Low income senior citizens, the blind and disabled will not be receiving their annual check for homeowner or renter assistance in the mail this year.
Due to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to eliminate funding for the Homeowner and Renter Assistance programs in the state budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year, 2008 claims cannot be paid by the Franchise Tax Board.
According to the California State Controller’s office, $181 million was distributed through the program in 2007 to more than 600,000 Californians.
The tax-related rebate program has been in effect for decades. Seniors 62 years of age or older, blind and disabled renters who have a total household income of $44,096 or less are eligible to receive $347.50 from the state in a tax rebate. Homeowners who meet these requirements are eligible to receive $472.60.
At the end of September the governor approved the state budget and made the cuts through his line-item veto.
“It’s going to have a devastating impact on low income senior or disabled Californians,” said Dean Preston, executive director for Tenants Together, a statewide tenants’ rights advocacy group. “Since that time tenants have been receiving letters informing them they would not be receiving assistance this year. People have been faced with the cruel reality they will not get funding unless something changes.”
On Wednesday, Tenants Together organized a Day of Action with press conferences and rallies in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Speakers included elected officials, advocates and affected renters and homeowners. Tenants Together is urging people to call the governor and legislators.
The Day of Action aimed to pressure the governor to restore funding for the program, which directly affects low-income senior and disabled people, Preston said.
“These funds were intact when the legislature passed the budget and gave over to governor. Funds survived grueling budget process until the governor went at them with his veto pencil,” he said.
The cuts might have an impact on a household budget to pay for necessities like food, utilities and medicines.
“This is absolute worse time for a cut like this for the lowest income Californians,” Preston said. “It makes no sense and to take away these critical funds from low income people when they are already struggling in a difficult economy. When rents are rising and costs of living are increasing and yet [the] governor thinks it is appropriate to take several hundred dollars out of pockets of seniors, [the] blind and disabled.”
Lisa DeAmicis, information and assistance coordinator for the Davis Senior Center, said the check has become an annual source of income that has been built into seniors’ budgets over the years.
“They are finding it hard to understand why that’s happening,” said DeAmicis. “I have had to explain it is money from the state budget and because money is so tight this year it is being cut.”
Garin Casaleggio, spokesperson from the California State Controller John Chiang’s office, said that the office was not consulted regarding the cuts.
“It has been a valuable program for a lot of people so they do not have to choose between paying rent or mortgage or buying groceries or medicine,” Casaleggio said. “We did encourage the legislature to reject the governor’s veto and the controller has pledged assistance for a responsible way to restore funding.”
POOJA KUMAR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.