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Lawmakers Consider Food Assistance for Undocumented Californians

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If passed, the Food4All legislation would expand food assistance to low-income Californians regardless of their immigration status, starting in January 2023. (Ladyheart/Morguefile)
If passed, the Food4All legislation would expand food assistance to low-income Californians regardless of their immigration status, starting in January 2023. (Ladyheart/Morguefile)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
May 11, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Today, lawmakers in Sacramento consider funding for a bill to open up the state food assistance program to all needy Californians, regardless of their immigration status.

The Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will decide whether to approve funds for the "Food4All" bill, Senate Bill 464.

Benyamin Chao, health and public benefits campaign coordinator for the California Immigrant Policy Center, who came to the U.S. as a child from Brunei, said it was very hard for his mom, raising four kids on her own, to feed her family since she didn't qualify for benefits.

"It put a huge burden on my mom to work extra hours under the table, or working as a caregiver," Chao recounted. "It put a huge strain on her health, because she had to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week."

Opponents object to spending taxpayer dollars on non-citizens.

A legislative analysis estimated the bill would make up to one million low-income people newly eligible for the California Food Assistance Program, and could cost up to $100 million a year, although full participation is considered unlikely.

The program is the state-funded counterpart to CalFresh, which is part of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program formerly known as food stamps.

Jared Call, senior advocate with the nonprofit anti-hunger group Nourish California, believes any funds spent on food assistance will save the state much more down the line.

"Good nutrition helps prevent and mitigate chronic diet-related disease," Call explained. "That's fewer trips to the doctor, fewer trips to the hospital, fewer needs for medications. That brings down health care costs for the overall system."

Advocates hope Gov. Gavin Newsom will include funds for the Food4All program in his May budget revision, due this Friday.

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