October 28, 2013–In rural counties throughout California, eligible people cannot easily access last resort General Assistance (GA) benefits. Over 20 counties, with high numbers of people living in poverty, have less than 40 people receiving GA. Some have zero, or less than 10. Counties have unlawful and often unwritten eligibility requirements and improperly low grant levels. Some admit that they have no GA program at all. Through its Rural General Assistance Project (Rural GAP), the Public Interest Law Project (PILP) seeks to increase access to these critical benefits and assist local advocates in enforcing counties’ legal duty to provide GA to all needy county residents.
“Daniel’s” story is unfortunately typical. He is destitute and disabled. When he went to his local social services agency for help, he was told that the county has no money to help people like him, that only people with children can get aid. According to the county, people can get a grant of $175 in rental assistance, but since he is homeless, even that is not available.
Partnering with attorneys at California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), PILP got Daniel his GA benefits, and is working to educate the county about its statutory obligations. The county is now working to draft comprehensive GA regulations, and has submitted them to PILP and CRLA for their input and approval. They have also agreed to publicize the program and affirmatively do outreach.
In early 2014, PILP will host a statewide advocate summit to strategize about how to increase GA access in rural areas. We will host a conference call before then to solicit your ideas about how the summit should be organized to best fulfill your needs. In the meantime, please contact us if you’re interested in participating in this project, or if you have any questions about General Assistance in your community. You can reach Lauren Hansen directly at (510) 891-9794 ext. 127 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PILP is a statewide support center that provides crucial litigation and advocacy support to local legal services and public interest law programs throughout California. Our work brings affordable housing to lower income families and homeless people, provides access to services and public benefits for lower income persons and persons with disabilities, and protects neglected and abused children and persons displaced by major disasters and government action.