“We must reimagine how we fund, care for, and protect our communities.”
Statement by Matthew Marsom, Vice President of Public Policy and Programs, on California May Budget Revise
“Like economies and governments around the globe, the state of California faces hard choices when it comes to protecting the health of its residents in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated lives, health and the economy. One thing is clear: we need more, not less, investment in public health to steer us to the other side of this crisis and avoid dire impacts, particularly within communities of color and low-income Californians.
“We appreciate the efforts of Governor Newsom and his administration to try and protect most existing public health funding, maintain Medical eligibility, and continue existing programs. And, an influx of 1.3 billion in funding from the federal CARES Act that will be directed towards local public health departments and communities will be a critical part of COVID emergency response, testing, contact tracing and more.
“Still, simply maintaining funding levels and addressing COVID-19 will not fix the conditions that are leading to disproportionate deaths—and disproportionate social and economic impacts—among vulnerable communities.
“Cuts to public health—federally and at the state level—have both contributed to and magnified the impact of the pandemic. Federal cuts to pandemic planning left the county flat-footed and ill prepared to plan for or respond. An ongoing grinding down of public health funding over the last decade and systemic racism exacerbated many of the conditions that contribute to death rates, disproportionately so in African American, Latino and Native American communities: access to housing; food security; access to health care; living wages; prevalence of co-morbidities including diabetes.
“The state is relying on several revenue-generating measures, including a vaping tax and a cannabis tax, to fill some of the budget gaps. We must consider even more strong, evidence-based options for protecting health while generating revenues, such as taxing sugar-sweetened beverages and allowing local municipalities to develop their own taxes in order to address shortfalls. In the midst of a pandemic we couldn’t imagine, we must reimagine how we fund, care for, and protect our communities.”