By AnnaJoy Gillis, Intern & Missa Perron, Development Assistant
Holly Mitchell is a fierce advocate for women. Her legislative work on behalf of women and families stands out with extraordinary examples of no-nonsense solutions.
From reversing cuts to CalWORKs to protecting homeless youth from harassment, her bills have garnered for her ever growing respect and attention in the Capital.
But long before Holly was winning accolades for her legislative accomplishments, she was a scared 15-year-old struggling to make sense of a flawed world. After a contentious Klu Klux Klan demonstration at her high school, Holly witnessed her mother calm school tensions and advocate on behalf of minority students. Her mother’s bravery and wisdom during that difficult time helped Holly understand what it means to provide vision and leadership.
In 2010 Holly entered the Assembly as a tireless advocate for California’s most vulnerable populations-including children, seniors, the disabled, families and minorities- and has since been incredibly successful.
Reflecting back on this experience, Holly declares, “I believe it is essential for women of all ages to make use of their natural leadership ability. This doesn’t necessarily mean running for office; it means tapping into your heart to identify and take action on those issues that resonate with you—perhaps child care, health care, elder care, education, poverty, domestic violence or city planning.”
Leading with her heart
Leading with purpose and authenticity is exactly what Holly has done in her career. Prior to being elected in 2010 to represent Los Angeles’ District 47 (now 54) in the California State Assembly, she served as CEO of Crystal Stairs, a nonprofit and one of California’s largest child care agencies.
While at Crystal Stairs, she sought to enhance and protect access to quality and affordable child care. Being a single mom herself, she understood the challenges working mothers face and the importance of having safe and secure child care while working to provide for your family.
Holly also worked to insure equity and access to healthcare. Her prior jobs included working as a policy analyst for the California Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, as a legislative advocate and as the executive director of the California Black Women’s Health Project.
Advocate for economic security
In 2010, Holly entered the Assembly as a tireless advocate for California’s most vulnerable populations-including children, seniors, the disabled, families and minorities. She has since been incredibly successful.
During her first term in the Assembly, she was the only member of her Democratic class to not have a single one of her bills vetoed. All of her bills passed, including two very important bills for women’s reproductive health: AB 2348, which expanded women’s access to birth control and AB 2530, which prohibited the shackling of pregnant, incarcerated women.
Commenting on Holly’s ability to drive change, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said, “Assemblymember Mitchell is a talented and thoughtful voice in the legislature, and has earned a great deal of respect on both sides of the aisle.”
This year, Holly’s on fire
This legislative session, Holly stepped up her intensity and focused on helping low-income women. Two of her recent legislative accomplishments, “The Mitchell Plan” and AB 271, have had integral mission alignment with the Women’s Foundation of California.
Holly proposed “The Mitchell Plan” to increase the basic grant for CalWORKs, California’s welfare program for families in extreme poverty. Severe budget cuts over the last few years have meant that since 2011, the average CalWORKs grant has been set at 29.1 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), the lowest level in more than 20 years.
Although she originally advocated for a 12 percent increase in the CalWORKs grants, she was able to get a 5 percent increase included in California’s new state budget.
Commenting on her budget proposal, Holly said, “This is a measured first step in our effort to reduce poverty in California, and it comes at the expense of no other program. If you care at all about freeing children from the strangling yoke of poverty, this vote was the opportunity to join the freedom march.”
AB 271—the next hurdle
At this very moment, Holly’s working on AB 271, a bill to repeal the notorious “family cap” on welfare benefits. The law would end the practice of prohibiting families, which have been on CalWORKs for at least ten months, from receiving increased assistance after the birth of another child.
“The cap makes poverty worse by forcing families to spread meager resources even thinner,” she said.
The current maximum family grant rule has been state policy for over 15 years, yet has produced no evidence of slowing the birthrates of affected families or decreasing welfare abuse. It has only punished women for getting pregnant while poor and pushed them even deeper into poverty.
The great news is that AB 271 has passed the Assembly and is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee. We hope it will reach the Governor’s desk before the end of this session.
The leadership for and on behalf of women and children, embodied by this assembly member, permeates her career history, her policy work, and her inspiring character. Holly Mitchell followed through on her advice to “take action on those issues that resonate with you.” She’s a fearless fighter, mother, and role model for women everywhere.
Holly Mitchell’s mom inspired her. She inspires us.