Governor’s Revised Budget Takes Steps Towards Health Equity, Once Again Misses Key Opportunities in Investing in Racial Justice and Public Health

Author Details

Monika Lee

Senior Communications Manager
(858) 353-7271

Organization: California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

California Pan-Ethnic Health Network 
For Immediate Release 
May 14, 2021 
Contact: Monika Lee, (858) 353-7271 

Sacramento, CA – The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network released the following statement from executive director, Kiran Savage-Sangwan, following Governor Gavin Newsom’s May budget revision (FY 2021-2022): 

“The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network is excited to see impactful investments working toward health equity in the Governor’s May Revise budget proposal, but dismayed at the missed opportunity to include meaningful investments in racial justice and public health. From historic investments in community health workers (CHWs) and doula services, expansions in Medi-Cal to undocumented adults (60+), innovative mental health programs, enhancing quality and equity standards, and expansions to broadband access – California is taking steps to lift up communities. The tireless work of advocates and community-based organizations have made these wins possible. 

With a historic surplus, coupled with $26 billion in discretionary funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, California is taking this momentous opportunity to make steps toward equity. However, given this once in a lifetime opportunity to address longstanding inequities which have been exacerbated by this pandemic, a stronger investment is needed in racial justice and public health. We appreciate that many of the proposals will right historic wrongs perpetuated by our institutions, and will continue to work towards investments that breakdown the structures that contribute to unequal lived experiences and poor health outcomes in communities of color. 

We know the pandemic is a crisis within the larger crisis that is systemic racism. Communities of color continue to bear the brunt of COVID-19 cases and deaths, while also facing the most ongoing barriers to health care and access, facing the worst job losses, and facing systemic and long-standing barriers to the resources and supports that keep us healthy.  

While California must expand healthcare to all regardless of immigration status, proposals to expand Medi-Cal to seniors ages 60, petitioning the federal government to include community health workers, promotores, and doula childbirth services in Medi-Cal state plans as a Medi-Cal benefit, to massive investments in broadband – all recognize what programs and resources work to keep California’s communities of color healthy. 

While there is much to celebrate, we are thoroughly disappointed that there is once again no new state funding for California’s public health departments. Local public health has been at the forefront of the pandemic response, upholding safety guidelines, employing contact tracers, and connecting people on the ground to critical resources and supports, but were notably absent from Governor Newsom’s proposal. Funding to continue the successful and innovative California Reducing Disparities Projects to continue their community defined evidence-based behavioral health practices and a meager investment to fund community-based organizations to do field testing of translated Medi-Cal materials to enhance culturally and linguistically competent care was also ignored.   

We think strong and meaningful investments in addressing racism as a public health crisis and social determinants of health are desperately needed, and CPEHN will work with the legislature to ensure communities of color get the resources they need to thrive.  The partnership with the Biden administration has allowed California to seize on opportunities to continue leading the nation on policy goals that take steps toward equity, and we now look forward to working with the legislature and the Newsom administration on addressing even more upstream health needs through public health investments and targeting systemic and institutional racism by allocating resources to community-based stakeholders through the California Racial Justice Innovation Fund.”