by Colleen Rivecca
On Wednesday, February 26, St. Anthony’s will be joining advocates from across the state for a day of action addressing poverty in California. We’ll be meeting with legislators to talk about ideas for addressing poverty and will attend a hearing of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, where legislators will discuss poverty in California and the impact of recent cuts to social service programs.
Although California has made economic progress since the recession, poverty and long-term unemployment in the state remain high. Last October, Stanford University released a report using a poverty measure that takes California’s high cost of living into account. The report showed that 22% of Californians live in poverty. Census data confirmed the poverty level found in Stanford’s report and showed that California’s poverty rate is higher than any other state in the nation.
Over the years of the recession, the California legislature and governor have made significant cuts to safety net programs like SSI (cash aid for low-income seniors and people with disabilities), CalWORKs (California’s welfare-to-work program for low-income families) and the In-Home Supportive Services (home-based care for low-income people who need help with activities of daily living).
Over the years of budget deficits during the recession, California made significant cuts to SSI, cutting the program by $77 per month for and eliminating the cost of living adjustment for the state portion of the grant. St. Anthony’s has noticed a significant increase in hunger among low-income seniors and people with disabilities who receive SSI. SSI recipients in California are ineligible for federal nutrition assistance through the SNAP (food stamp) program. SSI benefit levels in California are currently only 90% of the federal poverty level: a single SSI recipient receives $877.40 per month. After paying their rent and out-of-pocket medical expenses, seniors have very little money at the end of the month for necessities like food, transportation, and toiletries. Many seniors visit free meal programs like St. Anthony’s Dining Room to help make ends meet.
St. Anthony’s is bringing dining room guests who are SSI recipients to Sacramento on February 26 to talk to the legislature about the impact of cuts on their ability to meet their basic needs, and to ask for restorations. If you’d like to share your views about how to address poverty in California, send an email to the members of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. Click here for committee members names and contact information.
If you’d like to learn about advocacy opportunities with St. Anthony’s, email Colleen at crivecca <at>stanthonysf<dot>org to be added to St. Anthony’s advocacy email list.