CSAC Bulletin Article

PPIC Report: California’s Safety Net in Recession and Recovery

June 10, 2021

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a report summarizing the key takeaways and lessons learned from the impact of the Great Recession of 2007-09 on safety-net programs. The report focuses on several large safety-net programs: Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), CalFresh, California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), school-based nutrition programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).  As the state shifts its focus from COVID-19 response to recovery, and state officials negotiate where to make financial investments, the report draws from past data to identify gaps in the safety-net programs that may hinder an equitable recovery for vulnerable individuals and families. 

Through data analysis and stakeholder engagement, the researchers identified a handful of areas where the state can support recovery for families. The report outlines the steps below to facilitate a recovery:

  • Strategically filling gaps in federal funding. An example would include expanding on supplemental programs which the state has autonomy over.
  • Increasing administrative measures and developing a toolkit of administrative flexibilities to increase the responsiveness of programs during recessions.
  • Creating multiple points of delivery. California took a step in this direction by providing Golden State Stimulus and Grant Program rebates to tax filers but also one-time payments to Supplemental Security Income (SSI/SSP) recipients and to CalWORKs participants.
  • Improving handoffs across programs to reduce obstacles to enrollment.
  • Continuing to increase full participation among eligible Californians.

The report notes that the safety-net programs did respond to the needs of many families during the Great Recession and after, but the state can take more steps through this recovery process to immediately help those individuals and families who were vulnerable before the pandemic.

The PPIC will hold a webinar on June 16, 2021, to highlight their findings and have a panel discussion including panelists from the Children’s Partnership, the California Association of Food Banks, and the California Department of Social Services. Please register for this event here.   

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