UPAS partners to promote the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund

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Community Based Organizations, including United Parents and Students, recently urged Gov. Gavin Newson to include the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund (HERJ) in the state’s 2022/2023 budget.

The HERJ Fund would address health inequities and racial injustices and provide $100 million in dedicated and ongoing annual funding to community-based groups, tribal organizations, and clinics (CBOs) to identify the most urgent local health equity and racial justice issues and implement effective community driven solutions.  

“The HERJ Fund would direct resources to organizations and leaders that are rooted in communities. The work taking place on the ground, in neighborhoods, in parks, and on the streets, are proven, powerful drivers of positive change,” said Veronica Toledo, associate  director of United Parents and Students. “Community leaders inspire and connect neighbors with one another. They understand their neighbors’ needs and provide culturally appropriate services. And community leaders leverage resources and build bridges between diverse neighborhoods and government policymakers. By enacting the HERJ Fund California would once again be at the forefront of the movement for justice.”

UPAS was joined by the Public Health Institute’s Roots of Change, Seeds of Hope, and the American Heart Association as well as partners such as Public Health Advocates, California Black Health Project, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California at an April 19th rally in downtown Los Angeles to advance this cause.

Advocates for the passage of the HERJ Fund argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light long standing health and social inequities for communities of color, including the lack of access to healthy food, insufficient housing and unstable employment.

The groups advocate for the government to keep people healthy instead of using the current approach of treating the sick. With the approval of the HERJ Fund, CBOs would be involved in the decision-making processes that directly affect the communities they serve instead of relying on limited and intermittent funding to deliver their high quality services. 

“The HERJ Fund would invest in addressing the underlying social, environmental, and economic factors that limit peoples’ opportunities to be healthy, such as poverty, violence and trauma, environmental hazards and, access to affordable housing, and healthy food,” said Assembly member Mike Gipson, the legislative champion of the budget request. “We have an historic opportunity to ensure community leaders and local programs can build power and capacity to change the systems that created these inequities in the first place.”

The groups contend that CBOs have evolved to more than vaccination and testing sites, getting involved in issues such as food distribution and housing advocacy. They contend they know their neighbors’ distinct needs, are fluent in every language spoken in California, and know how to implement effective solutions that work at the local level.

Last June, the California Legislature overwhelmingly supported the HERJ Fund, but it was left out of Governor Newsom’s state budget. The groups urge Newsom to include it in the 2022-2023 budget as the state boasts a $45.7 billion budget surplus. United Parents and Students are proud to advocate toward positive social change in the communities we serve.