Friday, December 26, 2008

Alarming Increase in Social Safety Net Need Says Think Tank Study

"According to a first-ever study released by the nonpartisan California Budget Project, state residents are turning to public assistance in dramatic numbers. With unemployment at a 14-year high, the number of food stamp recipients has quadrupled in the last year. Welfare rolls that shed more than 500 families a month in 2007 now serve 2,240 new families each month. And tens of thousands are turning to government-funded health care following job losses and a decline in employer-sponsored benefits."

Above is the opening paragraph from the article "Study shows increased reliance on social safety net in California," in the San Jose Mercury News a few days ago.

This news and these statistics add to the daunting task for the State to find its way clear from a gigantic, ever-growing budget deficit.

The article tells us the think tank "called for [state] legislators to prioritize families destitute families, as state legislators continue battling over a $41 billion [over a period of 18 months]budget shortfall. Democrats and Republicans both propose social service cuts to help close the deficit, but the extent of the cuts, and whether to raise taxes, has the Legislature paralyzed."

Quoting further from the article:

California Budget Project director Jean Ross, argues that now is precisely when public funds must flow into social programs — the "toughest economic climate that we have faced in the post-[WWII] era in this country." Her report calls for "carefully chosen" but unspecified tax increases.

"Every dollar that moves into low-income families moves immediately to local grocers, clothing stores and landlords," said Ross, whose research center advocates for low-income Californians. "To cut back at a time like this is exactly the opposite of what we need to do in order to keep retail spending up."

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