Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Go Be Poor Somewhere Else

As the state proceeds down the road to insolvency, the governor has 16 policy proposals on which he would condition the adoption of a budget agreement. But an Assembly Budget Committee analysis released today reveals that nearly all of his ideas have no effect on our cash crisis or budget deficit.

In yesterday’s blog we discussed the return of Oracle-style contracting as proposed by the governor. Today, let’s examine the governor’s latest CalWORKS proposal. Our Assembly Budget Committee analysis reveals that the governor’s proposal basically throws to the wolves the individuals unemployed by our recession. Symbolically, it is saying to these struggling families “go and be poor somewhere else.” Substantively, it won’t help resolve our budget problem.

The governor’s CalWORKS proposal:
• Reduces the maximum time one can be enrolled in CalWORKS from 60 to 24 months;
• Requires CalWORKs recipients to attend a face-to-face self-sufficiency interview every six months;
• Counts months in sanction status towards the lifetime limit on aid, undercutting the welfare to work character of the program;
• Cuts all aid for families receiving safety net benefits beyond the time limit unless families meet federal work participation rates;
• Cuts monthly grants to CalWORKS enrollees by six percent to $651, lower than it was 20 years ago; and
• Eliminates future COLAs for CalWORKS grants.

In one of his several May Revise budgets, the governor proposed to eliminate CalWORKS. Since the budget Conference Committee resoundingly rejected that proposal, the governor is repackaging the idea with thin veneer of “reform.” The effect of his new proposal is to reduce CalWORKS eligibility so enormously that only the most employable people can enroll. That ignores the people who need help the most at a time when more people need CalWORKS to find work or transition into a new career.

The facts show a need for CalWORKS. Unfortunately, the governor is using the power of myth to justify his draconian proposal. The worst of these myths is that CalWORKS is a drain on the budget. As pointed out in a publication by the County Welfare Directors Association of California, CalWORKs has contributed over $12 billion to the General Fund since its inception. And, CalWORKs provides an important boost to the state’s economy, generating $7.1 billion in economic output, 137,000 private and public‐sector jobs, and $130 million in sales tax revenues. Why would we ever want to stop that?

CalWORKS is a job creator; the governor’s proposal is a family-killer.