State Policy & Advocacy

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California Legislation, Regulations, and Policy

CWA has a long history of advocating for children and families in California, actively sponsoring legislation, making budget requests, and educating Sacramento representatives about WIC’s benefits. WIC represents the state’s largest nutrition and lactation public health workforce.

CWA is a key resource for policymakers shaping policies affecting local families, ensuring California legislators are well-informed about WIC’s expertise and resources.

Locate Your Legislators

AB-518 - Paid family leave: eligibility: care for designated persons

AB 518 (Wicks): CA Work & Family Coalition “Chosen family” bill, would extend eligibility for paid leave (it’s already job-protected leave) to those caring for a loved one outside of the immediate family criteria. This is a two-year bill that we supported last year.

CWA Position: Support

SB-1016 - Latino and Indigenous Disparities Reduction Act

SB 1016 (Gonzalez): This bill aims to uncover health and related disparities by requiring state departments to collect and disaggregate more detailed data for Latine and Indigenous Mesoamerican populations in California.

CWA Position: Support

AB-2090 - Office of Farm to Fork: food deserts: transportation

AB 2090 (Irwin): Bill to address food deserts with a multi-pronged approach. This bill would require the Office of Farm to Fork in the Dept of Food & Agriculture to work with transportation agencies and to prioritize the department’s efforts in food deserts throughout the state, especially counties that are most impacted by food insecurity. The bill would require the Office to identify distribution barriers that affect limited food access and work to overcome those barriers by facilitating partnerships between statewide, regional, and local transportation agencies to address inadequate public transportation lines in urban and rural communities, with the aim of connecting all communities to adequate and nutritional food access, as provided. Bill aims to encourage more WIC vendors in food desert areas. The bill would also require the Office to coordinate with school districts and representatives to assess access to school breakfast and lunch programs during scheduled academic calendar breaks and school closures.

CWA Position: Watch

SB-949 - Superior court: lactation accommodation

SB 949 (Blakespear): This bill would require as of July 1, 2026, superior courts in CA to provide “any court user” with a reasonable amount of time to take a break during court to express their breast milk. It would also require the Judicial Council to amend their rules on this issue. 

CWA Position: Support

AB-1975 - Medi-Cal: medically supportive food and nutrition interventions

AB 1975 (Bonta): Bill to transition medically supportive food and nutrition (“food as medicine”) interventions from optional services in healthcare through CalAIM to permanent Medi-Cal benefits.

CWA Position: Support

AB-1965 - Public health: Office of Tribal Affairs

AB 1965 (Rubio): Bill to address racial disparities in tribal communities by establishing the Office of Tribal Affairs within the department to be led by a Tribal Health Liaison to assist in addressing the public health disparities impacting Tribal communities. 

CWA Position: Support

SB-600 - California CalFresh Minimum Benefit Adequacy Act of 2023

SB 600 (Menjivar): Would set a minimum for CalFresh benefits of $50/month.

CWA Position: Support

AB-311 - California Food Assistance Program: eligibility and benefits

AB 311 (Santiago): 2-year Food4All bill. This bill would remove the current 55 years+ age limitation and make any individual eligible for the program if the individual’s immigration status is the sole basis for their ineligibility for CalFresh benefits. By extending eligibility for the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which is administered by the counties, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

CWA Position: Support

SB-245 - California Food Assistance Program: eligibility and benefits

SB 245 (Hurtado): Companion Food4All bill to AB311.

CWA Position: Support

AB-2263 - The California Guaranteed Income Study and Funding Act

AB 2263 (Friedman): Universal basic income “pilot to policy” bill, would establish the Guaranteed Income Study and Funding Act Coordinating Council, consisting of 6 members, appointed by the Legislature, as specified. The bill would require the council to seek to attain, among other things, the objective of examining the feasibility, benefits, and challenges of scaling up permanent guaranteed income programs to reach a larger proportion of California’s socially and economically vulnerable populations, focusing on regions with a high cost of living. 

CWA Position: Support

SB-1090 - Unemployment insurance: disability and paid family leave: claim administration

SB 1090 (Durazo): CAWFC priority bill, would allow for early Application for PFL and DI Benefits so that one wouldn’t have to already have left work (i.e. be in labor or have just given birth) in order to apply.

CWA Proposed Position: Support

AB-2123 - Disability compensation: paid family leave

AB 2123 (Papan): Changes paid family leave policy so that you don’t have to use your vacation leave before you start using PFL.

CWA Position: Support

AB-2527 - Incarceration: pregnant persons

AB 2527 (Bauer-Kahan): Bill to require better nutrition, treatment, etc. of incarcerated pregnant people. 

CWA Proposed Position: Support

AB-1830 - Corn masa flour: folic acid fortification

AB 1830 (Arambula): Bill to require fortification of corn masa with folic acid. 

CWA Position: Support

AB-3059 - Human milk

AB 3059 (Weber): This bill would specify that a general acute care hospital is not required to have a license to operate a tissue bank to store or distribute pasteurized human milk that was obtained from a mothers’ milk bank. This bill would specify that coverage of essential health benefits under a health care service plan or health insurance policy includes, with respect to maternity and newborn care, the same health benefits for human milk and human milk derivatives covered under the Medi-Cal program as of 1988. 

CWA Position: Support

AB-2901 - School and community college employees: paid disability and parental leave

AB 2901 (Aguiar Curry): This bill would require a public school employer to, for a certificated employee or an employee in the classified service of the public school employer, and would require a community college district to, for an academic employee or an employee in the classified service of the community college district, provide up to 14 weeks of a leave of absence with full pay for an employee who is required to be absent from duty because of pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from those conditions. 

CWA Proposed Position: Support

AB-2110 - Medi-Cal: Adverse Childhood Experiences trauma screenings: providers

AB 2110 (Arambula): This bill will allow Community Health Workers (CHWs) and Doulas to bill Medi-Cal for ACEs screenings.

CWA Proposed Position: Support

CWA 2024 Budget Requests

Hunger & Nutrition

Preserve CNIP (Market Match) Funding

In his January 2024 budget proposal, Governor Newsom proposed cutting $33.2 million from the three-year $35 million California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP) budget under the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The massive scale of this cut will destroy Market Match, a program funded by CNIP that draws down federal matching funds to California, supports California farmers, and has helped tens of thousands of Californians afford healthy food, especially during the pandemic and the period of inflation we have endured. Market Match, which is funded by CNIP, is a critical nutrition safety net program for Californians who depend on CalFresh/EBT to feed their families. CalFresh customers who shop at participating farmers’ markets and farm stands are able receive a match up to a daily maximum ($10-$20) that can be spent on California-grown fruits and vegetables. For example, a customer who uses $15 of their CalFresh/EBT benefits for groceries at a farmers’ market will receive an additional $15 in Market Match to be spent on fresh produce at the market.

CalWORKs Work Incentive Nutrition Supplements

Recent changes to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program in the Fiscal Responsibility Act require timely action to ensure we fully leverage the new federal law and keep California’s national leadership at the forefront of states maximizing CalWORKs to remove families’ unique barriers and provide real pathways out of poverty. We urge the Legislature to support the Governor’s proposal to sustain the WINS. In 2025-26 the budget should raise the WINS monthly benefit to $35. This is crucial to: 1) improve the hunger fighting power of the WINS for working families, 2) every $1 will deliver as much as $1.8 in ROI to our food economy, and 3) ensure California continues to maximize the flexibility to serve CalWORKs families and prevent harm from the Newt Gingrich-Pete Wilson WPR, while protecting against future threats to worsen the WPR.

Adopt the Governor’s Proposal for Minimum Nutrition Benefit Pilot

We appreciate the inclusion of funding for the CalFresh Minimum Nutrition Benefit Pilot in the 2023-24 State Budget. This initiative aims to augment CalFresh benefits for households receiving only the minimum allotment of $23 monthly, bringing them up to $50 per month. This will help to ensure that for households who are selected for the pilot, they will receive a more substantial and helpful benefit allotment. This directly aligns with the White House Conference on Hunger goal to increase food access and affordability.

Maximize the new federal Summer EBT program

California made history with the Universal School Meals initiative, offering free breakfast and lunch to all children regardless of family income. However, many low-income children still face meal insecurity when school is closed. Investments secured in the 2023-24 budget will launch Summer EBT in 2024, ensuring millions of children receive vital food benefits during summer months. California must continue to fulfill the 2023-24 Budget language to maximize this program, particularly for children who do not need to apply for school meals but will not be “streamlined” eligible for Summer EBT.

Enhance Summer EBT with an additional $80 monthly benefit

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 introduced Summer EBT, providing $120 in food benefits to eligible low-income children during school breaks. This initiative, long prioritized in California and Western Regional states, has proven to reduce child hunger significantly according to USDA evaluations. Maximizing federal Summer EBT options and issuing an additional $80 per month during summer breaks can further mitigate hunger and ensure children have consistent access to nutritious meals.

Universal Summer Meal Access

The federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) plays a crucial role in providing nutritious meals and preventing summer learning loss. Administered by the California Department of Education and funded by the USDA, SFSP offers meals at various locations such as libraries, parks, and community centers. However, the expiration of USDA waivers due to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, have led to fewer summer meal sites, exacerbating food insecurity issues, particularly in areas with less concentrated poverty. This has forced closures of numerous summer meal sites, significantly impacting communities across California, including Sonoma County where they lost 20 out of 40 sites. With child hunger on the rise, especially in areas that fall below the 50% area eligibility threshold, California can step in by utilizing state funding to support meal reimbursement for sites unable to meet strict USDA requirements. By ensuring access to nutritious meals during the summer months, California can contribute to ending summer hunger and fostering a healthy environment for children to thrive academically.

Medi-Cal

Ensure and strengthen continuous coverage enrolled children and families

The overwhelming majority (89%) of Medi-Cal disenrollments are for procedural or ‘paperwork’ reasons, meaning they experience gaps in healthcare coverage despite remaining eligible. Of this, children and youth account for roughly a third of all disenrollments in California. California ranks worst in the nation in terms of procedural rates, presenting another administrative hurdle for low-income Californians and costing the already overburdened State and County social services agencies time and money to process.

  • Allow people to keep their Medi-Cal coverage for a full 12 months, regardless of changes in their income.
  • Direct California to seek federal approval, when necessary, to make permanent the federal Medi-Cal flexibilities to reduce and remedy procedural terminations, simplify income verification requirements, increase automatic Medi-Cal renewals, and improve program outreach and customer service.
  • Sufficiently fund the multi-year continuous Medi-Cal enrollment (MYCE) protection for young children to meet the January 2025 planned start date. This will ensure that children under the age of five can keep their Medi-Cal coverage without any annual redeterminations which can cause loss of coverage often due to administrative hurdles.

CalWORKs

Reject proposed double-cut to Safety Net Reserve and CalWORKs

The budget shows a total $9.8 billion available for CalWORKs, and transfers $3.2 billion to programs “outside of CalWORKs,” as allowable under federal law. The budget then proposes specific cuts that will harm the program and families, many of whom receive a grant less than 50% of the FPL, or “deep child poverty” known to cause significant harm to children. In total, the budget proposes a double-cut of more than $1 billion: Complete withdrawal of the $900 million Safety Net Reserve established to protect CalWORKs and Medi-Cal during budget shortfalls, and $300 million in ongoing cuts to CalWORKs services and program administration. Many of the cuts are retroactive to the current year’s funding, resulting in abrupt, painful transitions for administrators, the program workforce, and further destabilization for families. In addition to ‘reversions’, ongoing funding is proposed to be eliminated. This includes zeroing out the Family Stabilization Program, the sole crisis support providing barrier removal services, putting families at greater risk of homelessness, sanctions, and child welfare involvement. These cuts will undermine the state’s plans to pursue the new federal pilot, which will evaluate CalWORKs’ ability to support successful outcomes in those very areas: family stability, wellbeing, and employment.

Build on Governor’s proposed TANF pilot application to Reimagine CalWORKs

The Governor’s budget proposes to pursue the new federal opportunity to pilot alternatives to the Work Participation Requirements (WPR). The Legislature should expand on the Governor’s proposal to apply for the federal pilot, making maximum progress enacting program change proven to achieve progress in family outcomes, including to:

  • limit family sanctions to federal requirements
  • empower families to self-determine their participation activities
  • permanently repeal the county WPR penalty pass-through

Ultimately, the pilot is an opportunity to continue California’s leadership in driving national reforms that strengthen TANF at the federal level and transforming the lives of children experiencing poverty across the county.

End poverty in CalWORKs and SSI/SSP

Due to the Legislature’s commitment to ending deep child poverty, through recent grant increases the basic grants for many CalWORKs families finally exceeds 50% of the federal poverty level. Yet, this does not account that 63% of CalWORKs cases – including 240,000 children – have smaller assistance unit size than family size, with grants as low as 42.5% of the FPL. Many CalWORKs families have a parent who is ineligible for cash aid, so many receive a smaller award amount than they would if family size was considered. We urge the Legislature and Administration to fulfill the commitment to end deep poverty by utilizing a grant structure called assistance unit plus one (AU+1), by setting the grants higher by one additional person for the current federal fiscal year. Even if the parent is sanctioned or timed limited off aid, the average grant should still be above 50% of the FPL to end deep poverty for all children. And until the grants levels reflect the current federal fiscal year, they will continue to be permanently eroded by nearly a year of inflation between the annual grant increase on October 1st, and the publication of FPL in January.

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