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LA Times: Community advocates concerned over lack of funding for health equity, racial justice

For the second year in a row and during a time when the state is experiencing a large surplus in their budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom has not provided funding in the state budget to advance health equity and racial justice in marginalized communities. PHI joins more than 200 organizations who are pushing for a California Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund, which would support community-based organizations in reducing health disparities and addressing the public health impacts of systemic racism.

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“Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing criticism from community organizations after he declined for the second straight year to provide money in the state budget for a proposed fund aimed at advancing health equity and racial justice.

Supporters of the proposed Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund had called on Newsom to allocate millions of dollars to support community-based groups, clinics and tribal organizations offering services and programs to address health disparities.

This year, the Senate and Assembly proposed $75 million in ongoing annual funding for the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund. But funding was left out of the $307.9-billion budget finalized last week for fiscal year 2022-23, which began Friday.

The idea for the fund came along last year but was not funded in the 2021-22 budget. Although other forms of state and county grant opportunities exist for community organizations and tribal groups, advocates for the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund consider it a unique way for state officials to administer and support their efforts to tackle access to care, employment, transportation, violence prevention and criminal justice.

More than 200 organizations have publicly backed the fund.

But they said that Newsom’s failure to allocate money, particularly with a $101.4-billion surplus, reflects a lack of effort on his part to take bold steps on racial justice, noting that he has held off declaring racism a public health threat.

More than 240 cities, counties, states and health-related associations and departments have made the declaration since 2020, according to the American Public Health Assn, which tracks the data.

A spokesperson for the governor did not directly address the decision not to provide money to the fund, or the resulting criticism.

In a statement, the governor’s office said the new budget “makes history by expanding Medi-Cal for all income-eligible Californians, regardless of immigration status, and proposes another $200 million specifically to expand access to reproductive health services while strengthening protections. That’s on top of the governor’s inflation relief proposal,” which will provide as much as $1,050 to California families.

Sonya Young Aadam, chief executive of the California Black Women’s Health Project, a nonprofit based in Inglewood, said the statement confirmed her concerns that Newsom has “a very serious lack of real focus or interest in things that are driven and rooted in racism.”

She said it is “a slap in the face” to see the governor not taking active steps to address the causes of inequities or provide money to help community-based organizations address racial disparities in health, housing, criminal justice or education.

Her organization does programming and community partnerships to support Black women with maternal and reproductive health, mental health and training to be health advocates.

“I was counting on that, and not just for the organization that I manage but counting on it for the full spectrum of organizations out there who are doing this heavy lift, and who are filling these gaps,” Aadam said. “Certainly Black women I know, who are running organizations … we make tremendous sacrifices to do the work that we are doing, and we grovel for the support to be able to continue this work and it’s unacceptable.”

She said Newsom’s decision only makes it more challenging for groups like hers to provide services and programs, particularly as an organization focusing on Black communities. Community-based groups are often competing for the same pools of limited grant and governmental funding that cannot always be relied upon long-term.

“If I were running an animal shelter, we’d be so much better funded,” Aadam said. “It wouldn’t even have to be a statewide animal shelter, it could be a local one in a small city, and it would be better funded than the work that we’re doing.”

Click on the link below to read the full story. For more information about the California Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund, visit:

Originally published by Los Angeles Times

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