Letter to Long Beach City Council re: CARES Act, Coronavirus Aid 9/21/22

To: Mayor Garcia, City Council members, City Manager, Tom Modica 

From: Black Lives Matter Long Beach and Long Beach H.O.O.D. Council 

Date: September 21, 2022 

Re: Item 18: July 14th City Council agenda: Recommendation to review a report on Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding and potential uses and provide input and policy direction. 

This letter is in reference to item 18 of the July 14th City Council agenda: Recommendation to review a report on Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding and potential uses and provide input and policy direction. Documents attached to the agenda item indicate that the city incorporated the Equity Toolkit to inform a Health Equity Impact Analysis to guide the proposed allocations of the CARES Act. 

This assertion that the equity toolkit was used is false as there is little prioritization of the Black community in this budget recommendation. Many of the itemized allocations do not center Black residents and do not take into consideration the tragic positioning that systemic and institutional racism have situated the Black community and resulted in COVID-19 hospitalizations and death. All of the Long Beach data to date shows that Black people have experienced a disproportionately high number (29%) of COVID-19 hospitalizations and death compared to the proportion of the City’s Black population (12%). This is an unacceptable health disparity that necessitates an immediate targeted response to address the impacts of more than double the Black population share. 

Where was the community oversight to help determine the allocation of funding? The city’s effort at community engagement did not reach those most impacted because the outreach was late, the singular mechanism was ineffective and the entire process was inappropriate. The City Manager, Tom Modica made comments during the recent listening sessions facilitated by the city, that he would listen and respond to the needs of the Black community. Recommendations that do not center the Black community say otherwise. 

We are aware that the program funding allocation will be approved tonight, as the city is required to deliver to the state by July 17, 2020 reporting costs incurred during the emergency response period March through June 30, 2020. What portions of the city’s emergencies constituted $19,130,494? Since March, we have not only been in a health pandemic but also a continued public health crisis of racism and anti-Blackness, as declared by the city. Since the uprisings occurred because of a crisis manifested in police brutality, none of these resources should be utilized to fund the police budget in any way. 

It is up to the city council to step into bold action. Our budgets must be built for OUR city with input from our most impacted community. Budgets must align with the values we purport to stand for. The disparities starkly unveiled yet again, this time by COVID-19 have been long known, ongoing and cannot be addressed with one-time funding. We must remember that the underlying health conditions experienced by the Black community are a direct result of systemic and institutional racism, that includes food deserts, red-lining, environmental racism and so much more. 

We urge City Council members to find your humanity and take the following steps to center Black lives before passing this CARES ACT budget: 

1. Make more specific recommendations to ensure an equity lens by prioritizing Black residents in every line item of the budget; for example, under Basic Needs ensure that Black residents are receiving food, housing and health support as listed. Another example, under the Youth Leadership & Ambassador Program, ensure that Black youth leaders where they already serve are being supported where they are with training for COVID outreach and education in the Black community. 

2. Create a process for real change to occur and a sense of justice for the Black community. For example, under the Black Education Health Program, ensure that programs that serve the Black community, like the Black Infant Health, be fully funded, accessible and visible in the Black community. 

3. Create a system of accountability with input from a variety of Black community voices, not merely a select few. In order to truly meet the needs of broad inequities, extensive input from those most impacted is necessary. For example, within the Grants to the Arts Community for Economic Support of the Arts with $1.5 million dollars being allocated to the arts community, oversight from Black artists should be part of the discussion to ensure that resources are going to them. In addition, regarding the COVID-19 Small Business Transition and Recovery Grants, Black owned small businesses suffering due to COVID-19, should be part of the discussion to ensure these resources are helping them to restore or recover their business operations. 

These categories and all others must be allocated in proper proportions based on the COVID-19 impact to the Black community. 

We are confident the state of California would be very disappointed by the lack of intentional focus for the distribution of CARES ACT funds based on the most impacted communities of Black and brown residents in Long Beach. 

With Care and Duty, 

Black Lives Matter Long Beach