For Capitol insiders, it's easy to chalk it up as a bluff when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes terminating welfare-to-work and in-home care for the disabled if California doesn't get billions in federal money he's requested.
But it's no chess game for a welfare-to-work mother seriously trying to find a job, or a person in a wheelchair whose living stipend has already been slashed twice in one year.
Social services spending is a big chunk of the state budget and is often cited as a prime example of runaway spending.
Indeed, national comparisons show California is home to nearly a third of all welfare-to-work recipients. The typical $694 monthly welfare-to-work grant a mother and two children receive in California trails only Alaska and New York. The $845 monthly grant for low-income elderly or disabled individuals under the SSI/SSP program likewise is third-highest in the nation.
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But numbers also show that California's safety net is getting less generous all the time.
Disabled people with little or no other income live on a combined grant: federal Supplemental Security Income, SSI, and the State Supplemental Payment, SSP.
The biggest monthly SSI/SSP grant that an individual can get now is $845, down from $907 a year ago.
That has hit many disabled people who count every penny, because they've also had Medi-Cal benefits cut.
Last July, the state eliminated coverage for dental, vision and hearing care, counseling, podiatry and four other services that federal law doesn't require states to provide.
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