Greenlining Institute Urges Legislators to Emphasize Racial, Economic Equity
Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Associate Director for Media Relations, 415-846-7758 (cell)
The revised “California Comeback” budget released by Gov. Gavin Newsom today can pave the way for California’s efforts to build a just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and a just economy that works for all, and legislators must build on what the governor has proposed, The Greenlining Institute said today.
“We’re heartened by much of what Gov. Newsom has proposed,” said Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann. “Now it’s up to the legislature to build on this foundation, using both the budget and pending legislation to build a truly just economy in California. The budget affects all of us, so we urge everyone to contact their legislators and push them to seize this opportunity to pass a just, equitable budget”
Highlights of the governor’s revised budget include:
- Utility Debt Relief. Greenlining strongly applauds Gov. Newsom’s plan to provide $2 billion in assistance for past-due water and utility bills. This can prevent hundreds of thousands of California households from losing these vital services in publicly owned and investor owned utilities’ territories. More relief will be needed as the state recovers, but this an essential first step.
- Transformative Climate Communities. The governor’s proposed allocation of $420 million over three years for TCC, an innovative program that funds community-led climate projects that integrate clean energy, transportation, affordable housing and more, represents a huge step in the right direction. We urge the legislature to fully fund TCC at the $500 million level urged by advocates. A companion statement amplifies our thoughts on this ground-breaking program.
- Housing and Rent Relief. Housing unaffordability is an existential crisis facing California’s communities of color. The governor’s proposed $7 billion allocation for Project Homekey — a program administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development that funds cities, counties, and housing authorities to purchase and rehabilitate 46,000 units of housing, including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings and other buildings and convert them into interim or permanent, long-term housing — is an excellent step in the right direction. We also applaud his commitment of $7.2 billion to help low-income tenants financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic cover all of their outstanding rent and utility payments.
- Stimulus Payments. In the governor’s newly proposed $100 billion California Comeback Plan, nearly $12 billion will be set aside for stimulus checks — $600 payments for qualifying taxpayers. This is an essential step in ensuring that families still struggling due to COVID-related economic impacts do not fall farther behind. We applaud the governor’s plan and look forward to additional innovative thinking to address other areas of racial and social inequality.
- Broadband. The Greenlining Institute strongly supports the governor’s broadband budget and commitment to closing the digital divide. The proposed budget balances short and long term needs by providing $7 billion in funding towards open-access middle-mile broadband networks, municipal broadband and last mile infrastructure that will provide Californians with long-term benefits, while ensuring families can afford the internet while these new networks are built. Municipal broadband and open-access infrastructure investments will create jobs, provide faster internet connections to Californians and enable internet service providers to more easily enter the broadband market and compete with incumbents that charge high prices and are slow to upgrade their networks. The governor’s broadband budget creates a sustainable path for closing the digital divide for families that need internet access for jobs, education, health and economic opportunity.
- Clean Transportation. Electric vehicle equity programs have proven health and economic benefits for families and communities. The governor’s proposal of $3.2 billion altogether over three years for clean transportation, including $1.4 billion for clean trucks and buses, represents a historic step forward. Because pollution from diesel medium- and heavy-duty vehicles is toxic and disproportionately harms communities of color, this funding will make a huge difference in our communities’ health. The May revision also proposes $650 million over three years for Clean Cars 4 All/Equity Programs and the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. We are pleased to see equity programs receive $250 million, programs with proven health and economic benefits for families and communities. The revised budget also allocates $400 million over three years for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, which has been demonstrated to mainly benefit higher-income households. While Greenlining believes that transforming the car market to electric vehicles is important, it is time for the decade-long investment in CVRP to start ramping down. For now, the governor’s investment in CVRP must be targeted to low-income and middle-income Californians.
- Urban and Community Forestry. California’s urban forests sequester carbon and are critical to helping the most vulnerable populations adapt to climate change, create community resilience and preserve their mental and physical health. Greenlining supported $200 million for this program but the governor has proposed $23 million.
- Low-Income Weatherization Program. This critical program helps low-income households cut their utility bills and improve health and safety while saving energy, creating jobs and preserving affordable housing. The governor’s proposed $50 million allocation is seriously inadequate. Legislators should increase it to $375 million.
- Urban Greening. Vulnerable populations too often lack access to parks and green spaces within walking distance of their homes. The Urban Greening Program helps to mitigate these inequalities and Gov. Newsom’s proposed $200 million over two years represents a solid beginning.
- Community Resilience Centers. The governor proposed a one-time investment of $150 million to support the development and enhancement of community resilience centers split between local fairgrounds and other community facilities. We are excited about the opportunity to develop a new program for community resilience centers that focuses on placing facilities closest to vulnerable communities that address the growing needs of working class communities of color in the face of the converging climate, economic, public health crises. We believe this important program should be funded at $500 million.
- Regional Climate Collaboratives. Implementation of SB 1072 (Leyva, 2018) to create the Regional Climate Collaboratives program will build the capacity of local communities to make the transition to a climate resilient future, building community-driven leadership, knowledge, and skills. The governor’s proposed $20 million represents a solid start but should be increased to $35 million.
- Vulnerable Communities Platform. Although there is mounting evidence of the unequal effects of climate change, California has no existing tool that holistically and comprehensively displays the data needed to identify the most vulnerable communities. Greenlining commends the governor for including this priority in the proposed $5 million under community resilience. We strongly recommend that the state use some of this money to resource a community advisory committee to center the vision and expertise of communities disproportionately impacted by climate change in the development and implementation of the mapping platform.
“We urge the legislature to move swiftly to approve a budget that meets the real needs of California’s diverse communities, but legislators can’t stop there,” Gore-Mann said. “We also urge swift passage of SB 17, to create an Office of Racial Equity, and HR 39, which will commit the Assembly to analyzing the racial equity implications of new legislation. Problems based in racism and discrimination need race-conscious solutions if we are build a truly just economy in our state.”
To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.
THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE works toward a future when communities of color can build wealth, live in healthy places filled with economic opportunity, and are ready to meet the challenges posed by climate change.