California Partnership: Joining Our Strengths - Women's Foundation California

joining-our-strengthsIn California, one out of three families headed by single mothers is living in poverty. That’s not acceptable to the California Partnership. Currently led by Vanessa Aramayo, the California Partnership has worked for years to address the root causes of poverty.

They know they can’t do it alone. That’s why they’re made up of 120 organizations across California. They’re composed of organizations like Parent Voices, which makes sure that low-income working mothers have quality childcare for their children; Pueblo, which strives to empower low-income working families in Southern California, many of whom are Latino; and Lifetime, which strives to ensure that women receiving public assistance have an opportunity to get a higher education degree and go on to become financially independent.

The California Partnership has five chapters – in Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara counties, and members in the Central Valley, Central Coast, and San Diego regions.

One of the ways that the California Partnership addresses the root causes of poverty is through organizing and educating people about the California state budget. The past five years have seen the California budget balanced by cutting the programs and services that benefit low-income women and families. The rationale is that the state has a spending problem. Vanessa explains otherwise.

“We don’t have a spending problem,” Vanessa said “We have a revenue problem. The public is misled to believe that the only way we can solve our budget problems is if we cut our way out of it.”

The result is that people like Susan, a single mom with three kids, pay the price. For years, Susan worked in the financial sector, but when the recession hit, she lost her job. Like so many people who’ve lost work in the last couple years, she couldn’t find a new one, so after using up her savings, she lost her apartment and found herself living in a car with her three kids. In a desperate situation, she knew she had to do something to improve their lives, so she went to the Medi-Cal office.  where she learned that she could pursue her education with the help of CalWORKs. She decided to study health administration so she can help people through her work. Susan is a success story, but she wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of the CalWORKs grant she received.”

Last year, California Partnership members made more than 50 visits to legislators, to introduce people like Susan and their stories. They also conducted more than 20 actions and protests, all with the goal of raising awareness and protecting critical programs such as CalWORKs, child care, and economic support for low-income families. They have facilitated a record number of women giving statements in Sacramento—165 women attended and provided comments—thereby helping make real the human price of the budget cuts.

“Legislators couldn’t say they didn’t hear from anybody,” said Vanessa. “While there were some cuts, ultimately, we helped stave off what would have been catastrophic cuts.”

California Partnership’s big accomplishment this year? After years of working to bring attention to the need for fiscal reform and revenues, they helped to shape Proposition 30, which was on the 2012 ballot, and aimed to raise $6 billion annually so that we can build a California budget that reflects the values and needs of all Californians.

NOTE: This story was part of our 2011-12 annual report. See the 2011-12 annual report.

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