Among the Many Challenges, Threats and Missed Opportunities in the State Budget Signed Today, a BIG Win in Finally Lifting the Lifetime Bans in CalFresh and CalWORKs Programs

After ten years of work by organizations focused on food justice and ending the mass criminalization of our communities, the budget signed by Governor Brown today FINALLY ends the lifetime bans on receiving CalFresh and CalWORKs for those who have been convicted of drug-related felonies.  LA CAN has worked with a wide variety of partners in the California Hunger Action Coalition and others across Los Angeles and California every year to get this important policy passed.  Low-income communities of color have been most targeted and impacted by the unjust and punitive drug war, and those who have completed their sentences simply must have access to all opportunities to survive and thrive when they return home.  Ending these bans is one important step toward upholding human rights for formerly incarcerated people.  It’s especially important in Downtown Los Angeles, where since 2006 the Safer Cities Initiative has focused on escalating simple possession charges to more serious drug sales charges – an unjust practice that has impacted thousands of people who will now be able to access much needed benefits.

However – this win comes within a budget that also causes serious harm to our communities through the allocation of an additional $500 million in prison expansion and which made minimal to no restorations to a wide variety of anti-poverty programs such as Medi-Cal and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  With the projected revenues, the State could have made significant progress in restoring the severe cuts to these programs made since 2008 – but largely left that opportunity off the table.  The Governor and State legislators must be held accountable to our communities and allocate our tax dollars to improve our communities, not incarcerate them.  While lifting the bans is critical, and will have massive positive impacts – we cannot accept the one step forward, three steps back approach that continues at the State level.

LA CAN applauds the work of all of our partners who held firm to our collective goals to lift the bans over years of setbacks and defeats – some campaigns are long and frustrating, but are worth the fight!  We will continue to work together to fight for justice and human rights – and fight for future budgets that include more wins than setbacks!!