Public Comment

Maybe We Should Bark

By Kathie Zatkin
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:25:00 AM

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors decided to cut General Assistance (G.A.). Currently, a full “grant” is $336. Beginning Jan. 1, Alameda County Social Services is directed to cut $84 if living with a roommate—and who on GA isn’t?—cut $40 more if not receiving Medi-Cal; cut an additional $231 if rent is more than GA grant; requiring landlords to sign a W-9 IRS form and penalizing recipient up to $231 if landlord fails to sign the form. 

However, the supervisors who authorized these cuts, albeit reluctantly, tried to justify their decision by saying that recipients who lose their housing as a result of these cuts will be given a shelter bed. A shelter bed in exchange for what was permanent housing? Shelter beds are time-limited. The cost of a shelter bed is approximately $800-$900/month vs. the maximum monthly grant of $336. Is this being “fiscally prudent”? There are not enough shelter beds even now…But wait, there’s more. 

Due process requires that recipients are entitled to notice and a fair hearing prior to the cut. Where are these hearings held? On Edgewater Drive in Oakland, not very accessible even if you are not on GA. If a recipient loses permanent housing as a result of the cut, the recipient is entitled to receive the full grant amount but this is not stated on the notice. 

And, after January 2010, recipients can only receive GA for three months out of a year if deemed employable. On Dec. 2 the state Supreme Court declined to review a September lower-court ruling, upholding both the three month limit and the decision to classify GA recipients as employable even if they are unlikely to find a job. Again, theoretically, employment training should be available, but a referral to a theoretical site is all that is required before the cut. There is no funding for these theoretical training sites. See the Alameda County General Assistance Regulations Revised Regulations: Sept. 15, 2009, particularly Sections 9-1-8 .4 Rent and Shelter Costs. Fiscal watchdogs will want to take note of 9-2-0 CHASS Program and Other Shelter Referrals, particularly Secs. 4., .5. , .6 in their entirety.  

Why should we bark? It is my understanding that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors found the money to keep the Alameda County Animal Shelter open. 


Kathie Zatkin works for the Alameda County Network of Mental Health Clients but wrote this independently. “I just am very committed to the principle of full disclosure,” she says.