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Western Center’s 2022 Legislative Agenda  

Western Center’s policy advocates are hard at work in Sacramento to pass this year’s slate of bills to make California better for everyone. Here is our full 2022 Legislative Agenda.

HOMELESSNESS

AB 1816 (Bryan): Reentry Housing and Workforce Development Program

(co-sponsored with Housing California, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Californians for Safety and Justice, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), and Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership)

This bill will establish a funding source for permanent affordable housing and workforce development for formerly incarcerated people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. The bill is necessary to support people reentering society after incarceration to reduce recidivism and homelessness – 70 percent of Californians experiencing homelessness have a history of incarceration.

AB 2230 (Gipson) – CalWORKs: Temporary Shelter and Permanent Housing Benefits

(co-sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

This bill will make significant improvements in the CalWORKs Homeless Assistance Program (HAP) to minimize homelessness that CalWORKs families experience by repealing the limitations for receiving assistance through HAP. HAP is meant to assist families who have become unhoused and need immediate assistance. It is Western Center’s firm belief that families should not be burdened with additional program requirements to receive critical assistance for the health and safety of their family.

AB 2339 (Bloom): Emergency Shelters

(co-sponsored with California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and the Public Interest Law Project)

There are upwards of 160,000 people experiencing homelessness in California, and 72% are completely unsheltered. While some California localities provide enough shelter beds, in others, there are either no shelter beds or only a small number. AB 2339 strengthens housing element law to ensure that zones identified for shelters and other interim housing are suitable and available. The bill also requires jurisdictions to demonstrate sufficient capacity on the sites to meet the identified need for interim housing for those experiencing homelessness.

SB 1017 (Eggman): Keeping Survivors Housed

(co-sponsored with California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, Dr. Beatriz Maria Solis Policy Institute – Women’s Foundation of California, Family Violence Appellate Project)

This bill allows domestic violence survivors who are tenants to maintain their current housing and avoid eviction by expanding allowable documentation for lease termination policies, allowing survivors to use eviction protections when the abusive person is on the lease but no longer residing in the residence, and by allowing survivors who live with an abusive person to remain in the unit on the same lease terms while removing the abusive person.

California Emergency Rental Assistance Program

While not a bill, Western Center and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation are working to obtain an extension of the current eviction protections implemented in response to the pandemic. To prevent mass evictions, displacement, and economic instability, the state must extend these protections as hundreds of thousands of tenants wait for rental assistance from the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

HOUSING

AB 1911 (Gabriel): Affordable Housing Preservation Tax Credit

(co-sponsored with California Housing Partnership, California Coalition for Rural Housing, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California and San Diego Housing Federation)

AB 1911 creates an Affordable Housing Preservation Tax Credit to support the preservation of tens of thousands of affordable housing units at risk of converting to market rate housing or displacing low-income tenants. California cannot afford to lose tens of thousands of affordable housing units in the midst of our current housing crisis. A targeted tax credit that encourages property owners to sell to affordable housing developers committed to long-term affordability would allow thousands of lower-income households to stay in their homes.

AB 2597 (Bloom, E. Garcia): Cool and Healthy Homes

(co-sponsored with California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Inner City Law Center, Leadership Council, Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP)

AB 2597 will address a long-standing issue that is rapidly exacerbated by human-induced climate change: the safety of renters in their homes when outdoor temperatures rise. Excessive heat has a negative impact on health and quality of life and leads to an increasing number of deaths. State law has long required that rental units be able to maintain a safe indoor air temperature when it’s cold outside, but there is no analogous requirement that applies when the weather is hot. This gap leaves many renters living in homes that reach unhealthy and often dangerous temperatures indoors and disproportionately impacts low-income households and people of color. AB 2597 will update the state’s habitability standards to ensure that all rental units have a means of maintaining a safe indoor air temperature regardless of the temperature outside.

AB 2713 (Wicks): Tenant Protections: Just Cause Termination: Rent Caps

(co-sponsored with California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation)

This bill cleans up loopholes in AB 1482, California’s first statewide just cause eviction protection and anti-rent gouging law. Since AB 1482 was enacted in 2019, several key loopholes (owner move-in, substantial renovation, and intent to remove the unit from the rental market) have been exploited by landlords attempting to evict vulnerable tenants. This law will require owners attempting to evict tenants for owner move-in to move into the unit within 90 days and stay at the unit for a minimum of three years. For owners attempting to evict based on substantial renovation, it will require owners to obtain the necessary permits for the renovations and justify why the improvements cannot be completed with the tenants in place. For evictions based on withdrawal from the rental market, the owner will be required to clearly explain in the notice to the tenant what the alternative use of the property will be and the necessary permits to convert the unit to the intended use. If the landlord does not meet those conditions post eviction, the tenant has the right to rent the unit under the previous terms of the agreement.

SCA 2 (Allen, Wiener): Public Housing Projects Two-year bill

(co-sponsored with California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, California Coalition for Rural Housing, California Housing Consortium, California Housing Partnership, California Association of Realtors, California YIMBY, Housing California, Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California, and Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing)

SCA 2 will place the repeal of Article 34 of the California Constitution on the ballot. Passed by voters in 1950, Article 34 requires a majority approval by the voters of a city or county for the development, construction, or acquisition of publicly subsidized housing. For decades the requirement has stifled the development of subsidized housing creating and perpetuating racially and economically segregated communities. The passage of SCA 2 would give voters an opportunity to eliminate an obstacle, enshrined in our Constitution, which currently undermines the ability to address California’s acute housing and homelessness challenges.

HEALTH CARE

AB 470 (Carrillo): Eliminating the Non-MAGI Assets LimitTwo-year bill

(co-sponsored with Justice in Aging)

This bill will clean up code for when the Medi-Cal assets test is eliminated on January 1, 2024, following the 2021 budget agreement that also raises the asset limits effective July 1, 2022.

AB 1355 (Levine): Expanding Independent Medical ReviewTwo-year bill

This bill will ensure more fairness in the Medi-Cal appeals process by expanding Independent Medical Reviews to all Medi-Cal members and services, and by standardizing the process state departments must follow when alternating judges’ decisions in fair hearings. Independent Medical Reviews use medical professionals with expertise in the medical service at issue, resulting in more favorable and clinically sound outcomes for patients than plan appeals and state fair hearings.

AB 1900 (Arambula): Share of Cost Reform

(co-sponsored with Bet Tzedek, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Disability Rights California, Justice in Aging, and Senior and Disability Action)

This bill will make the Medi-Cal Share of Cost program more affordable by updating the maintenance need levels to 138% of the federal poverty level. Today, older adults and people with disabilities who are just $1 over the free Medi-Cal limit are forced to pay over $800 of their monthly income on health care and are expected to survive on just $600—the maintenance need level—to pay for rent, food, utilities, and all other expenses.

AB 1995 (Arambula): Eliminating Med-Cal Premiums

(co-sponsored with Children Now)

Medi-Cal premium requirements place an undue economic burden on families already living on very limited incomes and create barriers in access to care and unnecessary breaks in coverage for eligible individuals. This bill will ensure pregnant people, children, and people with disabilities can access the health care services they need to stay healthy by eliminating their monthly Medi-Cal premiums.

SB 644 (Leyva): Connecting Unemployed Individuals to Covered California & Medi-Cal

(co-sponsored with Health Access and California Pan-Ethnic Health Network)

This bill will require the Employment Development Department (EDD) to share with Covered California contact and income information about people who have recently applied for or lost unemployment, state disability insurance, paid family leave, and other EDD programs. This will allow Covered California to reach out and help enroll individuals in Medi-Cal or Covered California.

SB 923 (Wiener): Access to Gender Affirming Care

(co-sponsored with Break The Binary LLC, California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, California TRANScends, Equality California, Gender Justice LA, National Health Law Program, Orange County TransLatinas, Queer Works, Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance, San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives, The TransPower Project, TransCanWork, Trans Community Project, Transgender Health and Wellness Center, Tranz of Anarchii INC, Unique Woman’s Coalition (UWC), and Unity Hope)

This bill will improve access to gender affirming care for transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex (TGI) people by mandating health plans require TGI cultural competency training for contracted providers, their staff, and the staff of health plans. It would also require plan provider directories to identify providers who offer gender affirming services.

FINANCIAL SECURITY

AB 1820 (Arambula): Labor Trafficking

(co-sponsored with Loyola Law School, SJI Anti-Trafficking Policy Initiative)

California has one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the nation, yet only two state agencies, the Department of Justice and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, are responsible for prosecuting human trafficking cases. This bill will provide the Department of Industrial Relations with statutory authority to investigate and prosecute claims of human labor trafficking. This a priority for Western Center because many workers who are victims of labor trafficking are exploited because of poverty.

AB 2052 (Quirk-Silva): CalWORKs Child Education Act of 2022

(co-sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

The pandemic has impacted the timeliness with which some children can complete high school. This bill will allow children receiving CalWORKs to obtain aid until age 20 if they are attending their last year of high school.

AB 2300 (Kalra): CalWORKs and CalFresh: Work Requirements

(co-sponsored with Legal Aid at Work, Women’s Foundation of California, and WorkSafe)

This bill will expand good cause exemptions for the CalWORKs welfare to work program to allow parents with children under two years old not to participate in welfare to work for up to 12 months. This bill incorporates many legal protections created by the legislature, like the Crown Act and domestic worker protections, into CalWORKs.

AB 2277 (Reyes): CalWORKs for Survivors of Domestic Violence

(co-sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

This bill will remove barriers for accessing the CalWORKs program a critical social service that assists families in financial need, by waiving program requirements for survivors of domestic violence. Currently, counties have the authority to waive CalWORKs program requirements for survivors of domestic violence. However, despite their ability to do so, many counties do not. This bill will require counties to waive the requirements.

SB 996 (Kamlager): CalWORKs Asset Test and Work Limit

(co-sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organization)

This bill will eliminate the eligibility requirement for CalWORKs families to prove that they have less than $10,211 in their possession, and the 100-hour rule which requires parents to work no more than 100 hours to qualify for the program. Removing these archaic requirements will ensure that all eligible CalWORKs families can access the social service.

SB 972 (Gonzalez): Street Vendors

(co-sponsored with Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Community Power Collective, Inclusive Action for the City, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Public Counsel)

Street vendors are a part of California’s culture and have been for decades. In recent years, street vendors became part of the formal economy with the decriminalization of street vending in 2018. However, many street vendors who sell food are unable to obtain health permits from their local county health departments, so this bill will modernize the California Retail Food Code to reduce barriers for street vendors to obtain local health permits. Creating this pathway will allow street vendors to further enter the formal economy and put an end to fines issued to these entrepreneurs with limited incomes.

SB 1200 (Skinner): Enforcement of Judgments: Renewal and Interest

This bill will reduce the interest rate on unpaid debt from 10 percent annually to 3 percent annually. New York became the first state to reduce the interest rate on debt and California should follow the example.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

AB 1792 (Ward): Diversification of Grand Juries

Grand Juries play a critical role in the lives of Californians involved in the legal system — particularly people of color and those living in poverty who are over-policed. Currently, juries are disproportionately made up of retirees who can afford to take time off to serve. AB 1972 will diversify grand juries in California so they are representative of their populations and will ensure people are fairly compensated when they serve so jury duty is more accessible for Californians with low incomes.

 

 

 

 

Tenant Protections are Expiring as Thousands Wait on Rent Assistance

“At the same time, the state’s rent relief program will stop taking applications at the end of March. Applications will still be processed and payments completed beyond that date. But a new report from PolicyLink and the Western Center on Law and Poverty indicates applicants have been waiting months for the state to make decisions on their cases, and that most applicants have not received payment.”

Tenant Protections are Expiring as Thousands Wait on Rent Assistance

Only 16% of California’s COVID Rent Relief Applicants Have Received Their Checks, New Study Finds

“It really is very problematic to have people still waiting for their money when they’re about to be subject to eviction if they can’t pay,” said Madeline Howard, a senior attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and one of the study’s authors. The state, she said, must speed up the payment process and extend eviction protections.

“It would be so profoundly unfair and wrong for tenants to be evicted because of these bureaucratic delays,” Howard said.”

Read or Listen Here

PRESS RELEASE: New Analysis of California’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program Finds Only 16 Percent of Nearly Half a Million Applicants Received Payment, Putting Hundreds of Thousands of Renters at Imminent Risk of Eviction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Gabriel Charles Tyler, Senior Communications Associate, PolicyLink

[email protected]

An examination of the program’s performance data underscores the urgent need for policy fixes to deliver on the program’s promise and keep renters in their homes

OAKLAND, Calif. — With California’s limited eviction protections set to expire on March 31, hundreds of thousands of renters who’ve been hit the hardest by Covid-19 and its ongoing economic fallout are now at imminent risk of eviction and homelessness. A new analysis of California’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) — released today by the National Equity Atlas — reveals that 488,094 renter households have submitted ERAP requests, but only 75,773 of them have received payment. The research also shows that the majority of applications — 59 percent, which represents 289,020 renter households — have yet to be reviewed. The long delay in payment delivery to approved applicants contrasts with the snapshot of program performance provided on the public Housing Is Key data dashboard, which stated that 183,856 renter households had been “served” as of February 23, 2022.

“State legislators have been in a ‘wait and see’ posture with this program, but this analysis shows that it’s time for them to act and shift current policies,” said Francisco Dueñas, Executive Director of Housing NOW! “If the special Covid eviction court procedures are allowed to expire, landlords will evict hundreds of thousands of Covid-impacted renters, undermining the program’s intent to keep families housed and make landlords whole.”

At the beginning of January, 721,000 renter households in California owed their landlords an estimated $3.3 billion in back rent. While the state’s rent relief program has been a lifeline for some struggling renters, hundreds of thousands are still in need. Those who fell into debt because of the pandemic have faced multiple barriers to securing rental assistance, including lack of access for people with disabilities and those whose primary language is not English, a complex application process, and long waits for review and payment.

The brief, produced in partnership with Housing NOW! and Western Center on Law & Poverty, examines the program’s performance from March 15, 2021 (when it launched) through February 23, 2022.

Key findings include:

  • Only 16 percent of renters who have applied to the program have received assistance, either directly or through a payment to their landlord. Nearly half a million renters have submitted rental assistance requests but just 75,773 households have received assistance.
  • The majority of applicants are still waiting for their applications to be reviewed. Fifty-nine percent of applicants (289,020 households) are still awaiting a decision on their applications. Among those whose applications have been initially approved, the typical wait time for a response was three months (a median of 104 days).
  • Most renters whose applications have been approved are still waiting to be paid. As of February 23, 2022, 180,280 renter households have had their applications approved, but 104,507 of them (58 percent) have not yet received assistance. The median wait time between submitting an application and receiving payment is 135 days, indicating that it takes about a month for applicants to be paid even after approval.
  • The speed with which rental assistance is being distributed is improving over time but remains painfully slow. Households that applied for aid in March 2021 typically waited 181 days to receive aid payments, and households that applied in October 2021 typically waited 119 days.
  • Most renters who received assistance have requested additional support. Among renter households who have received rental assistance, 90 percent of them (69,336 households) have reapplied to the program for additional support.
  • Renters whose primary language is not English appear to be underrepresented in the program. About half (51 percent) of California’s severely cost-burdened renter households speak a language other than English at home, yet 88 percent of rental assistance applicants indicated that their primary language was English.
  • Long-term policy solutions, funding, and infrastructure are needed to support California’s economically vulnerable renters. With 8,200 new applications submitted every week and 90 percent of rental assistance recipients requesting additional support, tenants’ ongoing need for financial relief due to pandemic-related economic hardship, and the number of indebted renters not yet reached by the program, the need for rental assistance will continue beyond March 31, 2022 (when the program is set to expire).

“Our analysis underscores how essential eliminating rent debt remains to an equitable and people-centered recovery in California, especially at this moment,” said Sarah Treuhaft, Vice President of Research at PolicyLink. “Identifying the challenges renters have faced in obtaining aid is just the first step. Now advocates and policymakers need to use it to remove those barriers and push for solutions to ensure that every Californian who needs help gets it before protections expire.”

The findings illustrate the urgent need for policy action. For an equitable recovery, California policymakers need to act quickly to extend statewide eviction protections and enact long-term solutions to the affordability crisis while leaving local governments the flexibility to enact and maintain their own protections.

“Every day that rental assistance is delayed, the people the program was intended to serve and protect are facing landlord harassment, eviction, and loss of their homes,” said Madeline Howard, Senior Attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty. “Some local governments have taken the steps necessary to protect tenants in their communities while assistance is distributed; state policymakers must act now to extend eviction protections without interfering with these local policies.”

The analysis is based on data tracking all rental assistance applications submitted by renters to the statewide program, which covers about 63 percent of the state’s population. The dataset, which was obtained through a Public Records Act request, includes anonymized individual case data with applicant demographics (race/ethnicity, income, and language of application), zip code, amount of rent and utilities requested and paid, and landlord participation in the application. It also includes 16 detailed case status categories assigned by the California Department of Housing and Community Development including “Application Complete: Pending Payment,” which is assigned to households that have been approved for payment but have not actually received funds and are still waiting for assistance.

Explore the full analysis at nationalequityatlas.org/CARentalAssistance.

Note: Later this month, the Atlas will release a public dashboard with the data for counties, cities, and ZIP codes. In the interim, data by ZIP code can be provided to media upon request.

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About the National Equity Atlas

The National Equity Atlas, produced by PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute, is America’s most detailed report card on racial and economic equity. The Atlas equips movement leaders and policymakers with actionable data and strategies to advance racial equity and shared prosperity. For more information, visit nationalequityatlas.org.

About Housing NOW!

Housing NOW! is a broad, diverse movement building power to make housing affordable and to combat the displacement crisis that is disproportionately impacting working class communities of color. Led by tenants, the coalition includes allied landlords, realtors, and dozens of community, faith and labor organizations. For more information, visit housingnowca.org.

About Western Center on Law & Poverty

For more than 50 years, Western Center on Law & Poverty has led the fight to end poverty and secure housing, health care, a strong safety net, and racial and economic justice for all Californians with low incomes. Western Center brings about system-wide change through impact litigation, legislative, policy and administrative advocacy at the state and federal level, and support for legal services and community-based organizations. For more information, visit wclp.org.

State Failed to Offer Legal Aid to State Rent Relief Applicants

“Madeline Howard says the action may be too little too late. She’s a senior attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “It’s inevitable that many people who needed assistance at this point have already been harmed, have already been evicted from their homes, so it’s going to be too late.”

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