State welfare requests on the rise


Long lines are a sign of these rough economic times. Public assistance offices throughout the state are jam packed with Californians needing help. California had done a good job of keeping fewer people on welfare, until the foreclosure crisis hit.

From July of last year to this past July, applications for CalWORKS or welfare spiked more than 13 percent. Just from June to July of this year, it jumped closer to 15 percent, with more than 50,000 applications in one month alone.

The California Department of Social Services blames that rise on the 8.2 percent jobless rate, which is the highest in 14 years.

"As the unemployment rate starts to climb, then you'll see a little of lag time then you'll see an increase in my caseload," said Charr Lee Metsker, from the California Department of Social Services.

Still, the rise in public assistance applications comes at a time when state leaders are grappling with a deficit that could climb to $28 billion by the middle of 2010. The Governor's proposed solution is to cut nearly $850 million from welfare now.

"What that would do is cut 200,000 children completely off cash assistance. They would have no income in their household at all," said Mike Herald, from Western Center on Law and Poverty.

While state leaders say they don't want to cut social programs, news of proposed cuts to benefits or eligibility is frustrating to welfare moms.

"It's absurd. What are we supposed to do with it, moms that haven't worked that have kids? What are we supposed to do when we can't get any kind of help at all? Who's going to hire us?" said Corina Ward, a welfare recipient.

Social services always seem to be targeted for cuts because they are part of the budget whose funding isn't protected by a law or voter mandate. But so far, no mid-year cuts have been made because leaders can't agree on where to chop.

Both the Assembly and the Senate are scheduled to hold session on Tuesday. What exactly they'll vote on, no one knows, and they wonder whether those welfare cuts will actually be that deep.

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