COVID-19 has had a disproportionately severe impact on California’s low income, African American, Latino and Pacific Islander communities, as well as on essential workers such as those in the healthcare, grocery and cleaning service industries. That’s why I am proud to support Assembly Bill 1038 (AB 1038), introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D – Carson).
The bill establishes the California Health Equity Program within the Department of Public Health (CDPH) to provide grants supporting local health departments, non-profit organizations, community clinics and tribes that have been on the front lines during this crisis. AB 1038 requires eligible applicants to be selected from specific localities/communities that have elevated rates of death from COVID-19 based on data collected by CDPH, and that have established an ability to implement programs based on demonstrated past accomplishments.
A recent report by the California Health Care Foundation showed widespread health disparities in California. For example, average statewide life expectancy is 80.8 years, but for Blacks it’s only 75.1, while Asian life expectancy is 86.3 years, an 11-year gap. Latinos are more likely to report being in fair/poor health, to live below the federal poverty level and to be uninsured. The pandemic has made the situation worse. Death rates for Latinos have been 22 percent higher than average, for Pacific Islanders 32 percent higher, and 7 percent higher for African-American.
An oversight committee of 15 members to monitor the distribution of grants, program implementation and local impacts will ensure accountability. The committee will include members from community and statewide nonprofit organizations serving underserved communities, from community health clinics, a health system finance expert, among others.
I spoke in support of AB 1038 when it passed the Assembly Health Committee on April 20th. Passage and implementation will help speed California’s recovery from the most severe public health crisis in history.