Constant dollars

Many disabled Californians feel abandoned by the Newsom government’s Golden State stimulus program


A check for $ 600 is a big help to Janet Cleandenin.

According to Clendenin, the cost of the sugar-free foods she buys to control diabetes has skyrocketed in South Lake Tahoe during a pandemic. She usually has to travel through scenic areas by bus to find discounts at Dollar Tree, Grocery Outlet, and Wal-Mart.

So when she learned of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to send $ 600 to lower-income Californians in February, Klendenin was relieved.

Then came the frustration.

Clendenin scrutinized the news Eligibility Details.. She learned that she could have been qualified had she been able to work in 2020. However, the constellations of diabetes, arthritis, migraines, back injuries and nerve pain made it impossible to work there. about six years. Given her disability, she should only have been eligible if she received Supplemental Security Income, a federal safety net program for the elderly, visually impaired and disabled with limited income. ..

But Clendenin found no mention of Social Security disability insurance, another major federal program for people with disabilities sending $ 1,056 per month.

“I couldn’t believe we were being left behind,” Klendenin said. “Is this unfair? “

It’s a sentiment shared by many Californians about federal disability insurance who wonder why Newsom’s stimulus payments have ignored them.

California legislatures automatically sent checks to 1.2 million people who received SSI, but SSDI’s 1.2 million Californians are only eligible if they make money from their work in 2020. But it’s rare – Studies show He Less than 1 in 5 SSDI beneficiaries working in a typical yearOften they are limited by disability or risk losing their benefits if they work too hard.

Disability advocates say this is the latest example of a state that abandoned some of its most vulnerable residents during a pandemic after educating health care providers. Distribution COVID-19 Care of the elderly and the unhealthy Last spring Lower priority of people with disabilities for vaccines Earlier this year, the two policies Overthrown after many protests..

Andrew Impalato, executive director of the California Department of Persons with Disabilities, said: “Many people with disabilities have had to protect themselves.

Treasury spokesman HD Palmer raises logistical challenges. California maintains list of residents with ISS Because the state supplements federal benefits by hundreds of dollars.However, you cannot access the same information in SSDI.

“If you try to include SSDI … it’s a long, arduous process for the federal government that is not in line with intent (Golden State Stimulus) – an immediate bailout for Californians with whom we have an existing relationship.” . That’s why, ”Palmer wrote in an email.

“Make tough decisions quickly”

The Newsom administration may also have made decisions based on consideration of necessity.

California SSI beneficiaries, by definition, live in poverty.. Seniors, visually impaired and disabled people can only be eligible if their income and assets are very low and typically only receive $ 954.72 per month.

On the other hand, well-employed people are eligible for monthly SSDI payments based on their previous salaries. The national average benefit is $ 1,280 Monthly amount.

Yet California SSDI recipients often face serious financial problems. According to calculations by Andrew Houtenville, an economist at the Institute for Disability at the University of New Hampshire, they could live in poverty more than twice as much as other populations. In addition, people with disabilities often have to pay for expensive medical equipment, professional visits and medication.

Imparato admitted that the state “tries to make hard decisions quickly”, but “including everyone in SSDI is fairer than excluding it because the program is inaccessible or is not a way.” It was a tested program. “

There are signs that lawmakers may still include SSDI beneficiaries. Newsome’s proposed extension of the Golden State Stimulus requires approval from the state legislature. They passed the budget set aside to meet the June 15 deadline, but state lawmakers disagree with Newsom on how much of the surplus the state is free to use and how to use it.

According to legislative staff familiar with the ongoing budget negotiations, some members of Congress, among other groups, will expand eligibility for Golden State Stimulus payments to Californians at SSDI under the Newsome administration. Is working.

Evolution of Golden State stimulation

Newsom’s Golden State Stimulus qualification saw several twists and turns. In January Gov. Gavin Newsom announces $ 2.4 billion plan to send $ 600 Golden State stimulus check About 4 million low-income workers.

By February Increase in government revenue estimates, Parliament made more generous negotiations and approvals Exciting $ 3.8 billion payment plan including additional help for undocumented workers..

As part of the plan, the state also sent a payment of $ 600 to some Californians living in poverty, whether they were working or not. This is a state alternative for very low income families with children enrolled in CalWorks, SSI recipients or certain immigrant groups. Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants..

It took Charis Hill a few days to search online, contact state lawmakers, and automatically find out they weren’t eligible. Hill, a Sacramento-based disability activist living from SSDI for $ 1,027 a month, will ultimately qualify for his writing and freelance speech last year, not for people with disabilities. I guessed.

Hill will have to file an income tax return. This is something they haven’t done in years because their work income is way below the reporting requirements. They decided it was worth it. Their costs skyrocketed during the pandemic, not least because they chose grocery delivery over shopping in stores due to their immunodeficiency.

Hill said he was fortunate to have a friend who, unlike many people with disabilities, had internet access and helped him complete his tax returns. They were lucky enough to be able to work last year, despite constant pain and discomfort from an inflammatory condition called axial spondyloarthritis. But they said it was wrong to say that the Golden State Stimulus Program “is based on the worth of people with disabilities based on their ability to work.”

When Newsom suggested Golden State’s second round of stimulus for the middle class in California In May, Hill expected other SSDI beneficiaries to benefit as well. However, when details of Newsom’s plans were revealed, there was still no mention of SSDI recipients.

“It’s really hard to see or read the coverage of Newsom about how great it is for the middle class,” Hill said. People with disabilities are “among the poorest people in the country”.

The financial burden can fall on the keeper

Sydney Chandler manages the finances and medical care of her crippled cousin Chris Battiste. Batiste breathes through the device and communicates with Chandler via laptops, blinks, and head nods.

Los Angeles-based writer Chandler said he was happy to know SSDI recipients have been left behind by stimuli from the state. For her, another obstacle in an arbitrary and bureaucratic maze was that people with disabilities were faced with trying to earn a living income.

Guardians often bear a heavy financial burden. Batiste received $ 975 per month on SSDI and Chandler said he would donate over $ 1,000 per month to cover rent and full-time nursing care.

“Without me he would be one of the homeless, and did he say he couldn’t set up a portal for SSDI (recipients) to enter information?”

Jackie Botts is a reporter for Cal Matters This article is part of California Division, A collaboration between newsrooms investigating income inequality and financial survival in California.

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