Human Right OC
HPP Cares (Home Preservation and Prevention Inc.)
Indivisible CA: StateStrong
Indivisible CA45
Indivisible Sacramento
Indivisible San Francisco
Indivisible Sonoma County
Initiate Justice
Inner City Law Center
LA Family Housing
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of The San Francisco Bay Area
Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability
Legal Aid of Marin
My Friend’s Place
National Alliance to End Homelessness
National Homelessness Law Center
National Housing Law Project
NoHo Home Alliance
Norwalk Unides
No CARE Court Coalition
PICO California
Project Amiga
Public Advocates
Residents United Network Los Angeles
Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee
Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness
Safe Place for Youth
San Bernardino Free Them All
Silicon Valley De-Bug
SLO Legal Assistance Foundation
South County Homelessness Task Force
Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)
Streets for All
The Center in Hollywood
The Midnight Mission
The People Concern
The People’s Resource Center
The Public Interest Law Project
The RowLA – The Church Without Walls – Skid Row
The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office
Transitions Clinic Network
TRUST South LA
Union Station Homeless Services
United Way of Greater Los Angeles
University of Southern California
Venice Community Housing
Voices for Progress
Western Regional Advocacy Project
YIMBY Action
The following individual community members:
Paula Lomazzi
Casey Thompson
Shelly Williams
Sarah Whipple
Ben Baczkowski
Kevin Green
Christina Gonzalez
Zerita Jones
Haley Feng
Joyce E Roberts
Damian J. Hernandez
Irma Ramos
Kyle Robert Kitson
Sydney Smanpongse
Elizabeth Flores
Olivia Barber
Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez
Ariège Besson
Rachael L Parker-Chavez
Nelowfar ahmadi
In YANG
Gloria Magallanes
Isaac Bushnell
Andrea Martinez
Kiara Tarazon-Molina
Melissa Ceja
NOMPUMELELO FAITH NYANDU
Jacqueline Olivares
Katayun Salehi
Abbi Samuels
Roya Pakzad
Amy Ithurburn
Rebekah Turnbaugh