BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES
                               Senator McGuire, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:              AB 608
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          |Author:   |Gordon                                                |
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          |Version:  |February 24, 2015      |Hearing    |June 9, 2015     |
          |          |                       |Date:      |                 |
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          |Urgency:  |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant|Mareva Brown                                          |
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                          Subject:  CalFresh: school meals.


            SUMMARY
          
          This bill adds specificity to the list of food programs required  
          be compiled and made available by counties and directs that the  
          list be distributed to families applying for CalFresh benefits.  
          It additionally requires counties to inform applicants that, if  
          the household is approved for CalFresh benefits, young children  
          are income eligible for the WIC Program and that all children in  
          the household are directly certified for free and reduced school  
          meals. This bill also requires the Department of Social Services  
          (CDSS) to inform all CalFresh households annually about the  
          summer meal program, as specified.

            ABSTRACT
          
          Existing law:

             1)   Establishes under federal law the Supplemental Nutrition  
               Assistance Program (SNAP), which is administered in  
               California through the CalFresh Program to low-income  
               families and individuals meeting specified criteria. (WIC  
               18900 et seq.)

             2)   Establishes, under federal law, eligibility requirements  
               for receipt of SNAP benefits, including income that is at  
               or below 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and  
               is determined to be a substantial limiting factor in  








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               permitting a recipient to obtain a more nutritious diet, as  
               specified. (7 CFR 273.9) 

             3)   Establishes the Supplemental Nutrition Program for  
               Women, Infants, and Children (WIC Program) in federal and  
               state statute with the goal of providing positive health  
               outcomes to children who are at nutritional risk. (7 CFR  
               Section 246.7, HSC 123280)

             4)   Provides that any child who is eligible for federal SNAP  
               benefits is automatically certified to receive free school  
               meals without an additional application. (7 U.S.C.   
               2020(u)(2)(A))

             5)   Requires a CalFresh application to be processed within  
               30 days from the date of application, and requires county  
               welfare departments to make information related to  
               expedited CalFresh benefits, as specified, available to  
               each applicant upon an initial application for CalFresh.  
               (WIC 18911 (a-c)) 


             6)   Requires each county welfare department to compile a  
               list of emergency food providers in the area served by the  
               CalFresh office. Requires the list to be made available  
               upon request and may be used to refer individuals to  
               emergency food assistance sites. (WIC 18911 (e))


          This bill:

             1)   States a series of Legislative findings and declarations  
               about food insecurity, including:

                           Over 2 million children in California live in  
                    low-income families and are in danger of experiencing  
                    hunger.
                           California is home to more children living in  
                    poverty than any other state in the country.
                           Child development experts have found that even  
                    one incidence of hunger can impact a child's health  
                    and future academic success.
                           Research conducted in California has found  
                    that most families do not apply for public assistance  









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                    until they are already experiencing hardship from  
                    unmet basic needs.
                           Federal law requires states to directly  
                    certify children in a CalFresh household for the  
                    National School Lunch Program and state law requires  
                    all public schools, except charter schools, to serve a  
                    free or reduced-price school meal during the school  
                    day.
                           In California, the process for a family with  
                    children to be directly certified can take up to three  
                    months and a school meal may not be received through  
                    direct certification while a CalFresh application is  
                    pending.
                           During the summer months, child hunger  
                    increases with the absence of school meals and the  
                    lack of information about summer lunch programs for  
                    children.
                           It is the intent of the Legislature to reduce  
                    opportunities for children to go hungry by requiring  
                    increased coordination between CalFresh and child  
                    nutrition programs administered by the State  
                    Department of Education.

             1)   Adds to the required list of emergency food providers  
               created by a county human service agency, supplemental food  
               assistance providers, including local nutrition assistance  
               programs, as specified. 

             3)   Requires that the list be updated based on information  
               that the county human service agency is provided from  
               emergency and supplemental food assistance providers,  
               cities, school districts, summer lunch providers, the  
               California Department of Education, and the WIC Program.

             4)   Requires that the list be made available to households  
               applying for CalFresh.

             5)   Requires a county human services agency to inform  
               households applying for CalFresh that, if the household is  
               certified for CalFresh, children under five years of age in  
               the household are income-eligible for the WIC Program, and  
               all children in the household are directly certified for  
               the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast  
               Program without further application, as specified.









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             6)   Requires CDSS to inform all CalFresh households  
               annually, prior to the end of the school year, about the  
               summer meal program using information the department  
               receives from the state Department of Education and a  
               method deemed appropriate by the department.

             7)   Requires CDSS to implement the change through all-county  
               letters or similar instructions beginning no later than  
               March 1, 2016, until regulations are adopted and to adopt  
               regulations implementing this act on or before October 1,  
               2017.

            FISCAL IMPACT
          
          An analysis by the Assembly Appropriations Committee identified  
          likely minor state-reimbursable local costs (GF) for counties to  
          update their emergency food provider lists and provide  
          information to applicant families with children.  

            BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION
          
          Purpose of the bill:

          According to the author, research has identified multiple  
          negative effects of childhood hunger. Children who experience  
          even one episode of hunger are more likely to incur development  
          impairments that limit their physical, intellectual and  
          emotional growth, the author states. A CalFresh application is  
          required to be processed within 30 days, but the author notes  
          that 30 days can be a long time to wait for a child to receive  
          hunger relief. Additionally, the author states that more than  
          one-third of applicants for CalFresh are denied nutritional  
          benefits, and roughly 80 percent of those families may have  
          children who qualify for free and reduced school meals or a  
          Summer Lunch program. 

          This bill would help to close this gap by informing families  
          with children about child nutrition programs that they are  
          eligible for while their CalFresh application is pending so that  
          no child goes hungry, the author writes.

          Food Insecurity










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          According to data from the UCLA Center for Health Policy  
          Research's California Health Interview Survey, at least 4  
          million low-income Californians struggled with food insecurity  
          during 2011-12. Researchers find that food-insecure adults face  
          higher risks of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension  
          and depression and poor mental health. In a 2012 Gallup poll,  
          one in 5.5 people surveyed, or 18.2 percent, answered  
          affirmatively the question: "Have there been times in the past  
          twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food  
          that you or your family needed?"

          CalFresh
           
           Administered in California as CalFresh, the U.S. Department of  
          Agriculture's (USDA) SNAP program funds 100 percent of food  
          benefits to eligible households nationwide. The state, counties  
          and federal government share the cost of administering the  
          program. The maximum gross income allowed to be eligible is 130  
          percent of the federal poverty level, or $26,117 for a family of  
          four in 2015. An average monthly benefit for a CalFresh  
          recipient in 2014 was $141.99 per month, or $4.73 per day.


          More than 1 million Californians were added to the CalFresh  
          caseload between 2010 and 2013, at the peak of the Great  
          Recession. Nonetheless, this state has been ranked last in the  
          country for years in SNAP participation rates, prompting  
          concerns from the USDA and two Legislative hearings in 2014,  
          including a joint Senate and Assembly Human Services committee  
          hearing on March 11. Just 57 percent of eligible individuals  
          were enrolled in the program, compared to a national average of  
          79 percent in 2011. Only 44 percent of California's eligible  
          working poor families received CalFresh benefits, while the  
          national average was 67 percent.  Analysts have calculated that  
          every $5 of federal SNAP benefits generates $9 of local economic  
          activity.
           
           WIC and Free and Reduced School Meal programs

          California's WIC Program is a federally-funded health and  
          nutrition program for women, infants, and children. It provides  
          funds to purchase healthy supplemental foods from WIC-authorized  
          vendors, provides nutrition education, and offers help finding  
          healthcare and other community services.  To receive benefits,  









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          pregnant women or mothers of children up to age five must meet  
          income guidelines.  According to the California Department of  
          Public Health, 84 WIC agencies provide services locally to more  
          1.45 million participants each month at more than 650 sites.


          The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal  
          program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and  
          residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally  
          balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. 

          Impact of safety net programs 

          A study published in May 2015 by the Center for Budget and  
          Policy Priorities concluded that safety net programs reduced the  
          poverty rate from 29.1 percent to 13.8 percent in 2012 and  
          lifted 48 million people above the poverty line, including 12  
          million children. Correcting for underreporting reveals that the  
          safety net also did more to reduce deep poverty than previously  
          shown, although 11.2 million Americans remained below half the  
          poverty line. Researchers also identified SNAP, or CalFresh, as  
          the most significant safety net program:

               "Among programs limited to people with low or modest  
               incomes, SNAP (formerly food stamps) has the greatest  
               poverty-reducing impact, lifting 10.3 million people out of  
               poverty in 2012. SNAP also lifts more Americans out of deep  
               poverty (5.2 million) than any other means-tested  
               program."<1>

          Impact of poverty on children

          In recent years, a number of researchers have documented the  
          impact of poverty and deep poverty - those living at half the  
          federal poverty level - on children. In 2011, Stanford  
          University researchers recently published a study entitled "The  
          Long Reach of Early Childhood Poverty," which compared young  
          children that had incomes of at least twice the poverty line  
          during their early childhood with poor children and found that  
          ---------------------------
          <1> Safety Net More Effective Against Poverty Than Previously  
          Thought: Correcting for Underreporting of Benefits Reveals  
          Stronger Reductions in Poverty and Deep Poverty in All States,  
          Sherman, Arloc and Danilo Trisi, Center on Budget and Policy  
          Priorities, May 6, 2015








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          poor children completed two fewer years of schooling, earned  
          less than half as much money, worked 451 fewer hours per year,  
          received $826 per year more in food stamps, and are nearly three  
          times as likely to report poor overall health. Poor men are more  
          than twice as likely to be arrested. 

          Related legislation:

          AB 2115 (Bradford, 2014) was substantially similar to this bill.  
          It died in the Senate Appropriations Committee. 
            COMMENTS
          
          This bill differs from AB 2115 in several ways: 
                 It removes the requirement for counties to provide  
               information to CalFresh applicants about how to enroll  
               children in the WIC and National School and Breakfast  
               programs while the CalFresh application is pending  
               application to a family who qualifies for the WIC program,  
               and instead requires that families are told that they may  
               qualify for those programs. This is intended to reduce the  
               bill's costs.
                 It requires counties to make available to all CalFresh  
               applicants the list of food and nutritional programs that  
               the counties already compile, and removes the requirement  
               that CalFresh applicants ask for the list in order to  
               receive it.
                 It requires CDSS to inform all CalFresh households  
               annually, prior to the end of the school year, about summer  
               meal programs, using the information it receives from the  
               state Department of Education, in a manner to be determined  
               by CDSS.


            PRIOR VOTES
          
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          |Assembly Floor:                                            |77 - |
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          |Assembly Appropriations Committee:                         |17 - |
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          |Assembly Human Services Committee:                         |7 -  |
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            POSITIONS
                                          
          Support:  
               Western Center on Law and Poverty (Sponsor)
               California Association of Food Banks
               California Catholic Conference Inc.
               California State PTA
               Courage Campaign 
               First 5 California
               National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter
               South County Collaborative
               St. Joseph's Family Center
               Sunnyvale Community Services
               3 Individuals.

          Oppose:
               California Department of Finance


                                ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT

          The Western Center on Law and Poverty, a co-sponsor of this  
          bill, writes that while "more than one-third of applicant  
          households are denied aid, the children in those homes may still  
          qualify for the National School Lunch Program or a Summer Lunch  
          site in their area. AB 608 helps bridge the gap between hungry  
          bellies and federally funded meals for CalFresh applicant  
          households by informing families with children about the child  
          nutrition programs they are eligible to receive. The steps it  
          takes to reduce the likelihood of child hunger by improving  
          coordination between our publically funded child hunger relief  
          programs are modest, but helpful." Additionally, Western Center  
          on Law and Poverty writes that CalFresh applicants may wait 30  
          days for their benefits to be approved and 60 days for direct  
          certification into the free and reduced meal program. This bill  
          will provide families with a list of resources to alleviate  
          childhood hunger during that time.

                               ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION

          The California Department of Finance writes that, while it finds  









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          "unknown but likely minor administrative costs for counties," it  
          finds the bill unnecessary because a list of emergency food  
          providers and other resources currently is provided to CalFresh  
          applicants, upon their request. It also notes that currently 97  
          percent of emergency and standard CalFresh applications are  
          processed within the required 3 and 30 day application windows.

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