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Subcommittee Votes To Help CalWORKS Kids

The dog-and-pony-show nature of the budget subcommittee hearings was upended yesterday in a hearing on health and human services cutbacks.

The surprising vote at the tail end of yesterday’s hearing comes one day in advance of a flurry of subcommittee hearings in the Capitol building today, with accompanying Capitol demonstrations expected outside.

Also today, the Senate Rules Committee is expected to confirm the appointment of David Maxwell-Jolly as the new deputy director of California’s Health and Human Services Agency.

In yesterday’s hearing, after a series of presentations and by-the-book votes on cuts to In-Home Supportive Services, foster care and other programs of the Department of Social Services, the final vote was due on cutbacks to CalWORKS.

Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) made the usual motion to accept the budget revision language, and then added her own motion.

“I’d like to make a motion as a second piece of that, to rescind the policy for cases … serving children only,” Mitchell said.

Tension in the room palpably rose. The state finance representative pointed out that her motion would mean an $86 million hit to the general fund. She nodded. And that it would come without any alternative plan to replace that money.

“Duly noted,” Mitchell said.

Three “aye” votes later, it was passed by the subcommittee.

The cut in question imposes a 5% annual reduction for three years — so a 15% reduction altogether — in money for impoverished children whose guardians aren’t eligible for aid. For instance, funding for a grandmother with custody of her grandchildren would be reduced. The motion adopted by the subcommittee would rescind that 15% cut.

Earlier in the hearing, Assembly member Wesley Chesbro (D-Santa Rosa) voiced an opinion along similar lines.

“We should take a moment to remember that these programs were invented to save money,” Chesbro said. “They’re being billed now as the costly thing to get rid of. But they were invented to avoid more serious long-term costs … I think we need to take a step back and see that not only do these programs provide more humane, better service, but they’re also a benefit for the taxpayer because … there is less taxpayer money spent.”

A number of advocates testified on the CalWORKS revisions, saying that elimination of those funds would leave children homeless and destitute, and that the state would wind up having many more children in more expensive foster care and the child welfare system. Saving that part of the program, they said, would save the state money and could change children’s lives.

“We ask you not to punish children for something they can’t control,” Susan Sweeney of the California Community Colleges CalWORKS Association said.


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