|Summer 2007 Newsletter
||The California Partnership is a statewide coalition of community based organizations that fights poverty in California. We work together for our common goals by organizing and advocating at the local, state and national levels for the programs and policies that reduce and end poverty.|
Summer Greetings to California Partnership Members, Allies, and Friends
Hard to believe that we are very close to an end of this year's state budget season. If the state budget process keeps to its schedule, July 1st will mark the beginning of the new fiscal year for the state of California, when the final bill signed by the Governor becomes law. There was, however, a lot of commotion and action taking place during this process with California Partnership, our members and allies taking issue with the Governor's proposed cuts to the CalWORKs program including full family sanctions and a third year freeze on the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA's). And even now, when it looks as if the full family sanctions have been taken out of the budget (yay!), we are disappointed that our leaders in the Assembly and State did not do enough to push for a defrosting of the COLA's (see our article below on Budget Updates). Although we typically begin our budget work in January at or near the Governor's press conference where the proposed cuts are announced, we realize that there is the opportunity to begin this process much earlier and must take every advantage to get our voices heard in the budget's embryonic stage. So this summer we will be working hard with you, our members and our allies, to ensure that we are more than prepared to take on whatever may be waiting for us next budget season.
Also this summer we'd like to work with our battalion of leaders, staff, and community members on a number of other issues facing low-income families, seniors, disabled and individuals, including healthcare, immigration, and civic engagement. Many of these issues are relevant and precious to our members, and we want to support and help facilitate the efforts of those of you working on these fronts. In this issue you'll find what we and others have been doing up to this point and our plans for further actions around the issues we care most about. Don't forget to check our website often to stay up-to-date on CAP's activities throughout the year. While our work to end poverty in California is never-ending, you can count on us (with much thanks to the support and work of our members, allies and friends!) to “stay the course” and keep this battle going until we've won!
Welcome CAP's Health Policy Specialist Mari Lopez
CAP would like to take this opportunity to formally introduce our Health Policy Specialist, Mari Lopez, who recently joined our staff. Some of you may have already met Mari through various events, activities and meetings. Mari will be California Partnership's lead on our health policy work to promote a proactive agenda that will expand health coverage and create building blocks for universal coverage. Mari will monitor and provide the latest updates on state and nationwide legislative efforts, and keep you abreast on California Partnership's health related trainings, meetings and actions at the state and federal levels. She will be in contact with you all very soon to better learn of your organization's health related work and how California Partnership may better work with you. You may reach Mari by phone at (213) 385-8010 (office), (213) 369-9460 (mobile), or by email, [email protected] . Please welcome her!
CAP May Days 2007: A Huge Success!
On May 14 and 15, CAP led a contingent of members and allies from across the state to the Capital for our annual May Days of Advocacy and Action. This year's theme was "Our Children, Our Healthcare" as we focused on these two important issues affecting low-income children and families during this budget and legislative year.
Over 90 of our members gathered to meet, learn from one another, prepare for our day of action, and to allow our numbers, unity and diversity show our strength and determination to fight for what's right for our families.
The Governor's May Revision of the budget was released the first day we were in Sacramento, and CAP was ready to respond. His revised budget kept the full family sanctions and the suspension of the CalWORKS COLAs (Cost of Living Adjustment), and even added a suspension of the SSI/SSP COLA. Several of our leaders spoke with the media to get out our message that the budget should not be balanced on the backs of the poor. And that evening, family and friends were able to see us in action on an ABC news story aired in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
On the second day of our event, we visited 35 of our Assembly and Senate leaders to give testimony, share their concerns, and to demand that they take a stand firmly against these cuts. Overall, CAP has scheduled and participated in over 60 local and state legislative visits this budget season.
The grand finale of the two day event ended with a loud roar when CAP members, including the local SEIU marched to the office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kim Belshé (see “Bullseye on Belshe” below). This was a very powerful, energizing and fun action for everyone. A HUGE THANKS to all of you who came out to support and participate in this important CAP action!
Bullseye on Belshé
California Partnership leaders have been disappointed in the public statements of California's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kim Belshé a Governor Schwarzenegger appointee, particularly after a letter-to the-editor she wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle in January. In her letter, Ms. Belshé defended Governor Schwarzenegger's CalWORKS budget cuts stating, “Data suggests that those states with full family sanctions in place increase work participation rates by more than 10 percent.” But there is no research showing that the use of full family sanctions is an effective tool for increasing compliance with work requirements. In fact, when Texas imposed full family sanctions in 2003, work participation rates stayed flat, and the number of adults actually participating declined by 64%. Ironically, Belshé was recognized by the California First 5 Commission for “service to the commission and her on-going contribution to the well-being of children and families in California.” Most disturbing, however, is that Belshé didn't admit in her letter that the Governor is using these cuts to help balance the state's budget.
Last March, California Partnership requested a meeting with Secretary Belshé to discuss with her the Governor's budget and its potential impact on CalWORKS. We also wanted to discuss the Governor's healthcare plan, which falls under her agency. Year after year Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed legislation that would have provided Californians with health care coverage. This year, the Governor has promised health care reform and has outlined his own plans but has yet to introduce his own legislation to make it a reality.
Secretary Belshe's office said that she was not available to meet with us, but rather we could meet with her staff. Our leaders strongly felt that the Secretary needed to hear from real people. So, during our May Action Days, California Partnership members went to her office to meet with staff and demand a meeting with the Secretary herself. Over 150 of us ascended on her offices along with SEIU's United Heath Care Workers, and 85 of our leaders managed to occupy the Secretary's conference room. The meeting room began to overflow as more and more of us filed inside until Belshe's staff got the message. We were given an appointment to meet with Secretary Belshe herself on June 13th.
On June 13th, Olivia Beltran from Marin Grassroots Leadership Network, Sylvia Chapman from LIFETIME and Nancy Berlin and Mari Lopez from the CAP staff, met with Secretary Belshe and her staff. Although Ms. Belshe and her staff tried to distract us from our priority agenda item – restoring the CalWORKS cost-of-living adjustment – our leaders were firm in their stance. We stressed that families are falling further behind and struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads when grant levels remain so low. We also delivered the clear message that parents are the true experts and stakeholders in the CalWORKs program, and need to be the core of any reform process. Secretary Belshe instructed her staff to work with us and arrange a meeting with the County Welfare Director's Association to discuss how CalWORKs parents aren't getting the help they need. We will also continue to push for regional hearings that parents can attend to give input about the adequacy of the CalWORKs program, including the grant level, and push for real parent-centered solutions.
On healthcare, while we agreed in principle with the Governor's statements that we need a healthcare system that is universal, we remain unconvinced that his plan provides quality healthcare for all. We particularly stressed the need to cover very low-income workers and undocumented people, and not just settle for a plan that covers children. We expressed our opposition to the individual mandate as well as the shifting of uninsured childless adults and undocumented individuals onto counties without commitments to provide adequate funding to the safety net system.
Leaders who attended the meeting felt that this meeting will help us lay the groundwork for next year's fights, especially to protect CalWORKs. As Sylvia Chapman said, “This is the first step.” And Olivia Beltran summed it up, stating, “They heard us and know they can't ignore us!”
Fortunately, both the Assembly and Senate budget committees removed the full family sanctions from this year's budget, and approved a COLA for SSI/SSP. And it is not without the efforts of our members and allies that this piece of legislation has been defeated, so thanks to you all! Our many legislative visits throughout the year and on May 15 really made a difference!
However, we are still deeply concerned that the CalWORKs COLA has not been included in the budget. This marks the third consecutive year that the CalWORKs COLA has been suspended. Under state law, CalWORKs grants for poor children and their families are supposed to increase each year - but state policymakers want to suspend this Cost-of-Living Adjustment again this year, even though CalWORKs grants are 50% below the poverty line - and are the same amount they were in 1989!
While the state says it doesn't have money for the CalWORKs COLA, it plans to make debt payments to Wall Street brokers a year before the payments are due. Poor children are being asked to sacrifice, while state legislators got an increase in their salaries - and the Governor has proposed a Cost of Living Adjustment for his staff!
What Does the CalWORKs COLA Mean to Low-Income Children? In 1989, milk only cost $1/gallon - today it costs over $4! Low-income families are already struggling to make ends meet, and a CalWORKs COLA would give a typical family of three about $30 more every month to provide food, shelter and the basics for their children.
Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-L.A.) and Senate President Don Perata (D-Oakland) have the chance to add the CalWORKs COLA back into the state budget during the final budget negotiations with the Governor. It's not too late to call and to our state leaders to Choose Children! Use the toll-free numbers below:
Please go to our website, www.california-partnership.org to get the latest updates on the state budget.
Health Coverage for All: California Dream
The Assembly, the Senate and Governor Schwarzenegger all came out of the New Year starting gate running full force to draw up ideas for a statewide plan for providing medical care to EVERYONE. Schwarzenegger presented his proposal early in the year, Speaker Nuñez's AB8 and President Pro-Tem Perata's SB48 have passed out of their respective houses a couple of weeks ago as well as Senator Khuel's dark horse, SB840*. The Perata and Nuñez bills will meet in conference committee to iron out a compromise on their differences. The Governor has no bill of his own to carry out his proposals. So interested parties are keeping their eyes and ears open. We'll keep you posted.
The most important differences between the bills are the following:
Individual Mandates (similar to vehicle insurance requirements)
Employee Mandate (everyone employed would be required to obtain health coverage offered by their employers who would buy it through a state pool, there is an exception for low-income households who can get subsidized)
Employer Contribution (how much the employer has to pay in order to cover an employee)
Medi-Cal & Healthy Families
*SB848 is a single-payer plan, which does not require individuals to have health coverage, and all funds to pay for healthcare – from employers and government - are paid into a single system that would handle the system of payment to the medical providers. This bill would create a state department to manage paying for care among hospitals, clinics and would have the responsibility to find the funding as well.
Both Houses are working at a compromise, and then will take the amendments back to the Assembly and Senate for a final vote before sending it off to the Governor. The Governor will then have one more chance to demonstrate his commitment to providing health care to all Californians by signing on the proverbial dotted line.
Health Care for EVERY Kid: Everyone's Dream
The federal legislation that needs to be authorized to provide states with funds to pay for programs like Medi-Cal and Healthy Families is treading water at present. The State Children's Health Improvement Act (SCHIP) needs to be renewed, and the feds budgeted it at a cost of $5 billion. Advocates say that's not nearly enough to cover the current enrollees to these programs and the anticipated new ones kids who will qualify. The real cost is $50 billion which has everyone looking under every stone for that extra cash. Congress is operating under the Pay-As-You-Go rule, where you can't submit a bill calling for new or additional funds without finding the money to pay for it first, making it tougher to come up with the needed funds for SCHIP. But there are some great proposals and creative ways to pay for health care for our kids. We'll let you know which ones make it out.
In addition to SCHIP advocates are also calling for the passage of the Legal Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act (ICHIA). Currently, legal immigrants must wait 5 years after adjusting their status before applying to public health programs like Medi-Cal/Healthy Families. ICHIA is legislation eliminating that rule and allowing legal immigrants to apply immediately. In California, our kids are lucky as they all get medical care regardless of status. However, we use money out of the general fund to pay for it. Adding ICHIA to SCHIP would let the state get reimbursed for these kids and freeing up funds for other programs.
We're mounting up the troops and will keep you posted as to how you and your members can make sure this is the year everyone gets health coverage.
Preparing for the 2008 Elections and Beyond
The nation's political landscape is changing, creating hope in low-income communities everywhere. But hope is not enough! We need to begin organizing now to make sure our communities are informed and prepared to participate in the 2008 elections. Healthcare, immigration reform, workers rights and housing – these are just a few of the critical issues in our communities. By working together to win a common agenda for change, we can realize our hopes and dreams.
California Partnership will take advantage of national events, such as the primaries, caucuses and debates, to lift up the voices of our communities. And we will have materials and trainings to help groups plan education and get-out-the-vote campaigns. Stay tuned for more information on these activities!
Mobilize the Immigrant Vote Starts First Non-Election Cycle Analysis and Planning Series
California Partnership is one of the steering committee members for Mobilize the Immmigrant Vote (MIV). MIV's activities include:
For more information on these trainings, contact Alicia Lepe at (626) 224-8189 or Nancy Berlin at (213) 385-8010.
Calendar of Events
Please mark your calendars for the following CAP and member events throughout the state.
CAP chapter meetings:
July 11: CAP Los Angeles Chapter Meeting, CAP LA office, 2533W. Third St., Ste. 101. Contact Alicia Lepe, [email protected], (626) 224-8189.
Bay Area Chapter meets 4th Thursday each month in Oakland, 10am-Noon. Contact Rochelle Robinson at (510) 292-6941 for more info.
CAP San Diego Chapter Meeting, every 4th Wednesday of the month at Noon. Contact Alicia Lepe for location, [email protected], (626) 224-8189.
For information on San Bernardino and Central Valley meetings, contact Alicia Lepe at [email protected], (626) 224-8189.
CAP Member Profile: Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN)
The Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN) is a regional network of parent leaders and parent-based organizations working to build a social justice movement for families. PLAN unites and strengthens diverse parents and organizations fighting for education equity, economic justice, quality child care, and parent representation through alliance building, leadership development, and action.
PLAN's core program areas work toward a future in which a visible, powerful base of low-income parents take effective action to transform key issues affecting the quality of life for Bay Area children and families. PLAN's key work includes: directly engaging low-income parents and parent organizations in the leadership of the network; providing opportunities for low-income parents from throughout the Bay Area to come together twice a year in Parent Action Forums and build and advocate for a regional parent policy platform; providing training to parents and organizations interested in developing leadership and advocacy for education equity using the PLAN to LEAD curriculum; and acting as a regional hub of information for parent advocates and leaders, providing information through www.parentactionnet.org and a 500-member Parent Action e-list.
PLAN works closely with many CAP organizations, including Parent Voices and LIFETIME, which are represented on its regional Leadership Council, along with CAP.
Join and Support the Partnership
Support the California Partnership and Build Power for Low-Income Californians!
Be part of a growing movement! We're sure you understand the importance of all of us sharing the ownership of the California Partnership and being invested in its growing strength. Three years ago we had less than sixty members, just two chapters, and a non-representative coordinating committee. We now have over 120 member organizations, five chapters, and an elected and accountable coordinating committee. The move to implement dues is part of the effort to create an infrastructure that will continue to strengthen our network and our work.
The minimum dues structure is:
We of course encourage you to donate more if you are able! We are keeping the dues low because of our commitment to include all organizations, and especially small, grassroots organizations, to participate. Community-based organizations who agree with our mission are eligible for membership.
We think you'll agree that the resources and growing community we offer as a member of the California Partnership are worth the very minimal dues, including:
Thank you and we look forward to working with you.
I'm Joining the California Partnership
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