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Families could lose homes

Posted: June 10, 2009 10:09 p.m.
Updated: June 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

If Sacramento cuts off federal stimulus money for CalWorks as proposed, 1,300 Santa Clarita Valley families will end up homeless, according to a county official.

If cutting CalWorks - a welfare/work and general-relief program - does become an element used to balance the state's budget, recipient families will lose their benefits by Oct. 1, said Phil Ansell, director of program and policy for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.

"We have 1,300 families receiving CalWorks in the Santa Clarita Valley," said Lucy Serda, Department of Public Social Services administrator. "About 1,000 of those families are on welfare-to-work programs."

"If the state walked away from the CalWorks programs, the county couldn't access the federal stimulus money for CalWorks," said Ansell.

California counties access federal funds for social services such as CalWorks through the state, he said. If the state decides not to fund those programs, the federal money would be frozen and thus would never arrive in L.A. County.

"If there's no dog, there's no tail," Ansell said.

Ansell's comments came after the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to seek federal stimulus money to ramp up a CalWorks-sponsored subsidized employment program. The Board of Supervisors also voted unanimously to oppose any efforts by the state legislature to eliminate CalWorks.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting the program to help balance the state budget. The state legislators would have to pass a revised budget eliminating CalWorks. Schwarzenegger would then have to sign such a budget.

"I don't think anyone wants to cut CalWorks," said Cameron Smyth, state assemblyman (R-Santa Clarita). "The concern is that stimulus money is a one-time deal. And how does the state or the county continue to fund an expanded level of service when the federal funds run out?"

Although state legislators are aware of the impact of cutting CalWorks, Smyth said legislators are still considering eliminating the program.

"I'm not aware of any discussion to remove it (CalWorks) from the table," he said. "These are very difficult times."

Schwarzenegger asked for a revised budget by June 15. With the deadline rapidly approaching, Smyth said it is more likely there won't be a budget vote until the end of June.

Countywide, eliminating CalWorks could put up to 154,000 families on the street and homeless, according to Ansell.

"It would be terrible if the state cut the program. I can't imagine what people would do without the benefits," Serda said.

Most of the benefits paid by CalWorks go to the recipient families' housing costs, Ansell said. Without the funds, the families will end up homeless.

"No CalWorks, no rent payment - no rent payment, the families ends up on the street," he said.

The proposed cuts to CalWorks are coming at the worst time for the families who need the benefit, Serda said.

"We've increased our caseload by 30 percent this year," she said. "This is the worst I've seen in my 23 years at the department."


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