Policy Priorities in the Pandemic Era

Household and Community Assets Determine Who Survives and Who Suffers. 

The pre-COVID-19 economy was already failing California’s most impoverished communities, depriving thousands of households the income streams, savings and assets, and community-wide resources like affordable health care necessary to survive a viral pandemic and the measures taken to lower infection rates.  As a result, our state’s low-income families with children, seniors, self-employed micro- and small-business owners and their employees, previously incarcerated people, and Latinx, Asian, and Black communities including immigrants have borne disproportionately high infection, death, and unemployment rates. Without bold systemic intervention, the economic impact on these communities will reverberate for generations. 

CABC Members Are Fighting to Restore, Protect, and Build Assets to Build Resilience.

CABC members are working overtime to meet a dramatically increased need for asset building support. Our recent study of member activities reveals that they are responding where public and private sector efforts have failed and seizing strategic opportunities to protect and strengthen families for the economy ahead. They are raising funds and mobilizing staff to provide families direct cash relief, financial planning and coaching, help applying for much-touted but difficult to access relief programs, and calling for stronger consumer protections from opportunistic financial predators and scavengers (like unscrupulous lenders and bill collectors). 

There is a New Economic Future to Build. CABC is ready.

For ten years, CABC has gathered asset builders across the state to learn from each other, collaborate, and advocate for the people that our economy has allowed to be excluded, marginalized, and preyed upon. Now, CABC is positioned to amplify the shared experiences of asset-poor communities statewide, to build our collective power through coordinated policy analysis that responds to local and national contexts, and to work with policy makers, funders and other leaders to secure the future we all deserve. 

Our research indicates that we must create:

  • State and federal policy infrastructure that will prevent today’s losses from holding back future generations. Dramatic economic shocks, like the foreclosure crisis and the Great Recession, leaves wounds that impair families for generations. The disproportionate pandemic-related losses in marginalized communities is affecting every aspect of life – from education, nutrition, employment, housing and beyond. We need state and federal budgets that will replenish the resources lost so that our children and grandchildren will not bear the scars of our failure to prepare for today. 
  • Responsive economic policy that provides large-scale and long-term systemic direct supports. We are committed to a future where no one will ever need to risk their health for economic survival. State and federal policy makers have proven that large-scale direct relief programs can work to ensure that many people have not had to make that choice, while CABC members have jumped in to help those who have been excluded from that assistance, whether by design or poor implementation. With these lessons, we can now build large-scale financial support systems that are readily accessible to everyone whenever we need them.
  • Strong, permanent protections against financial predators and scavengers who would threaten household and community health and safety. Asset building policy advocates have worked with state leaders and agencies to install long-needed protections against debt collection so that Californians can use their scarce resources to secure basic needs, like housing, medical care, and nutrition. While CABC members are preparing those families for when many of those protections expire, we must fight to make them permanent and to close loopholes that still leave Californians targets when they are at their most vulnerable. 
  • Public health policies that support the well-being of all workers, including the self-employed.  While many workplaces have successfully adapted to the needs of their employees and customers, others have exploited workers in industries deemed essential to public or economic health – elevating the importance of the work over the health of the worker. Along the way, thousands of micro- and small-business owners who have struggled, often out of necessity, to create their own and their employees’ economic opportunities have had to close, many permanently. Asset building and public health advocates and service providers must collaborate to advance public policy that prioritizes the health every worker and self-employed person, so that economic shocks need not mushroom into prolonged crises.
  • Philanthropic investment that can equitably support asset building strategies statewide. As in every other sector, the pandemic has exposed the gaps and needs in public and private sector support for asset building activities. Funders have generally supported non-profits led by people with whom they already had strong relationships, leaving others- particularly those led by people of color, that are smaller, or are headquartered outside of major urban centers- to spend significant energy just raising the funds they need to serve their communities. While it cannot go unsaid that we need more money to meet community needs, we also need better distribution of that money so that we do not replicate private sector inequities in the already strained non-profit sector.