Budget tackles homelessness, mental health and health disparities
A year ago, as we battled the first months of the pandemic and prepared for what we knew to be an incredibly tough fall and winter, the Legislative Assembly and Governor passed a budget that reflected the expectation that California’s finances would suffer significantly amid the fallout from COVID-19.
The months that followed put tremendous economic and emotional pressure on tens of millions of Californians, especially our frontline healthcare workers, agriculture and food service workers, small business owners and others. millions of unemployed people. Still, budget revenues far exceeded expectations – in large part due to capital gains from a stock market that significantly exceeded expectations – and gave California the opportunity to make historic investments in a certain number of areas, while relying on a healthy budgetary reserve.
For several years before the pandemic, the focus was increasingly on economic and health disparities in our state and across the country. COVID-19 has both exacerbated these disparities and raised awareness of them.
California’s unprecedented budget surplus, which provides historic opportunities to tackle some of the most persistent and dramatic disparities in our state, came at a time when the economic divide between the richest 1% and everyone has never been so dramatic. Despite the inequalities that have brought us here, we cannot pass up the opportunity to bridge this gap. The recently enacted state budget, which I was proud to vote for, seizes this opportunity.
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While the full list of investments made in this budget, including increased child care spaces, grants to small businesses, a substantial increase in support for food banks and a lagging investment in public health infrastructure is more than What can be detailed here, two areas of investment illustrate how this budget responds to the challenges of our time. Investments in ending homelessness and strengthening our mental health care system are addressing some of the most pernicious issues facing our communities.
Not so long ago, homelessness was a problem widely associated with the urban core of large metropolitan areas. Over the past decade, we’ve seen an expansion in most parts of the state. Many communities in the Central Valley, including Stockton, Modesto, and even smaller towns like Riverbank, struggle with homelessness. This year’s budget invests nearly $ 2 billion in one-time funds to support the construction of affordable housing and provides over $ 2 billion over the next two years to continue the HomeKey project, which converts hotels into housing. In addition, it includes $ 1 billion per year for flexible support to local governments to tackle homelessness.
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This budget also invests heavily in supporting mental health infrastructure and expanding mental health partnerships between schools, counties and health plans, which will facilitate early identification and intervention for young people with mental health issues. mental illness. This is an essential step in getting children the help they need to prevent consequences such as hospitalization, incarceration and persistent homelessness into adulthood.
A $ 2.2 billion investment over three years will fund competitive grants to build, acquire and rehabilitate facilities to provide a range of mental health services. $ 150 million of this funding will be used to fund mobile crisis support teams to help people facing a behavioral health crisis in collaboration with or in place of law enforcement.
This budget also brings necessary investments to local communities, including $ 5.4 million for the aquatic facilities in Stockton to repair our swimming pools for our children and $ 5 million for a multigenerational community center in Tracy.
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And after years of effort and in large part thanks to the persistent efforts of our community, the budget includes $ 54 million to replace the existing classroom and administration building at California State University, Stanislaus – Stockton Campus. This is the most important step we have taken in bringing a full CSU campus to Stockton.
We have been through an incredibly difficult year and a half, and as we seek a return to normalcy, we still face the challenges leading up to the pandemic. This budget makes the right investments in our communities, in our people, and at levels that provide the hope and dignity Californians deserve.
Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, is the chair of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. It represents District 5, which includes San Joaquin County and parts of Stanislaus and Sacramento counties.