It has been over a decade since the Great Recession devastated our state’s economy, caused massive state budget shortfalls, and undercut the short- and long-term economic and social prospects for millions of Californians. As revenues fell, state policymakers balanced the budget, in part, by making drastic cuts to social safety net programs such as Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP), which helps to support more than 1 million seniors and people with disabilities with low incomes.
Our state has a diverse and dynamic economy. Yet, a large share of Californians live in poverty, wages for the typical worker have been stagnant over the past generation, and there is a widening gap between the wealthiest Californians and households with low incomes. Through our analyses of employment, incomes, and overall economic security, the Budget Center seeks to shed light on state and regional trends while highlighting potential policy approaches for helping Californians with low and middle incomes be able to work, live and provide for their families in our communities.
California allows parents less time receiving welfare-to-work cash support than 37 states and D.C. In most states, parents’ lifetime time limit is 60 months, the maximum allowed for federally-funded TANF support. But California restricts parents in CalWORKs, the state’s TANF program, to only 48 months – a full year less.
Housing costs vary substantially throughout California, with the highest costs in coastal urban areas and the lowest costs in inland rural areas. But incomes also vary regionally, and areas with relatively lower housing costs also tend to have lower typical incomes. The result is that housing affordability is clearly a problem throughout the state when housing costs are compared to incomes.
State policymakers have an opportunity to lead again by making the CalEITC inclusive of immigrant families who are not eligible to receive it today. This easy-to-print infographic shows what the tax credits can help pay for in a family budget and why including immigrant families is a critical next step for California.
Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) grants are a critical source of income for well over 1 million California seniors and people with disabilities who have low incomes and need help paying for basic necessities, such as housing. Grants are funded with both federal (SSI) and state (SSP) dollars. The maximum monthly grant for an individual is about $944, which consists of an SSI grant of $783 and an SSP grant of $160.72. To help close budget shortfalls during the Great Recession, the state made deep cuts to the SSP portion, reducing it from $233 per month in early 2009 to $156.40 per month by mid-2011. State policymakers increased the SSP grant by $4.32 per month starting in January 2017. However, no additional state grant increases have been provided since then, and the Governor’s proposed 2020-21 state budget assumes the SSP portion will remain frozen for another year.