A Mandate for Investment

Between 2008 and 2019, California dismantled and starved the network of community-based programs that make up much of its safety net for seniors and people with disabilities. This pattern of disinvestment left the state unprepared to address the needs of its aging population.  Worse, it compromised the state-wide infrastructure of programs and services that represent an ideal foundation on which to build capacity and innovation.  Recent investments have begun the restoration.

Will Governor Newsom and state legislators have the foresight to continue to invest in the services that help seniors maintain health and economic stability? The state’s budget policies over the next few years will be crucial in deciding the future for our aging state.

Over 7.6 million Californians are age 60 or older. By 2030 the number is projected to increase to 10.8 million.



November 30, 2023 – In preparation for the 2024 legislative and budget session, on October 26 we convened a virtual forum with SSC members and California Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, who represents District 14.

We heard from a panel of supportive service providers who are working in their communities to address the unique needs of older adults, and learned about the challenges they are encountering.

Together with the Assemblymember, we discussed multiple factors that are destabilizing an increasing number of older adults and leading to displacement and poor health outcomes, and elevated some practical policy solutions.

Our report, Living on the Edge – Economic, Housing and Food Insecurity Among Older Adults in Alameda County, summarizes the meeting and elevates multiple policy solutions to pursue in 2024. These solutions include making APS Home Safe an ongoing program allocation to ensure rapid response case management and housing services are available for older adults in crisis, establishing a housing stabilization program to provide shallow and deep subsidies for low income older adults, and expanding the Medi-Cal Assisted Living Waiver to more people. Read the full report.

We want to express our resounding thanks to the Assemblymember for leaning in for this thoughtful discussion, and we look forward to working with her going forward.

August 9, 2023 – California policy makers made important investments in the FY 2023/24 state budget despite this year’s fiscal downturn and record state budget deficit. They ended Medi-Cal’s asset test, increased SSI/SSP grant levels, funded an older adult behavioral health initiative, and increased the CalFresh minimum monthly benefit to $50. Check out Justice in Aging’s outstanding Analysis of the Final California 2023-24 Budget for details.

Unfortunately, policy makers failed to make critically needed investments in housing and supportive services for older Californians. Given the continued slow progress on the policy front, where are we on addressing the needs of older adults? The answer is concerning. Older Californians still face very significant barriers to health and economic security, and the state is falling behind in implementing Master Plan for Aging solutions to address the growing need for home and community-based solutions.

In Alameda County, organizations that provide services in the community see a growing crisis. It is a crisis of economic and housing insecurity, and it impacts the health and wellbeing of thousands of older county residents. In this fact sheet we share some recent data that begins to describe the scope and extent of the crisis. We urge policy makers to move forward with a renewed sense of urgency to advance Master Plan for Aging solutions.

April 25, 2023 – Today the Assembly Aging & Long Term Care Committee heard AB 1313 (Ortega), which will create a Case Management pilot program within the California Department of Aging (CDA).  The pilot will run in Alameda, Marin and Sonoma counties, and will demonstrate the impacts of providing case management to low-income older adults, especially those who don’t fit neatly into the eligibility criteria of other programs.  The pilot will help CDA assess how this service could benefit older adults in the systems of care organized by the Master Plan for Aging, and pave the way for dedicated state funding.  The bill is a collaborative effort jointly sponsored by SSC and Alameda County.  

AB 1313 was passed 7-0, and now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and then, we hope, on to the full Assembly.

Click here to watch the hearing (go to minute 46.30 to watch Assemblymember Ortega, Wendy Peterson of the Senior Services Coalition, and Lee Pullen of Marin County present AB 1313).  Click here to read SSC’s letter of support for AB 1313.

Today, 21% of Californians age 65+ live in poverty (per the federal supplemental poverty measure). But economic insecurity is much deeper: 40% of older Californians live below the EESSI – a measure of basic living costs.


August 31, 2022 – Shall we see the glass half empty or half full? The 2022/23 budget deal that California’s Governor and legislative leadership recently struck contains many one-time investments that can be leveraged to address the very significant barriers to health and economic security that older people face.  That said, considering the state’s historic $100 billion surplus, the many stakeholder proposals submitted by stakeholders that align with the state’s Master Plan for Aging, and the growing need for home and community-based solutions, the budget falls short.

In our Impact Report, we’ve tried to illuminate how the ongoing neglect that this budget shortfall represents – and the investments that did make it into the budget – will impact the people who live in Alameda County.  

Click here for Senior Services Coalition’s summary of the 21/22 California budget’s impact on seniors and senior services in Alameda County. 

July 12, 2021 – On June 30 Governor Newsom signed a $196 billion General Fund Budget for the 2021/22 fiscal year, a budget that is remarkable in so many ways, including that it is $30 billion larger than the 20/21 budget. This year’s state tax revenues not only proved resilient, but have grown well beyond the pre-pandemic baseline, producing a huge surplus.  As a result, the new Budget makes both one-time and ongoing investments that will make tremendous progress towards addressing health disparities, the housing crisis and much needed social supports – including the most significant investments that we’ve ever seen to increase older Californians’ access to health care and supportive services.  

In a move that will prove transformative, the new Budget removes two unfair Medi-Cal policies.  It eliminates the Medi-Cal asset test that has for too long prevented older and disabled Californians from accessing essential health and long-term care.  In addition, it extends Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented immigrants who are age 50 and older, finally addressing health disparities that became glaringly obvious as these older members of our community faced the risk of COVID-19 without full health care coverage. 

Other significant changes include the restoration of the 2,497 MSSP case management slots that were cut in 2008; a “legacy cut restoration” to state grant levels for SSI/SSP that will increase the State Supplementary Payment (SSP) over the next three years; and a $200 million investment to expand the APS Home Safe program.  

As with every budget, this one is not without its warning signs and its missteps…

Warning signs. These historic General Fund will soon be followed by $5.2 billion in federal American Rescue Act investments guided by California’s Home and Community-Based Services Spending Plan which is pending approval.  With so much money flowing to the local level, the next year will be a critical time for stakeholders to lean in to ensure that investments are impactful and responsive to local needs.

Missteps. Policy makers once again disregarded the suite of powerful Supportive Services administered by the Department of Aging, providing no GF funding for programs that are lifelines for older people who are isolated, economically insecure, and/or at risk of losing their housing.  They serve very low income as well as the “not-poor-enough” older adults who are not eligible for Medi-Cal but nonetheless need preventive, supportive and long term care services that they cannot pay for – a demographic that is growing rapidly. To ignore this omission going forward would be irresponsible. 

Click here for Senior Services Coalition’s summary of the 21/22 California budget’s impact on seniors and senior services in Alameda County.

66% of impoverished older Californians are women.


July 9, 2020 – In the evening on June 29 Governor Newsom signed a budget for California’s 2020/21 fiscal year.  The spending plan represents a hard-fought victory in the shadow of the state’s $54 billion pandemic-related deficit.  In a remarkable 11th hour compromise, the Governor and the Legislature agreed to preserve critical programs that will help older adults most at risk from the pandemic access the health care and supportive services they need.  

Collective Action Makes a Difference!  In this unimaginably complex fiscal and health crisis, this stands as a victory that we should all take heart from.  All of us together – calling, writing, posting, testifying, speaking truth to power – we succeeded in turning the tide and protecting aging programs from state budget cuts.  Thank you, everyone!

Saved from the chopping block were Medi-Cal’s CBAS/Adult Day Health Care, Multi-Purpose Senior Services Program, Adult Dental and Optional Benefits, and estate recovery limitations. IHSS hours were maintained, as well as vital funding for Senior Nutrition and other aging services.  To preserve these essential services the Governor was persuaded to deviate from his May Revise plan and adopt other budget-balancing solutions, including withdrawing almost half the money in California’s $16-billion “rainy day” fund.

The Budget plan is one that will almost certainly require revision in coming months, since policy makers won’t know actual tax revenues until after July 15 and are still counting on a fourth federal emergency funding act.  

Click here for Senior Services Coalition’s summary of the new budget’s impact on seniors and senior services in Alameda County. 

June 4, 2020 – This year’s state budget will have huge impacts on the lives of older Californians. But the schedule that California’s elected officials are using to develop and pass a budget by June 15 has been significantly shortened and altered by the pandemic. This has limited public comment, thoughtful discussion and transparency.

As the Senate and Assembly struggle to mitigate the cuts proposed by the Governor’s May Revise, they, and the Governor, need to hear from the community. The cuts and program eliminations that the Governor continues to insist on would disproportionately harm older adults of color (click here for JIA’s summary). Without a Conference Committee, decisions are being made over the course of the next week.

By 2050, over 25 percent of all Californians will be age 60 or older.


February 25, 2020 – The California Budget and Policy Center has released a report that details why SSI/SSP is such an important resource for Californians with low incomes, particularly older women and people of color. Click here for the report.

As California’s population ages, it has become even more important for state leaders to promote policies reflecting the needs of an older and more racially diverse state. Among those needs is being able to afford to live and age with dignity. For over 1 million older adults with low incomes and people with disabilities in California, Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payments (SSI/SSP grants) help provide that basic support.

But for more than a decade, SSI/SSP grant levels have remained the same. Meanwhile, millions of older Californians and people with disabilities have struggled to afford the rising cost of living – with older women and people of color especially hit hard by labor inequalities. State policymakers must reinvest in the program that helps people be able to pay for their basic needs. A Budget Request from the Western Center on Law and Poverty would do just that, and Assemblymember Ash Kalra has stepped up to carry it.