Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The boards of directors of California’s leading banks still lack diversity, with women and people of color seriously underrepresented, a new analysis released today by The Greenlining Institute finds. Banks had been making slow progress in improving diversity over the years, but now that progress appears to have stalled.
“In a state that’s 64% people of color, and projected to be 70% by 2040, the leadership of our most important financial institutions should reflect that diversity – and right now it doesn’t,” said report co-author De’Zhon Grace. “This isn’t an academic question. Our recent analysis of mortgage data found Black, Latino and Native American borrowers still lagging behind. More diverse bank leadership could push these institutions to work more cooperatively with California’s diverse population communities.”
Greenlining examined the racial and gender makeup of the boards of the top 15 banks in California, as measured by deposit size. Key findings include:
On average, 22% of board members in 2020 were people of color, a decline from 30% in 2019.
Only two of 15 banks had more than one third people of color on their boards.
On average women comprised 29% of board members, unchanged from 2019.
Women of color were severely underrepresented, averaging just nine percent of board members. One fifth of banks studied had no women of color on their boards.
The business world is increasingly recognizing the need for diverse boards. This week NASDAQ announced a new board diversity requirement for listed stocks.
Greenlining’s report urges greater transparency and increased attention to diversity from financial regulators. “Banks, nonbank lenders and fintech companies should be required to disclose data on their boards and staff, broken down by race and ethnicity, as well as what they have done to increase diversity,” said Rawan Elhalaby, the report’s other co-author. “This problem won’t solve itself. It requires focused effort and a push from regulators.”
As policymakers and consumer advocates seeks ways to narrow the racial gap in homeownership, a new report suggests nonbanks are doing a better job of lending to minorities than banks in the largest state.
The findings by the Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit based in Oakland, Calif., show the eight largest nonbank mortgage lenders in California lent more of their respective portfolios to Black and Hispanic homebuyers than top bank lenders in the state.
Independent mortgage bankers say the main reason for the difference in lending to minorities is that nonbanks are focused solely on mortgage lending rather than selling a wide array of products to the same customers.
The construction foreman in Cool, east of Sacramento, was inside a half-finished home when the rolling trusses that make up the underside of the roof fell, collapsing the whole house. Gene, 46, suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung and a concussion. When his coworkers sorted through the rubble, he says, they didn’t expect to find him alive.
But he found work again, earning $70,000 annually as a foreman to support his wife, their two kids and two children from a previous marriage. Then the pandemic hit and work dried up. Gene exhausted his state unemployment benefits and relied on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation payments to survive until those, too, ran out.
Now he’s hoping the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program picks up the financial slack, for at least a month. Both of those pandemic assistance programs are both slated to end Dec. 26.
As for the family having a roof over their heads, Gene makes late rent payments of $1,400 on a two-bedroom house to an understanding landlord — but he wonders when his landlord’s patience will run out.
The state eviction moratorium lifts on Jan. 31, and once again, Gene feels the walls buckling around him.
“Right now, I don’t know where I’m going to find money,” Gene said. “If I was a single guy, I’d figure something out, live in my truck, crash on people’s couches. But I’ve got kids I’ve got to think about.”
Absent last-minute federal and state legislation, Californians counting on pandemic assistance dollars to stay fed, and an eviction moratorium to stay housed, will be in for a rough new year. The day-after-Christmas expiration of federal benefits will affect more than 750,000 of them, according to a study by the California Policy Lab at UCLA.
Little more than a month later, California’s eviction moratorium lifts, meaning people who have been paying less than 25% of their rent after Sept. 1 can be evicted for non-payment. A separate analysis of Census survey data from the UC Berkeley found that Californians in more than 700,000 households could face eviction when the statewide moratorium lifts.
The number of repeat claimants of unemployment insurance now makes up 80% of all claims, a signal that people aren’t losing jobs for the first time, but rather entering the labor market and experiencing another layoff.
The number of new claims has tumbled from a high of 1.05 million in the last week of March to 30,000 in the last week of October. But the number of “additional claims” — workers who reentered the workforce but were then laid off again — has remained relatively steady: a high of 178,000 in the third week of July, and about 160,000 in the last week of October.
The results of the UCLA analysis are a “mixed bag,” said Till von Wachter, faculty director of UCLA’s California Policy Lab and lead author of the study. It’s a good indicator of economic recovery that there are fewer new entrants to the unemployment system, but the persistence of people re-filing for unemployment is concerning.
“To me, that means the job matches that are formed are not stable yet,” von Wachter said. “It means, one, business has not quite returned to normal and there’s uncertainty in the economic outlook, and two, it just generally takes time for workers to find jobs that are good and stable.”
Even early in the pandemic, it was easy to guess that an unreliable labor market would persist into late November and beyond, said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Oakland-based nonprofit Greenlining Institute, which advocates for racial and economic justice.
“We’ve been screaming since March that something more long term and serious needs to be done to help people on the margins who are really just hanging on,” Mirken said. “That means more long term assistance for renters, continuing cash payments, and if people can’t work, let them stay home. How does it help anybody to increase homelessness in the middle of winter in the middle of a damn pandemic?”
As with most impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the ill effects of the stagnant labor market fall disproportionately on workers of color, specifically Black Californians. According to the California Policy Lab analysis, more than 80% of the Black labor force has filed for unemployment benefits since the onset of the pandemic. By the middle of October, about one-third of the Black labor force in California filed a continuing claim.
More closures mean more people out of work, especially in hospitality, California’s hardest-hit industry. Kurt Petersen, co-president of the hospitality worker union Unite Here Local 11, said the union represented 30,000 members at the outset of the pandemic. On Tuesday, only 3,000 of them still had jobs.
“We see a tsunami of evictions and a loss of housing on the horizon both because (unemployment) is running out and the eviction moratorium expires,” Petersen said. “There have been failures at every level of government. I don’t see anyone stepping up to do what is necessary to help these people.”
Von Wachter, author of the UCLA study, said Californians at risk of eviction and the end of their pandemic assistance benefits should prepare now to receive CalFresh benefits, formerly known as food stamps.
“I think it’s really important for individuals to start now and see what they might be eligible for,” von Wachter said. “Because it’s possible that many individuals in the group of people who are running out of benefits never considered themselves being at risk of having to plan to use those benefits.”
That process, said Los Angeles Regional Food Bank CEO Michael Flood, can be intensive, “kind of like filling out your taxes.”
Food banks have already seen an enormous uptick in usage — the Los Angeles food bank has increased distribution by 145% since the onset of the pandemic — and Flood predicts that number will only grow as pandemic aid ends in California.
Gene, the out-of-work construction foreman, said he’s worried about taking a retail job: He doesn’t want to expose his 7-year-old son, diagnosed in April with Type I diabetes, to the coronavirus. Like many out-of-work Californians, Gene is waiting to find a job comparable to the one he had before the pandemic — one of the reasons von Wachter says the labor market is stagnating.
All the while, Gene’s bills are mounting: $2,000 to Verizon, $1,800 to the power company. Debt collectors call from new numbers every day. He knows the bills will all come due at some point, and may be a matter taken to small claims court. But Gene said he can’t worry about that now, while his family’s livelihood is at risk.
“To be honest,” he said, “I would do whatever it took to get something close to what we need to survive.”
This article is part of California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.
Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Black, Latino and Native American borrowers continue to receive far fewer home purchase loans in California than Whites, according to a new analysis of federal home loan data released today by The Greenlining Institute.
“In our society, homeownership remains critical to building wealth and financial stability,” said report author Rawan Elhalaby, Greenlining’s Senior Economic Equity Program Manager. “The racial discrepancies we see can’t be explained simply by differences in income. It will take a concerted effort by banks, non-bank lenders and financial regulators to overcome the systemic disadvantages that Black, Latino and Indigenous borrowers still face.”
Black and Latino Californians’ shares of home purchase loans were only about 60% of what would be expected based on their percentage of the state’s population, while Whites were overrepresented. Native Americans’ share of home mortgages was about half of what would be expected based on their population.
Even among low-income communities, Black and Latino borrowers lagged behind Whites in their share of home purchase loans, indicating that the racial and ethnic discrepancies can’t be explained solely by income differences.
Women of color make up 30% of California’s population but received only about 8% of home loans.
Non-bank lenders, which operate similarly to traditional lenders but are not regulated by the Community Reinvestment Act, are gaining market share without making community commitments common among traditional banks.
In the Los Angeles/Long Beach/Glendale Metropolitan Statistical Area, Latinos make up nearly half of the population but received less than 23% of home purchase loans. The Black community represents 7.76% of the population and received 4.04% of home purchase loans.
In the San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City region, the Black community makes up. 3.6% of the population but received just 0.73% of home purchase loans. Latinos, nearly 20% of the population, got only 4.18% of home purchase loans.
The Biden-Harris Clean Energy Plan is a 400-plus-page project of “Clean Energy for Biden,” a group of clean economy leaders, advocates, policymakers, and former government officials that came together in April to help formulate a platform and help get a new president in the White House. The plan is really a series of policy papers on what is required to transition to 100 percent clean energy in the U.S. It covers workforce development, necessary investments and incentives, transportation issues, rural development, the encouragement of new technologies, and strengthening the energy grid itself.
The industry will do whatever it can, as New York Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi reports. Her recent investigation found that the industry has invested in an increasingly sophisticated and underhanded game plan to influence policy, creating industry-backed organizations that pretend to be “grassroots,” fake Facebook profiles, misleading initiatives and campaigns, and “news sites” that promulgated pro-industry “news.”
To start, this country must focus on investing in frontline communities – by recognizing and beginning to undo this nation’s history of ignoring and marginalizing low-income communities and communities of color. These communities are subject to some of the worst effects from climate change, air pollution, and COVID, a triple threat that is due to years of underinvestment.
Says the plan:
Black and Hispanic communities in the U.S. are exposed to far more air pollution than they produce even though they drive less, use less electricity and consume fewer goods and services. By contrast, white Americans experience better air quality than the national average, even though their activities are the source of most toxic air pollutants.
If the Biden-Harris promise to base policy on science is kept, these irrefutable facts should guide investments towards those people and communities who most need them.
The plan also addresses the connections between community health, COVID, and transportation. One chapter, “Improving Frontline and Vulnerable Community Health and COVID-19 Resistance Through Transportation,” incorporates recommendations from The Greenlining Institute’s Mobility Equity Framework, such as improving “cash for clunkers” and electric vehicle rebate programs so they are available to more people and provide incentives that work for people who don’t make a lot of money. The chapter recommends replicating California programs such as Clean Mobility Options, the Sustainable Transportation Equity Pilot, Clean Mobility in Schools, the state’s “one-stop-shop” platform bringing all clean energy incentive applications, including solar infrastructure, onto one site, and supporting carsharing and micromobility hubs at affordable housing developments.
The entire plan focuses on benefits each of these policy recommendations would have in terms of job creation, and climate and economic benefits. For example, says the plan,
Switching from gasoline to electricity saves consumers money. During 2018, rural drivers in the following states saved by switching: $763 in Arizona, $748 in Florida, $770 in Iowa, $673 in Michigan, $1,011 in Nevada, $684 in Ohio, $741 i n North Carolina, $674 in Texas, $668 in Virginia, $733 in Pennsylvania, $552 in Maine, and $ 635 in Wisconsin.
The plan includes specific discussions on reducing the energy burden for disadvantaged communities via affordable and accessible solar and energy efficiency, cost savings and other benefits from clean energy in affordable housing, and making America’s schools healthy and resilient. May of these recommendations will seem familiar to those who have been following the conversations in California about specific cap-and-trade funded programs, or the Active Transportation Program, for example, which have been called to address racial equity and environmental justice in ways that other programs, like highway funding, have not.
That’s an important reminder: these are policy recommendations, and they are just the start of a conversation. For example, the “Biden Plan to Secure Environmental Justice and Equitable Economic Opportunity” makes the recommendation to mandate pollution monitoring in frontline communities. But what data to collect, how to collect it, and how to use that data are open questions, left for later, that could be undermined and distracted from by players that don’t want attention on that information.
The letter to Mexico’s energy minister offered a glowing review of a fossil fuel project in Baja California.
Writing in July, three U.S. governors and the chair of the Ute Indian Tribe praised the Energía Costa Azul project — which was seeking approval from the Mexican government — as “one of the most promising [liquefied natural gas] export facilities on the Pacific Coast.”
The letter was arranged by Western States and Tribal Nations, an advocacy group that says it was created in part to “promote tribal self-determination” by creating easier access to overseas markets for gas extracted from Native American lands.
But internal documents shared with The Times reveal that the group’s main financial backers are county governments and fossil fuel companies — including Sempra Energy of San Diego, which received approval this month to build the $1.9-billion facility in Baja. In fact, the group has just one tribal member, the Ute Indian Tribe.
The night Barack Obama claimed victory in the Democratic presidential primaries in 2008, he predicted future generations would look back and say, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
That turned out to be wrong. Earth kept getting hotter, the oceans kept rising, and Donald Trump spent four years undoing many of the clean energy policies adopted by his predecessor.
Tackling the climate crisis will once again take center stage under Joe Biden, but with an important shift. Although the energy politics of the last dozen years were defined by coal — with President Obama working to accelerate its decline and President Trump trying and failing to revive it — the fiercest battles of the Biden era are likely to revolve around another fossil fuel, natural gas.
This week, three state agencies that make policies and funding decisions about transportation, air pollution and climate change, and housing – the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the California Transportation Commission (CTC), and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) – met to find ways they could work together and align their programs so they don’t conflict.
It was also remarkable for what was said. That is, there was general agreement that, in order to align the work of the three agencies, a change in investment priorities will be necessary. That is, investments that continue to encourage reliance on single occupancy vehicles and fossil fuels need to end, and the agencies must focus state investments away from business as usual and onto equitable, sustainable projects.
How to make that shift – especially how to shift investment away from highway expansions that have been long in the planning stages – was not so clear.
Still, that there was general agreement on this notion is a pretty big change.
There’s a serious reckoning taking place at California state agencies at all levels, from the court system to these agencies themselves. Longtime movements for racial equity and environmental justice are gaining new traction and momentum. California’s present and historical inequities worsen problems like bad air quality, reliance on fossil fuels, climate change, wildfires, and this global pandemic.
The many ways these issues intertwine makes it difficult to think about them and talk about them, let alone sum them up succinctly. Many injustices are baked into the ways that California plans and regulates housing, transportation, and air quality. The necessary retooling of these processes will be difficult.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of people and organizations who have been doing that work for a long time.
And they have a lot to say.
Two such organizations spoke at Wednesday’s joint meeting. ClimatePlan and The Greenlining Institute have both conducted analyses of the effectiveness of state plans and policies, on whether they are helping meet state climate goals, and on whether they are benefiting the Californians most in need of help. Maybe the state agencies themselves should be be doing this analysis, but they are not required to. In the past few years, ClimatePlan and its partners completed two analyses of Southern California’s Sustainable Communities Strategies, several detailed reports on ways to plan a California transportation system that serves everyone and reduces emissions and traffic, and principles for integrating planning for land use and clean water.
The Greenlining Institute has released numerous reports on health, environmental, economic, and energy equity, completing detailed analyses of California programs aimed at clean energy and transportation.
Representatives from both of these organizations told the jointly assembled agencies that solutions to these interconnected problems already exist. The Greenlining Institute’s Hana Creger pointed to three existing programs that she said could set standards for equitable investments while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled. They could all be models for aligning program goals, and should be supported and invested in by all three agencies, she said.
But currently between all three they receive only a small portion of overall funding available.
The Clean Mobility Options Program (CMO), the Sustainable Transportation Equity Project (STEP), and the Active Transportation Program (ATP) all help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase mobility, and they do so in ways that help build community capacity. Each have requirements around involving community members from the beginning in planning projects that will meet program goals, but are flexible enough that they leave room for the communities to come up with the projects that they want. They do this by providing technical assistance and guidance, for example, and money for local organizations to conduct meaningful public outreach.
All three programs are also very popular, but only a portion of the applications to them can be funded. That is, only about 18 percent of the STEP applicants will get funding, and maybe sixty percent of the CMO projects will. The ATP usually funds around a quarter of the projects that apply. This is true even though the efforts that goes into applying, including collecting community ideas, creating and prioritizing projects to meet program goals, are considerable.
That means that “detailed, community-centered plans have been formed and are ready to go,” according to Creger, but they cannot be funded unless these programs are increased.
Nevertheless, they receive only a small portion of the overall funding that is available. The clean transportation equity incentives only receive a total of twelve percent of the funding for the Low Carbon Transportation Program, which itself is only a portion of total Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funding from cap-and-trade. “These programs are only scratching the surface of what they could do,” said Creger. Yet they more than pull their weight in terms of results, producing not only community-centered plans but communities that are engaged and interested and ready to work.
For example, while the ATP has seen steady growth in the amount invested in it – and work is being done to increase the funding available for active transportation in other transportation funding programs – California is still spending billions of dollars every year on projects that increase single-occupant vehicle use, reliance on fossil fuels, and that destroy homes to make highways ever wider and, in the end, more crowded.
But all state funding programs need to both encourage community engagement and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“We need to move funding away from programs that continue our reliance on cars and fossil fuels,” said Creger, and her words were echoed throughout the afternoon.
When asked by CalSTA Secretary David Kim to also analyze programs that need improvement, Creger agreed that it was needed, and had one quick answer: the Clean Vehicle Rebate program, which offers rebates on the purchase of electric cars and is pretty much limited to people who can afford these expensive vehicles. Not only does that program not do anything for equity, she said, it furthers dependence on cars instead of increasing options for everyone, especially those who need them most.
Nailah Pope-Harden from ClimatePlan made everyone hungry with an extended metaphor about equity, which cannot just be “sprinkled like salt” onto programs but must be marinated and basted into programs to ensure those programs are nourishing communities. UC Berkeley Professor Karen Chapple offered ideas on the need to realign state policies to support infill, preserving housing affordability and avoiding displacement, and the eventuality that, one way or the other, “the conversation about reparations is going to happen, and it would be good to get out ahead of it.”
In the afternoon, Darwin Moosavi, Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at CalSTA explained the ongoing work on a Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure being formulated by the California State Transportation Agency. CalSTA recognizes that the transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and that the huge emission reductions needed mean that vehicle miles traveled must be reduced in addition to other work like increasing the portion of zero emission vehicles.
That means, for one, funding infrastructure that encourages transit, walking, and biking. It also means focusing on a “fix-it first approach” that prioritize projects that do not increase vehicle travel.
What the next steps are, and what the concrete actions in the “Climate Action Plan” are, was left for another day, as was the question of what to do about highway expansion projects that are already in the pipeline.
“Americans of Color Know What It’s Like to Be Disenfranchised”
Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – With the Electoral College outcome still in doubt as vote-counting continues, The Greenlining Institute has joined the national call to count every vote. Greenlining President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann made the following statement:
“Every legally cast vote must be counted, period. Americans of color know too well what it’s like to be disenfranchised, and we must not let that injustice repeat itself. When we hear politicians claim that simply counting votes somehow equals ‘cheating,’ it brings back memories of poll taxes, literacy tests and other deceptions that kept Black Americans from voting for generations. Our democracy must be built on the idea that each American gets a vote and each vote must be counted.
“Let’s also remember not to assign too much significance to today’s rising stock market, which isn’t an indicator of anything except the fact that this form of American capitalism is built to protect its own corporate self-interests, which requires the exploitation of labor and working-class folks. The only thing that matters today is:
Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – While still waiting for clarity on the presidential election, Californians voted on a variety of issues with racial equity implications and produced a mix of encouraging results and disappointments, with several races still in doubt, The Greenlining Institute said today.
In a huge win for criminal justice reform, Voters approved Prop. 17, which will allow persons convicted of felonies who are on parole to vote in California elections, and rejected Prop. 20, which would have rolled back recent, successful reforms. As the racial inequity of the criminal justice system has finally become more apparent, Californians faced a choice between advancing reform or returning to failed policies of mass incarceration, Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann noted.
“Our old felony disenfranchisement law was a remnant of the 150-year old effort to keep Black and Brown citizens out of the voting booth, and kept citizens from having a voice in this democracy,” Gore-Mann said. “We’re heartened that voters got rid of this repugnant holdover from state and local laws that enforced racial segregation, and that California took a decisive step towards rejecting a return to the disastrous days of mass incarceration. Black and Brown communities, and indeed all of California, will be safer because of these votes.”
Other results were mixed, and in some cases still uncertain. Proposition 16, a key priority for racial and gender justice advocates, continues to trail although the outcome has not been called. “Whatever the final outcome, California needs to restore affirmative action and rebuild our efforts against systemic racism and sexism,” Gore-Mann said. “We are working hard to create a more just society that spends its public dollars to create equal opportunity for women and people of color. You can’t solve problems rooted in race and gender by ignoring race and gender, which is what the law now requires. However this finally turns out, you can count on Greenlining to fight the good fight.”
Greenlining was also disappointed by the passage of Proposition 22. While Prop. 22 wasn’t always characterized as a racial justice issue, Greenlining noted that over three quarters of ride-hailing drivers are people of color.
“We’re disappointed that voters were persuaded by the massively financed and devious campaign by wealthy companies designed to permanently keep their most essential workers in a status comparable to sharecroppers,” Gore-Mann said. “This terrible new law continues to allow corporations to relegate their workers into categories that service their financial bottom lines. We must continue fighting to protect our gig workers to be sure they are not exploited, and we will continue to work in solidarity with this workforce.”
As of Wednesday morning, Proposition 15 remained too close to call. “Despite a grossly dishonest campaign against Prop. 15, millions of Californians made clear they want to fix an unfair corporate tax break and provide critically needed funding for schools and other priorities vital to California’s communities of color,” said Gore-Mann. “We’re still hopeful for passage, but whatever the result we won’t give up working to shift the burden from low income working families to wealthy corporations so that they pay fair share to support vital public services.”