Assemblymember Gloria Introduces Additional Protections for Victims of Natural Disasters

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gloria Authors Bill to Safeguard Families, Disabled, and Seniors from Hunger & Hardship during States of Emergency

SACRAMENTO, CA – Following yesterday’s official declaration of a state of emergency from the federal government stemming from weeks of heavy rains and the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway failure, California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) introduced AB 607 today that would preserve and protect low-income families and people who are elderly or disabled against increased hunger and hardship during declared states of emergencies.

California’s low-income, seniors, and disabled communities are among our most vulnerable. During states of emergency, their susceptibility to hunger and hardship is increased yet access to the public assistance programs they rely upon is often decreased or threatened,” said Assemblymember Gloria. “With this bill, we can ensure those who need it most can still access these government resources during and after disasters occur. Most importantly, we will provide our neediest neighbors with additional stability and peace-of-mind during these times of crisis.”

Under current state law, California participates or administers the following public assistance programs:

  • California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), the state-operated public assistance program which provides cash aid and services to eligible families with children;
  • CalFresh, California’s branch of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) commonly known as the federal food stamp program;
  • California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which supplies nutrition and other assistance for eligible low-income women with children less than five years of age.

Known officially as the Community Resiliency and Disaster Preparedness Act of 2017, AB 607 codifies new provisions in state law establishing targeted assistance programs for beneficiaries of CalFresh, CalWORKs, or WIC impacted by natural disasters. Specifically, the Act will:

  • Allow CalWORKs recipients to still receive benefits if they are unable to work due to a natural disaster;
  • Authorize additional state budget resources to be triggered for disaster assistance services for WIC and CalFresh recipients should the Governor declare a state of emergency;
  • Require county Health and Human Services Departments to adopt planning strategies to identify and inform CalWORKs recipients of temporary housing options and benefits during times of natural disasters and execute these plans during declared states of emergency;
  • Require the state and county agencies to support remote application and issuance of disaster benefits.

“CalFresh benefits provide a safety net for individuals and families during times of need, especially during dislocation caused by disaster,” said James Floros, CEO of the San Diego Food Bank, a sponsor of the measure. “We support improving the Disaster-CalFresh Program because it enables benefits to be deployed quickly to provide temporary assistance to those affected by a disaster – especially families living in poverty who face disproportionate hardship.”

As of 2015, California has the 17th highest poverty rate in the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 12.8% percent of state residents experience hunger and food insecurity. By a newer, more comprehensive Census accounting, California’s true poverty rate could exceed 20% -- the highest in the nation.

Disasters can come at a great economic and human cost for anyone caught in their wakes, but they are especially devastating for low-income people,” said Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, “This bill will encourage and support disaster planning that will increase access to federal disaster assistance and ensure resiliency of all communities following disaster declaration by the Governor.”

AB 607 is sponsored by the California Association of Food Banks, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. Full text of the proposed legislation can be found here.

Assemblymember Gloria represents the 78th Assembly District of California and is a former San Diego City Councilmember, San Diego City Council President, and Interim Mayor for the City of San Diego.

Assemblymember Gloria’s official, high-resolution photo can be downloaded here.