CalWORKs on the chopping block

July 15, 2009 6:41:36 PM PDT
Another sticking point in the budget talks has been the governor's proposed deep cuts to the state's welfare-to-work program. Advocates for the poor say slashing the CalWORKs program would devastate California's most vulnerable residents.

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"I want to work, but I can't," says Jose Espinosa, a CalWORKs recipient.

The pain in his arm keeps Espinosa from working, but it's his fears about the future that keep him awake at night. He and his family depend on the $300 a month they receive in state welfare. It's money they might soon lose because of budget cuts.

"Even if I have to go from house to house and ask for $1, I'll do it for my family," says Espinosa.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-California, had proposed eliminating the state's welfare-to-work program altogether. He ultimately proposed cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the CalWORKs program.

His plan could remove thousands from the rolls by requiring welfare recipients to get a job, enroll in a job training programs or school, or perform community service. If after two years they fail to meet such requirements, their cash assistance dries up.

These controversial cuts have been one of the main issues stalling the budget talks.

Counties like Alameda are charged with administering the program and officials here say Sacramento's cuts would do away with the entire purpose of welfare reform, and that's to transition people back into the workforce.

"The people who could easily go off of welfare, have moved on. These are very difficult to serve individuals because they have lots of needs," says Yolonda, the Alameda County Social Services director.

Single mom Alina Baguio's only source of income is the $694 she receives from CalWORKs. She just graduated and can't find a job.

"There's some people, yeah, they might just sit around every month and wait for a check, but there's a lot of people out there trying to better themselves and this is the only source that can better them right now," said Alina Baguio.

And she's hoping, for her children's sake, that doesn't go away.

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