A key policy panel today approved a plan to help end childhood deep poverty by modestly raising cash grants for eligible working-class families.
As approved by the Senate Committee on Human Services, Senate Bill 982 by Sen. Holly J. Mitchell would help more than a million Californians – nearly 900,000 of them children – through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program.
“The current maximum grant level of $714 is actually $9 lower than the maximum grant level was over a decade ago,” Mitchell said about a program that provides cash assistance to families who need help with housing, food, utilities and clothing, as well as welfare-to-work programs such job training and classroom education by. “Without a substantial increase, grant levels will have remained below the deep poverty line for 11 years in a row. To me, this is entirely unacceptable. We must do better on behalf of all of California’s children.”
Without social-safety net programs like CalWORKS, almost half a million Californians would be in deep poverty. Programs such as CalWORKs, CalFresh food assistance and the Earned Income Tax Credit are buffers keeping tens of thousands of additional families from falling below the poverty line. Without these programs, an additional 14 percent of young children would live in deep poverty.
Children living day-in-and-day-out with deprivation often suffer delayed brain development that shadows them throughout life. Children in deep poverty are less likely to graduate from high school, and more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system. Even a short amount of time living in such conditions can derail a child emotionally, physically and educationally.
SB 982 is supported by a broad coalition of faith leaders, health and children’s advocates, juvenile and criminal justice reform groups, food banks, labor and local county boards of supervisors and health departments.
Among the bill’s sponsors are: Black Women for Wellness; California Partnership; Children’s Defense Fund-California; Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights; the County Welfare Directors Association of California; the Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations; Latinas for Reproductive Justice; the National Association of Social Workers; the National Council of Jewish Women-California; and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
Mitchell acknowledged that as chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, SB 982 clearly has budget implications. “Our budget is a statement of values and it is time to place our most at-risk populations in this statement.”
SB 982 will next be reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. A hearing date has not yet been set.