Public Policy: A Year in Review

December 20, 2016

By: Will White

This has been a year of stark contrasts, one in which massive gains have been made for California’s working families, as well as one of the most divisive election cycles we’ve seen in a generation. While the gains made in 2016 will make it easier for working families to make ends meet, 2017 will likely present a series of new challenges at the local, state, and federal levels.

Let’s reflect on some of the major victories we’ve had this year while also looking forward to the opportunities and challenges we’ll face under the our new presidential administration.

 

Reflecting Back on 2016

 

On the state level, the United Way network has had one of its most successful years to date. Having co-sponsored two bills in this year’s legislative session, United Way Bay Area (UWBA) and its state association, United Ways of California, secured two legislative victories that passed without opposition. A third bill we supported also passed with bipartisan support, placing California at the forefront of health reform.

Here’s a brief description of each of these bills:

 

  • AB 1847 (Stone) EITC Employer Notice bill helps more low-income working Californians learn about California’s new state Earned Income Tax Credit (Cal EITC). It adds a paragraph about Cal EITC to the existing notice employers are required to distribute.

 

  • SB 1339 (Monning) Inter-County Transfers bill ensures more low-income Californians will be able to move across county lines without confusion, delays, or interruptions in their health and income support programs. Inter-county transfers have been an issue for years and this bill should clarify and simplify procedures.

 

  • SB 10 (Lara) – Health4All bill requires the state to apply for a 1332 waiver from the federal government, allowing all residents regardless of immigration status to purchase insurance through Covered California with their own money. This bill brings us one step closer to ensuring all Californians have access to care.

 

Locally, we had an incredibly productive year as we helped pass a minimum wage increase in the City of San Mateo and two affordable housing ballot measures in Alameda and Santa Clara counties. Both victories mean that working families in these communities will have a better chance at reaching economic success by making their work pay and increasing their options for safe and affordable housing.

These wins represent a small part of the policy improvements we need to make if Bay Area families are to achieve the full economic opportunity our region is developing. Despite being one of the wealthiest regions in the nation, many communities still struggle to make ends meet in an increasingly costly place to live.

 

Looking Forward to 2017

 

As we look forward to 2017, policy changes at the federal level may present even more challenges for the Bay Area’s low-income communities.

As the new administration and the U.S. Congress take control in Washington, proposed changes to key federal policies may have steep consequences for our state and local budgets. While no one is certain what our newly elected leaders will do legislatively, there is wide belief that part or all of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be repealed, bringing with it potential cuts to the Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) and the Medicare programs. These programs provide critical grant monies to the state of California, helping to provide health coverage for 14 million Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal and an additional 1.3 million people who receive financial assistance to purchase insurance through Covered California. If the Medicaid expansion created through the ACA were to be repealed, it is estimated that more than 3 million Californians will lose their health coverage.

Across the national United Way network, preserving expansions to the Medicaid program will remain a top priority throughout 2017 and beyond. United Ways throughout the country will be engaged in an effort to work with both parties in congress to demonstrate the value of providing health coverage to low-income working families.

Each and every congressional district has a United Way working to improve the health, education, and income of working families and we are well positioned to educate our members of Congress on the ways the ACA helps their constituents. This is our strength as a network and we’ll be working with both parties to ensure families have access to the health coverage they need to pursue happy, healthy, and productive lives.

Despite the threat of cuts to our safety-net and disruptions to local budgets, UWBA, along with its community partners, are ready to preserve and protect the gains we’ve made for working California families. At United Way we ask our diverse supporters to help our communities thrive by giving, advocating, and volunteering.

Our moment for true advocacy is here and we hope you’ll join us by advocating to preserve critical components of our safety net, so families can get the care they need when they need it.

 

To find out how you can get involved, contact Will White, Director of Government Affairs for UWBA at wwhite@uwba.org. Together we’ll show the nation that Californians #LiveUnited!

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