Tuesday, the Assembly Health Committee approved Assembly Bill 1038, authored by Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson), which will create the California Health Equity Fund. AB 1038, and an accompanying one-time $180 million General Fund budget request, will provide first-of-its-kind funding to support community-based initiatives working toward addressing the devastating health and social inequities exacerbated by COVID-19.
“AB 1038 would support partnerships among community-based organizations, community clinics, tribal organizations, and local health departments that serve underserved communities like my District,” said Assemblymember Gipson. “We need to build a healthier society for everyone, and to do that we must confront the systems and policies that have resulted in generational injustices. This bill will create a paradigm shift for how we invest in health and would help build community resilience to weather the storms of future disasters.”
Co-sponsors of AB 1038 include the California Black Health Network, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Public Health Institute, Roots of Change, and the Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL). By establishing the California Health Equity Fund, AB 1038 will begin to address decades of underinvestment in community health and equity by providing much-needed resources to nonprofit organizations, clinics, tribal organizations, and local health departments.
COVID-19 has starkly exposed health inequities in California. Latinx, Black, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Asian American, American Indian, LGBTQ and low-income communities are bearing the brunt of health and/or social impacts from the pandemic, including a higher risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19, high rates of job and income loss, insecure housing and food insecurity.
“The need for the California Health Equity Fund is clear. We must build a healthier society for everyone, and to do that we must confront the systems and policies that have resulted in generational injustice,” said Rhonda M. Smith, executive director, California Black Health Network. “This bill will help build community resilience so we are prepared in the future to address inequities. It is one step of many to secure the outlook for underserved communities.”
AB 1038 calls for the creation of a California Health Equity Fund that will award grants to nonprofit organizations, clinics, tribal organizations, and local health departments in areas hardest hit by COVID-19 across the state. Programs supported through the California Health Equity Fund will be based on state and local data, co-developed with community leaders, and will use strategies tailored to local conditions to ensure funded programs address pressing needs. The bill also requires the development of recommendations to the Legislature for sustained funding for community-based health equity and prevention. An accompanying General Fund one-time budget request of $180 million will provide $60 million per year over three years to launch and implement the California Health Equity Fund.
“We have to systematically invest in changing the inequitable conditions that make people sick in the first place. This bill will start the process and require a plan for longer term investment,” said Dr. Lynn Silver, senior advisor, Public Health Institute. “If we change nothing about how we invest in health equity, nothing will change.”
“It’s an awful truth that the increased hardships we are seeing in marginalized communities during the pandemic are a result of a legacy of structural racism – a legacy that has created a climate where people have been long forced to live with injustices such as preventable health conditions caused by lack of health care, crowded or insufficient housing, and unstable employment,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynoso, executive director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. “AB 1038 will provide needed resources to local organizations that can help lift their communities out of the pandemic and address inequities for the long-term.”
AB 1038 is now awaiting hearing before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.