Sheriff’s deputies skate with Marin City youth

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

On June 8, community leaders, public health advocates and racial justice groups came together for a virtual press event to urge Governor Gavin Newsom to support the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund ( HERJ Fund).

The initiative supports community organizations that address the underlying social, environmental and economic factors that limit people’s chances of achieving good health – such as poverty, violence and trauma, environmental risks and the access to affordable housing and healthy food. Health advocates would also address long-standing California issues related to health equity and racial justice issues.

The fund cleared a significant hurdle last week when the state legislature included $75 million in its joint budget proposal. This means that the Assembly and Senate support the HERJ Fund and will enter into negotiations with the Governor to solicit his support in order to approve it.

“Our state has a staggering $97 billion budget surplus,” said Ron Coleman, CEO of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “If not now when? Given the devastating impact of racism on the health and well-being of Californians of color, it is a travesty of the first order that racial justice is not even mentioned in the budget proposal of the governor,

Last Wednesday’s virtual community meeting and press event capped a series of rallies held by supporters in cities across the state calling on Newsom to make room in his budget for the HERJ Fund.

Coleman hosted the online event featuring representatives from service organizations speaking about their support for the fund and outlining plans for how the money would be used to support their shared mission of providing services to minority communities and underserved in California.

Arboreta Group Partner Jenedra Sykes spoke about the inequities that exist in funding small, grassroots nonprofits and how traditionally larger, white-run nonprofits use public funds to contract with grassroots nonprofit organizations to provide services to communities of color at lower cost.

“Faith-based nonprofits on the ground have the connections, the access to those who are the most vulnerable and marginalized among us who have disproportionately poorer health outcomes,” Sykes said. “This bill also levels the playing field a bit. Instead of going through the larger established nonprofits, the funding will go directly to the people doing the work. The passion, the heart, the skills, the talents are there. It is about the resources to finance these talents.

Coleman updated attendees on the status of the HERJ Fund’s journey toward inclusion in the state budget.

Now that the state Legislature has included the fund in its spending proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year (it was not included in Newsom’s ‘May review’), it must survive negotiations with the office. governor before the June 15 deadline to finalize the budget.

A final budget must be in place by June 30, the last day for governor approval.

Supporters of the HERJ Fund remain hopeful that funding for their program will be included in the final budget.

Updated budget mechanisms have been added to the HERJ Fund proposal to allay those concerns, and supporters of the fund believe Newsom has no more excuses.

“Our best chance of getting the HERJ fund in the budget is now. We hope you all keep up the pressure on the governor to make this a reality,” Coleman said. “If he cares about the intersections of health equity and racial justice, we will see funding.”

Participants were encouraged to reach out to the governor’s office and the legislature to keep up the pressure on them to include the fund. You can visit herjfund.org to learn more about the proposal and efforts to include it in the state budget.

Nadia Kean-Ayub, Executive Director of Rainbow Spaces, shared details about the valuable events and services provided by community nonprofits. She said there is no shortage of families in need who want to participate in their organizations’ programs but, due to limited funding for transportation, many people never access services intended to help them. to help.

“It tells me that when things are created in our communities, they don’t have the impact that we need in our black, brown and IPA communities,” Kean-Ayub said. “I will continue to fight. To really grow this, we need the state to understand that the real impact comes from the community and the people who are experiencing these issues and who know how to help them.

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