February 2014 Update on Our Women's Policy Institute Fellows - Women's Foundation California

WPI Fellows Class of 2013-14Our eleventh class of fellows finds themselves at a midpoint in their fellowship. They’ve already attended two four-day retreats and their third one is just around the corner, March 4-7.

They’ve been hard at work. They’ve gone through an intensive period of acquiring the information, access, hands-on experience and mentorship they need to understand, create and change public policy.

At this very moment, they’re working on developing their policy projects. These are actual bills they will help to shape in collaboration with a legislator and then work to pass through both houses of the Legislature before the August 31, 2014 deadline. If their bill passes the Legislature, they will then concentrate all their efforts on convincing Governor Brown to sign their bills into law. The deadline for the bills to be signed is September 30, 2014.

This year we have five teams of fellows. Learn about the bills they’re working on by reading the brief descriptions below and expect to hear from us soon because this year we’ll be giving you opportunities to support these incredible fellows and their bills.

Domestic Violence Team
AB 1579—Healthy Babies Act of 2014
This bill aims to change the state’s CalWORKs statute to allow pregnant women who otherwise do not have children to become eligible for CalWORKs basic needs grants as soon as they are able to verify that they’re pregnant. Currently, low-income pregnant women are eligible for CalWORKs assistance only in the last three months of their pregnancy. This bill is important because many women experience homelessness, hunger, domestic violence and deep poverty during their pregnancies. Earlier participation in CalWORKs could help them get domestic violence counseling, avoid stress, premature births and even mother and infant mortality.

College and Career Access Team
This bill aims to audit the Community College system in order to identify all students who’ve stopped going or have dropped out but who have, at the same time, acquired or are close to acquiring sufficient credits for an associate’s degree. The aim is to help these students obtain their hard-earned degrees.

Criminal Justice Team
The Alternative Custody program allows parents who had primary custody of their children to do their prison time at home or in a program with their children. The program has been in existence for several years but so far very few parents have been released to the program. This bill aims to require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to report their reasons for denial and would instate reporting timelines and other requirements on the CDCR.

Safety Net Policy Team
Healthy Baby Bottoms (working title)
This bill aims to provide diapers to CalWORKs recipients with infants under 2 years old. Many low-income mothers have trouble affording an adequate supply of diapers for their infants, which can contribute to health challenges for their children, as well as mental health and economic difficulties for mothers.  The team is currently working on figuring out the mechanics of this bill (voucher or supplemental stipend to the grant).

Healthcare  Workforce Development Team
This team is currently choosing between two bills.

The first bill would require the collection and reporting of certain demographic data on allied health professions, including registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, respiratory care providers, vocational nurses and psychiatric technicians. The demographic information would include: (1) location(s) of practice, (2) race/ethnicity of workforce, (3) language(s) spoken, and (4) educational background.

The second bill the team is considering would require the California Department of Health Care Services to accept the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ revised definition of § 440.130 and recognize unlicensed providers in the delivery of preventative services for reimbursement recommended by a licensed physician.

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