In a few days, the clock will start for thousands of Alameda County residents receiving General Assistance checks as the county's new three-month time limit goes into effect Friday.
Over the summer, the Board of Supervisors approved a three-month time limit for payments to General Assistance recipients. The cuts sparked much resistance from recipients and from advocacy groups for the poor and homeless, culminating in a rally to be held Thursday in front of the Alameda County Administration Building.
"Jan. 1 is the start of a new year, but for GA recipients it will be the start of a bad year," said boona cheema, executive director of Berkeley-based Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, which is organizing the 7 p.m. rally.
Organizers hope 200 to 300 people will take part in the rally to protest the time limit for recipients who are deemed "employable" — adults younger than 64 who are mentally and physically fit to hold down jobs. Nearly 10,000 county residents receive General Assistance, and it is expected that the time limits could affect more than half of those in the program.
Even those outside the county have voiced opposition to the cuts. On Dec. 18, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom sent a letter to Alameda County supervisors asking them to reconsider the time limit.
"While I understand the fiscal constraints that your county faces and realize that the GA caseload has increased significantly over the past two years, I urge you to reconsider your vote and to contemplate other more humane options to reform your general assistance program," the letter read.
In the letter, Newsom points to San Francisco's Care Not Cash program as one of several alternatives the county could explore.
County officials repeatedly have said that they do not want to cut General Assistance benefits, but the program ran more than $11 million in the red this past fiscal year. The cuts are expected to save the county's Social Services Agency about $3 million over the last six months of fiscal year 2009-10.