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The Budget Center communications team sat down with Monica Saucedo (she/her), Senior Policy Fellow at the Budget Center, who conducts research on public policies related to the social safety net and their effect on Californians with low incomes.

This Q&A series is your chance to get to know our team, their areas of expertise, and how their work at the Budget Center supports policy change in California. In this conversation, we’ll look at the nuances between safety net and economic security, and explore Monica’s personal experiences that fuel her passion for public policy.

This interview was edited by Kat Petsalis, Communications Strategist at the Budget Center.

Can you tell us about your role at the Budget Center?

I joined the team in March of this year, initially hired for safety net policy, a broad area aligning with my doctoral research on federal safety net policies. I’ve had the opportunity to delve into issues I’m passionate about, with a recent focus on food assistance due to the evolving COVID-19 relief policies. In the upcoming year, I plan to dedicate more time to CalWORKs, highlighting its impact on Californians in poverty, particularly children. 

Ultimately, I hope to expand my role to include economic security, completing the circle of supporting individuals in accessing benefits and fostering self-sufficiency.

Can you expand on the difference between safety net and economic security?

Safety net programs aim to address immediate needs arising from systemic barriers forcing individuals into poverty. While crucial, we also need to consider economic security, enhancing jobs and wages to empower individuals in their socioeconomic mobility. The goal is not just filling gaps but ensuring individuals feel fulfilled in their journey toward self-sufficiency.

Tell me more about your training, and the overlap between your PhD and your work at the Budget Center?

My Ph.D. in economics, specializing in public finance and labor economics, provides a unique perspective on the intersection of government funding and people’s needs. My research in grad school focused on federal programs, examining the role of food banks in the safety net. Transitioning to state policy in California has been both a learning experience and an exciting opportunity to use my skills to drive policy change.

What inspired your interest in research and public policy?

Growing up in a low-income, immigrant family, I witnessed the challenges and opportunities firsthand. After college, working in a low-income community exposed me to diverse issues. The limitations of direct service prompted me to pursue policy change through graduate school, driven by a belief that data-driven policy solutions are necessary to address systemic challenges.

What is something exciting you have recently worked on or are currently working on?

There are so many things that I’m excited about, but high-stakes technical assistance requests at the Budget Center, such as analyzing the reimagined CalWORKs campaign, have been thrilling. Collaborating with advocates and my colleague Alissa Anderson on the HOPE baby bond initiative allows me to apply my math background in creating impactful models presented to the legislature.

Baby bonds are such an innovative way to try to address the racial wealth gap. We often talk about poverty and low income, but there’s a bigger discrepancy in wealth. It’s so important to get children who are systematically excluded from building wealth as a result of structural racism started early on with a good sum of money to put them on a level playing field. That’s why this is such a positive development in public policy.

What’s one thing you can’t get through the workday without?

I’m basic — I rely on my Keurig machine for coffee. Starting my day with a cup of coffee and a daily Wordle session is my essential ritual.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

I enjoy reading the news, solving crossword puzzles, and embracing my love for nerdy pursuits. My three dogs — Nala, Bruno, and Pepper — play a significant role in helping me decompress and stay grounded.

Media Contacts

Kyra Moeller
Communications Strategist

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