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New grants support Californians whose ‘new normal’ in the pandemic is intolerable

headshot of Debbie Chang

When I came to the Foundation just a few weeks ago, I was energized to help achieve our bold goal: to make California the healthiest state with the lowest rates of domestic violence. I didn’t know it at the time, but we would soon be in the middle of a global health crisis that would dramatically change how we live, learn, work, and play – and that would place in stark relief the inequities we must address to prevent poor health and violence.

COVID-19 has since become a pandemic, its impact felt across the globe and in every corner of our state. This devastating virus poses an alarming threat to health, both in its immediate effect and in the societal disruptions it leaves in its wake, exacerbating existing barriers to health and well-being for so many. California has been a leader in responding, taking swift and decisive action to encourage physical distancing, order residents to shelter in place, and aggressively expand testing while preparing hospitals for greater capacity.

This crisis has touched all of us. But it hasn’t done so equally. Many of us were lucky enough to be able shelter in place, to work from the safety of our homes, adjusting to the anxieties of this “new normal.”

This crisis has touched all of us. But it hasn’t done so equally.

But for many Californians, the picture looks much different.

  • People who live paycheck-to-paycheck, or who have lost jobs or had hours reduced struggle with meeting basic needs, such as buying groceries or paying the rent.
  • Shelter-in-place is not safe for everyone. People experiencing, or at risk of, domestic violence are sheltering in homes that aren’t safe. Shelters are struggling to provide them the assistance they need while adjusting to the realities of ensuring physical distance in communal living spaces.
  • Working parents who are considered “essential” suddenly have children home from school or childcare – without anyone to watch them and without access to reliable meals, including reduced-fee school lunches and subsidized meals in childcare centers on which so many depend.
  • Undocumented immigrants do not have access to federal relief benefits – and in fact face reduced access to essential services as a result of the Department of Homeland Security’s “public charge” rule.
  • Many Californians face the added challenge of not getting accurate information about COVID-19 in their preferred language – creating an additional obstacle for one of our only defenses to this virus.

Our values, our mission, and our collective conscience demand that we do whatever we can respond to these threats. So today, we’re announcing a significant grantmaking investment to address the immediate challenges related to COVID-19 physical distancing while advancing our strategy of preventing poor health and violence.

These grants will support 14 community foundations addressing specific needs in their communities, provide immediate flexibility for domestic violence shelters, and aid organizations in efforts to meet the needs of low-wage workers and help people get basic necessities. In addition, funding will help launch a new statewide fund to provide direct relief to undocumented immigrants. Grants will also support efforts to get accurate information to every community, including immigrant and non-English-speaking communities.

Through these grants, we are doubling down on support to existing grantees working to advance a vision of a healthier California by preventing poor health and domestic violence. This crisis has only underscored the need to build long-term solutions that create economic security and mobility for the most vulnerable members of the workforce, such as more robust policies supporting paid leave and economic and health protections for domestic workers, such as childcare and home care workers. Through these grants, we are also humbled to support new partners – those who are most trusted by communities to help navigate this crisis are also those organizations best positioned to rebuild our resilience statewide and advocate for lasting prevention solutions to help us all avoid such crises in the future.

This pandemic has shaken communities across our state. We haven’t seen anything like it in living memory. But the challenges it brings to communities – and the inequities enabling its spread and deepening its impact – are not novel. The emergency is here. How we choose to respond will shape the future of California – for all of us.

If we meet this challenge – if we respond to the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors, if we reinforce the partnerships that will prevent poor health and violence even beyond this crisis, and if we work together for a more just and equitable California – I have no doubt that a brighter, healthier future is possible.

In just my first few weeks here in California, I’ve been inspired by the incredible strength of our state. Together, we will get through this crisis. And once we do, let’s measure this moment not just in terms of what we weathered, but what we make possible when we work together toward the goal of a healthier California.

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