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Social services cut due to budget?

November 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Lawmakers have until the end of the month to balance the state budget. Otherwise, legislators who were just elected earlier this month will have to tackle the mess. Some fear lawmakers will seek to solve budget problems by cutting services for people who need them most.Public assistance offices throughout the state are currently packed with Californians needing help.

California had done a good job of keeping the number of people needing help declining until the foreclosure crisis hit.

From July of 2007 to this past July, applications for CalWORKs, or welfare, spiked more than 13 percent. From June to July of this year, it jumped closer to 15 percent, with more than 50,000 applications in one month alone.

The California Department of Social Services blames the rise on the more than 8.2 percent unemployment, which is the highest it has been in 14 years.

"As the unemployment rate starts to climb, then you'll see a little bit of a of lag, then you'll see an increase in my caseload," said Charr Lee Metsker, California Department of Social Services.

But the rise in public assistance applications comes at a time when state leaders are grappling with a deficit that could climb to $28 billion by the middle of 2010. The governor's proposed solution is to immediately cut nearly $850 million from welfare.

"What that would do is cut 200,000 children completely off cash assistance. They'd have no income in their household at all," said Mike Herald, Western Center on Law & Poverty.

While state leaders say they don't want to cut social programs, news of proposed cuts to benefits or eligibility is frustrating to welfare moms.

"It's absurd. What are we supposed to do with it -- moms that haven't worked that have kids? What are we supposed to do when we can't get any kind of help at all? Who's going to hire us?" said Corina Ward, a welfare recipient.

Social services always seem to be targeted for cuts because they are part of the budget funding that isn't protected by a law or voter mandate.

But so far, no mid-year cuts have been made because leaders can't agree on where to chop.

Both the senate and the assembly are scheduled to meet on Tuesday. No one knows what they will be voting on and whether or not those welfare cuts will actually be that deep.


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