Fund Community Organizations, Don’t Leave Communities of Color Behind

Harold Goldstein, DrPH, Executive Director, Public Health Advocates

Rod Lew, MPH, Executive Director, Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership

Jeffrey Reynoso, DrPH, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California

Rhonda Smith, Executive Director, California Black Health Network

We are two years into a devastating pandemic that has excessively harmed communities of color. Yet, Governor Gavin Newsom continues to sideline the same grassroots organizations who were most critical to the pandemic response – organizations that have shown an unrivaled ability to equip our most disadvantaged communities with life-saving resources.

We are calling on the Governor to do more to help Black, Latino, Indigenous (American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian), Pacific Islander, and Asian American communities respond to the deep health disparities that the pandemic laid bare.

Mr. Newsom’s revised 2022-23 state budget proposal, colloquially known as the May Revise, included critical funding like an $8 billion flexible block grant to support K-12 education, $1.1 billion to support broadband infrastructure projects, and $530 million to increase COVID-19 testing. Conspicuously missing, for a second year in a row, was funding for the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund. 

More recently, when top members of the Assembly and State Senate released the Legislative Version of the 2022-23 State Budget, they included $75 million in ongoing funding for the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund. Right now, legislators and the Governor are in negotiations to determine what will be in the final budget that must be passed by midnight on June 15.

For the past two years, in the midst of unprecedented state budget surpluses, a coalition of more than 200 organizations has been calling for the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund in order to tackle the glaring health disparities between Black, Latino, Indigenous, Pacific Islander, and Asian American communities and wealthy white communities. In California, infant mortality, for example, is three times higher for Black people than for their white peers. Black people are almost six times more likely to experience homelessness and die almost six years younger than their white peers. 

The COVID-19 death rate is 14 percent higher for Latinos and 18 percent higher for Black people than the statewide rate, and the COVID-19 case rate is 79 percent higher for Pacific Islanders than statewide, according to data from the California Department of Public Health

The Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund will focus on health disparities like these and on underlying racial injustices, community violence, hate crimes, and unequal exposure to the criminal justice system. Local organizations, clinics, and tribal organizations will be able to use this funding to support the kinds of projects that their communities need most. These groups know the neighborhoods they serve, and their culturally and linguistically unique needs. 

Last year, legislators included this Fund into their version of the state budget, but the Governor deleted it. This year the Governor has included $300 million to strengthen public health departments in the May Revise – which we applaud – but CBOs, clinics, and tribal organizations, which play such a critical role in the state’s public health system, have been left out. Again.  

In the midst of a continuing pandemic that has disproportionately harmed low income communities and communities of color, and while the state sits on a record $97.5 billion surplus, the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund is more important than ever. 

Mr. Governor, please don’t leave communities of color behind again.

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