Lawmakers reject Gov. Brown's cuts to welfare [Updated]
An Assembly subcommittee rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed cuts to CalWORKs on Wednesday, dealing a blow to the governor’s spending plan.
Brown wants to stop welfare benefits for people who cannot find adequate work after two years rather than four. Although families with children would continue to receive benefits after that, the average monthly check would be slashed by 20%, to $368.
The Brown administration estimated that restructuring the program would save $946.2 million in the next budget year.
Advocates for the poor say the cuts would be devastating to families, especially because it remains difficult to find jobs. Nearly 600,000 families receive CalWORKs benefits.
[Updated at 7:27 p.m. "Children are slipping into destitution. Destitution is a place. And this proposal would make that destination California," Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), the subcommittee's chair, said in a statement.]
Three Democrats on the health and human services subcommittee voted against the cuts and one Republican voted for them.
“It’s disappointing,” said Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for the governor. “The cuts the governor proposed are tough but necessary in light of the state’s fiscal situation.”
Brown had hoped that lawmakers would start trimming CalWORKs spending in March, rather than waiting until closer to the June 30 budget deadline. But top Democrats have said they will hold off until updated budget numbers are available in May.
Subcommittee members did mirror one part of Brown’s proposal. They voted to allow welfare recipients to keep a larger part of their paycheck if they’re earning some money while receiving benefits.
The hearing was heavily attended and several women urged lawmakers to reject cuts to CalWORKs. One said she and her children would be homeless without welfare benefits.
If the funding is cut, one woman said, “please change the name of CalWORKs to ‘Cal Kills,’ because that’s what it will do to California."
-- Chris Megerian
Photo: Residents line up at a social services office in Los Angeles. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times