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Board of Supes 12/17: General Assistance Program; California Air Resources Board; County Employee Salary Levels; Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy; New Positions in Specialty Courts

The Board of Supervisors will not meet on December 24 or December 31. Happy holidays to us all, and I look forward to a new year of improving economic growth and productive local government activity!

The Board of Supervisors received a report on the General Assistance program, which provides financial assistance to indigent adults in Shasta County, from Donnell Ewert, Director of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency. Counties are required by law dating back more than 100 years to “relieve and support all incompetent, poor, indigent persons, and those incapacitated by age, disease or accident, lawfully resident therein, when such persons are not supported and relieved by their relatives or friends, or by state hospitals or other state or private institutions.” (California Welfare and Institutions Code 17000) Shasta County provides an aid package currently set at $297/month. This amount is linked by state law to aid payments set for the CalWORKS program for families with children, and will be adjusted upward when CalWORKS payments are adjusted.

General Assistance serves three groups: 1) Adults who cannot work, as verified by a doctor, with a condition expected to last less than 6 months. If the incapacity is verified by a doctor to last longer, the adult is referred to the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program; 2) Adults who are permanently incapacitated and are awaiting completion of the SSI process and payments to begin. Procedures are in place to recoup payments to these individuals when SSI is approved; 3) Adults who have no means of support but are able to work or look for work. These individuals are limited to 90 days of assistance in any 12-month period and are required to participate in work activities during that period. A significant majority of recipients are adults waiting for SSI. All recipients are required to plan to repay General Assistance amounts received. Most repayments are made by the federal government when SSI eligibility for an individual is approved; other individuals make repayment arrangements with the county.

The current aid package in this county is a maximum of $257/month in cash and an amount of $40/month in access to indigent health services through the County Medical Services Program. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, all but a handful of General Assistance recipients will be eligible for Medi-Cal at no county cost.

The Board adopted the report and a recommendation that the General Assistance payment be adjusted to all cash at $297, acknowledging that health care expenditures will no longer be required for most recipients. In addition, the Agency was authorized to increase the grant by a cost of living amount when required by state law due to an increase in CalWORKS grant amounts. That will be 5% in March, 2014, or about $14/month. The action required no appropriation. General Assistance caseloads dropped significantly in 2012/13, down to levels close to the caseload in 2007/08. This is due in part to an improving economy, and to improvements in timely federal processing of SSI approvals and payments.

The Board approved a resolution that asserts coordination and consultation status with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in the matter of truck and bus regulation. The State of California has expressed a general policy of coordination and or consultation by the CARB with other public agencies and the resolution will permit that process to occur. At hand are regulations instituted by CARB that require in-use on-road, heavy-duty diesel trucks to reduce particulate emissions and criteria pollutants via various implementation schedules. Opponents of the regulations state that the costs of the engine retrofit and engine change-outs required to meet the new standards are substantial, that the science behind the regulations is not good, and that many diesel operations will go out of business due to the costs. The Board members expressed concern about the economic impact of these regulations.

In a busy meeting Board completed additional items:

Catherine Camp is currently retired. During her career, she worked as a policy and budget analyst for the California Assembly and California Senate, in health and human services fields. She worked as a policy analyst and advocate for California’s public mental health system. Early in her career, she worked in the Community Action and Head Start programs in Shasta County.