CSAC Bulletin Article

Health and Human Services 09/30/2011

Assembly Hearing Examines the Impact of Cuts on California Safety Net Services

The Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services, chaired by Assembly Member Holly Mitchell, held an oversight hearing on Thursday on the “Potential Impacts of Federal Deficit Reduction on California’s Health and Human Services Programs.” 

Assembly Member Mitchell scheduled the hearing to examine how deficit reduction efforts at the federal level – especially the work of the so-called Congressional “Supercommittee” – may affect California’s share of critical health and human services funding. 

The bipartisan, twelve-member federal Supercommittee was formed this summer and has until Thanksgiving to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings for the federal government. The Supercommittee has license to meet that $1.2 trillion target in any manner of ways, including cuts, savings, and revenue increases. Should the Supercommittee fail to come to agreement, then automatic “sequestration” cuts kick in, which would equal a roughly 9 percent across-the-board reduction in most federal spending. The sequestration cuts would be implemented in January 2013. 

In a sobering presentation, Todd Bland of the California Legislative Analyst’s Office pointed to recent Census Bureau figures estimating that California received $330 billion in federal funding in 2010. This funding flowed through the state budget, to federal program recipients, and in some cases, directly to local government or community based organizations. Jean Ross of the California Budget Project outlined the areas that are in danger of being decimated by proposed federal cutbacks, including schools and special education funding, child care and child welfare services funding, workforce investment and economic development funding, substance abuse and mental health block grants, homeland security funding, and housing funding – to name a few. Ross stated that California and its local governments could lose $3 to $4 billion in annual federal funding if the Supercommittee fails to come to a compromise and the sequestration cuts are implemented. 

Additional speakers included Frank Mecca from the County Welfare Directors Association (a CSAC affiliate), Edwin Park with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and a variety of advocates concerned about the impact of steep federal funding cuts on children, seniors, those with developmental disabilities and health care.
SB 557 ( Kehoe) – Support
Chapter No. 262, Statutes of 2011

SB 557, by Senator Christine Kehoe, establishes two-year pilot programs for family justice centers in Alameda and Sonoma Counties, as well as the cities of San Diego and Anaheim, and requires the National Justice Center Alliance to report to the Legislature on the effectiveness, possible legislation, and best practices of those centers. 

The family justice center concept is simple: co-locate a multi-disciplinary team of professionals in a single location to coordinate services for victims of family violence. This model ensures service coordination but also enhances the safety and well-being of victims of violence and their families. 

Both the counties of Alameda and Sonoma also currently operate acclaimed family justice centers. These county centers focus on victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Senator Kehoe’s SB 557 supports the family justice center concept by authorizing Alameda and Sonoma counties, as well as two cities (San Diego and Anaheim) to establish or continue to operate family justice centers to assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, cyberstalking, cyberbullying, human trafficking, and elder or dependent adult abuse. 

SB 557 also outlines clear confidentiality and professional practice guidelines, and mandates collaboration with local community-based advocates, survivors, and service providers. 

In short, SB 557 builds upon the progress made by Alameda and Sonoma County by creating a structure for the National Justice Center Alliance to examine the success of the model. To do this, the bill also contains a sunset clause of January 1, 2014, and counties believe that the results of the pilot participants will encourage California to continue to join in the effort to create family justice centers. It is for these reasons that CSAC supported SB 557. Governor Brown signed the measure and it was chaptered into law on September 6, 2011.

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