Two pieces of legislation that could substantially improve the health and well-being of young children and first-time moms are among the bills being heard tomorrow at one of the last hearings of the year for the state Senate Human Services Committee .
The Healthy Babies-Healthy Mothers Act , also known as AB 1640, by Assemblymember Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City), addresses the need to provide immediate support for low-income mothers. Currently, women who are pregnant for the first time and do not have any children in the household are not eligible for CalWORKs assistance until the third trimester. But shortchanging the first and second trimesters of a woman can have serious consequences - very poor women are more likely to experience premature births and low-birthweight babies as a result of insufficient nutrition and care during this time. These children are also more likely to experience health and behavioral challenges that could have lifelong effects on their development.
According to the Western Center on Law and Poverty , one of the bill's sponsors, AB 1640 would change the state's CalWORKs statute to allow for pregnant teenagers (with no other children in the household) to become eligible for CalWORKs basic needs grants and full-scope 1931(b) Medi-Cal benefits upon verification of the pregnancy. The assistance provided would be an estimated $350 per month.
The other bill is AB 1560  by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar), which is intended to increase access to healthy foods for low-income families. Even though nutrition is a critical component of health and well-being, many families who have Medi-Cal and who are currently eligible for CalFresh do not participate in CalFresh, in part because of stigma, a burdensome application process or misinformation regarding eligibility. AB 1560 increases access to healthy foods by ensuring that low-income households with a Medi-Cal recipient can also receive CalFresh; according to the California Food Policy Advocates , an estimated 85 percent of the households that would be newly eligible contain children. The bill also requires that children living in those homes are certified for free school meals.
The Senate Human Services Committee hearing takes place in Room 3191 of the State Capitol at 1 p.m. The event can be viewed online at that time on www.calchannel.com . For more information, please contact First 5 LA Government Affairs Officer Ruel Nolledo at RNolledo@First5LA.org .
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