An equitable recovery for California requires two key strategies
[ Article was originally posted on www.calmatters.org ]
By Sarah Bohn, Dean Bonner, Vicki Hsieh, CalMatters
Inequity has proven to be the primary challenge of this recession. Low-wage workers bear a bigger burden – from greater health risks to higher unemployment. And labor market declines have been concentrated among communities of color and women. Without deliberate policy action, this crisis portends a future of even higher income inequality and lower upward mobility.
Our December PPIC Statewide Survey shows that many Californians in households making less than $40,000 – about one in five – are struggling. Forty-two percent of low-income Californians cut back on food to save money and 36% were unable to pay a monthly bill, compared to 12% and 9%, respectively, of Californians in households making $80,000 or more.
Given the severe economic distress, how can policymakers help our state avoid the pitfalls of previous recoveries, which left low-income Californians further behind? An equitable recovery requires two key strategies: First, target critical support to those most affected in the near term. Second, help people climb the economic ladder in the long term.
In the short term, controlling the public health crisis is essential for the return of full economic activity. Policymakers must also stanch the economic slide for the hardest-hit households, businesses and regions.
Federal stimulus passed in December and near-term policies proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom prioritize some of these critical supports.
Over the long term, creating equitable economic growth will require investments in future opportunities for communities that have been consistently left behind.
Although providing for an equitable recovery will be challenging, most Californians support policies to reach this goal, according to our December survey. About 8 in 10 Californians favor increasing government funding for job training and child care for lower-income working parents, and roughly 7 in 10 support expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. Two-thirds support free college tuition and eliminating college debt. However, it should be noted that only one proposal – job training – garners bipartisan support.
Newsom’s budget proposal projects substantial revenues that could be used as down payments on broad-based opportunity. Taking bold action today is vital to help the many Californians facing economic turmoil. Yet building an equitable future will also require long-term policy commitments that can withstand looming budgets shortfalls and downturns.
While this crisis is unprecedented, it threatens to repeat history by leaving low-income households further behind. With smart policy choices targeting those most in need and investing in long-term opportunity, we can chart an equitable path forward.
Back To News