End Child Poverty California Statement on 2023-24 California Budget

GRACE & ECPCA praise a California state budget that protects and makes key progress, calls for a bold vision of revenues and investments needed to end child poverty.

Statement attributable to Shimica Gaskins, President & CEO, GRACE & End Child Poverty California

At GRACE, we dare to dream of a future in which every child is valued and free, and know that budgets, as statements of values, make critical choices that affect our ability to end poverty through public policy. We are grateful that this budget protects critical progress, using the limited resources available to make important investments and prepare for the next opportunity to make significant movement toward that goal.

Governor Newsom and Legislative leaders are applauded for making clear from the outset that, despite the budget problem, we would learn from the mistakes of the devastating Great Recession cuts. This budget ends the conversation that austerity is the right approach during downturns: anti-poverty programs are needed more during hard times, and support economic recovery through their tremendous return on investment.

There are several End Child Poverty CA IMAGINE victories in this budget, including:

Child care
• Historic restructuring of family fees based in racist, sexist stereotypes about Black and Brown mothers, capping fees at 1% of family income and preventing collection of family fee debts from the pandemic.
• We stand in solidarity with Child Care Providers United and all providers that our early education workforce needs permanent rate reform and sustainable wages, not short-term stipends.

• Permanent 10% increase to CalWORKs grants, and a requirement to display grant levels relative to the federal poverty level including the Assistance Unit +1 to reflect that a significant share of households have an unaided adult due to sanction, immigration status, or other barrier. This is a direct, material step toward our mission of ending child poverty and we thank the Legislature and Governor for this achievement.

• Establish the CalFresh Minimum Pilot Program to provide 1 year of CalFresh benefits of at least $50 a month, more than double the $23 federal minimum. We thank Senator Menjivar for making this a priority to address the unprecedented hunger cliff caused by federal cuts. This is a critical step toward a permanent, statewide minimum benefit envisioned in Sen. Menjivar’s SB 600 and first introduced in 2017 (AB 2297, Arambula).

School & Summer Meals For All
• More than $300 million to bolster California’s first-in-the-nation school meals for all.
• Maximize Summer EBT participation to ensure as many low-income children as possible receive the benefit to which they are entitled. We thank Senator Skinner, who remarked that while this may appear small it unlocks nearly $500 million in federally funded food benefits to prevent child summer hunger.
• Summer EBT became a nationwide program through the 2022 Omnibus, culminating a decade of advocacy led by California Members of Congress and anti-hunger advocates. We call on Congress to pass Rep. Mike Levin’s Stop Child Hunger Act to bolster Summer EBT, including during unanticipated disasters when children are in greatest need.

Foster Youth
• Create a housing supplement for youth in a supervised independent living placement (SILP) to prevent youth homelessness.
• Prevent the Foster Youth Tax Credit from debt interception, fulfilling the original intent and preventing inequitable treatment for foster youth.

We are disappointed that despite the larger, accelerated Managed Care Organization tax, the trigger for continuous Medi-Cal coverage for kids 0-5 remains and that the Comprehensive Perinatal Services Program benefit was not extended.

Looking forward, we are prepared to work with the Administration on what was not achieved, including the Reimagine CalWORKs package to fulfill this vital program as anti-racist and family centered. We celebrate the progress made this first year, led by Asm. Arambula and Senators Menjivar and Rubio. Reimagine CalWORKs aligns with the Governor’s north star to end child poverty by reforming sanctions that push 60,000 children into deeper poverty.

We are confident that anything not accomplished was from a lack of resources, not a lack of shared vision for a more just, prosperous California, and that low-income Californians have a robust safety net that gives them opportunities for their future.

California still has the highest poverty rate of any state in the nation, and policymakers must continue to act. We call for comprehensive approaches such as the Senate’s Plan that included more equitable revenues as well as investments in safety net programs, refundable tax credits, and other proven anti-poverty strategies.

Our coalition of over 170 partners and allies looks forward to engaging with the Governor, Administration, and Legislature to see all IMAGINE priorities are achieved as part of a pathway to lift all children and families out of poverty.