This week Governor Newsom signed the 2020-21 Budget after weeks of negotiations with state lawmakers over how to address $54 billion deficit caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Budget maintains funding for California’s K-12 school districts and community colleges and allocates $5.3 billion to mitigate learning loss and support the immediate needs of students and schools disproportionately affected by COVID-19. These supports must reach Latino youth, who make up half of state’s K-12 student population and were already more likely than other demographic groups to attend high-poverty schools before the pandemic-induced recession.
The Budget also augments support for small businesses by $50 million for a total increase of $100 million to fill gaps in federal assistance and invests an additional $10M in entrepreneurial training to Californians from economically disadvantaged communities, regardless of their citizenship status. California’s 800,000 Latino-owned businesses make up nearly one-quarter of all small businesses in the state, generating an average of $100 billion in annual sales. The administration should work with regional economic development funds, cooperative nonprofits, and community foundations to ensure these small business owners and entrepreneurs can access these funds.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Latino workers have filed for unemployment at higher rates than any other demographic group. The Budget’s partial expansion of the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) to taxpaying immigrants with children five and under will help more low-income families cover the cost of basic necessities in a time of great need—but it is not enough. The partial expansion still leaves out 72% of children with parents that file taxes with an ITIN.
Latinos have also been disproportionately impacted by the life-threatening consequences of the coronavirus. We are discouraged that, in the midst of a global pandemic, the Governor has withdrawn the Legislature’s commitment to expanding Medi-Cal access to undocumented seniors by 2022. All older adults, regardless of their immigration status, should be able to rely on full-scope, low-cost healthcare, especially as testing for the coronavirus remains uneven statewide.
Without Latino and immigrant workers, California’s road to a health and economic recovery will be a slow one. We call on our leaders in Sacramento to identify additional sources of revenue in order deepen investments in the communities that can play an essential role in California’s rebound to prosperity.
Jacqueline Martinez Garcel is the CEO of the Latino Community Foundation