The potential costs of a new policy or program always factor into the legislative process — but that’s especially true when the state is facing down a $31.5 billion budget deficit.
As the Legislature completed a key milestone this week, deciding the fates of nearly 1,200 measures with significant price tags, California’s looming revenue shortfall was on the mind.
“It is a different time that we have to operate in, so it is a lens that we have to look through all the bills,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat who leads the appropriations committee. “To the extent there were some real pressures that we thought we needed to address, we did.”
In one report after another earlier this year, counties from Los Angeles to Sacramento warned Medi-Cal officials that they don’t have enough trained staff — or simply don’t know whether they do — to process the millions of Californians whose cases come up for renewal starting in June.
For three years now, ever since federal officials declared a public health emergency in March 2020, U.S. law has prohibited Medi-Cal from kicking millions of Californians off its rolls, even if their incomes pushed past eligibility limits.
The end of so-called continuous coverage will come over a rolling 12-month period, based on the last date when a Medi-Cal enrollee’s eligibility was determined. If enrollees don’t submit the proper documentation by time their eligibility month ends, they will lose their benefits.
State officials estimate that 2 million to 3 million Medi-Cal enrollees could lose coverage because counties can’t manage the volume of cases or they don’t have the right addresses for enrollees or they can’t get critical information in time.
Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes says, “AB 653 will prevent Californians from falling into homelessness, increase oversight and accountability, and invest in proven solutions to house Californians.”
SACRAMENTO – While affordable housing demand remains high, tens of thousands of federal housing choice vouchers are left unused each year. In order to increase use of these vouchers, Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes has announced legislation, AB 653, which would create the Federal Housing Voucher Acceleration Program.
The program would:
- Pair voucher recipients with services to find and secure housing,
- Incentivize landlords to get their units approved to accept vouchers, and
- Require public housing authorities with the lowest voucher utilization rates to follow evidence-based practices for improvement.
“I hear from people throughout my district and the state whose eligibility for federal vouchers does nothing to house them,” said Reyes. “When someone receives a voucher to make rent affordable, but they cannot find an available unit to accept it, we see federal dollars left on the table and a household who remains housing insecure. We have to do something to make sure we are maximizing the use of federal resources. This bill provides a common sense way to ensure the state is using federal funding to pair individuals and families with places to live.”
“It has been very hard to use my housing voucher in the Inland Empire,” said Traci, an individual who has gone through the process. “It took me forever to get into a place, and the apartment was vacant for three months. I even tried other places while I was waiting, but was constantly declined.”
AB 653 is sponsored by the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Housing California, National Housing Law Project, United Ways of California and Western Center on Law and Poverty. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 33% of families in San Bernardino have to return their unused voucher back to the local PHA and only 44.7% of LA County recipients have success finding housing with a voucher.