Video: California’s safety net in times of recession and recovery


Danielson noted that California’s safety net meets increased needs during recessions, but there are gaps, especially for adults without children and families with mixed immigration statuses. California’s most important safety net programs share several characteristics that create challenges during an economic downturn: gaps in program eligibility, incomplete program participation, and an insufficiently systemic approach. Given the major role of federal policymakers in regulating and funding much of the safety net, what can state policymakers do to mobilize resources?

Kim Johnson, director of the California Department of Social Services, highlighted the partnership between community organizations and the state during the pandemic as a model for the future. “The way we came together. . . has been great and absolutely necessary, ”she said. At the start of the pandemic, the state worked with community groups to find ways to provide support to those who were asked to stay at home, to avoid unnecessary ‘attrition’ and to gain support. both for those who were already registered and those who were newly in need.

California has also sought to fill loopholes created by federal rules, for example by creating the Disaster Immigrant Assistance Program. Andrew Cheyne, director of government affairs for the California Association of Food Banks, stressed the importance of closing these gaps. He highlighted proposed legislation to provide dedicated food resources to Californians excluded from CalFresh due to federal rules and underscored the need to address disparate rates of safety net use for non-English speakers. In general, he added, “we must be assertive in dismantling institutional prejudices”.

Mayra Alvarez, president of the Children’s Partnership, said the pandemic has underscored the need for a systems approach. “We can’t look at single programs,” she said. “What systems are in place to serve our most marginalized communities? . . . How can we help these systems be more responsive? I think it really came to life during this pandemic. “

Panelists agreed that there is great potential for change. State and federal leaders are proposing a series of measures that expand access to the safety net and bring economic relief. As Johnson said, “This is an opportunity like no other. Difficult to say if it will come back. And I think there’s so much alignment in the engagement, in the “how” we want to do our job to bring about the change. “


Julio V. Miller

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