Changes to county policy means thousands in Riverside County, particularly adults experiencing homelessness, can now access vital cash benefits
Riverside, CA — A settlement has been reached with Riverside County in Isabel Bojorquez, et al. v. County of Riverside, et al., a lawsuit filed on behalf of three General Assistance (GA) recipients to change policies under the county’s GA program. GA is the program of last resort for the poorest Californians – indigent residents who cannot qualify for other benefit programs.
The settlement includes an agreement by the county to end its prior illegal policy limiting homeless recipients to six months of housing assistance payments. The county will now only end housing assistance payments if the recipient declines an offer of available shelter without a good reason.
“People experiencing the kind of poverty that qualifies them for General Assistance usually have little to no resources. General Assistance can be vital for a person’s ability to rent a room or find a motel where they can sleep,”
– Alex Prieto, Attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty
Riverside County has agreed to issue guidance to workers and train them on the county’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. The county will also review previous applications for a limited period and issue retroactive payments to anyone denied under the former policy.
“I’m hopeful that this outcome in Riverside will prompt other counties to revisit their policies and approach to General Assistance as well,”
– Anthony Kim, Attorney at Inland Counties Legal Services, Inc.
In response to litigation pressure and across two previous mediation sessions, Riverside has made numerous other improvements to county policy. To date, the county has raised GA grant amounts, raised resource limits, simplified application processes, issued guidance regarding due process, and ended a policy that required employable recipients to re-apply for benefits every month, even though their circumstances were unchanged.
“Increasing General Assistance across the board in California counties, and simplifying the process for people to access it, could provide a significant stop-gap in our state’s battle against homelessness and increasing poverty. This is a good example of the kinds of things counties can do, ideally without the need for litigation, to curb deep poverty in their jurisdictions.”
– Laren Hansen, Staff Attorney at Public Interest Law Project