The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying recession have made advocacy for economic justice more urgent than ever. Although there are signs of a strong economic recovery, the gains made have been slow to reach much. Millions of people in California are unemployed or underemployed, and it is likely that take years for recovery to reach some Californians. In the face of this reality, governments and advocates have increasingly focused on finding ways to help those who are excluded from our economic recovery – and who were economically precarious during the booming pre-pandemic economy. boom.
In 2020, SPUR launched a new economic justice policy area with the aim of enabling everyone to participate in the region’s thriving economy and achieve economic security. We believe the Bay Area will be better off – economically, socially and morally – if it becomes a place where everyone can thrive. It means building a prosperous and fair economy where broad participation helps grow the pie, where everyone gets a living wage, and where people are able to pay their monthly bills, pay for child care and to fully engage in parts of the Bay Area. that make life here special. We are each better when everyone else is better.
As the Bay Area seeks to rebuild and reinvent its economy after the recession, federal, state, and local governments crave policy interventions that will help people become economically secure. SPUR is committed to being part of those conversations and to helping advocate for policies that could have a lasting impact on equity and economic security in the region.
The need for advocacy now
The economic consequences of the pandemic have not been felt evenly in all communities, and the story is the same for the recovery. At the height of the pandemic, low-wage workers, disproportionately Black and Latinx in California, faced job losses and reduced working hours as the state sought to minimize transmission of the disease. virus. Richer and generally whiter, workers were able to continue working remotely, unlike the people who cleaned hotel rooms, washed cars and looked after their children. As the economy has reopened, Black and Latinx workers remained unemployed at higher rates. White Californians have an unemployment rate of 9.4%, three percentage points higher than the same time last year. Latinx workers have an unemployment rate of 11%, four percentage points higher, and black workers have an unemployment rate of 13.6%, double the unemployment rate from last year. There is also evidence that Black and Latinx workers left the workforce at higher rates than white workers, which means that the people who worked before gave up the prospect of finding another job.
These inequalities existed long before COVID-19. Before the pandemic, 3.3 million households, about one in three in the state, were unable to meet their basic needs each month according to a report from the Insight Center. This research shows that black and Latin households are more than twice as likely as white households to struggle to meet their basic needs. Black and Latin households are, on average, paid tens of thousands of dollars less than their white neighbors, and are much more likely to fight poverty.
SPUR has always done its job through research, education and advocacy, but the urgent nature of the pandemic and accompanying recession has brought advocacy to the fore. Californians know that income inequality is increasing and they overwhelmingly want our governments to do more to reduce the income gap. As our local, state and federal governments grapple with ways to recover from the pandemic and seek to build a more just economy, SPUR is committed to helping shape the conversation.
Our advocacy goes beyond putting our political ideas into practice; it also helps us recognize opportunities to produce impactful research. Being involved in in-depth policy discussions]with elected officials, advocates and other partners helps us identify areas of need, which we can then use to inform our research agenda as the conversations continue. Likewise, when policy ideas are debated but have not been properly considered, SPUR – as a research-driven organization – is uniquely positioned to produce hard-hitting, evidence-based recommendations that will help shape the conversations. .
SPUR Economic Justice Platform for Advocacy
By making a dual commitment to advocacy and research, we are pleased to announce the adoption of SPUR’s Economic Justice Platform for Advocacy. This platform guides SPUR’s advocacy efforts and serves as an explicit commitment to building a just and equitable region where all people are economically secure and can participate in the region’s thriving economy.
Our platform has four components:
Allocate resources to meet needs
- Develop and sow ideas that support the equitable distribution of resources in our region, both by funding shared services such as public transit and through targeted investments that allow resources to be delivered to the communities that have the most need.
- Support taxes that ask the poorest to help lift the poor, such as taxes on luxury goods and high-end services. Ensuring that government spending reaches those who need it most.
- Build regional collaboration and tax sharing to help right historical wrongs by putting resources in the hands of communities that have not had access to them for generations.
Strengthen and extend the safety net
- Develop and improve public support systems so that all people transparently receive the benefits they are entitled to and need to thrive in the Bay Area.
- Remove administrative obstacles to obtaining public services.
- Expand the eligibility pool for public benefits to include undocumented people, single adults, and others who face barriers to enrollment.
- Raise promising ideas and practices to help make our region’s social safety net the most effective in the country.
- Support policies that provide money to those who need it most, especially low-income people, workers and others struggling to survive.
- Explore the benefits of direct cash transfers for people with the highest needs in the region.
Closing the income and wealth gap
- Identify and promote policies that help close the racial wealth gap and create wealth for everyone.
- Support policies that improve the lives of low-wage workers and their families.
- Increase the floor on wages in the region.
- Improve employment opportunities and economic mobility for low-wage workers.
- Help support and grow small businesses, especially businesses struggling to survive the pandemic, to help communities recover from the recession and build a thriving economy.
Eliminate unfair fines, fees and taxes
- Ease the financial burden on low-income families and people of color by making taxes, fees and fines fairer.
- Make citations such as driving offenses fairer by indexing them to people’s income, creating simpler means of payment, allowing payment over time and / or reducing their amount.
- Give those who have served their sentence the opportunity to re-enter society productively by not imposing fees or fines on them intended to generate revenue for the justice system.
- Identify alternative enforcement models to reduce bias in traffic law enforcement.
- Offset regressive taxes with cash transfers and program spending.
The advocacy platform has already been an important part of SPUR’s work this summer. As part of this platform, SPUR co-chaired a large regional working group representing over 30 different researchers, advocates, direct service providers, businesses and local governments aimed at providing a united regional voice for advocacy around a fair recovery. SPUR has also been deeply involved in a wide variety of state and local policies, from helping get free school meals for all children in California to exploring opportunities for a guaranteed income program in San Francisco. . Our platform will allow SPUR to continue to play an important role in building a more prosperous and more equitable region.