California should cease intercepting baby assist cash
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gov. Newsom can help California take a critical step forward by stopping the state from intercepting child support payments for low-income children who are current or former recipients of important benefit programs like CalWORKs and Medi-Cal.
As Black leaders and fathers, we’ve dedicated our lives and careers to ensuring that all families, including families of color, benefit from California’s enormous wealth. However, the state’s child support policies are stripping resources from the lowest-income families in our state, who are predominantly families of color.
The next year’s budget provides an opportunity to right that wrong. During his State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom reminded us that California is a place where we find big solutions to complex problems and leave no one behind. While that’s true in spirit, our state has the nation’s highest poverty rate, with an estimated 6 million residents living in poverty. We have a long way to go to make the “California Way” the governor talked about a reality.
But Newsom can help California take a critical step forward by stopping the state from intercepting child support payments for low-income children who are current or former recipients of important assistance programs such as CalWorks and Medi-Cal. In this year’s budget, we urge Newsom to ensure that 100% of parents’ child support payments go to children.
Every month, low-income children who benefit from CalWorks and Medi-Cal, which provide cash assistance and health care to Californians who need it most, receive only a small portion of the child support payments their parents make. The rest is intercepted by the state.
For example, although Sacramento father Stacy Estes pays over $500 in child support for his two children each month, only $200 actually ends up in their hands. The state takes the rest.
Last year, the state intercepted a record $430 million in child support payments from families who receive CalWorks assistance. Over three-quarters of those affected were children of color, and all were low-income. Over 75% of the families who receive CalWorks benefits have incomes of less than $10,000 a year.
Other states have shown that California does not have to support these safety net programs by penalizing low-income families. Colorado, for example, now passes 100% of child support payments on to children. Unsurprisingly, the state saw child support payment rates increase as a result.
In January, Newsom rightly proposed stopping this backward practice for families previously on CalWorks or Medi-Cal, but he stopped short of ensuring that this no longer happens to the families who are currently receiving these benefits.
We believe all families deserve their full child support payments to ensure their children have the resources they need to thrive. The Truth and Justice in Child Support Coalition, a statewide organization of family advocates, has been lifting up the voices of affected parents across the state.
We applaud many of Newsom’s budget proposals to support racial justice and inclusive prosperity. His budget is a thoughtful effort to bring real change to Californians. However, extracting millions of dollars from the lowest-income families in our state is deeply at odds with our commitment to support those same families.
Over the last year, thanks to Newsom’s leadership, we have seen the power of getting resources directly to those who need it. Guaranteed-income pilot programs, child tax credits and Golden State stimulus payments have helped families get the resources they need to give their children happy, healthy lives. But intercepting child support payments diminishes those results and leads to unpaid bills, and skimping on food, medicine and other necessities..
We can bring the “California Way” one step closer to reality for children who need it most by ensuring that 100% of parents’ child support payments goes to supporting their families. And we can right a wrong that has stripped wealth from low-income Black and brown Californians for decades.
Michael Tubbs is the founder of End Poverty In California and a former mayor of Stockton. Sam Cobbs is the chief executive of Tipping Point Community. Fred Blackwell, the chief executive of the San Francisco Foundation, also contributed to this commentary.
Michael Tubbs is the founder of End Poverty In California and the former mayor of Stockton. Michael Tubbs