Supervisor Lawson-Remer Takes Action to Fix Low Enrollment in County Aid Programs

News Date

SAN DIEGO – Launching an effort to “Make the County Work for All,” Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer is advancing two proposed reforms at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors hearing to remove barriers keeping eligible residents from enrolling in County aid programs. 

The first Board Letter, co-sponsored with Vice Chair Nora Vargas, seeks to end “Project 100%,” a policy that requires anyone applying for CalWORKs to agree to a home inspection. Many eligible residents have felt this is an intrusive requirement and it can serve as a disincentive to apply. 

“We want people to come to the County when they need help, not be scared away because programs are confusing or intrusive,” said Supervisor Lawson-Remer. “The public pays for these programs with the expectation that they will be accessible to the people most in need in our community, but there are many eligible residents of San Diego who are hesitant to use these services. We need to do even more to understand why and reach out to vulnerable communities in their time of need.”

“In the midst of a global pandemic, now more than ever we have a moral obligation to remove barriers and ensure that those in need have access to county services,” said Vice Chair Vargas. “As the region’s social safety net, we must end the practice of stigmatizing and criminalizing individuals that participate in self-sufficiency programs. Instead, we must work collectively to empower individuals to thrive as healthy, self-sufficient, and contributing members of our communities.”

The second proposal will create a task force under the Social Services Advisory Board to undertake a comprehensive review of enrollment hurdles, and plans to overcome them, to increase participation in self-sufficiency programs such as CalFresh, CalWORKS, Medi-Cal, Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants, and General Relief. The task force will seek the input of local experts with knowledge of health and human services. The Supervisors will receive monthly updates and receive final recommendations no later than December 7.

“It is a new day at the County,” said Lawson-Remer. “We want to move the relationship of customers and their county to one of trust and support in difficult times. For years, those seeking help have been treated as less than deserving but these programs really are meant to support individuals and families when we are in greatest need.” 

A January 2021 report released by the California Policy Lab finds that paperwork is often a barrier to families remaining on CalFresh, California’s Food Stamp Program. When families have to verify on a shorter timeline of three to six months they are more likely to fall off these critical benefit programs. That same report showed that 55 percent of households that leave CalFresh are still eligible to receive the benefit but are lost to what is called “churn,” where people have to reapply due to administrative hurdles kicking them off the program. Advocates find that while this is in part a state issue, there are local opportunities for improvement.

Advocates and workers who are on the forefront of wanting to help costumers have spoken out in support of these board letters.