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

Thursday, June 04, 2009

California Plays "Block That Recovery"

The real tragedy of the proposed cuts in the state budget comes when you recognize that some of them would cancel out federal stimulus dollars. A perfect example would be the elimination of the welfare-to-work program Cal Works. In Los Angeles County, the stimulus funds a program through Cal Works that provides jobs. Without Cal Works, the program gets eliminated, and $200 million in federal dollars cease to flow to the state. And that's really just one example.

We see the same cross purposes when assessing social services programs for the elderly.

"Advocates for the elderly in California say recent budget cuts are dramatically affecting the ability of social service programs to keep up with demand" at a time when "the state's elderly population — and the incidents of elder abuse — are exploding," NPR reports. One example is Contra Costa County, where the Aging and Adult Services Program laid off two-thirds of the staff who "investigate abuse complaints of elderly and dependent adults." The county is now "turning over virtually all of its self-neglect cases to some other agency — often, the police." The Contra Costa situation is "so severe that the county grand jury recently concluded that Adult Protective Services no longer has the resources to carry out its legal mandate to investigate physical and financial abuse complaints." This comes at a time when complaints of elder abuse are on the rise. According to "national studies," only "1 in 5 elder abuse cases is reported" (Siler, 6/3).

Needless to say, this threatens the ability for Contra Costa county to qualify for stimulus funds to backfill those cuts, thanks to "maintenance of effort" rules. The Feds giveth, the state taketh away and taketh away what the Feds giveth. And that undermines the goals of the stimulus and damages economic recovery, given that we are the nation's largest state.

Some would say that the state's "runaway spending" brought this on, but Sen. Mark Leno argues persuasively against this, detailing the nature of the spending over the past decade and where that money has actually gone - tax cuts (the vehicle license fee), prisons, debt service, and the rapid cost growth in health care and fire protection. This is familiar to most of us but ought to be shared with those friends who don't know the facts. Same with this.

What truly brought this on is a dysfunctional process that requires serious structural reform.

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