Residents of San Bernardino County living in extreme poverty may have an easier time obtaining financial aid after the county settled a lawsuit that claimed it made it unnecessarily difficult to apply for general relief funds – intended for those most in need. needy.
On December 6, the county settled a lawsuit brought in 2019 by Inland County Legal Services, the Western Center on Law & Poverty, and the Public Interest Law Project. It was filed on behalf of two county residents. Riverside County settled with the same groups on similar issues in 2019.
San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert, when reached earlier this week, had no information about the program or the trial. County government offices were closed on Thursday, December 23, and spokeswoman Felisa Cardona said officials were not available for comment. However, in the settlement, San Bernardino County did not admit wrongdoing or liability.
General Relief is a state-mandated program administered and funded by the counties of California. It provides cash assistance to adults living in extreme poverty who have no income or resources, including other government assistance programs other than the CalFresh food aid program.
In San Bernardino County, the program provides “loan assistance to indigent individuals and families in temporary need of housing, food and / or transportation,” according to the county’s website.
From July 2018 to April 2019, San Bernardino County turned down 2,057 of 2,245 general aid applicants, according to a press release from Inland County Legal Services.
The complainants alleged that the low acceptance rate was due to the county’s extremely difficult application process.
“People in need of general assistance are often homeless and disenfranchised to the point where it is difficult to receive assistance, so these changes to the program are huge,” said the county legal services attorney. from Inland, Anthony Kim, in a press release. âThe fewer obstacles residents have to overcome, the easier it will be for them to get the help they need and to which they are legally entitled. “
The county began making changes to the program after the complaint was filed and agreed to more in the Dec.6 settlement. They include:
- General Aid recipients now receive $ 332 per month as an individual, rising to $ 504 per month starting in 2026
- Applicants no longer have to attend an in-person orientation before applying
- County now accepts applications online and by mail or drop box
- Homeless people are no longer excluded from the program if they have not been able to obtain housing within 30 days of receiving benefits
- Eligible beneficiaries will also receive full benefits regardless of their housing status
- Recipients will receive back-dated payments on the date of their first request
- Recipients will have fewer recertification requirements to stay in the program
- Recipients will have higher allowed values ââfor cars and other vehicles
- Beneficiaries receive notice before being expelled from the program and will have the right to appeal
- Participants in the “employable” program can make 10 contacts in a job search each week, instead of 20
County staff will also receive training on these changes, most of which were in effect before the settlement agreement was signed. Changes that will remain in effect until at least December 2028, according to the terms of the regulation.
“This is an incredible victory for the people of San Bernardino County,” Melissa A. Morris, lawyer with the Public Interest Law Project, said in the statement. “These systemic changes to the county’s general relief program will potentially benefit thousands of low-income people across San Bernardino County, and we appreciate the county’s willingness to work with us to make these improvements.”