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Commentary

Anita Maldonado is the CEO of California Human Development, a nonprofit with offices in Santa Rosa. It states it is “dedicated to waging the War on Poverty for over 50 years,” Today CHD serves 25.000 people of low income a year in 31 northern California counties.

There are always many concerns on the minds of those who serve low-income and at-risk populations. Working with individuals and families who struggle with poverty, gives us a close-up view of the hardships they face each day.

When people can make their way out of poverty, they’re filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

When a person earns a living wage, their income positively impacts not only that individual and their family, it also helps the community. They provide a workforce to employers, sometimes they even become business owners themselves, and they purchase local goods and services.

People often need help to arrive at a place of self-sufficiency. Life isn’t always easy. A job loss can plunge a working family into economic distress. Those who come from a background of generational poverty need guidance and mentors who can help steer them toward training, education and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty. community action agencies (CAAs) are unique agencies in their communities, each overseen by a tri-partite governing board that represents public, private, and low income stakeholders. While each agency may vary in size and scope, they all share a common mission of fighting poverty and promoting self-sufficiency at the community level.

For the second year, the Trump administration proposes to eliminate all funding for the community services block grant (CSBG), threatening the existence of about 1,000 local CAAs that serve approximately 16 million low-income people every year, in 99 percent of the counties in the United States. CAAs are locally controlled and use their CSBG grants to develop extensive community partnerships, identify pressing local needs, and mobilize public and private resources to meet those needs. CAAs are creative and fill service gaps, and they ensure cost-efficient use of funds on behalf of their communities. Local agencies are nimble and respond quickly to emergencies, including short-term and long-term crises.

During the recent Northern California wildfires, CSBG funds helped to establish California Human Development’s One-stop Wildfire Relief and Resource Center in Santa Rosa. CSBG funds were crucial in the development of the center and helped us leverage additional funds from state and private funders.

As of April 30, so far we have served 1,361 families and 4,410 individuals, including 1,836 children who were affected by the fires. Bilingual case managers assess each fire survivor’s needs and work to find resources to meet those needs. Some needs are met in-house when funding is available such as rental and deposit assistance, gift cards for food, clothing replacement assistance, tool replacement, and costs of document replacement. When a survivor’s needs can’t be met through CHD’s resources, case managers refer them to other agencies and look to other community resources when they are available. Grief support is offered on-site in Spanish and English through partnerships with local mental health providers.

Six months out from the wildfires, affected survivors are still struggling financially and emotionally with the fallout from the fires, and we continue to work with other agencies in our community to find ways to meet the ongoing needs of clients.

Another pressing issue that’s on the minds of our community is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is an immigration option for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16. Although DACA doesn’t provide a pathway to lawful permanent residence, it does provide work authorization, the ability to apply for a social security number, and temporary protection from deportation,

Commentary

Anita Maldonado is the CEO of California Human Development, a nonprofit with offices in Santa Rosa. It states it is “dedicated to waging the War on Poverty for over 50 years,” Today CHD serves 25.000 people of low income a year in 31 northern California counties.

On April 24, a federal judge issued a decision that could reinstate the DACA program to order U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to once again accept first-time requests from individuals. However, the federal judge has paused this order for 90 days to allow the government time to explain why DACA should be terminated. This means that in the next several weeks, there may be a response or new DACA memorandum from the government. Earlier this year, two other federal judges restarted the DACA renewal program for those who have, or previously had DACA. The government has appealed those decisions, and it’s expected that a circuit court will issue a decision in the coming months.

Until a decision is made, USCIS will continue to accept requests for DACA renewals. In lieu of what is happening, DACA holders should apply for a renewal as soon as possible. Any individual who has DACA or was previously granted DACA can request a renewal. It’s also important to get an immigration consultation or screening to see what other options might be available for DACA holders or immigrants with an undocumented legal status. CHD offers Immigration and Citizenship Services at low or no cost depending on the circumstance.

It’s important for community members to speak up on behalf of those who often haven’t yet found their voices. Reduction or an altogether elimination of CSBG funding would have a tremendous negative impact on those who rely on it, while also hurting the community as a whole. Let’s work together to find solutions to assist our neighbors out of poverty and make our communities stronger, healthier and more inclusive.