The COVID-19 epidemic has both caused an acute public health and economic crisis and illuminated existing social and economic problems. Recovery demands both short and long-term solutions.
The statewide shelter-in-place order, while critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19, has placed an incredible financial burden on millions of working households across California. Unemployment rates now rival the Great Depression, leaving many uncertain of whether or not they’ll be able to pay their rents or mortgages. Small businesses have boarded up their windows and remain fearful that they will never be able to reopen. 9,000 unhoused people are left on the streets of San Francisco while 40,000 hotel rooms sit vacant. Frontline healthcare workers, grocery workers, and minimum wage fast food workers are striking for hazard pay and adequate personal protective equipment.
Meanwhile, America's billionaires added $282 billion to their total wealth in just 23 days. Our GOP-controlled federal government has allocated $500 billion to corporations and a $1,200 one-time check to most adults--enough rent for just one month in a single bargain-priced room in San Francisco. This is a matter of profiteering for billionaires, and life or death for the rest of us. We need to ensure ALL Californians are able to survive this pandemic and its economic fallout, and that we transform our government and economy to heed the lessons learned from COVID-19.
As state senator, I will fight to:
✔ Direct relief to people and small businesses, not big corporations. Over 3.1 million Californians have lost their jobs since mid-March and may not be able to return as our service, tourist, and other sectors remain shut down. The federal government has shown little interest in meeting the people’s needs. Millions of Californians currently face the uncertainty of how they will afford rent, food, and utilities for the indefinite future. To provide immediate relief, the State must provide regular payments to all Californians, regardless of citizenship status and exempt from taxes and debt collection so that people can meet their most pressing needs. Without sufficient relief, many small businesses may not be able to weather the storm. Instead of bailing out big corporations and Wall Street titans, the State of California needs to do what the federal government has failed to do: provide direct, no-interest, forgivable loans to small businesses.
✔ Ensure the richest individuals and corporations pay their fair share. While millions of Californians have lost jobs and income, many of the wealthiest in our state have gotten richer. California has more billionaires than any other state in the country, and our district has the nation’s highest density of billionaires per capita. Meanwhile, everyday Californians are bracing for a statewide budget deficit. When so many of us are struggling, we need the millionaires, billionaires, and mega-corporations to pay a small amount more so we can keep our schools, hospitals and vital services funded. By championing a progressive corporate tax structure, and levying a 2% tax on incomes over $1 million to generate revenue for a $100 billion recovery bond, we can ensure sufficient funding of critical public services and provide relief for small businesses and millions of working class Californians.
✔ Defend and re-invest in public schools. Although there is no substitute for the classroom, social distancing has exposed inequities within our education system and has put funding for K-12, community colleges, CSU’s, and UC’s on the chopping block. Instead of imposing austerity on our schools and approaching schools as businesses to be drilled for results, we need to re-visit the local control funding formula to distribute resources according to needs, not performance. Teaching during and after crises needs to be trauma-informed and equipped with support systems to heal our communities from the hardships faced, including an adequate number of school nurses, counselors, paraeducators, and social workers. Not all families have access to WiFi, computers, or tablets, and to fill this gap, I will fight for universal public WiFi and ensure that our schools are equipped with sufficient resources to provide computers and other supplies to all students.
✔ Pass Single Payer Healthcare (Medicare for all). Healthcare is a human right. Medicare for All means everyone has health insurance, even if they are unemployed. It also means mitigating the stubborn racial disparities in health outcomes that persist in our society due to the racial wealth gap and institutional racism. A single payer system is more possible in California than anywhere else in the country, as we have the fifth largest economy in the world. This crisis has showed us that we cannot afford to continue letting private health insurance companies dictate the quality and longevity of people’s lives.
✔ Adequately produce and distribute PPE to ensure healthcare, grocery, fast food, sanitation, transportation, delivery, and public workers can stay protected, and to prevent virus clusters in low-resource and high-density areas such as jails, shelters, and low-income communities.
✔ Pass statewide Right to Counsel to guarantee free legal representation for all Californians facing eviction, replicating the successes of San Francisco and New York, which have been proven to disproportionately benefit low income people.
✔ Prevent foreclosure profiteering. Following the Great Recession of 2008, the largest speculators in the real estate industry--many of whom are billionaires---gained enormous profits as roughly 8 million people lost their homes to foreclosure and countless more to eviction. Homeownership continues to plummet for working class people, and homelessness continues to swell, as the largest corporate landlords grow larger. I will champion a right-to-purchase for the State, cities, and affordable housing nonprofits to have the first right to acquire housing stock as it enters the market, and refinance with the burdened homeowners, in addition to an anti-speculation tax to prevent Wall Street banks and corporate landlords from preying on our state’s most exploitable housing pockets.
✔ Secure hazard pay for frontline workers and expanded paid sick leave to ensure a safe and just work environment. As millions of Californians have become unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic, resilient frontline healthcare, grocery, transportation, and agricultural workers have borne extraordinary sacrifices and put themselves at direct risk of infection to continue working and holding our communities together. Hazardous work deserves just compensation and safe, fair working conditions, not just during this pandemic, but always.
✔ Expand workers’ collective rights. As State Senator, I will champion the strongest workplace protections in the nation: “just cause” termination, improved ease for workers to join or form unions, and expanded representation for workers in the leadership of our businesses. While we may have a tough road ahead in the coming months, we have a shining opportunity to come together and rebuild. The dawn coming out of the Great Depression brought us the largest labor rights victories of the century. We have the chance to do the same now.
✔ Provide Green jobs for the unemployed. Californians now face widespread unemployment and a rapidly changing economy. We have an opportunity to expand career training programs so that high schools, community colleges, and junior colleges can function as training hubs to help students and workers impacted by the economic impacts of the pandemic seamlessly re-enter the workforce. As with the World War II effort to bring our country out of the Great Depression, we have an opportunity to mobilize a gigantic workforce to meet the state’s climate goals, transition to a green economy, and relieve our housing crisis. This will require expanding trade and apprenticeship programs to prepare people of all backgrounds with the skills they need to build affordable homes and renewable energy infrastructure.
✔ Protect voter enfranchisement during the stay-at-home order. Mail every registered voter in California a Vote-By-Mail ballot in every county in the State during the stay-at-home order. The state must also maintain existing legal standards for in-person voting as required by the Voters Choice Act and for those jurisdictions conducting elections via the precinct model.
✔ Distribute multi-lingual of public health information. The state needs to hire translators fluent in both medical terminology and major languages to be able to convey to diverse media outlets, quickly and accurately, the dynamic public health information coming from all levels of government.
✔ Invest in public banks for public good. As we move forward and begin rebuilding, public banks must be at the forefront for weathering the bumpy road to economic recovery ahead. Public banks can be equitable, localized engines to recovery and vital mechanisms to work in partnership with credit unions and community banks to provide low-interest loans to small businesses and local governments that are cash-strapped and need low-interest credit fast.