State Budget Update: Some Progress, But Not Enough

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6.17.2014 On Sunday, June 15, the California Legislature passed its 2014-15 budget package, including the budget bill and companion trailer bills. The budget package is a result of negotiations between the Governor and the Legislature. Compared to earlier budget proposals, the package reflects the Governor's more conservative revenue estimates and a few additional investments in programs and services for California's poorest residents. The budget package maintains the Governor's priorities of paying down state debt and building a rainy day fund.

California needs a budget that supports the health and well being of all residents. In addition to shrewd savings and debt repayment, the State should focus on investments in vital public programs that help struggling Californians get back on their feet. The Legislature's 2014-15 budget package does not do enough to restore core programs and services, such as SSI and CalWORKs, which have been hardest hit by cuts in recent years. The Governor and the Legislature can and should do more to reduce poverty in California and protect residents from food insecurity. As this year's budget negotiations come to a close, we urge our state leaders to consider future action to this effect.

Enacting the 2014-2015 Budget
The new fiscal year begins on July 1. The Governor is expected to sign the budget bill and related trailer bills by this date.

The Budget & Nutrition for Californians in Need
CalFresh
CFPA has supported the elimination of the CalFresh Drug Felon Ban, the continued implementation of Heat and Eat, and the full use of categorical eligibility as means of strengthening the safety net for struggling Californians. We applaud the Legislature and the Governor for including these important items in their budget package.

Repeal of the Lifetime Ban for People with a Prior Drug-Felony Conviction
The budget fully repeals the ban on providing CalFresh nutrition benefits to Californians with a prior drug felony conviction as long as they are complying with their probation or parole. This action will help ensure that Californians have access to the resources necessary for a successful re-entry into society.

Continuation of Heat and Eat
The budget invests $10.5 million from the General Fund for a state energy assistance subsidy benefit to continue the Heat and Eat Program for low-income Californians. The state investment will draw down hundreds of millions in federally funded CalFresh benefits. The budget awards $20 in annual state utility assistance to CalFresh recipients who do not reach the shelter deduction cap without a Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) or who cannot meet the SUA verification without this assistance.

Expanded Categorical Eligibility
The budget uses the federal Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) policy option to increase the gross income limit from 130% of the federal poverty line (FPL) to 200% FPL for all CalFresh households. Households will still need to meet the 100% FPL net-income test. This action follows the Governor's signature of AB 191(Bocanegra - 2013) which increased the gross income limit from 130% FPL to 200% FPL for CalFresh households that included a Medi-Cal recipient. This will greatly improve the implementation of and expand the client benefits of AB 191.

Questions? Contact Alexis Fernández at 510.433.1122 ext. 111 or alexis@cfpa.net

Early Childhood Education (ECE)
The budget provides $264 million to expand early education programs, adding 11,500 preschool slots for low-income families by June 2015 and 31,500 additional slots in the coming years. The funding will also be used to improve transitional kindergarten and increase child care reimbursements for providers.

CFPA applauds the Legislature's efforts to invest in California's child care system, but we are disappointed to report that the approved ECE budget package does not include any investments in early childhood nutrition.

It is unclear why the Assembly's proposed nutrition investment was ultimately eliminated from the Legislature's budget. CFPA will work to identify these reasons and determine next steps. We will follow-up with additional details as they emerge.

We are appreciative of the broad support this proposal received from a variety of organizations, including social service agencies, non-profit health groups, ECE programs and administrators, early childhood advocates, and research centers. While this particular budget strategy may have proved unsuccessful, we will continue our work in this area. We are committed to improving ECE nutrition environments for all young children in our state.

Learn more about ECE Nutrition Investments. link

Questions? Contact Elyse Homel-Vitale at 510.433.1122 ext. 206 or elyse@cfpa.net

LCFF & School Meal Provisions
The budget will better align the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) with access to free school meals by allowing schools that utilize a school meal provision to establish a four-year baseline of low-income students for the purposes of LCFF (with annual adjustments for incoming and outgoing students).

School meal provisions, such as Provision 2 (P2) and the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), are federally authorized options that enable high-poverty schools to serve school meals free of charge to all students.. Making LCFF compatible with these provisions will help direct state and federal resources where they are needed most.

Learn more about the connections between LCFF and school meals. link

Questions? Contact Tia Shimada at 510.433.1122 ext. 109 or tia@cfpa.net

Direct Certification & School Meals
The budget authorizes the California Department of Education (CDE) to create three positions to implement a direct certification demonstration project that will test the use of Medi-Cal data for automatically enrolling students in free school meals. CDE has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to participate in the demonstration. The positions will be made available pending USDA's approval of that proposal.

Direct certification is an efficient, paperless method of determining students'eligibility for free and reduced-price school meals. With direct certification, low-income students are more likely to be enrolled to receive free school meals and more likely to participate in the school meal programs. We appreciate CDE's efforts to bring Medi-Cal Direct Certification to California – and we value the support of the Governor and the Legislature in advancing those efforts.

Questions? Contact Elyse Homel Vitale at 510.433.1122 ext. 206 or elyse@cfpa.net