Rural General Assistance Project (Rural GAP) Turns Five

Five years ago, the Public Interest Law Project (PILP) began a special project to increase access to General Assistance (GA) benefits in rural areas.  This program, also sometimes called General Relief (GR), provides critical aid to California’s lowest income individuals.

In rural counties throughout California, eligible people cannot easily access last resort GA benefits.  Many counties with high numbers of people living in poverty have fewer than 40 people receiving GA.  Some have zero, or fewer than 10.  Counties impose unlawful and often unwritten eligibility requirements and adopt improperly low grant levels.  Through its Rural General Assistance Project (Rural GAP), PILP seeks to increase access to these critical benefits and assist local advocates in enforcing counties’ legal duty to provide GA to all needy residents.

In the past four years, PILP’s General Assistance advocacy has brought approximately $52,413,392 in additional benefits to thousands of recipients throughout the State.  We could not have done it without the support and hard work of our many legal services partners.

Here are a few Rural GAP highlights:

  • GA Summit: On September 22, 2014, PILP, the Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations (CCWRO), California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA), Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC), and Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP) hosted a statewide advocate summit to strategize about how to increase GA access in rural areas.  17 organizations sent advocates to the summit.
  • The project was featured by the Shriver Center in May 2015.
  • PILP and WCLP worked to eliminate the $40 medical deduction statewide, after most recipients became eligible for Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act, eliminating this expense for thousands of people living in poverty.
  • PILP and CRLA achieved systemic reform in San Benito, Monterey, and Yuba counties
  • Technical Assistance: PILP has provided technical assistance to advocates in 46 counties

The Work Continues:

Many counties are still not serving their neediest residents, and we must continue to work to bring them into compliance with the law and improve their policies.  Some counties improperly withhold housing aid, others do not provide the required statutory minimum grant.  Please let PILP know how we can better provide support to you, either through training, technical assistance, or collaboration to achieve systemic reform.

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.

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