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California Budget Cuts Target Health Care For Immigrants

A flyer at the Family Health Centers of San Diego clinic in southeast San Diego advertises Medi-Cal enrollment assistance to uninsured patients but features a now-outdated list of requirements that include legal California residency, Dec. 31, 2019.
Tarryn Mento
A flyer at the Family Health Centers of San Diego clinic in southeast San Diego advertises Medi-Cal enrollment assistance to uninsured patients but features a now-outdated list of requirements that include legal California residency, Dec. 31, 2019.

In his January budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined an expansion of programs aimed at immigrant families.

This included allowing undocumented immigrants 65 years old and up to enroll in Medi-Cal, the state’s subsidized healthcare program.

On Thursday, the governor announced that spending was no longer being considered, as the state looks to tighten its belt during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

But immigrant advocates believe this is going to only hurt an already vulnerable population, as the elderly bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is 65 and older who are most vulnerable right now and they don’t have any other form of care,” said Sarah Dar, who works for the California Immigrant Policy Center. “Just saying that you can get a COVID test or you can get treated for COVID, really doesn’t cut it from what we know about how the disease spreads and what comorbidities can mean for someone who has COVID.”

RELATED: Medi-Cal Expands Health Coverage For Young Adults Who Can’t Prove Legal Residence

Going further, Dar said this will put the entire state at risk.

“We are pretty clear that an attempt to stop the spread of this virus that doesn’t include everybody will simply fail by default. By the nature of how this virus spreads and affects everybody doesn’t discriminate based on your immigration status,” she told KPBS.

The state legislature’s Latino Caucus has promised to fight back against the proposed budget revision. They also blasted the governor for failing to extend the Earned Income Tax Credit to undocumented people who pay taxes, which they say is missing an opportunity to put money back into the pockets of low-income Californians.

“Immigrants are the backbone of our state and have been serving as essential workers throughout this crisis. We are disappointed, but not surprised by the Governor’s actions to go backward on health for all. We also are disappointed that ITIN tax filers were once again left out from accessing the EITC,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the chairwoman of the Latino Caucus, said in a statement. “Our undocumented workers and mixed-status families are being dramatically left behind during these times.”

Newsom has said that the severity of the cuts hinges on how much support the state will receive from the federal government in the coming weeks.

California Budget Cuts Target Health Care For Immigrants
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.