As I stepped into the role of CWDA’s Executive Director in
January 2021, our state and our county human services agencies
were grappling with several interrelated crises. One was
the devastation, fear and human loss of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our county staff were on the front lines, meeting a surge of need
and witnessing the devastating impact of the virus on communities
long excluded from the basic foundations of health – quality
housing, nutrition, preventive care and more.
In California, at any given time, about 55,000 children are
living in foster care – young people for whom the State of
California has legally taken on parental
responsibility. Child welfare services, including foster
care, is run by counties in California, with state oversight.
Though counties run the system on the ground, state leadership is
essential to ensuring children and families have access to
resources and supportive services to help them avoid abuse and
neglect, overcome trauma, and move forward in a healthy
Going to the grocery store, putting gas in the car. These
everyday necessities would have been impossible for millions of
Californians who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic
were it not for the financial lifeline of federal unemployment
While most extensions and increases to these federal benefits
expired September 4, 2021, affecting an estimated three million
California workers, there are still opportunities to get help
recovering from this crisis.
Many of us are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic through stories
in the news, our social media feeds or our sparing trips out of
the house to buy groceries or take-out. At CWDA, we have a
different view of how the pandemic is unfolding — through the
data and frontline experiences of our county human services
programs serving vulnerable Californians and families.
Three weeks ago, I was in El Paso, Texas, riding in a Border
Patrol bus along the Rio Grande river. The river ran through a
concrete gorge, Mexican national guard troops standing every few
hundred feet on the other side. Just past a tall section of
border wall, several Border Patrol SUVs converged on a young
woman holding a baby in her arms, a toddler clutching her jeans
and a young man standing next to her. Another woman, also with a
baby and toddler, sat nearby.
This June, funding for the Bringing Families Home (BFH) program
is set to end given its one-time, demonstration status. Bringing
Families Home provides housing assistance and support for
families involved in the child welfare system. Too many families
that could safely stay together languish in foster care solely
because of their inability to obtain safe and affordable housing;
Bringing Families Home is the answer for these families.
Let’s start off with the basics, what is the Earned
Income Disregard and how does it work?
When the Legislature – on a bipartisan basis – implemented
CalWORKs, which is California’s version of federal welfare
reform, there were several key tenets; one of them is that work
should pay. The idea is that as families on CalWORKs are able to
move into the workforce and earn money, we won’t deduct
dollar-for-dollar from their CalWORKs check.
CWDA continues to fight for the tools and resources necessary for
the success of Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) in California’s
child welfare system. It is imperative that California enact
legislation that will help California meet the goals of this
major foster care reform effort and ensure that funding is
dedicated to that purpose. We must ensure that foster youth and
caregivers are supported and stable as we continue to roll out
and learn from this reform effort. To that end, we are determined
to see two important policy efforts implemented in the coming
California is officially the fifth- largest economy in the world,
unemployment is low, and our state is prospering. Yet, we also
have the stain of the highest rate of children living in poverty
in the nation. California’s coffers are filling up, but our
social safety net programs intended to lift families out of
poverty aren’t doing enough to meet the high costs it takes to
Home Safe program would help counties step in to protect
Alice* weighed only 80 pounds when she was rushed to the hospital
last year by ambulance. At 80 years old, with limited mobility,
she was terrified to return home to her daughter and adult
grandsons. Alice knew the brutal neglect she had suffered would
only continue. These family members refused to help Alice get to
the kitchen to eat, or to the bathroom to use the toilet. She was
often left to soil her bed.
Abused and neglected children, persons with developmental
disabilities, families facing extreme poverty and the elderly all
stand to see negative consequences from the passage of the
Republican tax bill first hand in California, though not in the
way people may think.
If you believe the tweets, the Senate has begun or will soon
begin sending pieces of its health care reform proposal to the
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for the development of a fiscal
analysis, or “score.” Unlike the House, which passed the American
Health Care Act prior to the release of an updated score, the
Senate must have a CBO score on any bill it seeks to bring up on
the floor. So far, no leaks have occurred, so unless you’re in a
very small, not very diverse-looking group of Senators or their
staff, you’re in the dark just like me.
Seven years ago, today, the Affordable Care Act was signed into
law, marking the start of dramatic improvements in health care
delivery and access for millions of Americans. For decades, our
county eligibility staff had to tell people “No,” they weren’t
eligible for coverage because they had no children, no
disability, income that was a little bit too high. In California,
the new law let our county staff tell nearly everyone, “Yes! You
qualify for health care.” The ACA opened doors to coverage for
millions, including the state’s highly successful Medicaid
program expansion, which now covers 3.7 million adults, as well
as the additional 1.5 million covered through Covered California,
our state exchange.
A patient arrives at an emergency room at a public hospital in
the Central Valley. During the visit, she is also diagnosed with
a brain tumor that requires highly specialized care available
only at certain facilities in the state. However, she
recently relocated to the area for a new job, and she does not
yet have health insurance through her employer. Thanks to an
option in the Affordable Care Act known as Hospital Presumptive
Eligibility, this woman – and hundreds of thousands of
Californians like her who seek care at participating hospitals
each year – can receive immediate health care treatment and
coverage while her eligibility is processed. The hospital
offering the specialized care knows it will be paid for her care,
and she will have the peace of mind that her care will be covered
by this temporary insurance coverage.
“Keeping America Healthy” – that’s the motto of the Medicaid
program, established more than 50 years ago to provide health
coverage to low-income people. The program – one of the largest
insurers in the nation – has seen dramatic improvements in
eligibility processes, health care delivery and access in the
seven years since the Affordable Care Act was signed. Medicaid –
known as Medi-Cal in California – today covers 1 in 3
14 million children, adults and seniors on its rolls.
Today, January 27, is EITC
Awareness Day across the nation, a day to promote the federal
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and help ensure low-income
workers know how to claim the tax credit they have earned. In
California, we want to be sure people also know about the state
tax credit known as CalEITC,
now available for the second year.