Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger’s Bid to Slice California Welfare Is Among Many State Welfare Changes

June 01, 2009 07:00 AM
by Anne Szustek
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed the elimination of CalWORKs, the state’s work-to-welfare program for the poorest of families. Other states are dealing with their own welfare crunches.

California May Eliminate Health Care for Children from Lower-Income Households

California’s budget has been so hammered by the recession that the state’s coffers, already posting a deficit of $24.3 billion, are on track to run dry by July. State income tax refund checks have been delayed and higher education budgets reduced. State employees, with the exception of legislators and court workers, are facing a 5 percent cut in pay as part of a $3 billion budget cut announced Thursday, on top of another $5.5 billion sliced out of the California state financial plan two days earlier.

Spending cuts for essential programs are known for their endemic sting. But few have been as controversial as Schwarzenegger’s proposal to drop the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids, or CalWORKs, program, which offers families a 60-month lifetime limit of welfare benefits on the condition that families pursue employment. Cash payments under CalWORKs average some $526 per family, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The paper reports, should her monthly CalWORKs check disappear, Michelle, a 26-year-old single mother in San Jose, Calif., would not be able to afford diapers, rent and child care, which allows her to attend a community college—a step toward financial independence.

Schwarzenegger’s proposal, which is facing bipartisan resistance, also entails rejecting $3.7 billion in federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families grants, which would spare California $1.8 billion in matching funds, yet the state would lose $600 million in money from the federal stimulus package.

Also at peril is the state’s Healthy Families program, which subsidizes medical, dental and vision care for some 900,000 California children whose families make between $22,050 and $55,125. Cutting the program would save the state $305 million in 2009-10, according to The Sacramento Bee.