Proposed Budget in California Would Cut Cash Assistance to Elderly, Disabled Documented Immigrants
The California Assembly Budget Committee last week released a 69-page counterproposal rejecting a plan by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to eliminate the state's Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants, which provides financial assistance to documented disabled, blind and elderly immigrants, the Contra Costa Times reports (O'Brien, Contra Costa Times, 6/5). The program -- established in 1998 -- covers about 10,000 documented immigrants who are ineligible for Supplemental Security Income because they are not citizens. It provides roughly $860 monthly in assistance for individuals and $1,504 for couples (Ustinova, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/5).
Cutting the program could save the state $111 million, according to Schwarzenegger's proposal. In Alameda and Contra Costa counties, where about 1,100 residents receive benefits from the program, officials say that if the governor's proposal takes effect, many of the program's beneficiaries would seek help from general assistance programs. The general assistance grants provide smaller payouts, but they cost counties more because the money comes from local budgets, according to the Times. Stefanie Pfingstl, a manager of the Contra Costa County Workforce Services Bureau, said the average general assistance payout is $375 per month(Contra Costa Times, 6/5).
Jane Gelfand, managing legal director at the not-for-profit Positive Resource Center, said the cash assistance program is an "absolute lifesaving benefit for the few people we can get on it," adding, "Without it, there is no income, no health insurance, no housing, no food and no other basic necessities" (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/5).
Pfingstl said, "It's really the most vulnerable group of people," adding that the "impact to the clients is they are going to have less money at a time when the economy is not good." She noted that the Schwarzenegger administration has proposed cutting the program in the past, but the state Legislature blocked the proposal (Contra Costa Times, 6/5).