By Tanu Henry and Antonio Ray Harvey |California Black Media |May 9, 2023
Assemblymember Mike Gipson Demands Sac County Remove Foster Children From Former Jail
Last week, Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) demanded Sacramento County officials stop housing foster children in a former juvenile correction center.
The lawmaker, who authored Assembly Bill (AB) 175 that expanded and clarified the Foster Youth Bill of Rights, says what Sacramento County is doing is “unacceptable” and is in violation of state law.
“This is heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking,” said Gipson, who explained that sex traffickers have access to the facility.
“We can find shelters for dogs, and people take those animals and roll out the red carpet,” Gipson told KCRA TV in Sacramento. “Are you telling me we can’t find placement for children in this county?”
Sacramento County officials say the decision to place 15 “high needs” foster children aged 13 to 17 years old at the Warren E. Thornton Juvenile facility is a temporary measure while the county seeks a legal and permanent solution.
Gipson Also Pushes Two Tax Bills
Last week, at a rally at the State Capitol, Gipson also discussed AB 1498, legislation he authored that would establish an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) minimum of $300. According to the California Budget and Policy Center, 78% of people who qualify for EITC are people of color.
Gipson also expressed his support for another EITC-related legislation, AB 1128, at the rally. AB 1128 would “remove the requirement that a qualifying child has to be younger than 6 years of age as of the last day of the taxable year.”
California Elected Officials Among Black Leaders Mourning Harry Belafonte
Black actors, musicians, businesspeople, politicians and more wrote heartfelt tributes and messages of condolences last week after news broke that Harry Belafonte had passed.
Belafonte, singer, actor, activist, philanthropist, civil rights leader and first Black person to win an Emmy Award, died of congestive heart failure April 25 at his home in New York City.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA-43) paid tribute to her friend on Twitter.
“Another superstar has just passed. My dear friend, Harry Belafonte, was an extraordinarily talented singer and performer,” she tweeted. “More than that, he was a civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and worked with President Nelson Mandela to end Apartheid in South Africa. We will all miss his wisdom, his advice, and his huge giving spirit.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) also honored Belafonte’s life and work in a tweet.
“Sad to hear of the passing of my friend Harry Belafonte,” Lee wrote. “The world has lost not only a great musician and actor, but a civil rights activist and warrior for justice whose voice helped change America for the better. Thank you for your work, your courage, and your service.”
Democrats Shoot Down GOP-Backed Fentanyl Bills
Democrats on the Assembly Public Safety Committee last week voted down several bills aimed at addressing California’s Fentanyl crisis.
The measures would have strengthened penalties for Fentanyl dealers who possess large quantities of the drug — or kill or injure people they sell the drug to.
“Californians will continue to die, victims of drug dealers profiting off poisoning our communities,” Assembly Republican leader James Gallagher said in a statement. “These bills were not criminalizing addiction, returning to the ‘war on drugs,’ or any other lie told by the pro-fentanyl lobbyists. They were reasonable, bipartisan proposals to save lives.”
Assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the Public Safety Committee and Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) pointed to “harm reduction programs,” which experts say are more effective tools to fight the Fentanyl crisis than the punitive measures being proposed by lawmakers.
Jones-Sawyer says more arrests do not solve the problem in the long-term.
“As soon as you arrest somebody, unfortunately they may get replaced by somebody else and then there are even more drugs on the street,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s a lucrative business. We’ve got to get to what the Governor is doing, for example, getting to the supply side. Which is stopping the drugs from getting across the border.”
Bonta pointed to the major criminal justice reform efforts the state is undertaking, as well as a $61 billion investment in harm reduction programs, including distribution of test strips and drug overdose medication.
Biden Highlights Importance of the Black Press at White House Correspondents’ Dinner
At the 2023 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Joe Biden spoke about the importance of the Black press and the tragic death of Emmett Till, an event that helped galvanize the civil rights movement in the 1950s.
Biden told the room full of journalists that during Black History Month this year he hosted the screening of the film “Till.”
On Aug. 28, 1955, while visiting family in Money, Mississippi, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American teen from Chicago, was lynched for allegedly flirting with a white woman a few days earlier.
The story of Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobly is a “story of a family’s promise and loss” and the country’s “reckoning with hate, violence, and the abuse of power,” Biden said.
“It’s a story that was seared into our memory and our conscience — the nation’s conscience — when Mrs. Till insisted that an open casket for her murdered and maimed 14-year-old son be the means by which he was transported,” Biden said. “She said, ‘Let the people see what I’ve seen.’”
Biden also commended Black publications for their reporting on the lynching and its aftermath, Till’s funeral, and the ensuing trial that freed the perpetrators.
“The reason the world saw what she saw was because of another hero in this story: the Black press,” Biden said “That’s a fact. JET Magazine, the Chicago Defender, and other Black radio and newspapers were unflinching and brave in making sure America saw what she saw. “And I mean it.”
Two Black Women Among New Appointees to Emerge California Board
Two Black women are among four new appointees to the board of Emerge California, an Oakland-based body that describes itself as “the state’s premier organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.”
Brittni Chicuata and Alana D. Matthews are the two new Black women members of the 9-member board. The organization had a 70%-win rate out of the 125 candidates it supported in last November’s general election.
“I’m excited to welcome these powerful and accomplished women leaders to the Board of Directors to help lead Emerge California forward and build on our success in 2023 and beyond,” said Board Chair Rhodesia Ransom. “Since our founding more than twenty years ago, Emerge California has trained over 850 Democratic women to run for office, and we’re just getting started. These four women have valuable expertise and skills that will help us grow our movement to even greater heights.”
The other two new board members are Stacey Owens and Marina A. Torres.
Chicuata is Director of Economic Rights at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
Matthews, an Emerge alumna, is an Assistant District Attorney and Policy Director for the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office. She is also an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law where she founded the Racial Equity and Justice Summer Practicum program.
Former Black Caucus Member Jim Cooper Appointed to State Commission
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed former Assemblymember and current Sacramento County Sherriff Jim Cooper, a Democrat, to the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST).
The California Legislature created POST in 1959 to “set minimum selection and training standards for all law enforcement in the state,” according to the office’s website.
Cooper was elected to the Assembly in 2014 and served until last year representing the 9th Assembly District in Sacramento County.
Uber and Lyft Drivers Can Be Contractors, State Court of Appeals Rules
Last week, the California Court of Appeals ruled that Uber and Lyft drivers and other freelancers can be classified as independent contractors. The court’s decision came after a long fight dating back to 2019 when AB 5, the law that first reclassified contractors as employers, passed. The next year, AB 5 was challenged and overturned when voters approved Prop 22 – a ballot measure that gave rideshare companies the greenlight to hire freelancers.
San Diego Based Civil Rights Activist Shane Harris Appears on the Dr. Phil Show
The Rev. Shane Harris, a national Civil rights activist who is based in San Diego, appeared on the Dr. Phil show last week titled “How Safe Are Our Streets?”
The episode focused on victims of random violent crimes who were attacked by repeat offenders.
“The news and the media are running a lot of stories about these reoffenders and these folks who have committed violent offenses consistently, but they are not telling you about the youth who turn their lives around, people who went through diversion programs that actually work,” said Harris, who is President of the Peoples Association of Justice Advocates, speaking up for criminal justice reforms that rehabilitate criminals.
Harris was on the panel making his argument against the positions of law enforcement advocacy groups calling for a tougher penalty for crimes.
“Tough on crime didn’t works for us,” says Harris. “There is a balance we need to strike in the middle of this.”
California Turns San Quentin Prison Into “Rehabilitation and Education” Center
Last week, Gov. Newsom announced that the state is transforming California’s most notorious maximum-security prison San Quentin, — known for having the largest Death Row in the United States — into the country’s largest rehabilitation and education center.
The prison renamed “San Quentin Rehabilitation Center,” will operate under the direction of an advisory group comprised of public safety and rehabilitation experts.
“California is transforming San Quentin into the nation’s most innovative rehabilitation facility focused on building a brighter and safer future,” said Newsom, standing with legislators, civil rights leaders and victim advocates. “Today, we take the next step in our pursuit of true rehabilitation, justice, and safer communities through this evidence-backed investment, creating a new model for safety and justice — the California Mode — that will lead the nation.”
California Cities are Pilot Testing Guaranteed Basic Income Programs
Manny Otiko | California Black Media | Posted: September 19, 2022
Guaranteed basic income isn’t a new idea. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr talked about the idea of low-income people receiving regular checks from the government in the 1960s. It was brought up again during the 2020 presidential campaign when Democratic candidate Andrew Yang, a technology entrepreneur, made it a major part of his platform.
However, Yang was advocating for Universal Basic Income (UBI), which guarantees payments to everyone.
Guaranteed basic income only targets low-income people.
According to Yang, some kind of guaranteed basic income program is going to be necessary for the future when technology makes many jobs obsolete. A 2020 World Economic Forum study predicted that technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics would eliminate 85 million jobs by 2025. However, guaranteed basic income programs are gaining steam across California as poverty alleviation. Several cities are carrying out pilot programs.
Los Angeles County is conducting a guaranteed basic income pilot program called Breathe. The program provides $1,000 to 1,000 LA County residents over a three-year period. The program will be evaluated by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research.
Breathe is overseen by the county’s Poverty Alleviation Initiative. 180,000 residents applied to take part in the program.
On a single day during the that process, 95,000 people submitted applications, according to a county press release.
To qualify for Breathe funds, the applicants had to be at least 18 years old, have a single-person household income under $56,000 or $96,000 for a family of four, and have experienced negative impacts due to COVID-19.
One motivation behind the Breathe program was the COVID-19 pandemic, which laid bare the problems of poverty and income inequality.
“The course of this pandemic has revealed the large number of County residents who are living on the brink of the financial crisis, with insufficient savings to weather a job loss, a medical emergency, or a major car repair. This guaranteed income program will help give residents the breathing room they need to better weather those crises,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
Other guaranteed basic income programs are being pilot-tested in California.
Miracle Messages, an outreach program for the unhoused in San Francisco, started to pilot test a program called Miracle Money last year. Miracle Money provided $500 to homeless people. And the initial program seemed to be a success. According to Miracle Messages, about 50% of the people in the test group were able to find housing after they received the cash payments. Miracle Money was funded by a GoFundMe campaign.
Oakland Resilient Families is a Bay Area program that provides a $500 grant to families for 18 months. The program stresses it
is different from universal basic income. “Guaranteed income is meant to provide an income floor but not meant to be a replacement for wages. Guaranteed income can also be targeted to those who need it most,” according to the organization’s website. Oakland Resilient Families is funded by donations.
Mountain View, another Bay Area city is setting up a new guaranteed basic income pilot program called Elevate MV. The pilot program promises to give, for two years, $500 a month to 166 low-income families with at least one child or who are currently pregnant. Elevate MV is operated through the Community Services Agency, a non-profit organization.
In San Diego County a guaranteed income pilot program was launched in March 2020. One hundred and fifty households with young children residing in one of the four priority ZIP codes in the county – Encanto, Paradise Hills, National City and San Ysidro — are receiving $500 a month for two years. The $2.9 million program is run by Jewish Family Service of San Diego with funding from Alliance Healthcare Foundation and from the state’s budget surplus.
These programs, including LA County’s Breathe program, are modeled after a universal basic income program that was tested in the city of Stockton. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) provided $500 to 125 low-income residents for 24 months.
And the research showed that the SEED program worked, according to a National Public Radio (NPR) article.
“Among the key findings outlined in a 25-page white paper are that the unconditional cash reduced the month-to-month income fluctuations that households face, increased recipients’ full-time employment by 12 percentage points, and decreased their measurable feelings of anxiety and depression, compared with their control-group counterparts,” said NPR.
As Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched the SEED program in 2019. Following the promising results of the pilot program, in 2020 Tubbs launched Mayors for Guaranteed Income, a coalition of 60 mayors who are advocating for a guaranteed income program to ensure that all Americans have an income floor.
Tubbs lost his bid for re-election in 2020 and is now an adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom who is a proponent of guaranteed income.
Make Room, Gas and Food: Insurance Payments Might Go Up, Too
Tanu Henry | California Black Media March 15, 2022
As gas and food prices continue to shoot up at a rapid clip, Californians might be hit with sticker shock from another bill that skyrockets later this year: their health insurance premiums.
According to officials at Covered California, monthly premiums for insurance coverage could jump by as much as 100% — or an average of about $70 — for more than 2 million Californians if federal government subsidies provided by the American Rescue Plan are allowed to expire at the end of 2022.
An estimated total of 14 million Americans could be affected by the price increase.
“The American Plan built on the Affordable Care Act and provided more financial help than ever before to help people get covered and stay covered largely in response to the pandemic,” said Peter V. Lee, former Executive Director of Covered California.
Lee was speaking during a press briefing held earlier this month to inform the public about what he sees as an impending crisis if the federal government does not take action.
As a side note during that virtual meeting, Lee announced that he was stepping down from Covered California.
In February, the agency’s Board of Directors announced Jessica Altman, former Commonwealth Insurance Commissioner of Pennsylvania, as Covered California’s new Chief Executive Officer. Lee said funds the federal government currently provides to states to help lower health care premiums for Americans led to record numbers in enrollment across the country, including about 1.8 million new signups in California.
The largest increases in enrollment in California were among African Americans and Latinos.
About 90% of Covered California enrollees have received discounts on their premiums through the program. “The American Rescue Plan increased affordability by paying a bigger share of consumers’ monthly premiums. As a result, the portion that consumers pay dropped significantly by 23 % nationally and 20 % here in California,” said Lee.
“Those are big drops. That meant that two-thirds of our consumers were eligible for a plan that cost $10 or less,” Lee continued. “For a lower income consumer, low cost is a critical ingredient for getting and keeping coverage.”
Covered California is the Golden State’s federally subsidized public insurance marketplace where individuals and businesses can purchase health care plans.
Lee said nearly $3 billion from the American Rescue plan allowed California to subsidize the insurance costs of more middle-income people. The eligibility window expanded to include Californians earning up to $52,000 as a single person or $106,000 as a family of four.
Before help from the American Rescue Plan kicked in there were hundreds of thousands of Americans paying up to 30 % of their income for insurance, according to Covered California.
If the federal supplement expires, “those who can least afford it would be hit the hardest,” warned lee. Lee says the program is helping more middle-income people than ever before.
“In California today, about one out of 10 of our subsidized enrollees earn above 400% of the poverty level. They are getting financial help that is needed and meaningful,” said Lee. “Without the extension of the American Rescue Plan, those gains would be wiped away and consumers would be faced with staggering cost increases.”
Lee says if the federal subsidies expire, the loss of funding will also hurt people who do not qualify for the subsidies and pay for insurance at market rates.
He estimates, for Californians earning more than $52,000 a year, there premiums could increase by an average of more than $270 per month or nearly $3,000 annually.
“As people drop their coverage, the rising premiums would be felt by everyone. When you price people out of coverage, people that drop coverage first are healthy people. If you’re sicker, you keep your coverage,” said Lee.
“What does that mean? If the American Rescue Plans subsidies are not continued, we are very likely to see a premium spike. As health plans say, ‘next year will be the year we have fewer insured people, they are going to be sicker on average, we are going to have to boost our premiums,’” Lee emphasized.
If the U.S. Congress does not act to make the subsidies permanent – or at least to extend them — Californians will first see the new increased amount of their monthly premiums in the fall when they receive their renewal notices for 2023.