Millions of Californians are struggling to pay for basic necessities like housing and food amid the worst recession in recent history. California’s unemployment remains extremely high, particularly for Black and brown Californians. What’s more, the financial situation for many people has deteriorated as Congress has failed to extend additional federal unemployment benefits or provide any new economic relief that would significantly help children, families, and individuals who have lost income and cannot safely return to work. This report shows how California’s workers are faring six months into the COVID-19 recession and highlights the urgent need for federal and state policymakers to extend support to people and do more to respond to the economic crisis that is exacerbating health and financial disparities for Californians, especially Black and brown Californians.
Right now, many families do not have enough food on the table, and this problem is particularly acute for Latinx and Black families in California. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 1 in 10 Californians sometimes or often lacked access to enough food to support a healthy lifestyle. Struggling to have enough food affects people of all ages, but it is especially harmful to children, as inadequate nutrition can harm their health, development, and learning.
Local tax revenue reflects a community’s shared effort to support vital public services that all Californians need to live in our cities and counties, such as education for students in K-12 schools and community colleges, housing, health care, public parks, and libraries. When tax breaks provide advantages to some taxpayers over others, it not only creates inequities but can also lead to revenue losses that compromise the ability of schools and local communities to provide essential services for Californians. This is the case with commercial and industrial property taxes across California, and why voters will be asked in fall 2020 to vote on Proposition 15, an amendment to the state Constitution that would change how commercial and industrial properties are taxed to provide more revenue for schools and communities.
Across California and the United States, the push for bail reform has gained momentum with increasing awareness and research showing the disproportionate impact the money bail system has on people of color and low-income households. Enter Proposition 25 that will appear on the November 3, 2020 statewide ballot and asks California voters to decide whether a 2018 state law that effectively ends money bail should take effect. If voters approve Prop. 25, judges will be able to utilize risk-based assessment tools – examining population links between rearrest or reconviction and individual factors such as age, gender, or criminal record – to determine if individuals detained for certain crimes can be released before a court appearance rather than posting money bail.
Over many years, California lawmakers and voters adopted a series of harsh, one-size-fits-all sentencing laws that prioritized punishment over rehabilitation, led to severe overcrowding in state prisons, and disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx Californians – consequences that many families still feel today. California began reconsidering its “tough on crime” approach a little over a decade ago as prison overcrowding reached crisis proportions and the state faced lawsuits filed on behalf of incarcerated adults. Ultimately, a federal court in 2009 ordered California to reduce overcrowding to no more than 137.5% of the prison system’s capacity – an order that remains in effect today.