In this troubled year of too little money in our budget, one Assembly Member has found something that can genuinely begin lifting people from poverty.
AB 1994 (Patty Lopez-D, San Fernando) changes the standards for those receiving CalWORKs, the paltry support for people needing welfare. CalWORKs has a lifetime limit of four years (children may get supports longer, but that’s the adult limit) during which time they are to work for their cash grant of a little over $600. That is below minimum wage but is mandated for those without infants and very young toddlers.
This means people enter the system poor, remain poor, do dead-end jobs for 4 years, and exit poor with no improvement in skills.
That is not what we were promised in 1996 when longer term Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) began. No – we were promised that recipients could go to school and use TANF (CalWORKs is our state program) as that “hand under the elbow” until they became self sufficient.
Instead the Scrooges of our society decided school was coddling people. Work! That’s what they need! Work! Never mind it was menial and improved nothing – they can’t be slackers but have to ‘earn their keep’ while on the public dime.
We have not diminished poverty. This narrow-minded policy has made it much worse. We have great case load reduction; kicking people out after four years will do that. But they’re no better off than they were when they started.
Assembly Member Lopez thinks this is nuts. So do we. We in the faith community want a moral and useful alternative to low-wage labor and persistent poverty. AB 1994 will allow CalWORKs recipients to do one major thing to change their lives: participate in high school or GED classes and testing to earn their diplomas or GEDs.
Sixty-five percent of recipients do not have a high school diploma or GED. Allowing them to go to school and earn that critical document is life changing for the better. Almost no job in this state does not require one or the other. AB 1994 therefore is a major game changer for thousands of recipients.
Please write to Asm. Lopez and her staff expressing support for AB 1994. We so rarely find really good ways to help people in need we cannot let this chance go by. We have to stand up to the naysayers and Scrooges – it’s not work people need; it’s real opportunities to change their circumstances.
We need letters by this coming Friday to go to Asm. Susan Bonilla, Chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee and to Asm. Lopez.
Here is a sample letter:
Date ____Please Submit by March 18, 2016
Susan Bonilla, Chair
Assembly Human Services Committee
State Capitol, Room 5175
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: Support for AB 1994 (Lopez)
Dear Chairperson Bonilla:
[I or Name of Your Organization if applicable (Who you are – social justice, congregation, etc. and what your values are on this issue) supports Assembly Bill 1994 (Lopez) that would increase the percentage of CalWORKs recipients who obtain a high school diploma or GED, by creating a onetime incentive to complete high school or its equivalent. This will aid recipients in becoming more self-sufficient and able to obtain work in a competitive job market.
According to CDSS, 65% of CalWORKs recipients who are heads of household do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent. This blocks their access to obtaining all but the most menial of dead-end jobs.
There a direct correlation between educational attainment and income. Specifically high school diplomas and GEDs offer a single parent the opportunity to increase their annual income by $8,000.00. Other positive connections include: more educated workforce, an increase in productivity of workers, gaining full time employment, becoming civically engaged, and increased understanding of the importance of education, which they pass on to their children.
The CalWORKs program provides cash aid but has barred access to education for too many.
I/we support/s AB 1994 because it creates the CalED Program to assist CalWORKs recipients who are at least 19 years of age to obtain high school diplomas or equivalency certificates. AB 1994 provides an incentive/aid supplement to the participant as they successfully complete high school or a high school equivalency examination at a certificated testing site. AB 1994 would require counties to arrange for education and supportive services that an individual needs to successfully participate in the CalED Program.
I/We urge your “Aye” vote. Thank you.
Your Name and Title
Address with ZIP
Please send your letter or email (include your name and address in both cases) to:
Asm. Patty Lopez’s staff: Kristi.firstname.lastname@example.org or send a FAX to Asm. Patty Lopez’s office at 916-319-2139 (Yes – Kristi Lopez is a staff member in Patty Lopez’s office.)
Assembly Human Services staff:
These two email addresses will get your letter to Asm. Bonilla and all other Human Services Committee members.
Asm. Bonilla’s FAX is 916-319-2114
AB 1994 will change lives for the better. Please write by this Friday, March 18 to get your voices added to the list of supporters for this excellent bill.