A bill that would extend the Refugee Cash Assistance program in California by a further 8 months was read for the first time in the Assembly early this week.
Another 8 months of refugee assistance
Assembly Bill 3134, authored by Assemblywomen Eloise Reyes (D-Grand Terrace) and Cecelia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), would have the state of California give another 8 months of cash assistance to new refugees in the state on top of the 8 months already given by the federal government. The transition from federal to state at the 8-month mark would be “seamless” according to the bill language, and would prohibit them from reapplying to receive it.
The bill would also include keeping all assistance measures in place to ensure refugees resettle in the U.S. successfully, including receiving Social Security cards and entering their children into local schools. Funding for AB 3134 would come directly from state coffers as, similar to how the federal government currently funds their 8-month Refugee Cash Assistance program by using “appropriated federal funds.” It is currently unknown how much this will cost the state yearly.
Assemblywomen Reyes and Aguiar-Curry, as well as other supporters including refugee and resettlement organizations, have backed the bill because they have said that an additional 8-months is needed by many refugees to be self-sufficient and not have to further rely on the government after their assistance programs expire.
“California has long held the stance and supported the idea that that accepting and supporting refugees in their resettlement is an imperative humanitarian effort which benefits all of California’s communities,” Assemblywoman Reyes said in a press release. “If we truly want refugees to reach self-sufficiency, we must recognize that 8 months may be inadequate to get on their feet. Rather than limiting the transition to 8 months and forcing them to drop further into poverty during their ninth month in California, thus making them more reliant on the social safety net we should offer an additional 8 months for the transition.”
AB 3134 opposition
Those who oppose AB 3134 have said that an additional 8-months could be too much.
“The goal is is to wean them off the system as they enter the job market or college or something,” noted Diego Flores, a former refugee from Honduras who helps other Honduran refugees transition to life in the Los Angeles area. “My parents managed to buy a business here after they fled because it was a ‘we have to make it here’ attitude. Eight months I’d say is generous, but 16 months seems almost like abuse.”
“I know families who have been on that program and were ready to get off after 8-months. There are some people who need more time, especially those who are struggling to learn English, but there are many church and other relief programs that help there. Another 8 months, well I know for a fact I would have taken it and spend the time procrastinating. Others I met tried to get extensions, only for them to be in fine shape after 8 months.”
“At least it should be month to month after 8 months. Have someone check in on them and see how they’re doing and if they need more time, not just automatically give them money.”
“Refugees do need help. My family and I would have died without it here. But there needs to be a reasonable limit to acclimate, not over a year like they want to do.”
AB 3134 is currently awaiting Committee assignment in the Assembly.