Budget Agreement Makes “Historic Investments” in Most Vulnerable Californians’ Recovery and Well-Being
If sustained long-term, budget decisions position California for meaningful progress against poverty, homelessness, and longstanding harms of systemic racism and inequity
Sacramento, CA – The County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA) lauded the 2021-22 budget agreement the legislature voted on today, highlighting historic investments in the safety net programs county human services departments administer on behalf of the state.
“Working together, Governor Newsom and the Legislature have accomplished what we couldn’t have imagined a year ago: creating unparalleled opportunities to move California in a direction of healing, strength, and equity,” CWDA Executive Director Cathy Senderling-McDonald said. “The budget makes historic investments in the safety net serving our most vulnerable Californians. These investments go beyond just supporting the state’s recovery from COVID-19. If sustained over the long term, these investments position California to make meaningful and lasting progress against poverty, homelessness, and the longstanding harms of systemic racism and inequity.
“CWDA extends our deep appreciation to the hard-working members and staff of the Legislature and Administration who partnered with our staff and members over the past several months to develop budget concepts into workable plans that can be implemented by counties. This hard work will make a meaningful difference in the lives of California’s most vulnerable children, families and individuals.”
The agreement recognizes numerous priorities championed by CWDA as centerpieces of California’s recovery; they include the following:
Preventing Homelessness for Clients of Safety Net Programs
The budget deal includes more than $500 million in investments in both 2021-22 and 2022-23 in four programs that provide homelessness prevention and housing services to those receiving services from county human services agencies. These funds will be available for expenditure over until June 30, 2024.
- By continuing and expanding Home Safe, the homeless prevention and rapid re-housing program for seniors and dependent adults experiencing neglect or abuse, California will target urgently needed resources to the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population: older adults. This housing investment comes on top of a $70 million ongoing General Fund increase to the underlying Adult Protective Services program that will enable counties to expand intensive case management services for this vulnerable population and serve those in need who are aged 60 or over, instead of the current 65.
- Increased investment in the Bringing Families Home program aims to prevent unnecessary separation of families by providing financial support, housing assistance and wrap-around services to families served by the child welfare system.
- Additional funding for the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program will allow counties to reach more individuals experiencing homelessness who are likely eligible for disability benefits.
- Significant increases to the Housing Support Program for recipients of CalWORKs cash aid and welfare-to-work services will enable these parents to focus on developing skills and gaining workforce experience to move towards self-sufficiency, instead of worrying about where they and their children will sleep at night.
Improving Equity and Well-being for Children and Families
- Governor Newsom and Legislators embraced a seismic shift toward an equity-focused, prevention approach for child welfare services championed by CWDA, Children Now and nearly 70 organizations. The budget dedicates an additional $100 million General Fund on a one-time basis above the May Revision funding level to support families before a crisis leads to a child being placed into foster care, and aims to change troubling statistics: Black and Native American children are three times more likely to be removed from their homes compared to white children, and additional disparities persist for other racial and ethnic groups, as well for children and youth who identify as LGBTQ+.
- The budget earmarks significant funding to fill critical gaps in child welfare services, including $50 million in 2021-22 and $50 million in 2022-23 to meet an anticipated increase in emergency calls to child welfare as schools and other services reopen, an additional $100 million General Fund in one-time funding above the May Revision funding level to build critically needed services for children with the most complex needs, and $85 million General Fund one-time to reflect costs counties incur to approve foster caregivers.
- A significant expansion of funding phased in over four years, growing from $37.5 million in 2021-22 to $257 million in 2024-25 and ongoing, will enable counties to provide intensive case management for the most vulnerable families served by the CalWORKs program, and more working-poor families will become eligible for the program as a long-overdue update of income requirements for the program is enacted, effective July 2022.
- The budget responds to the significant health inequities exposed and deepened by COVID-19, expanding Medi-Cal program eligibility to income-eligible Californians over age 50 regardless of immigration status and phasing out the outdated asset test. The budget also makes a record investment in behavioral health prevention, early intervention and treatment for California children and youth.
- Recognizing the technological divide – and resulting isolation – that still affects many Californians, the budget contains $50 million General Fund for a grant-based program to allow county human services agencies to provide technology education and devices, as well as Internet service, to older adults and adults with disabilities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how poverty, racism and inequity confront Californians from every direction – in their housing, health care, work opportunities, and education. Tackling these deeply rooted problems requires the kind of bold and multi-layered response Governor Newsom and Legislators have put forward in their budget,” Senderling-McDonald added. “It also requires working closely with communities and individuals with lived experience in our programs and systems. County human services agencies look forward to deploying these record-setting investments in partnership with our local communities and the State to improve the well-being of vulnerable children, families, older adults, and people with disabilities.”