In light of the Farm Bill debate in Congress, what are your concerns and hopes for what this could potentially mean for food assistance in California (CalFresh)?
The CalFresh program, more commonly called “food stamps,” helps families keep their children from going hungry with nutritious food. Benefits provide a boost to low-income families’ food budgets, and they are used to purchase food at most grocery stores. Unfortunately, while many in California are eligible for the program, too few sign up. Currently, there are approximately two million participants, which is less than half the number of those eligible. The dollar amount is modest—the average family receives about $153 per month to purchase food—and is entirely paid for with federal funds. My greatest hope for the CalFresh program is that more families who are eligible for benefits start receiving them so that their kids can grow healthy and strong.
Even in our state, with its recovering economy, millions of Californians experience hunger, sometimes called “food insecurity.” In Santa Cruz County alone, about 16 percent of households are food insecure, which comes to nearly 40,400 families and kids right here in our community. We can’t continue to allow our neighbors to go hungry, given the short- and long-term health and economic consequences. Kids who live in food-insecure homes are at greater risk for poor physical and mental health, developmental problems, and academic delays than those who don’t experience hunger.
Unfortunately, burdensome eligibility verification requirements pose a major barrier for working parents trying to apply for benefits to feed their kids. That’s why I strongly support legislation by San Francisco Sen. Mark Leno, which simplifies the current childcare expense reporting requirements for these families.
At the same time, the bill helps ensure that individuals won’t unfairly take advantage of these eased requirements by allowing program administrators the discretion to request additional documentation to verify questionable information.
I’m pleased to report that the measure passed the Assembly and now heads to the governor’s desk for his consideration. I hope the governor will sign this bill to help more eligible working families receive needed benefits.
What are your thoughts on the 2014 water bond measure?
If passed by the voters, the 2014 water bond would finance several state water infrastructure projects to protect drinking water supplies, update water conveyance and storage systems, and promote watershed conservation.
However, negotiations amongst stakeholders over the details are ongoing, and it may be some time before I have the opportunity to cast a vote on the measure.
My greatest concern with current bond proposals is that coastal communities’ concerns are not explicitly addressed. In the face of climate change and sea level rise, it is critical that California plan well for coastal infrastructure and coastal water supply and treatment facilities. Given the critical importance of the California coast environmentally and economically, coastal communities’ needs should be included in any future water bond. Protecting and restoring ocean and coastal waters should be a high priority of the state. Coastal projects should be eligible for funding and state conservancies should be identified as eligible entities to receive funding from the bond. I will be sure to keep you updated as the bond negotiations progress.