The County Voice

Demand Up, Funding Down. What Next?

It seems like every day we hear another disturbing report regarding the “perfect storm” facing our members: the recession has caused the demand for services to skyrocket. At the same time, revenues to provide these services continue to drop.

The latest news was by New America Media in a piece titled “Indigent Health Care Program Battered by Recession.”  The article focused on the County Medical Services Program (CMSP), which provides health care to indigent adults in California. Unemployed Californians are being forced to turn to this program in increasing numbers. But with funding sources dropping (also due to the recession), the capacity is serve these people is being reached. 

Earlier this week, there was an article in the New York Times that discussed how millions of Americans could be unemployed for years – long after their unemployment checks and health insurance run out. Many of these individuals are part of a group called “the new poor,” hardworking folks who paid into the system with their taxes for years – only to wonder if the system will be there when they finally need it. 

All of this is happening at a time when the State of California is trying to pull itself out of a massive budget deficit. The Governor has proposed eliminating entire health and human services programs, such as CalWORKs and IHSS, unless the federal government ponies up billions of dollars to California. 

If these programs are eliminated, the people they serve will not go away. They will be in an even more desperate situation. Our communities will feel the impact. We will find more homeless on the street; our criminal justice system – already busting at the seams – will see its numbers climb; demand for general assistance relief from our counties will skyrocket, impacting numerous other services competing for a dwindling pot of money. 

A lot of people are keeping their fingers crossed that the economy is turning around. But for millions of Californians, the safety net is getting increasingly frayed and it is in danger of ripping completely apart. Where will we be then?

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