Welcome to the Poor House
Schwarzenegger’s plan would cut welfare money to low-income families and kids.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Sandra Rangel depends on a monthly state check to put a roof over the heads of her 13-year-old twin sons and 3-year-old daughter. The Castroville single parent lost her job as a school janitor at the end of last year, and has been struggling to find work ever since. “The older children can understand when you tell them ‘I don’t have any money,’” Rangel says in Spanish through a translator. “The little one doesn’t understand that there is no food.”
With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to completely eliminate the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility for Kids Program (CalWORKs), Rangel could lose the $359 a month she receives in aid. “It’s not just me that depends on financial aid but many of us single parents,” she says, sitting inside the Castro Plaza Child and Family Resource Center in Castroville. “It’s going to hurt us drastically.”
Without the money from the state, Rangel says she wouldn’t be able to afford the room she rents. “There is no place I can live for free,” she says. “I have to pay rent.”
CalWORKs serves roughly 14,000 people in Monterey County, 11,500 of them children (this is one out of 10 children in the county), says Elliott Robinson, director of the county’s Department of Social and Employment Services. Robinson says local families are especially dependent on the program now because of the county’s high unemployment rate: 11.7 percent in April, up from 7.6 percent a year ago. “Now, more than ever, for families to make ends meet becomes more complex,” he says.
Axing CalWORKs won’t be an easy sell to state Democrats. If Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut off welfare payments goes through, it would mean a $58.5 million hit to the county. Here are some other controversial state reductions, from social services to state parks.
• Eliminate the Healthy Families program, which provides medical, dental and vision care to 19,674 children in the county.
• Cut by 90 percent the 3,600 low-income disabled and elderly individuals who qualify for In-Home Supportive Services.
• Reduce Child Protective Services funding by $700,000.
• Further restrict who qualifies for Medi-Cal, an estimated $10 million hit locally.
• Reduce school-district funding, ranging from 10 and 30 percent. Monterey County Office of Education’s budget would be cut 16.6 percent.
• Close 220 state parks, including Point Lobos, Pfeiffer Big Sur, Andrew Molera, Garrapata, Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Carmel River, Marina, Monterey and Moss Landing state beaches.
Back at the Family Resource Center, Director Noemy Loveless explains that center’s services are in high demand due to the unstable economy and unyielding home foreclosures. Loveless worries that if the state eliminates programs like CalWORKs and Healthy Families, safety-net providers will run into roadblocks while trying to help needy North County residents. Loveless says without state assistance, staff may have to refer clients to last-resort options like the food bank or a homeless shelter.
Rangel hopes that she can continue receiving welfare until she finds work. “I am willing to go and find a job and forget about all these food stamps and cash aid,” she says. But as an undocumented immigrant who doesn’t speak English, she says her job prospects are limited.