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CURRENT ISSUE:  August 10, 2009
VOL. 47, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Couple weds at cathedral they helped build
Catholic leaders urge health care reform
Agency directors lament
ripping of state’s safety net

The directors of two major social service agencies in the East Bay have blasted Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s drastic budget cuts in health and human services and predict that people who have already been living on the edge will be plunged deeper into poverty instead of escaping from it.

Solomon Belette, CEO of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, which serves individuals and families in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties, called the state budget “draconian.” The cuts have succeeded in “breaking the safety net,” he said.

Philip Arca, executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Alameda County, had equally strong words for the governor’s budget plan, which includes $489 million in line-item vetoes.

“The cuts on the poor? What we are talking about is a river of misery flooding to ever larger proportions due to a lack of legislative and executive leadership. Yes, poverty is a river of misery and folks can and do drown, and even die. In our wealthy society this is not acceptable,” Arca said.

Yet the “unacceptable” has happened. The line-item vetoes take away $80 million for child welfare services; $60.5 million for counties to administer Medi-Cal, the health care program for low-income people; $52 million for the Office of AIDS Prevention and Treatment; $50 million for Healthy Families, a health insurance program for children; and $50 million for early childhood education services.

Both Arca and Belette said they will continue to do what they can to serve those needing assistance. With individual donations and government funding down, both agencies are continuing their pleas for financial contributions.

Arca said his revenue resources have become affected “in strange and tangential ways. We have only $30,000 of government funding in our $7 million operating budget, so we are very very leveraged with private support. But fortunately, some philanthropist, individuals and foundations like the Soda and San Francisco Foundations have seen the water rising and have thrown more resources to all involved.”

Individual donations are down at Catholic Charities “because people who gave in the past can no longer do so,” explained Belette. “Our resources are nowhere adequate to take care of the needs. We are seeing a lot of people we haven’t seen before — people who have lost their jobs, health care and retirement investments.”

Belette is particularly concerned for those who will be needing rental assistance. And he is fearful that the agency’s Emancipated Youth program in Contra Costa County might lose funding, which would mean young people who have “aged-out” of the foster care system will face homelessness.

Government cutbacks, along with other recession losses, affect people on the psychological and spiritual levels as well, creating an increased need at parish levels for pastoral care, he added.

Donations can be made to Catholic Charities at 433 Jefferson St., Oakland, CA 94607. and to the St. Vincent de Paul Society at 9235 San Leandro St., Oakland, CA 94603.

As The Voice went to press, California PICO, (People Improving Communities Through Organizing), was asking its leaders and local community organization members to call the governor’s office expressing outrage over his cuts to Healthy Families. A PICO spokesperson in Sacramento said that over one million children in California will be denied basic health care because of the governor’s action.

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