Reality Check: The Governor’s CalWORKs Proposals

Today, Governor Schwarzenegger held a press conference to outline his proposed changes to the CalWORKs Program, including imposing stricter penalties for recipients who do not, or cannot, meet CalWORKs work participation requirements. He also seeks to reduce lifetime limits on CalWORKs assistance for those not meeting federal work requirements.

The CBP will be taking a closer look at these proposals; stay tuned. But there are some important points CBP staff want to add to this conversation right now:

  • The labor market is tough. The state’s unemployment rate reached a record high of 11.5 percent in May, and individuals with limited education, that is, the very people who may rely on CalWORKs for economic security, face an even higher unemployment rate. Just because the Schwarzenegger Administration wants CalWORKs recipients to be employed doesn’t mean there are jobs available.
  • Recognizing the importance of a strong safety net and the need to infuse local economies with additional funds during the recession, the federal government is offering to pay 80 percent of the cost of increased CalWORKs caseloads through the federal economic recovery bill.
  • Contrary to the Governor’s claims, CalWORKs caseloads aren’t “increasing every year.” The number of families receiving CalWORKs dropped by more than 400,000 between March 1995 and March 2009. Yes, the CalWORKs caseload has gone up since July of 2007 – not surprising, given the economic downturn – but the overall trend in California slopes downward.

— Vicky Lovell

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2 thoughts on “Reality Check: The Governor’s CalWORKs Proposals

  1. I notice that the chart above comes from CDSS. You’d think they’d be aware of their own statistics. Nevertheless, the one thing you can count on is politicians will use numbers in any way that suits them. The Governor himself stated that caseloads are “only” down 44%. Then he turned around and said they go up every year!

    I wonder how many successful participants in CalWORKS are looking at losing jobs due to the potential loss of the Stage 2 and 3 child care subsidies. Child care for 3 children costs more than half of an income at 150% of poverty for a family of 4. It strikes me as short-sighted to short-circuit the progress of those who have followed the rules, worked hard, and done it right.

    So much for pulling oneself up by those bootstraps… just when you’re making progress, that bootstrap gets yanked away? If you want someone to learn to stand on their own two feet, it’s best not to cut off their legs as soon as they get their footing.

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