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CA nibbles by offering food stamps to undocumented residents

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A bill under consideration in the legislature would increase the benefit of meal vouchers to undocumented migrants as soon as the system is up to date and the legislature has allocated funds for growth.

For the moment, the State has not devoted itself to increasing this system. But the legislature’s efforts this year have put California at the forefront of extending meal assistance to unauthorized residents. Advocates say the state has a responsibility to help feed them, especially as hundreds of thousands of undocumented farm workers work in California’s fields, feeding the state and the rest of the nation.

“They are working and risking their lives, not only because of the pandemic, but right now because of a heat wave,” said Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), co-author of the bill, whose the district is in the center. Valley. “They risk their lives to feed us. Why don’t we invest in them too?

The program can be costly and the government has to foot the entire bill. Currently California has a surplus of $ 76 billion, but state revenues can fluctuate wildly. For the occasion, the financial restrictions of the pandemic led the Newsom administration to forecast a deficit of $ 54 billion the previous year.

California has already expanded eligibility to undocumented immigrants for its Medicaid health protection program. Since last year, it has allowed people under the age of 26 to participate if they meet income criteria, worth around $ 450 million per year. Starting in 2022, unauthorized immigrants aged 50 and over will be eligible, and annual state prices are expected to reach $ 1.3 billion by fiscal 2024.

Up to 1 million unauthorized immigrants would cover the revenue needs of the meal stamps, according to lawyer Jared Call of Nourish California, who co-sponsored Hurtado’s bill. But this system would probably start by providing benefits to subgroups resembling young people and seniors.

To qualify for California meal coupons, most households must earn 200% or less of the federal poverty level for their family dimension. For a household of 4, this can imply a gross income of no more than $ 4,368 per month.

The governor’s office declined to address the “Food for All” proposal and its funding, citing ongoing discussions with the legislature to finalize the funds.

The Conservatives have warned. Republican state senators voted en bloc against Hurtado’s bill. In an email explaining his “no,” Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee) said he was asking California taxpayers to “bear the brunt of a chaotic border situation which is a federal responsibility.”

In the Assembly, where committees are debating the bill, member Steven Choi (R-Irvine) said the generosity of this system would exacerbate problems at the US-Mexico border by encouraging people to attempt to immigrate to California. .

Even Democrats, who maintain qualified majorities in every household in the state legislature, are cautious about building commitments they can’t meet. Food for all should be phased in in case incomes fall behind or different expenses increase, according to a report on Assembly funds.

The 2021-2022 state budget, which Newsom was due to report on Monday, includes various measures to make meals accessible to the poor, regardless of immigration status, as well as additional funding in meal banks and a program to extend free breakfast and lunch to all. California public college students regardless of income.

The overwhelming demand for emergency food aid during the pandemic has highlighted food insecurity. In California, more than 3 million residents said they did not eat a heavy meal in the first three months of the pandemic shutdown, up 22% from early March 2020, according to a study by UCLA Fielding researchers. Luskin School of Public Health and School of Public Affairs.

In response, food banks have doubled or tripled their meal distribution. Schools, closed for lessons, have kept functioning cafeterias so that households can go every week without breakfast and lunch. Nonprofits rushed to prepare emergency grocery deliveries for these covid-19 sufferers.

But the people behind these efforts say that charitable giving is a stopgap solution that typically distributes unhealthy meals, leads to significant waste, and deprives people of alternatives.

“Food banks get – I don’t mean ‘food from hand’ – but they often get food near its expiration date,” said Claudia Keller, Second Harvest Food Bank chief of mission in Orange County. “Foods that can be high in sugar, salt and fat. And that, for us, is a disservice to the most vulnerable in our community. “

Advocates say there is a better answer to famine: simply give households money or stamps to buy their own meals.

Vanessa Terán of the Mixteco Indígena Community Organizing Project, on the central coast of California, said that is why her group, which primarily serves undocumented immigrant farm workers, has moved from organizing meals to increase in money to pay as you go to the grocery store by playing cards.

“People can buy what they need, and there is also the dignity of a buyer,” she said. “They can make choices for their own families that best meet their needs. “

The same strategy has been adopted by the Federal Benefits Program – identified nationally as SNAP and in California as CalContemporary and sometimes known as Meal Stamps – which sends recipients cards. to play in cash that can be used for groceries that reload automatically each month.

Undocumented immigrants make up about 8.1% of California’s workforce, according to a 2019 Knowledge Summary from the Center for Migration Studies. A 2019 assessment by the California Budget & Policy Center, a non-partisan organization, estimated that undocumented immigrants in the state contribute $ 3.2 billion a year in state and local taxes.

Hurtado praised his colleagues’ determination to extend Medi-Cal to additional teams of undocumented immigrants, saying “hunger and health go hand in hand.”

“The foundation of good health is having access to adequate and healthy food,” she said. “But I think something is better than nothing, and I’m happy with the progress we’re making.”

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