Some people who receive food, welfare or medical assistance from the government are so confused by the news coming out of Washington they are calling to cancel benefits, a Los Angeles County official said Monday.
For the most part, county employees on the other end of the line have persuaded callers to hang tight and not throw away benefits, said Roxana Molina, chief-in-charge for the Bureau of Program Policy in the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.
“There are some who still said, ‘No, close my case,’ ” she said.
Molina made the comments during a public forum exploring the potential impact of federal and state budget proposals on beneficiaries, sponsored by the California Budget & Policy Center at the Joan Palevsky Center for the Future of Los Angeles.
The center evaluates public policies that affect the economic and social well being of low- and middle-income Californians.
On Monday, Chris Hoene, center executive director, said depending on how the Trump administration carries out stated goals there could be a major impact on California’s budget — and by extension, Californians who receive assistance.
Hoene noted that, of the $284.5 billion the state wants to spend next fiscal year, $105 billion — or 37 percent — depends on federal funding.
President Donald Trump’s call to remove and replace Obamacare could imperil up to $22 billion in federal dollars for health care in California, including a $17 billion direct hit to the state budget, according to the center.
At the same time, Trump has threatened to take billions from California in response to some public officials’ vow to not cooperate with federal authorities in efforts to step up deportations.
“Obviously, the big elephant in any room is what is happening at the federal level,” Hoene said. “Right now we’re dealing with all the chaos of rhetoric and not actual proposals.”
Until actual proposals are made and adopted, there is no reason, Molina said, for anyone to give up their benefits.
“Until that time happens, people are still entitled to certain benefits,” Molina said.
“There is fear in the community. There is misunderstanding at this point,” she said.
Even so, Molina said, “I would just remind you that everyone is entitled to benefits until we hear otherwise.”
Not everyone who works with beneficiaries is hearing they are so upset they want to cancel now.
Mary Parks, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, said no one to her knowledge had called to request relinquishment of benefits in her county. That, she said, includes people who receive benefits through CalFresh, the state’s food stamp program, CalWORKs, the welfare system and Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for people on lower incomes.
San Bernardino County social service employees haven’t noticed a surge in calls from anxious beneficiaries there, said CaSonya Thomas, county assistant executive officer for human services.
“We encourage them to continue to come to us when they are in need of services,” Thomas said.
In Orange County, however, some beneficiaries have called the past two weeks specifically to request that their benefits be canceled, said Elizabeth DenBleyker, spokeswoman for the Orange County Social Services Agency.
She said typically callers asked to cancel CalFresh or Medi-Cal benefits, saying they feared participation in the programs would flag federal authorities about their immigration status.
DenBleyker said her agency assured callers beneficiary information is confidential and officials have received no direction from either Sacramento or Washington to change programs.
Still, beneficiaries and public officials alike are anticipating sweeping change to wash ashore eventually.
“We’re in this radically changing world order,” said Torie Osborn, principal deputy for policy and strategy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “We are in for a bumpy road.”
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