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from kids who have so little"
"My daughter Jasmine, who’s nine, spoke in a budget hearing in Sacramento in December," says Oakland resident Vivian Hain. "At the end she said, ‘Governor Schwarzenegger, you promised that kids would come first. So what is it? Disabled and poor children, we don’t count?’"
Hain and her daughter, along with a dozen other families, traveled to Sacramento December 10 to protest Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed mid-year budget cuts to programs serving low-income families. They joined hundreds who had gathered there to protest proposed limits on services for disabled children and adults.
Hain’s group was organized by the California Partnership, a coalition of 60 organizations advocating for low-income families. More than 500 other Partnership members joined the protest by fax and phone, says Rebecca Vilkomerson, northern California Partnership organizer.
Throughout December, in a series of hearings and press conferences in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, low-income families charged that political leaders are "asking sacrifices from the poor, seniors, and children, but they are not asking sacrifices from rich people," in the words of Dae Yoon, program director at the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles.
to health insurance
Los Angeles resident Esther Bush is now waiting for her daughter’s Healthy Families application to go through. Bush was on Medi-Cal until last June, when a pay raise made her ineligible. Her employer pays for her health insurance, but Bush, a single mother who receives no child support, says she can’t afford to add seven-year-old Natalia to the policy.
Without health insurance, her daughter can’t get the fillings she needs for her cavities. When she’s sick, Bush says, "I have to take her to the community clinic, but that means I have to take many hours off work, because the clinic is always packed and they don’t make appointments. If I see that my daughter is getting sick, I wait and wonder, ‘Should I take her in?’"
Bush, who works as an asthma educator, adds that many of the families she visits are on Medi-Cal. The governor’s proposal to cut Medi-Cal payments to doctors "would make it more difficult for the children to see a doctor," she says, "because they already pay so little that doctors don’t want to treat Medi-Cal patients."
Bush calls the governor’s proposed cuts "disgusting—he said he was going to concentrate on fraud and waste, but this is taking away from kids who already have so little."
Darensberg’s pay plus her welfare check add up to $1,400 a month; she pays $1,250 a month in rent. She receives $272 a month in food stamps—"not enough with three teenagers, so toward the end of the month we have to food-bank it."
The 5% cut would subtract about $40 from her income. What would she give up? "Right now giving up heat!" she says. "I only have a one-room heater. I don’t have a car. I pay the water bill, PG&E, phone—that would be the luxury that would go, the phone."
Darensberg’s message to Schwarzenegger: The proposed cuts "will break the backs of the poor and then you’re going to have problems. More people will become homeless and the crime rate will go up."
on programs for immigrants
have our voices"
A 2002 town hall meeting in Los Angeles, where groups from low-income communities advocated for more family-friendly federal welfare policies.
lobby day last May, which brought almost 300 people from low-income communities
to resist cuts to service programs and push revenue plans such as a tax
increase on very high incomes.
first: The California Partnership will push CalWORKs "to
move from a ‘work first’ philosophy to ‘education first,’"
says Vilkomer-son, so parents on welfare can prepare for jobs that will
really support their families.
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