Health and welfare trimmed 13% in Brown's budget

Welfare recipients would see smaller monthly checks and low-income residents would pay more for medical care, local officials said Monday in evaluating Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to plug a $25.4 billion state deficit.

Two of the biggest spending cuts in the governor's plan hit Medi-Cal, the public health insurance program ($1.7 billion next fiscal year), and CalWORKS, the cash aid program for needy families ($1.5 billion).

The average CalWORKS family payment in Sonoma County would be pared to $449 a month, down from $516, under the budget's proposed 13 percent cutback, said Jo Weber, county Human Services Department director.

There were 3,728 families covered by CalWORKS in November, with a total of 8,391 people enrolled, three-quarters of them children, officials said.

CalWORKS payments overall totaled $1.91 million in November; a 13 percent cut would take $248,300 from the local economy.

The governor's plan would also cut CalWORKS eligibility from five years to four years, Weber said.

A proposed 12 percent cut to In-Home Supportive Services would reduce the average home assistance in Sonoma County from 100 hours to 88 hours a month, she said.

About 5,200 elderly and disabled county residents receive in-home services, which are intended to keep them out of nursing homes.

A 50 percent funding cut in transitional housing for 18- and 19-year-olds leaving the foster care system would reduce the number of beds available in Sonoma County from 13 to seven, and Weber said there is a "long waiting list" for the beds.

"Those are painful cuts, no doubt about it," county Supervisor Shirlee Zane said. But, she added, "how do you cut a budget without cutting programs?"

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