Save CalWORKs

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At what point can a state government be characterized as heartless? Wherever that point is, we’re getting close to it in California.

With the economy reeling and millions of Californians out of work, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is now proposing that the 1.4 million Californians benefiting from its CalWORKs welfare-to-work program—two-thirds of them children—be kicked off the rolls in order to help balance the state budget. If he’s successful, California will become the only state in the nation without such a program.

CalWORKs—the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program—requires parents to train, study or work in preparation for moving off assistance. Recipients receive cash grants to help pay for child care or other job- or training-related expenses they incur. Eliminating the program will throw thousands of people out of work and force them to apply to cash-strapped counties for indigent relief.

And that’s just one of the service programs the governor proposes to cut. As Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, has put it, “The governor’s proposals cut far past the muscle and into the bones of our state’s safety net.”

Ross calls for a more balanced approach. So do we.