2016-17 Budget Priorities
The following is a summary of the priorities set by the CWDA Board of Directors.
The Maximum Family Grant Rule (MFG) is based on the flawed premise that a woman gets pregnant just to receive a paltry increase to her family assistance. Instead, it undermines the fundamental purpose of the CalWORKs program, as it prohibits parents receiving CalWORKs from receiving a grant for any child born to the household while any member of the household is receiving aid, and it plunges children deeper into poverty. CWDA and its partners are once again seeking to repeal this shameful policy that is intended to control impoverished parents’ choices about the size of their families and when to conceive through the threat of economic hardship.
Homelessness among families has skyrocketed in the midst and since the Great Recession. Despite a recovering economy, many families cannot afford safe, stable housing. Without a permanent home, parents’ ability to go to work or find a job is undermined, children cannot focus at school and fall deeper into poverty.
Now in its second year and funded at $35 million, the successful CalWORKs Housing Support Program is expected to serve more than 4,500 families this year, which include 9,000 children in 44 counties. A $15 million funding augmentation will enable the program to serve an additional estimated 1,900 families with 3,800 children in counties with existing programs and new counties wishing to participate.
Increased funding for training of APS workers remains a priority of CWDA. Training for APS workers and their partner agencies is woefully underfunded although the need continues to be acute. Currently just $154,000 state General Funds are allocated by the California Department of Social Services for statewide APS training, an amount that has remained static for 10 years. Statewide, case numbers are rising, with financial abuse alone rising 41% between 2009 and 2013.
The pervasive problem of the sexual exploitation of children and the traumatic effects this horrific crime has on children’s lives for years after their abuse has rightly gained more attention in recent years. State and federal officials have enacted programs to begin to serve these children. In light of the new federal CSEC law and rollout of the state CSEC program, additional funding is necessary to enable counties to meet the state and federal requirements and expectations for the specialized services to be provided to this traumatized population of children.
AB 403 (Stone, Statues of 2015) requires significant changes to the placement and care provided to children in foster care, including increasing capacity and support to resource families in California and improving outcomes for children and youth in our child welfare system. The proposed state budget does not sufficiently fund all of the statutory mandates and legislative requirements that need to be met to implement this significant reform beginning January 1, 2017. CWDA continues to work toward a specific estimate of the funding shortfall and required funding to provide the appropriate level of services to foster children, youth and caregivers.
The Bringing Families Home program will serve a critical need in the child welfare system. For many families who have had children placed in foster care, the unavailability of affordable housing is the final barrier preventing them from safely reuniting with their children. Even when parents have diligently and successfully worked to address safety issues and are ready to safely reunite, courts are hesitant to order reunification if the parents don’t have a safe place to live. As a result, some children remain in foster care – at the taxpayers’ expense. The Bringing Families Home program will provide the housing resources families need to provide a stable, safe home and restart their lives together.
Teen Pregnancy Services
CWDA and the John Burton Foundation will jointly be working toward funding for training, technical assistance, and demonstration projects to develop best practices for preventive reproductive health education for foster youth ages 14 through 19.
Subsidized employment is a very promising strategy for moving people into the workforce and is available to counties under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Counties partner with private employers, non-profit organizations, and local public agencies to match low-income parents with employers in the community and wages are partially subsidized while employers provide training and supervision. CWDA is pursuing statute to streamline the two CalWORKs subsidized employment programs, AB 98 and ESE, to reduce the administrative burden of two separate programs and to help maximize utilization of the programs.
The Child Welfare Services New System (CWS-NS) Project is being developed to improve the ability to serve at-risk children, providing an automated child welfare system with the capabilities that include mobile and web-based technology to support the current and future business practice needs of the counties and the State in a more effective, efficient and economical manner. Recently, the California Department of Social Services announced a new approach to the project development, and CWDA will be proposing trailer bill language to codify governance and county participation in development of the new system.
Implementation of the Affordable Care Act and related expansions to Medi-Cal eligibility have resulted in an unprecedented growth in the number of Californians enrolled in the program, from 7.6 million enrollees in December 2012 to a projected 13.5 million by 2016-17. The 2016-17 budget assumes that the Medi-Cal caseload will increase 8.1 percent from 2014-15 to 2015-16 (an estimated 727,000 new cases), and grow another 1.5 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17 (an estimated 62,000 new cases). The steep increase in caseload has been coupled with a sharp increase in manual work for county eligibility staff. A significant amount of that workload is due to glitches with the CalHEERS enrollment system developed by the California Department of Health Care Services and Covered California to implement the ACA. Improvements to CalHEERS continue to be developed and deployed, with active participation from CWDA. In addition, the Medi-Cal program continues to be a complex program that will require the detailed attention of county eligibility staff for years to come, regardless of system improvements.
CWDA appreciates the Administration’s recognition the program’s growth and system workload has placed on counties, and requests the Legislature’s support for the Governor’s proposed level of funding for county administration of the Medi-Cal program.