Each year the Hunger Advocacy Network, facilitated by the San Diego Hunger Coalition, selects local, state, and federal legislative priorities that the group follows closely and advocates for or against. These priorities have the potential to deeply impact hunger relief in positive or negative ways.
Legislative advocacy is one of the most effective ways to implement lasting change by becoming an active part of American democracy. Below are easy-read overviews of the 2019 priorities.
Questions? Contact Amanda Schultz Brochu, Senior Director of Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AB 341 CalHEERS Applications for CalFresh
UPDATE (07/03/19): Referred to appropriations for hearing on 04/24/2019 - hearing not set, died in suspense.
Background: When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, California was required to create a way for people to enroll in affordable healthcare plans. The state created CalHEERS, an online system where people can input their information and select the healthcare program that is right for them. In many instances, health coverage is provided by Medi-Cal, California’s government-funded health program for low-income residents. Often, when someone is eligible for Medi-Cal, they are also eligible for CalFresh food assistance benefits.
What This Bill Does: This bill will allow applicants applying for affordable healthcare through the CalHEERS online system to apply for CalFresh at the same time.
Impact: There will be a potential increase in CalFresh enrollment due to simplifying the application process and removing the stigma that is attached to asking for food assistance by circumventing direct application. There may be an accompanying decrease in food insecurity throughout the State of California. Although more California residents may start receiving CalFresh benefits, this will not cost taxpayers any additional money since CalFresh is federally funded and these funds will be collected through federal income taxes regardless of whether this bill passes.
AB 494 Shelter Expense Deduction
UPDATE (07/25/19): Signed by Governor Newsome!
Background: When a person applies for CalFresh food assistance, the county takes their cost of living into account when determining the amount of benefits they will receive. Applicants qualify for more benefits if they have higher housing expenses. Under federal law, states may select for themselves how to verify cost of housing. In California, this process is often drawn-out, difficult, and prone to multiple barriers for low-income residents such as lack of timely access to lease agreements, the cost of duplicating and sending paperwork to the appropriate offices, and living situations without a lease.
What This Bill Does: This bill will simplify the process by allowing applicants to submit a self-certified statement of their housing expenses. Counties may still request further verification if the applicant’s statement is questionable and their housing costs seem out of the ordinary.
Impact: There may be reduced administrative costs to counties that will no longer have to expend resources on a time-consuming verification process. This bill will also remove barriers to low-income families in high-cost-of-housing regions in California from accessing CalFresh benefits. This will increase the stability of these households and their access to healthy food while stimulating the local economy. There may be an accompanying decrease in food insecurity throughout the State of California. Although CalFresh benefits may increase for some recipients, this will not cost taxpayers any additional money since CalFresh is federally funded and these funds will be collected through federal income taxes regardless of whether this bill passes.
AB 842 Hunger-Free Preschool
UPDATE (10/31/19): Vetoed by Governor Newsome.
Background: California State law requires that all needy children in grades K-12 be provided at least one nutritionally balanced meal each school day for free or low-cost. These meals are generally reimbursable through federal child nutrition programs, and the State of California has created an additional fund to supplement federal funding. Most preschool and child care providers, however, are excluded from funding for child nutrition and low-income children in public preschool and subsidized childcare remain the only public school students not guaranteed access to a nutritious, affordable meal.
What This Bill Does: This bill will expand existing child nutrition programs to include pre-school and child care facilities operated by a school district, county, or state. Part-day facilities will be required by law to provide one nutritionally-balanced meal, full-day facilities will be required to provide two nutritionally-balanced meal.
Impact: Low-income children will be guaranteed at least one nutritious meal each school day. Studies show that proper nutrition at these young ages reduce the risk of childhood obesity and diabetes and increase academic performance and physical and mental development. This bill will also help low-income families meet their basic needs by reducing the household grocery bill and freeing up funds for other necessities such as clothing and housing.
AB 614 Food Bank Tax Credit
UPDATE (10/31/19): Signed by Governor Newsome!
Background: California is the nation’s largest producer of agriculture, providing half of the United States’ fresh produce. The state currently allows a tax deduction for growers and harvesters of fresh fruit and produce who donate a portion of their surplus to food banks. Nonetheless, California experiences high levels of food insecurity, food deserts, and food waste.
What This Bill Does: This bill will expand access to the tax credit provided to agricultural growers by adding additional staple items grown and produced in California such as dairy, canned goods, and processed grains. It will also expand who may request a tax credit to include not only growers and harvesters but also food manufacturers and preparation facilities.
Impact: This bill will potentially increase access to healthy foods via food banks who may have an increased supply of shelf-stable food staples. California growers and producers will also receive financial relief in the form of a tax credit for food products not sold. This bill may also result in reduced food waste which is a drain on precious California resources, such as water, and an environmental hazard.
AB 1229 End Foster Youth Student Hunger in California Act of 2019
UPDATE (07/03/19): Died in suspense.
Background: Under the current law, college students may receive CalFresh (SNAP) food assistance if they meet very strict eligibility guidelines. Foster youth going to college must meet those same guidelines, but without the support system that many traditional students have. Foster youth have poorer educational outcomes when compared to their non-foster peers due to financial instability and lack of support. Increasing access to food is a researched-backed way to improve educational outcomes while providing a financial lift.
What This Bill Does: This bill would establish a new nutritional support program for transitional foster youth (between the ages of 18 and 21) that will provide benefits amounting to the cost of a meal plan at post-high school educational institutions a foster youth is currently attending. The meal plan or meal plan equivalent must provide 10 meals/week. The bill will also ensure that foster youth are not denied CalFresh benefits because they have received housing assistance or are participating in an unpaid internship instead of a paid job.
Impact: This bill will ensure that current and former foster youth have enough to eat, both through CalFresh (SNAP) and college meal programs. The expected outcomes are improved academic performance in higher education programs, and increased graduation rates with certifications, associate’s, and bachelor’s degrees. Completion of higher education prepares foster youths to excel and succeed in their post-foster system lives.
Additional Critical Hunger Relief Bills
AB 612 CalFresh Restaurant Meals
Update (10/31/2019): Signed by Governor Newsome!
Background: Restaurants on California State University campuses are able to participate in the California’s CalFresh Restaurant Meal Program (RMP). Currently students attending community colleges are only be able to access the program if their county participates.
What this bill does: The bill would expand the CalFresh RMP to any and all California community colleges, even if that country does not participate in the Restaurant Meal Program.
Impact: This bill would allow community college students with a disability or who are homeless to be able to use their CalFresh as participating restaurants on their community college campuses.
AB 942 Access to Safe Food Choices and Food Security Act of 2019
Update (10/31/2019): Signed by Governor Newsome!
Background: The Restaurant Meal Program (RMP) allows CalFresh recipients who are over the age of 60, have a disability, or are homeless to use their CalFresh benefits to purchase meals at qualified restaurants. Counties are currently ablate apply to the state to implement RMP. 11 counties across California are currently implementing RMP.
What this bill does: This bill would expand access to the RMP to all eligible CalFresh recipients by requiring the CA Department of Social Services, to the extent permitted. by federal law and in consultation with various stakeholders, to establish statewide RMP on or before September 1, 2020.
Impact: This bill would greatly expand access to hot meals for individuals who are unable to prepare hot meals due to physical or cognitive limitations, or lack of proper meal preparation facilities. The decrease of food insecurity and improvement of health outcomes has not been determined at the time of this writing.