Senator Kuehl's essay on Social Services in the 2006 State Budget
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
- Organization: Senator Sheila Kuehl
- Source: CALegalAdvocates > CALegalAdvocates.org
These essays are my presentation of facts not generally reported or summarized by the press. Visit my website at www.sen.ca.gov/kuehl to read my previous essays.
Generally, the Social Services
The social services sections of the budget comprise almost a full 10% of our General Fund spending. These items go to fulfill the state's social obligations to the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the blind, child welfare, foster care and other services that express our commitment to a kind of community responsibility. This year we put $9.8 billion dollars into social services programs, 6% more than we put in last year. The increases are due to four main factors:
1) Caseload increases in Supplementary Security Income/State Supplementary Program (SSI/SSP) costs, In-Home Supportive Services programs and Adoption Assistance Programs;
2) Finally giving recipients the federal cost of living increase that the feds have been paying to the state but that the Governor held up and didn't pass onto the beneficiaries;
3) New initiatives in child welfare services, detailed below; and
4) Redirecting the federal block grant funds that went into child welfare and foster care into county block grants for CalWORKS (what most people would call California's welfare system but which now requires each recipient to work). The state put in a little more money so no losses would occur to the recipients.
Changes in CalWORKS
In order to meet the higher work participation requirements of the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (yes, that's what they call it when they cut funds to the working poor), the state budget provides $90 million for projects designed to engage nonworking recipients in work-related activities (non-working recipients may be victims of domestic violence trying to hide, those who are in education programs or others allowed by law to be recipients and have some flexibility in work requirements). $9 million was added for work study programs in the community colleges. The budget also includes $5 million for "homelessness prevention" among CalWORKS families facing potential eviction.
Child Welfare and Foster Care
The budget provides $50 million in "flexible" funding that counties may use to reduce caseworker caseloads as well as implementing early interventions to improve outcomes for families and children in the system. $3 million was also added to expand the use of the specialized drug dependency courts in various counties as an intervention strategy in child welfare cases.
Support for Relatives
Seeking to help children remain in circumstances where they know and trust the caregivers when their parents are not capable of their care, California established the KinGap program, which provides payments to relatives who become legal guardians to former foster children. This year's budget provides $8 million more than last year for this program, especially for children with special needs and expands the program to youth in the probation system that are in the care of relatives. Programs to emancipating foster youth and KinGap care for foster youth were also expanded a bit.
Checking on Community Care Facilities
We added 80 new full-time positions to increase the frequency of random facility inspection visits and to make licensing information available to the public on the Internet. There must be unannounced visits in at least 20% of facilities each year. We had actually put in more money for this but the Governor vetoed four positions and took out $320,000 of the money set aside to put info on the Net.
What Does This All Mean
For the most part, the social services budget is remaining about the same with only a little nibbling around the edges to get a few more bucks to counties and a few more bucks for inspections. The greatest action seems to be in the foster care area, where we are trying to help give kids some help after they "term out" of the system at 18, as well as in adoptions and a teeny bit for homelessness prevention.
If you wish to subscribe to receive these essays on a continuing basis, (no charge), please send an e-mail to Sheila.Kuehl@sen.ca.gov, titled "subscribe".