News on Human Services Programs, Legislation & the People We Serve – March 3, 2017

Media memo

In this edition of the CWDA Media Memo: the Los Angeles Times profiles Sen. Holly Mitchell achieving the position she and advocates hoped to see her appointed to: chair of the Senate budget committee; CWDA Deputy Executive Director Cathy Senderling-McDonald talks with KPCC on federal budget discussions and the effects cuts could have on child poverty and the safety net; a former foster youth shares what having health care coverage under Medi-Cal/Medicaid has meant for her and why maintaining coverage up to age 26 for foster youth must be a critical part of any changes to the Affordable Care Act; and Alameda County launches a website to educate the public about the many benefits they receive under Medi-Cal and the Affordable Care Act.

State Budget

How Los Angeles Sen. Holly Mitchell went from the Legislature’s ‘moral compass’ to a top budget crafter | Los Angeles Times | February 28, 2017

Two years ago, Holly J. Mitchell stood on the state Senate floor and, in a crisp, deliberate voice, laced into the budget that her fellow Democrats were poised to approve. The plan “picks winners and losers,” the state senator from Los Angeles said. “It appears to me that poor people in California and their children continue to be on the losing end of that equation.” Mitchell had never been shy in urging her colleagues to do more for the poor. But this time, she went even further — withholding her support when the bill came to a vote, a flagrant violation of an unwritten legislative rule among the Capitol’s ruling Democrats that could best be described as “thou shalt not defect on a budget vote.” The plan passed anyway, and Mitchell could’ve been shunned and made a pariah. But since that rebellion, her influence has only grown. Last year, her signature cause — repeal of a decades-old rule capping aid to certain mothers on welfare — became law. And this year, she was awarded the job she’s long coveted: chair of the Senate budget committee.

Federal Budget

What’s at stake for SoCal’s poor as federal budget talks begin | KPCC | March 1, 2017

Much is at stake for Southern California’s poor and working class as federal budget talks begin in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump has indicated he’d like to see big increases to military and infrastructure spending—and local officials are concerned those bumps could come at the cost of federally funded social safety net programs.  ”People are in a bit of a holding pattern, wait-and-see mode,” said Cathy Senderling-McDonald, deputy executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.” California’s social safety net institutions are highly dependent on federal funds.

Health Care

For former foster youth, health coverage until 26 offers ‘chance of survival’ | Center for Health Reporting | March 2, 2017

Sky Ross remembers her Los Angeles County childhood home as “complete chaos,” filled with fighting, constant yelling and occasional police visits… “It was a lot of complex trauma because of being poor, and mental illnesses that weren’t properly treated,” Ross said. Eventually, at age 15, social workers intervened and she was placed in foster care. There, her situation was “way better” with a loving foster mother. At 18, Ross got into UCLA, where she majored in gender studies and graduated in 2015. Now, she’s working toward her master’s degree in in marriage and family therapy at Pacific Oaks College.  Through all of this, Ross relied on Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, to ensure her physical health as well as mental wellbeing. At 23, she is able to keep this coverage because of a provision in the Affordable Care Act that extends Medicaid to former foster youth until age 26.

Obamacare 101: What’s going to happen to 70 million Americans who rely on Medicaid? | Los Angeles Times | March 2, 2017

It’s the program that everyone confuses with Medicare. But Medicaid, the half-century-old government health plan for the poor, is actually bigger than its more famous cousin, covering some 70 million Americans at any one time. Expanding Medicaid was a central pillar of the Affordable Care Act, helping to bring health coverage to more than 20 million previously uninsured people. But Medicaid has long been a political football. Now, Republicans are talking about dramatically rolling it back and restructuring the way the federal government pays for it. How would that happen? And what would the changes mean for the tens of millions of poor Americans who rely on Medicaid? If you’re a little rusty on block grants and other federal funding formulas, here are some Medicaid basics. 

New Alameda County website launched to fight Obamacare repeal | East Bay Times | February 28, 2017 (full story follows)

Alameda County launched a new website Tuesday to educate residents about how their health care benefits would be hurt by Trump administration proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act. On the website — — people can gather information and take action by sharing their story about how they’ve been helped by Obamacare. Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Wilma Chan appeared at Asian Health Services in Oakland to announce the campaign to preserve Obamacare. She was joined by health care advocates, representatives from health care organizations, elected representatives and union workers. Chan said over 170,000 Alameda County residents could lose their health care coverage under GOP proposals to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan and called on county residents to mobilize to preserve current benefits.

The political time bomb at the heart of Republican Obamacare alternatives: Higher costs for more Americans | Los Angeles Times | February 28, 2017

Republicans came into office this year promising to rescue Americans from rising healthcare bills by repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. But the party’s emerging healthcare proposals would shift even more costs to patients, feeding the very problem GOP politicians complained about under Obamacare. And their solutions could hit not only Americans who have Obamacare health plans, but also tens of millions more who rely on employer coverage or on government health plans such as Medicaid and Medicare.


Sacramento moves to block immigration officials from student data | KPCC | March 2, 2017

As federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents ramp up arrests of residents who are in this country illegally, California lawmakers are taking steps they hope will prevent that agency from accessing student records that could help agents deport people. “One of our concerns was that districts collect a lot of information on students and that information goes into student records that are maintained largely at the local district level, but also to a certain extent at the California Department of Education,” said Rick Pratt, a consultant for the education committee of the California State Assembly. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Pratt said, prohibits student information from being released without permission from parents or guardians. But law enforcement is exempted from that law.

LA officials: Don’t drop benefits out of fear or confusion | Los Angeles Daily News | February 27, 2017

Some people who receive food, welfare or medical assistance from the government are so confused by the news coming out of Washington they are calling to cancel benefits, a Los Angeles County official said Monday. For the most part, county employees on the other end of the line have persuaded callers to hang tight and not throw away benefits, said Roxana Molina, chief-in-charge for the Bureau of Program Policy in the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services. “There are some who still said, ‘No, close my case,’ ” she said. Molina made the comments during a public forum exploring the potential impact of federal and state budget proposals on beneficiaries, sponsored by the California Budget & Policy Center at the Joan Palevsky Center for the Future of Los Angeles.

Deportation fears prompt Sonoma County families to draw up emergency plans | The Press Democrat | February 25, 2017

Xochitl and Jorge have been thinking a lot about the day federal immigration officials come knocking on the front door of their mobile home. The couple, who entered the United States illegally more than a decade ago, now live in Santa Rosa with their children, two of them born in the United States. Their 11-year-old son, a U.S. citizen, sensing his parents’ tension and fear, recently told his mother that he wished he was older so that he could help them, somehow… Xochitl came to the United States illegally 12 years ago with her oldest daughter to be with her husband, who had crossed the border through the Sonoran desert two years earlier. Like many of the estimated 30,000 undocumented immigrants in Sonoma County, they are living in fear — some in a state of panic — now that they are in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump’s administration. Spurred by the growing fear of unprecedented deportations, undocumented residents such as Xochitl and Jorge are drawing up plans for the worst-case scenario. They ask themselves the same questions: Who will care for their children? Do they have enough money in their wallets? Will they have access to their bank accounts? Do their children have valid passports? The pained discussions amount to disaster plans for hundreds, possibly thousands, of North Bay families.


More than a quarter of Orange County’s youngest kids lives in poverty | Orange County Register | February 23, 2017

A quarter of California’s children under age six were living in poverty, more than 750,000, as the state emerged from the Great Recession, according to new data from nine local regions on income, demographics, cost of living, social safety programs and other factors. The Geography of Child Poverty in California, a report and interactive map compiled by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California, offers a trove of information on variations within counties, much of which had never previously been analyzed. In Los Angeles County, 30 percent of young children lived below the California Poverty Measure line, which takes into account cost of living and social program benefits.


San Diego Seniors Living On Fixed Incomes Hit By Rising Rents | KPBS | March 1, 2017

Seniors who live on a fixed income are particularly hard hit by rising rents and shrinking rental vacancy rates. Donald Chester is 57 years old. He’s been living with his wife and small dogs in his car, a maroon PT Cruiser, for almost a year. They lost an apartment last May in a dispute over the rent. “In the car, it’s kind of a downside, because you have to sleep with one eye open and one eye awake,” he said. “Plus, the police are trying to remove everyone from the streets. But when you’re in a predicament, you can’t help it.” Chester’s speech is slightly slurred. He has suffered three strokes in recent years. Like many seniors, he survives on a fixed income. His disability check is $970 a month.


To submit stories for inclusion in CWDA’s weekly Media Memo, email Sarah Jimenez. County staff and others not currently receiving the Media Memo directly can sign up on the CWDA website at the bottom of the home page.