The California Hunger Action Coalition (CHAC) and anti-hunger advocates from across the state traveled to Sacramento on May 17th to educate our legislators and senators about the issue of hunger and advocate for anti-hunger legislation. A group of over twenty people from the Central Coast made the journey.
Just one week later, on June 1st, the California Assembly passed AB 6 AND AB 69 of the CalFresh Act of 2011 State Legislative Agenda. These bills seek to increase access to and participation in CalFresh by removing barriers and simplifying the application process, while simultaneously implementing cost savings efforts.
“CalFresh brings over $2 billion in federal dollars to California’s economy every year, which is spent in local grocery stores,” explains Joel Campos, Senior Manager, Outreach and Education at Second Harvest. “It further stimulates our local economy by freeing up money that is then spent in taxable sectors of the economy, such as clothing.”
Campos, who also serves as a State Co-Chair for CHAC, says that, “Only half of the eligible households utilize the program because of costly barriers that make it difficult for people to apply for and receive benefits. Increasing participation levels to near 100% of eligible households has the potential to benefit all Californians with an additional $8.7 billion in economic activity associated with these lost federal benefits.”
What is The CalFresh Act of 2011?
State Legislative Agency AB 6 would reduce costly and burdensome quarterly reporting requirements that are a barrier to access. California is the last state using a quarterly reporting system for CalFresh. Moving from quarterly to semi-annual reporting would improve access for needy California families while reducing administrative costs.
It would also eliminate the fingerprint imaging requirement, a system that costs an estimated $17 million per year to operate, yet hasn’t been shown to improve system integrity. “Finger imaging is a huge expense and it discourages participation,” says Campos. “Removing the requirement would simplify the application process and save state general fund dollars.”
State Legislative Agency AB 69 would streamline the process for enrolling Social Security recipients in California into CalFresh. “The application process is challenging for many seniors and as a result, only 10% of eligible seniors participate in CalFresh,” Campos says. “Yet many are struggling to make ends meet.”
CHAC is also advocating to:
• Improve School Breakfast Programs, which can provide an essential source of daily nutrition to low-income children, but are under utilized in California schools.
• Maintain support for health and human services programs that, if cut, will increase poverty and hunger among low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities.
• Pass a state budget that helps get families back on track and back to work.
According to California food policy advocates, there are almost three million people who are not participating in the CalFresh program, and are suffering from food insecurity as a result. With the cuts already passed that will impact low-income individuals and families the most, food banks will surely see significant increase in need. We can help all these families by advocating to our representatives to remove the barriers that make it hard for people to receive this critical nutrition assistance.