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Ugly Special Election battle between LGBT candidates

Luis Lopez and ally Wendy Carrillo face-off

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Luis Lopez (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Tuesday voters in Assembly District 51 will determine who will replace recently elected Congress member Jimmy Gomez as their representative in the California Legislature—Luiz Lopez or Wendy Carrillo. For LGBT voters in the Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Silver Lake area, the choice might seem logical—the gay guy with lots of political experience and strong LGBT organizational backing. But this is politics and Carrillo has very strong LGBT backing, too. Unfortunately, in the waning days of the race, it’s gotten ugly with Lopez’s backers accusing Carrillo’s campaign of homophobic attacks and Carrillo’s supporters shooting back against “baseless attacks.”

The Democrats are the top two vote-getters out of 13 candidates in a low-turnout election last October.

Carrillo won 22.16% of the vote and Lopez pulled 18.59% in an election where just 10% of the roughly 223,000 registered voters in the district— which also includes Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, City Terrace and unincorporated East LA—cast ballots, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Both candidates are smart, progressive and have union backing, though they differ in experience.

López, 44, the director of government affairs for City of Hope Medical Center since 2015 and a neighborhood activist, has a master’s degree in public policy, housing and urban development from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Pomona College. But for the most part, Lopez’s career has been in the public health sector. From 2003 to 2015, Lopez worked in various capacities at AltaMed Health Services, including spearheading the formation of the Latino Coalition Against AIDS. He’s served on the board of Planned Parenthood/Los Angeles since 2010 and has received their endorsement. In 2005, he co-founded the statewide Latina/o LGBT political action committee Honor PAC and served as founding president for five years and during the fight against Prop 8, he helped open the campaign’s East L.A. office.

He lives in the Eagle Rock with longtime progressive activist, Hans Johnson, his partner of 13 years.
Lopez has been endorsed endorsements by slew of LGBT elected officials, including out LA County Assessor Jeff Prang, LA City Controller Ron Galperin, LA Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, Rep. Mark Takano, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, as well as the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, Equality California, Honor PAC, the Victory Fund, Stonewall Democrats, and others, including LaOpinion newspaper.

“I have served meaningfully in my district,” Lopez told The Times. “My opponent has not.”

Wendy Carrillo and now Rep. Jimmy Gomez. (Photo courtesy Carrillo campaign)

But Lopez does not have a corner on LGBT endorsements. Carrillo is backed by much of the Democratic political establishment, endorsements including the man she hopes to replace, Jimmy Gomez, as well as out State Sen. Ricardo Lara, former rival Alex De Ocampo, as well as the California Democratic Party, chaired by out Eric Bauman, and the LA County Democratic Party, chaired by out Mark Gonzalez.

Carrillo graduated with a BA from East Los Angeles College and Cal State LA, and she has a Master’s Degree from USC. She has an award-winning journalistic career in community radio and on social media as a host and producer. Prior to that, she worked as served as a communications manager for SEIU ULTCW dealing with an array of labor issues.

Both have compelling personal stories. Lopez about was born in East LA and raised in El Monte without his mother after she died of kidney disease when he was 8 years old. Nonetheless, his public school education got him to Harvard. Carrillo came to the US as an undocumented child from El Salvador, becoming a US citizen in her early 20s.

“I think my story speaks to the story of this district,” Carrillo told The Times. “It is a time in which women and immigrants and the undocumented community are being attacked on a federal level. It is a perfect opportunity for this district to be a voice of progress.”

The explosion of sexual harassment allegations in the state capitol may give a boost to Carrillo’s campaign. But news that she “benefited from over $500,000 in outside spending from independent expenditure committees largely funded by labor unions,” including “support to the tune of $38,000 from a committee funded by charter school proponents,” as The Times reported, may hurt her with advocates for public schools—Lopez is endorsed by UTLA, the United Teachers of Los Angeles.

But it’s a last minute attack, believed to be spearheaded by Carrillo’s SEIU backers, that may have serious repercussions beyond Tuesday’s election. Just before Thanksgiving, the union-backer sent out roughly $9,583 worth of mailers that claim Lopez—who works as a government lobbyist for the City of Hope—can’t be trusted because he is in the pocket of big oil and Big Pharma because his supporters at one time took donations from these big companies. The link on the mailer has been taken down on Sunday—but for weeks it linked to filings by Equality California during last year’s San Francisco Assembly race between gay Scott Wiener and ally Jane Kim. EQCA backed Wiener while SEIU backed Kim.

EQCA, HONOR PAC and out Assemblymember Evan Low, chair of the LGBT Legislative Caucus took the attacks as misleading and homophobic.

“We are disgusted to see yet another homophobic smear campaign rear its ugly head, this time launched by supporters of Wendy Carrillo against openly gay candidate Luis Lopez in the race for California Assembly District 51. In campaign mailers and digital communications, supporters of Wendy Carrillo attacked the integrity not only of Luis Lopez, but also of Equality California and members of California’s LGBT Legislative Caucus, conveying false information to voters about the funding of his campaign,” HONOR PAC President Mario Ceballos and Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a joint statement.

“Let us be clear,” they continue. “The message that a gay man cannot be trusted, containing false and misleading hits on LGBTQ organizations and LGBTQ elected officials that support him, is intended both to intimidate LGBTQ people from participating in the electoral process and to achieve electoral advantage due to anti-LGBTQ bias and homophobia. Attacks like this are also intended to undermine LGBTQ leadership organizations, and thus the LGBTQ community, because these are the organizations that protect and advance our community’s needs and interests.”

“SEIU’s dirty attack towards the LGBT community is sickening,” said Low. “The California LGBT Legislative Caucus is one of the most progressive organizations in the state working with EQCA on our collective mission to fight for our progressive agenda. That agenda includes electing more openly LGBT candidates and people of color to office. It is shameful that SEIU would smear the LGBT community and I call on them to stop and apologize for undermining our progressive agenda.”

“It’s completely unacceptable to attack an LGBT candidate simply for accepting support from Equality California – one of the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organizations – and from the LGBT Legislative Caucus,” said out Assemblymember Wiener. “EQCA and the LGBT Legislative Caucus fight day in and day out to pass legislation protecting and advancing the rights of LGBT people, including our transgender brothers and sisters as they are under attack nationally. These organizations support LGBT candidates and allies who will fight for our community, which is why they are supporting Luis Lopez, a gay man with a long track record fighting for the LGBT community. Our community is under attack in this country from the Trump Administration, and we need champions. What we don’t need are cheap-shot campaign attacks that cynically try to undermine the credibility of our LGBT leadership. I call on SEIU to stop attacking EQCA and the LGBT Legislative Caucus for going to bat for an LGBT candidate.”

In response, out LA County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez called the charges of homophobia “Baseless Straw-Man Claims” and urged support for Carrillo.

“I read the resumes of those running in this race. I’ve researched their positions and who they align themselves with. Let me say that it’s clear there’s only one person who will be a champion for all her constituents. Whether people are rich or poor, working nine-to-five or five-to-nine, my friend Wendy is the obvious choice to represent them in the 51st. This is why she is the ONLY candidate in this race endorsed by the Democratic Party,” said Gonzalez.

“Wendy has worked to improve the lives of every single individual in Los Angeles. She knows the issues effecting everyone living in this district, from housing affordability, to minimum wage, to healthcare access, to making sure that everyone has an equal shot at the American Dream. We all work every day to make Los Angeles and California an ever more progressive beacon, and with Wendy Carrillo in Sacramento, our work will be that much more effective,” he continued.

“This is why baseless attacks from supporters of Wendy’s opponent arbitrarily calling her and her supporters ‘homophobic’ just for questioning Luis Lopez’s supporters’ use of oil contributions is despicable. Lopez’s camp pulled the same low-brow tactic when he ran against Jimmy Gomez for this exact seat in 2012. The voters saw through it then, and they will see through it on election day.

“Then LACDP Chair and openly gay Eric C. Bauman stood by Jimmy Gomez as Lopez’s supporters erroneously labeled him as a homophobe, and I, current LACDP Chair and an also openly gay man who is a lifelong resident of Assembly District 51, stand beside Wendy Carrillo today,” Gonzalez said.

“These baseless attacks against this impressive woman are just that. They are tactics outside of what is reasonable or acceptable, and to those of us who have been in politics a while, it reeks of a campaign in desperation,” he said. “We implore all those in Assembly District 51 and in Los Angeles to heed our call: Wendy Carrillo will be the Assembly Member District 51 needs, who will be there for all her constituents.”
The key will be turnout—will the Democratic establishment and SEIU get out the vote for Carrillo or will the neighborhood grassroots activists turn out for Lopez.

López, 44, the director of government affairs for City of Hope Medical Center since 2015 and a neighborhood activist, has a master’s degree in public policy, housing and urban development from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Pomona College.  But for the most part, Lopez’s career has been in the public health sector. From 2003 to 2015, Lopez worked in various capacities at AltaMed Health Services, including spearheading the formation of the Latino Coalition Against AIDS. He’s served on the board of Planned Parenthood/Los Angeles since 2010 and has received their endorsement. In 2005, he co-founded the statewide Latina/o LGBT political action committee Honor PAC and served as founding president for five years and during the fight against Prop 8, he helped open the campaign’s East L.A. office. He lives in the Eagle Rock with longtime progressive activist, Hans Johnson, his partner of 13 years.

Lopez has been endorsed by slew of LGBT elected officials, including out LA County Assessor Jeff Prang, LA City Controller Ron Galperin, LA Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, Rep. Mark Takano, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, as well as the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, Equality California, Honor PAC, the Victory Fund, Stonewall Democrats, and others, including LaOpinion newspaper.

Check out LAVote.net for polling place and other Special Election information.

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

The City of West Hollywood’s first annual Pet Week, City also to Re-Open Applications for Guaranteed Income Pilot Project Testing

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Photo by Uriel Malak Brewer/Facebook

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood is pawsitively pumped to host its inaugural Pet Week. Pet Week is an initiative to highlight animal companions and celebrate the joy they bring into our lives.

“I am so excited for the City of West Hollywood’s first annual Pet Week, featuring pet-friendly businesses and pet-centered events, like World Dog Day,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister. “Pet Week is an opportunity for us to show our appreciation and love for our companion animals. My dogs, Suki and Sammy, approve!”

“West Hollywood is one of the most pet friendly cities in America,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne. “Many of our residents have beloved animal companions. I am so delighted to have brought forward the initiative with Mayor Meister to create Pet Week dedicated to our beloved companions, which includes an entire day dedicated to felines. My hope is that we as a community learn more about how to care for our companions, celebrate them, and make West Hollywood a destination for visitors who have pets as well.”

As part of the Pet Week celebration, the City’s Recreation Services Division will be highlighting community members’ pets on social media. To join the paw-ty, submit a pet picture and description to [email protected], including a fun fact about them and what they mean to you! Pets of all species, shapes, and sizes are welcome to participate. One day will be designated as “Feline Day” to specifically highlight our feline friends! Follow along @wehorec on Instagram and @westhollywoodrec on Facebook. 

As part of Pet Week, the City will be hosting a virtual Pet Week Panel Discussion focused on holistic veterinary care and alternative remedies featuring Dr. Heather Oxford, DVM, MPH, CCRT, CVA and Dr. Lindsey Wendt, DVM, CVA, CVFT on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Register at https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QWBpx4GgRj-Zw0NyiyCiTQ.

Dr. Oxford is an acupuncture and rehabilitation veterinarian focused on mobile integrative holistic veterinary medicine to improve health, optimize performance, and accelerate healing for small animals. Dr. Wendt is the owner and creator of Crystal Lotus Veterinary Care, which focuses on providing individually focused holistic health care to pets in the comfort of their homes.

Dr. Oxford and Dr. Wendt will be in conversation with City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister and Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne where they will discuss several topics, including health and wellness of pets; and holistic care and alternative remedies such as acupuncture, laser therapy, food therapy, integrative medicine, and dealing with separation distress and anxiety. 

The City of West Hollywood is also excited to co-sponsor The Vanderpump Dog Foundation’s 6th annual World Dog Day on Saturday, May 28, 2022 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard.

“Ruff ruff. Ruff-ruff ruff ruff ruff-ruff Saturday May 28, West Hollywood Park, ruff ruff woof-woof ruff ruff,” interpreted Councilmember John D’Amico. “Meow? Grrrrrr. Ruff ruff ruff.”

World Dog Day brings together hundreds of people and their furry friends to celebrate dogs for a day of fun and entertainment and takes place during the City of West Hollywood’s first ever Pet Week. Admission is free and open to the public; canine companions must attend on a leash. All activities will be outside and socially distanced; masks will be encouraged.

Started in 2016, this family-friendly event will include live performances and DJs; an Adoption Area with adoptable rescue dogs; an Animal Education area; a dog water park; a doggy fashion show featuring past Adopted Rescue Dogs and celebrity judges; a doggy pie eating contest; an amazing raffle with incredible prizes; dozens of exhibitors featuring pet-friendly products and services; plus an array of food trucks for all to enjoy – even celebrity guests!

World Dog Day will be a memorable day of celebrating dogs while raising awareness about global dog abuse, including the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. The Vanderpump Dog Foundation has rescued and adopted more than 2,300 dogs to their forever homes domestically, and hundreds more internationally. For additional information about World Dog Day, please visit www.vanderpumpdogs.org/world-dog-day.  

The City of West Hollywood invites canine members of the community and their humans to sniff out a spot and romp around at the City’s two dog parks at West Hollywood Park. A small dog park and large dog park are located on each side of the park’s basketball courts and each area features expanses of open space with shade trees, small mounds and turf terraces, and water stations. In addition, the City operates the William S. Hart Park and Off-Leash Dog Park located at 8341 De Longpre Avenue.

The City of West Hollywood is often recognized as one of the most animal-friendly cities in the nation and has a long history of supporting measures that promote the protection of animal rights and animal welfare. In April 2003, the City became the first municipality in the nation to prohibit cat declawing. In February 2010, the City passed an Ordinance to address the inhumane conditions endured by “puppy mill” animals by prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats in companion animal stores. In September 2013, the City’s Fur Ordinance went into effect, which prohibits retail establishments from selling, trading, distributing, importing, or exporting any fur product.

For more information about upcoming dog events in the City of West Hollywood, please call (323) 848-6460. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood to Re-Open Applications for Guaranteed Income Pilot Project Testing the Impact of Cash Payments on the Financial Stability of Older Adults on June 17

The City of West Hollywood, in collaboration with nonprofit partner, National Council of Jewish Women/LA, will re-open applications for the pilot project for guaranteed income aimed at evaluating the impact of cash payments on the financial stability and quality of life of older adults. Guaranteed income is a direct and regular cash payment – no strings attached – provided to a specific group of people for a designated time.

In January 2021, the West Hollywood City Council approved an item for the City of West Hollywood to join the Mayors for Guaranteed Income (MGI) network and directed staff to develop a guaranteed income pilot program for West Hollywood, including identification of research, funding, community implementation, and evaluation partners.

There are numerous cities, counties, and private guaranteed income pilots happening throughout the nation. Guaranteed income pilots are a way to test the impact of cash payments, while also providing a service to help financially stabilize community members and learn information to help create future, evidence-based policies and programs.

Beginning June 1, 2022, community members may access www.ncjwla.org/whpgi to learn more. The application will open on the website beginning Friday, June 17, 2022, and will close on Sunday, June 26, 2022.

Applicants Must Reside in City of West Hollywood and: Must be 50 Years or Older; and Must Meet Criteria for Individual Yearly Income of $41,400 or Less

Community members who are interested in applying for the West Hollywood Pilot for Guaranteed Income must reside in the City of West Hollywood, be 50 years or older, and have an individual income of $41,400 or less. The program will be facilitated by the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles. People who need assistance applying may call (323) 852-8500, ext. 650, or may send an email message to [email protected].

A total of 25 qualifying participants will be randomly selected from the pool of eligible applicants to receive unconditional monthly $1,000 payments from September 2022 through February 2024. 

The move to re-open applications for the pilot project for guaranteed income follows a shift in March 2022 when the City became aware that the pilot, because it was created and supported by a government entity, was susceptible to legal challenges due to the inclusion of LGBTQIA criteria as an eligibility requirement to participate.

The City, with the help of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) and the Center for Guaranteed Income at the University of Pennsylvania (CGIR) had originally developed a data-driven guaranteed income pilot that was set to launch in April 2022 and would have been the first LGBTQIA-focused pilot and the first older adult-focused pilot in the nation.

Protecting the rights of LGBTQ community members has been a long-standing mission of the City, and the City has worked tirelessly to identify and address inequities. For years, the City – along with LGBTQ advocates nationwide – has fought for equal civil rights, including the right to marry, the ability to obtain access to spousal protections and benefits including healthcare and pensions, and efforts to reduce/eliminate discrimination in housing and employment.

These hard-earned rights and protections come with other legal consequences as well. Although the City could engage in a legal battle over the contested eligibility requirement, the implications of litigating such a challenge had to be considered. Having LGBTQIA identification as an eligibility requirement for the pilot could potentially violate the California Constitution as sexual orientation is a protected suspect class in the state.

Therefore, the City Attorney, City staff, and pilot partners recommended that the City Council of the City of West Hollywood revise the pilot to include three of the four original criteria (residency, age, and income level) in order to satisfy the legal obligations, protect potential participants, and move forward with a program that serves community members in need of financial support and stability. All applicants from the first iteration of the pilot will be automatically entered into the pool of applicants for the revised pilot.

The City of West Hollywood seeks to test the emerging promise of guaranteed income to help prevent homelessness, support community members as they age in place, and to reduce the stressors of poverty and financial insecurity.  In addition, the West Hollywood Pilot for Guaranteed Income seeks to examine impact in the following areas: 

  • Quantitative data to evaluate the collective impact of guaranteed income on different populations;
  • Capture unique qualitative narrative information to provide greater understanding into the income challenges faced by older adults in West Hollywood and inform the creation of evidence-based policies and programs to better support the health and well-being of older adults; and
  • Test the concept of guaranteed income to evaluate whether to expand the initial pilot or create new/additional pilots in the City.

The City will engage two nonprofit partners in the pilot. The first is the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at University of Pennsylvania as the research and evaluation partner responsible for creating and administering the research instruments, conducting the randomized selection of eligible applicants to participate in the pilot, collecting/processing/analyzing the data, and providing a report on the findings. 

The City’s second partner in the pilot is the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles (NCJW|LA) as the nonprofit administrator implementing the pilot. NCJW was selected for its knowledge, experience, and understanding of the nuances of guaranteed income. NCJW will be responsible for conducting outreach to the community about the pilot, assisting community members to complete applications, verifying that West Hollywood residency and other pilot criteria are met to ensure the eligibility of each applicant, submitting the completed and verified applications to CGIR for the randomized selection of participants, and notifying the participants selected by CGIR.

25 Randomly Selected Participants will be Chosen from a Pool of Eligible Applicants to Receive 18 Unconditional Monthly $1,000 Payments

They will also conduct onboarding and provide individualized benefits counseling for each participant, manage a storytelling cohort and storytelling activities that complement the research component of the pilot and provide the participants an opportunity to share their experiences in their own voices. In addition, the nonprofit administrator will subcontract and coordinate services with a nonprofit financial distributor (utilizing debit card services) to ensure that funds are distributed to participants in a timely, predictable, and seamless fashion.

Additional information about research and evaluation, as well as pilot partners and pilot funding is available in the May 2022 City Council staff report at https://weho.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=&event_id=1357&meta_id=228362.

For more information, please contact Diane Kahn-Epstein, the City of West Hollywood’s Strategic Initiatives Program Administrator, at (323) 848-6548 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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Los Angeles

Reminder: 101 closed through DTLA until 10pm Sunday

The closure began at 10 p.m. Saturday and will be completed by 10 p.m. Sunday, the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering announced

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – (KTLA) Motorists are being reminded that the stretch of 101 through the downtown area of Los Angeles is shut down for road restoration and reconstruction work.

KTLA reported the closure began at 10 p.m. Saturday and will be completed by 10 p.m. Sunday, the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering announced.

The 24-hour closure between State Route 60 and the 10 Freeway interchange is needed for the Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project, which aims to replace the original, seismically-deficient structure built in 1932, authorities said.

During the closure, the California Department of Transportation will also be doing slab replacement work along the same stretch of the 101 Freeway.

The closure will center around the east side of the viaduct construction site in Boyle Heights. While the stretch is closed, drivers headed west on State Route 60 from the Pomona area will not be able to access the 101, officials said.

Off-ramps and on-ramps in the area will also be closed during as road work gets underway.

Drivers who reach the closure will see signs directing them to a detour.

(The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering)

The new $588 million viaduct is expected to be completed in Summer of 2022, stretching between Boyle Heights and the Arts District.

Officials say it is the largest bridge project in the history of Los Angeles.

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Los Angeles County

Assemblymember Santiago: Up food access to undocumented Californians

A study from the Food4All Coalition, in partnership with UCLA research, 45% of undocumented Californians face food insecurity

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Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (Twitter/Assemblymember Miguel Santiago)

LOS ANGELES – The sharply rising costs of food, housing, gasoline, coupled with the inflation rate hovering at 8.3%  has many Californian scrambling to supplement their access to food. The cost for food alone in the Southern California region has risen 1% from February 2022 to March 2022, and food prices were 8.8% higher than in March 2021.

Governor Gavin Newsom had previously announced in January that he intended to extend CalFresh public food assistance programs in the budget to include undocumented immigrants ages 55 and over, a move advocates including state Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, who represents the 53rd District covering parts of downtown L.A. applauded as a first step in curbing food insecurity for millions of low-income Californians.

At the beginning of the month in Newsom’s revised budget the governor removed exclusions to the California Food Assistance Program for Californians 55 and older, regardless of immigration status.

Santiago, joined by the Food4All Coalition, the LA Regional Food Bank, the California Immigrant Policy Center, Gender Justice LA, and Nourish California gathered for a ‘ Food4All” rally Friday in Los Angeles to ensure that all ages are to be included in Newsom’s revised proposal.

“If you qualify for CalFresh program, you should have the ability to obtain the dollars to be able to feed your kids,” said Santiago.

Betzabel Estudillo ( Nourish California /Twitter)

Betzabel Estudillo, a senior advocate with Nourish California told the rally attendees; “This campaign has been years in the making. We appreciate the governor’s proposal, but the need is greater. Nearly half of undocumented Californians face food insecurity. It’s even worse for children – 2 out of every 3 are going hungry.”

Currently, all undocumented people are ineligible for CalFresh benefits. Only certain low-income immigrants that have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, including those admitted for humanitarian reasons and those with permanent residence, may be eligible for the benefits. Immigrants who receive disability-related assistance or benefits and children under 18 years old with permanent residency are also eligible, regardless of their entry date.

Newsom’s proposals would revise those CalFresh benefits restrictions.

According to a study from the Food4All Coalition, in partnership with UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, 45% of undocumented Californians face food insecurity.

“We’re pushing for a budget that includes over $500 million to be able to feed those who are the hungriest in the state of California,” said Santiago.

Newsom has until the end of June to finalize the budget.

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