Spending Plan Increases Funding for CalWORKs Housing Services, but Fails to Eliminate the “Family Cap” Rule
The California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program is a key part of the state’s safety net for families with low incomes. CalWORKs provides cash assistance to families with children while helping parents overcome barriers to employment and find work. Budget cuts made during and following the Great Recession reduced benefits to families. These reductions included substantially lowering grant levels, eliminating the COLA for grants, imposing a 24-month “clock” on the amount of time parents can access the full array of welfare-to-work activities, and rolling back the maximum amount of time adults can participate in the program from five years to four years.
The 2015-16 budget agreement increases General Fund support by $15 million for the successful CalWORKs Housing Support Program, bringing total funding to $35 million in 2015-16. However, the Legislature’s original version of the 2015-16 budget package boosted funding for this program by $30 million – double the increase that was included in the budget agreement.
In addition, the budget agreement does not include a number of other legislative proposals that would have provided additional support for families working toward economic security. These include, for example, repealing the Maximum Family Grant policy (often referred to as the “family cap”), reinstating the COLA effective July 1, 2019, and suspending the 24-month clock. While the 2013-14 and 2014-15 budget agreements partially reversed cuts to cash assistance, CalWORKs grant levels remain far below the deep-poverty threshold of 50 percent of the poverty line, and families currently lose cash assistance before their incomes lift them out of poverty.