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Western Center Reaction to Governor Newsom’s Proposed 2020-2021 Budget

First and foremost, Western Center is pleased that Governor Newsom’s proposed budget includes significant and innovative proposals to address the homelessness crisis in California, which will not only help the thousands of people currently experiencing homelessness, but will also prevent more people from losing their housing. We are also pleased to see the Governor take another major step toward providing health care for all by expanding Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented adults over age 65, and to see the extension of the tax ban on period products and diapers, which makes our tax code more equitable for women, girls and young families.

We were hoping to see additional investments for CalWORKs and SSI grants in this proposal, since they are both crucial for lifting Californians out of poverty. We will continue to advocate for those increases in the final budget agreement.

Below are our initial reactions to the proposed budget by issue area. We will release an in-depth analysis next week.

Housing

The proposed budget appropriately treats the state’s homelessness crisis as an emergency. The proposal devotes additional resources to help people at risk of homelessness remain stably housed and to increase both temporary shelter capacity and permanent housing options for people already experiencing homelessness. We are pleased to see the Governor’s sustained commitment to addressing homelessness and look forward to working in partnership with his administration and legislative leaders to further develop effective, sustainable solutions to the crisis that prioritize residents living in poverty.

We agree with the Governor that the state must ramp up efforts to address the state’s shortage of housing, which is primarily a shortage at lower income levels. We are eager to work with the Governor to ensure that policies and programs to speed housing production prioritize the creation of units for households with the lowest incomes who are priced out of the rental market in every county in the state, protect low-income communities and communities of color from displacement, and increase access to high opportunity areas for our clients.

Financial Security

The budget includes funding to increase the CalWORKs child support pass through (read about it here). Currently, the first $50 of child support paid by a non-custodial parent goes to the CalWORKs family, but any amount over that is kept by state and federal governments. In the Governor’s newly proposed budget, CalWORKs families with one child will keep the first $100 of child support, and families with two or more children will keep the first $200 of child support, beginning January 2022. It also includes funding to provide debt relief for child support owed to the government that is deemed uncollectable. We are grateful that the Governor has heard from parents and families in their call for a child support program that works for children, and we are eager to see proposed associated trailer bill law changes for details. We look forward to working with the Governor and legislature to achieve the goals of conforming with federal law and regulation, and ensuring the program works to benefit the children it purports to help.

The budget also includes the extension of the tax ban on period products and diapers, which will make our tax code more equitable, since taxes on period products and diapers are regressive to poor families and young people. We look forward to continuing work in the legislature to end unmet diaper need and period poverty in California.

Additionally, the budget makes a $92 million investment in reducing criminal justice fees and their harmful, recidivistic impact on people with low-incomes and people of color, their families, and their communities. We are grateful to Budget Chair Mitchell for her leadership on this issue and look forward to working on details with her, the Governor, and other budget leaders. We’re also happy to see that Californians with low incomes will soon be able to reduce the cost of their traffic fines and the overall impact of expensive traffic tickets, with this budget proposing to expand the traffic court ability-to-pay pilot program (currently operational in four counties) statewide over several years. The pilot has yet to be evaluated, so we look forward to details from the Judicial Council to see if the program’s reductions in fines and fees are adequate or need to reduced further.

Finally, to further enhance financial security for Californians, the Governor’s budget creates a new state version of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The proposed financial watchdog will hold banks and other financial firms accountable when they engage in unfair and abusive debt collection and banking practices. Medical, student loan, school lunch, and other forms of debt disproportionally burden people experiencing poverty; we expect this new agency to offer important protections for our clients.

Health Care

We applaud the Governor for continuing to move toward universal coverage by making California the first in the nation to expand full-scope Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors regardless of immigration status, taking a whole person approach to Medi-Cal, and cost containment with an eye toward quality and equity. We look forward to working with the administration and legislature to advance a budget that ensures equitable access to affordable, comprehensive, quality health care for poor Californians.

The Governor’s proposal also delays suspension of benefits and eligibility, by extending certain Medi-Cal benefits (optical, audiology, podiatry, speech therapy, and incontinence creams and washes), extending Medi-Cal eligibility from 60 days to one year for post-partum women diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and expanding Medi-Cal screening for the overuse of opioids and illicit drugs, all until July 2023.

 

Gov. Newsom’s Vision For 2020 Homeless Services: $750 Million And The Use Of State Land

Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Wednesday calling for state land, vacant state hospitals and travel trailers to be used to help with California’s homelessness crisis.

GUESTS:

Marisa Lagos, correspondent for KQED’s California Politics and Government Desk and co-host of the weekly show and podcast, Political Breakdown; she tweets @mlagos

Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission; he tweets @abales

Anya Lawler, Western Center on Law and Poverty Housing Policy Advocate, she’s a member of the state’s homelessness task force, which advises solutions to address the crisis; she tweets @anyalawler

Listen here

California governor blames Trump for delayed homeless aid

California’s governor on Wednesday blamed the Trump administration for withholding data that is blocking the release of $650 million in state aid to combat homelessness.

California’s cities and counties have been waiting since June for the money approved by the state Legislature. But state law says the money can only be distributed based on federally approved homelessness counts for 2019.

Most California communities submitted their homeless counts months ago. But the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has not yet approved them.

…“I think it worries all of us that t hey are somehow trying to politicize the numbers or use them for some political purpose,” said Anya Lawler, a policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Read more

Western Center’s 2019 Budget & Legislative Victories

16 Western Center bills were signed by Governor Gavin Newsom this year, marking huge wins for California. Of note are two renter protection bills, AB 1482, now one of the nation’s most expansive anti-rent gouging and just cause for eviction laws, and SB 329, which prohibits discrimination against housing voucher holders.

For health care, SB 464 will require perinatal health providers to undergo implicit bias training to address the maternal mortality rate for black women in California, which is 4-5 times higher than it is for white women. For financial security, SB 616 outlaws the ability of debt collectors to drain people’s bank accounts, leaving them without funds for necessary day-to-day expenses. These legislative victories are in addition to big wins achieved in the state budget earlier this year.

See the full suite of Western Center’s 2019 budget and legislative victories below!

Newsom vetoed two bills aimed at reforming child support payback system

Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed two child support reform bills that anti-poverty advocates had hoped would give a boost to low-income families in California.

The bills would have sent more child support money to families receiving public benefits and eliminated interest on overdue child support payments owed to the government. Supporters had argued that the legislation would provide more resources to low-income families disproportionately affected by the existing policies

…Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, which co-sponsored the bills, said she was disappointed the legislation did not pass.

“The current system is unjust and it needs to change,” she said. “The money comes with great sacrifice from people who are low-income.”

Read more 

Western Center’s Housing Bills Become Law, Creating Landmark Renter Protections for Californians

By Madeline Howard, Western Center housing attorney

This week, Governor Newsom signed two historic renter protections into California law, both of which Western Center proudly co-sponsored, both decades in the making.

Assemblymember David Chiu’s AB 1482 is getting most of the attention because it establishes something many housing advocates never thought we would see in California – statewide protection from “no cause” evictions, and anti-rent gouging protections. Without these protections, most California landlords could evict a tenant without stating a reason – even long-term tenants who always paid their rent on time and followed all of the rules. And across the state, we’ve seen Californians indirectly evicted from their homes when rents are raised by 50, even 100 percent. The passage of AB 1482 will halt this unsustainable trajectory to keep more people in their homes.

The second of our bills that was signed into law is Senator Holly Mitchell’s SB 329. SB 329 was also an uphill battle, because so many people have unfounded negative perceptions about the federal housing voucher program, and many landlords openly state “No Section 8” in their rental listings.* SB 329 will prevent that from now on. Just as landlords are not permitted to discriminate against rental applicants because of things like race and gender, now California has outlawed discrimination based on a person’s use of housing assistance to pay the rent.

If you are wondering why SB 329 is such a big deal, let me explain. Remember the horrifying photos of a suburban police officer in Texas kneeling on a young black girl’s back as she cried, face down on the grass, in her bathing suit? Someone in the mostly-white neighborhood had called the police on the group of black teenagers for being “rowdy.” Why am I reminding you of yet another ugly incident of police brutality, violent racism, and white supremacy? Because one of those white neighbors reportedly yelled, “Go back to your Section 8 housing!”

SB 329 matters because it addresses this kind of racism head on. While our fair housing laws have long made it illegal for landlords to refuse to rent to someone because of their race, California landlords were still free to say “No Section 8.”

In a chilling echo of the blatant discrimination that dominated centuries of American history, many signs and online rental listings openly say “no dogs, no Section 8.” SB 329 is important not just because it will help low income people who rely on housing vouchers actually access housing of their choice (which is hugely important on its own), but also because it addresses an ugly vestige of our deeply racist housing industry.

Our amazing housing policy advocate Sasha Harnden worked tirelessly to get SB 329 into place, because in his time as a legal services attorney in LA, he saw firsthand how clients were repeatedly turned away from housing because of landlords’ “No Section 8” policies. We are hopeful that despite the continuous rollback of civil rights on the federal level, this step forward for California will help thousands of people find and keep stable, safe, affordable housing with their vouchers, and that SB 329 will be a powerful tool for combating housing discrimination. There is so much more work to be done, but with this law we move closer to tackling segregation and racist, exclusionary practices in housing.

Just as California takes huge steps to address discrimination in housing, the Trump administration threatens to undermine decades of Civil Rights protections under the Fair Housing Act by gutting the Disparate Impact rule. To get involved in the fight to stop this civil rights rollback, visit www.fightforhousingjustice.org.

In California, we are deeply grateful to Senator Holly Mitchell for her incredible leadership on the issue of housing voucher discrimination, and I am immensely proud of my colleagues in Sacramento, Sasha Harnden and Anya Lawler, who worked so hard to make these bills happen. In the midst of the state’s housing crisis, people shouldn’t be turned away from stable housing because they need rental assistance. California is an expensive state to live in, and it’s only getting worse. The relief renters can access through various federal, state, and local housing voucher programs is an important tool in California’s fight to keep people housed and off the street. I am so proud to be a part of the team that made these historic wins happen, and I am excited to see what we can build on from here.

 

* The federal housing choice voucher program was previously known as “Section 8” and many people still refer to it that way.

 

Gov. Gavin Newsom announces advisers on combating homelessness

Gov. Gavin Newsom is moving forward with plans to combat homelessness in California.

He announced the names of the regional leaders and statewide experts who will advise his administration on developing solutions to address the state’s homelessness epidemic.

  • Darrell Steinburg, Sacramento mayor
  • Mark Ridley, Los Angeles County supervisor
  • Libby Schaaf, Oakland mayor
  • Esmeralda Soria, Fresno City councilmember
  • Nathan Fletcher, San Diego County supervisor
  • V. Manuel Perez, Riverside County supervisor
  • Sofia Pereira, Arcata City councilmember
  • Frank Mecca, executive director for the County Welfare Directors Association
  • Sharon Rapport, associate director of the Corporation for Supportive Housing
  • Anya Lawler, policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty
  • Michelle Cabrera, executive director for the County Behavioral Health Directors Association
  • Phillip Mangano, former director of theU.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
  • Will Lightbourne, former director of the Department of Social Services

Read more 

Gov. Gavin Newsom talked big on housing. How has he stacked up so far?

When Gov. Gavin Newsom took office in January, armed with big promises and bold ideas to fix the state’s drastic shortage of homes, housing advocates were so hopeful they were almost giddy.

…“I think it’s good to have goals, but that amount of production I think would require production rates that we’ve literally never seen even at the most robust in California,” said Anya Lawler, a policy advocate specializing in land use for the Western Center on Law & Poverty. “So I don’t think it’s doable in that amount of time.”

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