California receives $333.8 billion in federal funding in 2010-11

California received a total of $333.8 billion in federal funds in 2010-11, most of which went directly to Californians without passing through the state budget, an analysis by the California Budget Project shows.

Of the $91.5 billion allocated through the state budget, the federal government provided $13.8 billion for California's public schools and universities - approximately 15 cents of every federal dollar spent by the state.

K-12 education received $7.7 billion, or about eight cents of every federal dollar, while higher education received $6.1 billion - equal to nearly seven cents on the dollar.

The future of continued federal funding is unclear, with Congressional leaders unable to reach agreement this week on how to cut $1.2 trillion out of the federal deficit.

A committee of six Democrats and six Republicans charged with the task had not reached agreement by a Monday night deadline, setting in motion an alternative plan for $1.2 trillion in spending reductions starting in January 2013.

How exactly those cuts would affect California is not known, but given the state's ongoing fiscal crisis, further reductions would likely devastate programs that depend heavily on federal funding - chiefly, health and human services and some education programs.

As is typical during economic downturns, federal spending increased significantly as a share of the state budget during the recent recession - $91.5 billion in the 2010-11 budget, or approximately 40 percent of total state expenditures.

Federal spending rose substantially during the recession because unemployment insurance and other federally funded programs expanded to meet the rising demand. In addition, Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which temporarily injected additional federal dollars into state economies in order to help boost demand and mitigate state budget cuts.

More than 50 cents of every federal dollar spent through the state budget supports health and human services for children, seniors and many other Californians. Nearly three-quarters of federal funds that go toward health and human services pay for health care through the Medi-Cal Program - the single largest federal expenditure in the state budget.

The next largest share of federal funds - nearly 19 cents out of every federal dollar spent through the state budget - supports unemployment insurance benefits for jobless Californians.

About five cents of each federal dollar supports transportation programs, with the balance going to public safety, environmental protection and a range of other services.

More than one-fifth of the $333.8 billion in federal funding for California was provided as grants through federal agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Human Services. Expenditures in this category include:

  • "Title I" funding for school districts with a high concentration of students from low-income families;

  • Federal support for the Medicaid Program - known as Medi-Cal in California - which provides health care for low-income children, parents, seniors and people with disabilities

  • The federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant, which supports cash assistance and welfare-to-work services for low-income families with children through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Program.

More than half (54.2 percent) of federal funding for higher education went to the University of California. The remaining federal funds primarily supported student financial aid (29.2 percent) and the California State University (16.4 percent) in 2010-11.

Many states receive less federal funding than might otherwise be expected given their share of the nation's population, according to the California Budget Project report.

California, for example, was home to 11.9 percent of the U.S. population in fiscal year 2010, but accounted for 10.2 percent of federal expenditures. Similarly, California's share of federal dollars amounted to $8,960 per capita, well below the national per capita level of $10,460.

To view the entire California Budget Project report, see more