California Hunger and Poverty Policy Questions

Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Golden State are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need.

Virtually all states have budget deficits and extensive financial problems this year and beyond.  The states are also the custodians and administrators of multi billions of dollars of federal assistance programs. State policies related to hunger and poverty contain a great deal of state money that is in short supply right now but much more federal money that can grow as the use of the programs grows.

These state policy questions are meant to begin a conversation about how states can deliver more services to their citizens who are facing extreme long term unemployment, hunger, home foreclosures and loss of health insurance and pensions.  

Please read them and let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need, especially the poorest of the poor, the millions of new poor, seniors, returning vets, children and the homeless.

Our intention is to create a place on our website that will highlight policy actions that state based organizations are taking and how they are proceeding.  We also hope to host a WhyHunger State Policy Award for the best state policies in the U.S.A.

1. The Gini Index of income inequality is among the highest in the country. The lowest income earners pay over 10% of their income in taxes, while those with the highest incomes pay only 7.4% of their income in taxes. What is being done to decrease this large gap between the highest and lowest incomes and relieve the tax burden on low-income individuals?
2. California has one of the highest rates of homelessness as well as the 5th highest foreclosure rate. In addition, only 21% of eligible people receive housing benefits. This is the third lowest in the country. What is the state doing to improve this condition? Are there any other organizations involved?
3. The percentage of families receiving TANF that live below the FPL is one of the highest in the nation. Likewise, the monthly maximum benefit is the 2nd highest in the nation at $723. What about California’s TANF program makes it so well funded and able to reach such a large percentage of people?
4. California has the highest rates of mortgage holders and renters who spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. Is there any movement to create more affordable housing?
5. California has the 9th highest percentage of population living without health insurance. The percentage of adults and children without health insurance is above national averages.  What is the state doing to provide healthcare? Are there federally funded community health care centers? Are there plans to apply for federal funding to bring more health care facilities to the state or to improve the existing ones? Is there a legislator or organization seeking a solution to cover more people?
6. State Pre-K spending per child enrolled is $3,607. This is lower than the national average ($4,689). Is there any plan to make more money available for public school spending? How would federal funding be used to increase quality of public schools in California?
7. SNAP participation among all eligible people is the lowest in the country. Participation among the working poor is only 36%, also the lowest in the country. Is there any movement to increase participation in SNAP?
8. There is no state EITC program.  Is there any movement in the legislature or among organizations to establish one?
9. California has the 3rd highest unemployment rate in the country. Do you know of any efforts to offer additional job training or improve job placement programs in your state?
10. The number of people in prison is the highest of any state at 176,059 people. Is there any effort to use alternate means of correction? Is there any investigation into how to reduce recidivism?
11. What other statewide policies or programs are you aware of that are helping to fight hunger and poverty, or are there any that are responsible for increasing it?

Please let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction to address these questions by contacting Executive Director and Co-Founder Bill Ayres at [email protected].  

Feel free to inform us of any mistakes we may have made in any of these questions. Also we would appreciate any comments on policies or statistics that might have been overlooked.