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Western Center Roundup – February 2022

Lifting Black Voices, Centering Black Lives


Honoring Black History Month and the Urgent Work Ahead of Us

We began this Black History Month honoring Derrick Bell, one of Western Center’s founding members, past executive director, and a leading voice in the school of that thought that would become critical race theory. We honor our rich history, standing on the shoulders of giants as we continue the critical work of eliminating anti-Blackness in Housing, Health, Public Benefits, and Access to Justice. The urgency of this work was reinforced by this month’s release of research documenting persistent racism with the systems we work to transform: the largest study on birth outcomes in the state of California revealed that Black birthing folks, regardless of income level, continue to face the most adverse maternal and infant mortality rates; more than half of Black Californians (55%) said there was a time in the last few years when they thought they would have gotten better care if they had belonged to a different racial or ethnic group; and the housing and homelessness crisis continues to disproportionately impact Black Californians. This year, we are expanding our team to tackle the racism Black and Brown birthing folks experience, alleviate the burden of medical debt, and take on housing voucher discrimination and environmental racism. We look forward to sharing more about this expanded work.



3/14: Join Us for Meet The Advocates: Western Center’s 2023 Legislative Agenda

Join us on March 14th at 12PM PST as our Policy Team rolls out our 2023 legislative agenda to secure housing, healthcare, and a strong safety net for Californians with low incomes. We’ll be diving into the work of the Consent and Reproductive Equity (CARE) for Families Act, establishing the first statewide Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, eliminating housing voucher discrimination, the restoration of stolen CalFresh benefits, CalWORKs expansions, eliminating poverty tows and much, much more! You don’t want to miss this powerful conversation by the folks on the frontlines of California’s anti-poverty policy movement. You can read about the bills we are co-sponsoring and track the status of our bills’ activities on our legislative tracker page.

REGISTER



NEW Blog Post: Why We Sued to End CARE Court

Senior Attorney, Helen Tran and Director of Litigation, Richard Rothschild discuss why Western Center joined Disability Rights California and Public Interest Law Project to sue the State in this latest blog post: Contrary to some strong opinions that CARE Court is “California’s only real plan for helping our most vulnerable and seriously mentally ill,” Governor Newsom never planned to truly provide behavioral health treatment and housing through this bill. The CARE Act does not mandate counties to provide behavioral health treatment or housing; it creates no new rights or benefits for people with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders who are summoned to court to join the CARE process. Rather, all CARE Court-ordered services are “subject to available funding… In other words, services will only be provided as they are available.

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Western Center Attorneys Weigh In On Medical Debt and Housing Voucher Discrimination in Los Angeles Times and New York Times Features

Hospitals run by Los Angeles County could make free care available to more of their financially strapped patients under a new proposal aimed at expanding relief from medical bills — the result of a class-action lawsuit brought by Western Center on behalf of people who had sought medical care from the county. Under the proposed rules, free care would be available to eligible L.A. County residents with incomes under 200% of the federal poverty level. David Kane, Senior Attorney, spoke to the impact of these rules in last week’s Los Angeles Times’ article. People earning under 200% of the federal poverty level “certainly cannot afford high medical costs — or even what other people consider to be modest medical costs.” Making care available to them at no cost “is definitely the right thing to do, because those are the people who need this the most.”

Despite Western Center’s work to pass SB329 to prevent discrimination in the use of housing vouchers, voucher holders continue to face a series of obstacles in securing affordable housing as documented in the New York Times’ recent feature tracking one young woman’s journey to use her Section 8 voucher in Los Angeles County. Landing an apartment in Los Angeles County can be an arduous journey in a region struggling with a housing shortage and homelessness crisis, where even those with steady middle-class salaries have found themselves in a rat race for a home. For the impoverished, the search can feel ultimately impossible.“ Are you going to interrupt your search to fight every landlord who says, ‘I’m not going to rent to you because you have Section 8?’” said Nisha Vyas, Senior Attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “It’s more likely you’re going to keep trying to find someone who’s going to say yes.”



TOMORROW! Join Western Center and National Health Law Program for a Medi-Cal Renewal Webinar

Over 15 million Californians will need to renew their Medi-Cal starting in June. To learn the latest on how Medi-Cal renewals will work, join Western Center and National Health Law Program (NHeLP) TOMORROW, March 1st at 2PM PT/5 PM ET for a webinar tailored for advocates, application assisters, and community-based organizations. The federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) implemented flexibilities that help people get on, and stay on, Medi-Cal. This continuous Medi-Cal coverage requirement will end on March 31, 2023. Beginning April 1, 2023 counties across the state will begin annual Medi-Cal renewals for all beneficiaries.

Public education, outreach and advocacy will be critical to ensuring that individuals and families do not lose their Medi-Cal coverage in error. This webinar will provide an overview of the federal and state guidance on Medi-Cal renewals, what to expect, and advocacy efforts protect Californians’ access to health coverage.

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JOINT STATEMENT: California budget invests in pregnancy and birthing health; Momnibus bill can go further to address adverse birth outcomes in CA

The final 2021-22 California budget includes significant investments in new parent and infant health, many of which were part of SB 65 (Skinner), California’s Momnibus bill. While the progress made in the budget is substantial, SB 65 is still needed, as it contains additional provisions to reduce negative birth outcomes in our state. All of these comprehensive services, in the budget and in SB 65, are needed to address the disproportionate health disparities facing Black and Indigenous new parents and babies in California. 

We are excited that significant pieces of SB 65 are in the final budget. The following changes will be ground breaking for many families in California: 

  • A guaranteed income pilot program that prioritizes pregnant Californians.
  • Medi-Cal coverage for doula services, regardless of immigration status.
  • Earlier access to CalWORKs for pregnant people.
  • An increase in the CalWORKs pregnancy supplement.
  • Extended Medi-Cal eligibility for postpartum people.

“I’m very proud this year’s state budget includes funding to expand CalWORKs and Medi-Cal pre and postpartum services, key components of SB 65, the California Momnibus Act,” said Sen. Skinner, chair of California’s Senate Budget Committee. “These essential investments will help reduce the unacceptably high rates of maternal and infant mortality among Black and Indigenous pregnant people and their babies. I’m also pleased California is launching the first-of-its-kind guaranteed basic income pilot program prioritizing support to pregnant people. While there’s more to do, passing the remaining parts of SB 65 will help with additional measures to reduce birthing disparities.”

The budget investments mark significant progress, but California must go further to address its disparate birthing outcomes.

As the bill moves forward in the legislative process, we continue to push for:

  • Freedom from Welfare to Work restrictions for pregnant people on CalWORKs.
  • Birth data on lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming pregnant people in California.
  • Additional housing assistance for pregnant households.
  • State oversight of the Pregnancy Associated Review Committee investigating maternal death.
  • Updates to the Fetal Infant Mortality Review process to better collect information and prevent future infant deaths.
  • A midwifery training fund.

We appreciate our coalition’s continued support and Senator Skinner’s steadfast leadership as the bill heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee in August, then on to the Assembly floor.

 

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