As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Stimulus Funds Held Back By The Yacht Party Dam

There are two bills likely to come up for vote this week that would allow California to receive billions in stimulus funding, both of which have been subject to Yacht Party obstruction thus far of the Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin variety.

First up is the unemployment benefits extension bill which Republicans rejected last week. There are actually two separate measures, one which would extend benefits and one which would increase the pool of people eligible for those benefits, but the extension is the one that will be voted on as soon as today. Kudos to the SacBee for noting that the Governor has taken no position on these bills, despite the bromance rhetoric about the President and the stimulus.

The Assembly is expected to vote this week, probably today, on a bill that would pave the way for California to extend its lifeline for out-of-work residents by five months at federal expense.

The measure would ensure an extra $2.5 billion to $3 billion in federal funds for emergency benefits at a time when California is mired in recession, with an unemployment rate above 10 percent.

Passage would mean $6,140 in additional benefits for an out-of-work person receiving the state's average benefit of $307 per week. Benefits range from $65 to $475, based on previous income earned [...]

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supports both concepts but has not taken a position on specific legislation, aides said.

Schwarzenegger has "no position" because the Chamber of Commerce doesn't like anything that could lead to higher corporate taxes, and they hold the puppet strings on our last action hero. The vote on this has yet to be recorded in the Assembly, so we shall see what the Yacht Party decides.

The second bill, currently in the State Senate, concerns Medi-Cal eligibility requirements that would open up even more federal funding.

Although California is slated to receive more than $31 billion in federal money, a change in eligibility rules for Medi-Cal made as part of this year’s budget prevents California from qualifying for more than 25 percent of those federal funds.

In order to do so, the state must have the same Medi-Cal eligibility rules today as those in place July 1, 2008.

The problem was caused by an attempt to save $70 million by changing eligibility rules for children receiving care from Medi-Cal was contained in the 85-day record late budget signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last September.

Under the change, children must fill out a report every six months confirming their continuing eligibility along with their parents who were already required to fill out such a report prior to the change in law.

Critics of the requirement say that most of the children who lose eligibility do so because they forget to turn in the paperwork, not because they actually lose eligibility. Sorting out such issues increases Medi-Cal costs to counties, who administer the program locally.

To get the federal money, the state must change the law before July 1, 2009 so that kids don’t need to fill out the report. The bill would do that.

Let's be entirely clear - the Administration was banking on oversights from poor families who qualify for Medi-Cal to save the state money. That's borderline immoral and it ought to be addressed. Elaine Alquist is carrying the bill in the Senate, and on this one, Schwarzenegger has seen the error of his ways and promises to sign it. Will the Yacht Party follow suit, or prefer budgeting by forcing bureaucratic red tape on the poor?

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