California extends food aid to undocumented migrants

California becomes the first state to provide undocumented residents aged 55 and older with state-subsidized food aid.

On Sunday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced an agreement on the state budget for 2022-2023including funding to expand the California Food Assistance Program to low-income people aged 55 and older, regardless of immigration status.

“California is making history again by removing xenophobic exclusions from our state’s safety net,” Betzabel Estudillo, senior advocate at Nourish California, said in a press release. “This step towards equal access to our food and nutrition safety net will help reduce hunger and reduce poverty.”

About 75,000 people will benefit from expanded food aid by 2025-26, according to a Feb analysis by the impartial bureau of legislative analysts† Children and adults under the age of 55 are not eligible for the benefit.

Estudillo told The Bee/CalMatters earlier this month that excluding undocumented migrants under the age of 55 was “not the righteous thing to do”

“We need to be able to cover an entire family unit,” she said.

The news comes at a time when the state is expanding or considering expanding other benefits for undocumented Californians.

The The 2022-2023 budget also makes California the first state to remove immigration status as a health care barrier. All undocumented residents with a low income, regardless of age, are now eligible for state subsidized insurance

And undocumented Californians may soon be eligible for unemployment benefits.

The state senate is currently reviewing a bill that would Excluded Employee Pilot Programa two-year program running from 2024-2026 that will provide unemployment benefits to undocumented workers who will lose their jobs or reduce their working hours by 2024. The bill, passed in the Assembly, has scheduled a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing before Tuesday .

Food insecurity among undocumented Californians

While anti-hunger advocates cheered the news with the Food4All campaign, they felt the policy didn’t go far enough. The campaign is a coalition of immigrant and food-fighting campaigners who want to see comprehensive food aid for all immigrants, regardless of age or status.

“With this historic investment, California is one step closer to the Food4All Coalition’s vision of removing unjust exclusions from our state’s social safety net programs,” said Benyamin Chao, Health & Public Benefits Policy Analyst at California Immigrant Policy Center, in a press release. announce the news.

“Amid rising food costs and alarming levels of food insecurity, it is heartbreaking that hundreds of thousands of Californians under 55 will be excluded from our most powerful anti-hunger programs,” Chao said.

About 45% of undocumented Californians currently experience food insecurity, according to a recent research assignment of the Food4All campaign in collaboration with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research† Research has shown that people under the age of 55 experience the most food insecurity: almost two in three undocumented children and almost half (46%) of adults aged 27-49 experience food insecurity.

Food4All proponents estimate that nearly 1 in 6 California children lives with at least one undocumented parent, and say children who receive CalFresh do better in school, improving long-term health and economic outcomes.

Central Valley residents react to the news

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Orange Cove residents and volunteers help pack food at the Fresno EOC food distribution site at the community center on Jan. 18. Maria G. Ortiz-Briones [email protected]

Food access and safety has long been a challenge in the Central San Joaquin Valleyand the pandemic has only made the situation worse.

Elected leaders and community members from the Central Valley celebrated the news on Monday and said it is important that farm workers and immigrants of all backgrounds be included in the state’s safety net.

“Hunger knows no borders, no race, no nationality, and with the inclusion of Food4All in this year’s budget, California is getting closer to eradicating hunger,” Senator Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat from Sanger, said in a press release on Monday. .

Hurtado also focuses on how climate change can affect access to food.

“As the drought increases, the cost of food will rise, further increasing food insecurity throughout California,” Hurtado said. “This funding in the budget will help us tackle this crisis and ensure that those who need help, regardless of their immigration status, have access to it.”

Ana Alfaro, assistant coordinator for immigrant entrepreneurship at the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative, said in a press release Monday that California, as the nation’s most agriculturally productive state, should be able to support all needy residents — especially those living on the planet. country toil to feed the rest of the country.

“California leads the country as the largest producer of agricultural products,” Alfaro said. “It is contradictory that many of these farmers and their families do not have access to food.”

Melissa Montalvo covers poverty and inequality in California’s Central Valley for The Fresno Bee/CalMatters as a Report for America Corps member. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in international relations, minors in business law and French, and Renaissance and Global Scholar awards.

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