On June 29, Governor Newsom signed the final 2020-21 state budget that puts forth a plan for the state address the both the COVID-19 public health crisis and its negative economic impact on the state’s fiscal position. The enacted budget draws on state reserves and federal funds to close the budget shortfall, but does not include proposals for new revenue. The budget makes modest investments in programs that help low-income Californians make ends meet, but falls far short of the spending needed to address the growing need due to the deep and ongoing recession. The budget also includes $11 billion in spending cuts that would be reversed if the federal government provides fiscal relief to state and local governments.
The following are highlights from the 2020-21 state budget with respect to food security:
K-12 STUDENT HUNGER
- The final budget includes $112.2 million in federal funds to support school nutrition programs. Local Education Agencies (LEAs) can access the funding to reimburse meals (at 75 cents per meal) served from March-August 2020. LEAs can also access additional reimbursements (above the 75 cents) if meal demand was lower than previously estimated. CFPA and our anti-hunger partners are disappointed that no funding was tied to an expectation that students would have guaranteed access to meals over the summer months, when food insecurity among low-income K-12 students typically rises. While it is understood that schools and nutrition programs are facing real and stark fiscal challenges, the funding as allocated will not necessarily improve access to vital summer meals for low-income K-12 students. As written, the bill language also does not make the funds available to food banks and other non-profits who serve summer meals. CFPA remains committed to prioritizing increased access to school meals during the summer and beyond, and looks forward to working with the Administration and Legislature to ensure kids receive meals the need to continue to learn, grow, and thrive during the COVID-19 crisis.
The budget makes several administrative changes to County Welfare Department CalFresh operations, including advocates’ longstanding recommendation to leverage Medi-Cal data to identify eligible CalFresh households and provide pre-populated CalFresh application forms. The human services trailer bill also initiates a process to simplify the SAR-7 mid-period report that is a major cause of programmatic churn, though it falls short of eliminating the SAR-7 requirement for over 500,000 households with elderly and/or disabled members, as was proposed in SB 882. The budget also maintains support for the expansion of CalFresh to SSI recipients, which was rolled out in June 2019.
EMERGENCY FOOD PROGRAMS
The budget includes $8 million for CalFood, and $50 million for Emergency Food Boxes. The budget also includes major investments in the emergency food system as it responds to record demand for food as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
- The budget includes a significant improvement in the CalWORKs program by moving the program back to the 60 month time-clock that existed prior to the previous recession. The change aligns the state with federal law and will help families who need more time to find adequate employment.
- Maintains current funding for SSI/SSP grants, and rejects the Governor’s May Revision proposal that would have withheld the 2021 cost of living adjustment.
CalEITC and Young Child Tax Credit:
- The budget expands the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to households with children under the age of six that file their taxes using ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). CFPA and our fellow members of the CalEITC coalition applaud this small step toward equity for undocumented low-income Californians, and look forward to continuing our work to make the CalEITC available to every California household, regardless of immigration status.
HEALTH AND HEALTHCARE
Medi-Cal for Undocumented Older Adults:
- The final budget does not include an expansion of Medi-Cal for all income-eligible seniors ages 65 and older regardless of immigration status, as originally proposed in the Governor’s January budget. Rather, it puts expansion on hold, to be implemented only on the condition that the Department of Finance determines that the state’s reserve account exceeds the estimated cost of the expansion for the upcoming fiscal year and three additional years. We, and our fellow members of the Health4All coalition, are deeply disappointed by this proposed delay and will continue to advocate that health care be expanded as soon as possible to older adults, regardless of immigration status.
Due to the extended state tax deadline (July 15) and the budget structure’s reliance on future federal relief, the State may reopen budget negotiations later this session. CFPA and our anti-hunger partners continue to call on the federal government to provide critical support to state and local governments. We also encourage the state to seek new opportunities to increase state revenue. We look forward to working with the Legislature and Administration to ensure that the the state budget reflects our shared values of equity, inclusion, and justice.