The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare some of the hardest truths about our communities, our state, and our country. It has shown us where the greatest inequities across our society lie, how quickly trust in many of our institutions can be eroded, and how politics can be used as a wedge to drive our nation’s residents apart. It has also, however, revealed to us the incredible resilience and compassion of our communities and the leaders they elect. From showing up to volunteer by the thousands to opening hearts and wallets, to sending letters and signing petitions, we have been awed by seeing our neighbors show up for one another.
Nowhere has this support for the most vulnerable Californians been more evident than in the recently passed State Budget. Despite historic reductions in state revenues, Governor Newsom and the Legislature passed a budget that avoids deep cuts to critical safety net programs and even makes several improvements to programs that impact the lives of many in our communities.
Below are five of the most important investments that CA is making in our low-income communities:
- Emergency Food: The budget includes $8 million for food banks to purchase goods from California farmers and producers (CalFood), and $50 million for Emergency Food Boxes, unprecedented investments in the emergency food system. These investments will bring much-needed resources to food banks statewide as we continue to respond to the ongoing economic crisis.
- CalFresh: The budget includes administrative program changes for which we have advocated for years: using Medi-Cal data to identify eligible CalFresh households and provide pre-populated CalFresh application forms, reduces barriers to access by introducing more client-friendly options, creates a process to simplify required reports to help people keep their benefits, authorizes additional modern means of communication with CalFresh recipients, and seeks potential relief from overissuances. The budget also limits counties’ CalFresh administrative costs in an effort to prevent counties from cutting staff when more Californians rely on human services programs than ever.
- Child nutrition funding: Includes $112.2 million for operators of the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Seamless Summer Option, and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) serving meals during school closures.
- Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP): Maintains current funding for SSI/SSP grants for older adults and people with disabilities, and rejects the Governor’s May Revision proposal that would have cut the 2021 cost of living adjustment and increased hardship for some of our more vulnerable neighbors.
- California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC): Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit to Californians and small business owners with children under the age of six that file their taxes using Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITNINs). We know that this program has a tremendous impact on reducing childhood poverty and hunger.
While we celebrate these budget wins, we also know that the need is still staggering. We will continue to work with our state and national partners to advocate for increases to CalFresh benefits to help keep our communities fed during this crisis.