CA Can’t Wait Coalition Continues Budget Advocacy for Public Health Infrastructure and Workforce Investment

Governor Gavin Newsom’s May Revise Budget, released last week, did not include any new, ongoing funding for investments in public health infrastructure and workforce, despite the state’s record-breaking surplus of $75.75 billion. The California Can’t Wait Coalition, comprising local health officials, local leaders, frontline workers, and health equity advocates, this week continued its budget advocacy amongst the Legislature urging an ongoing investment of $200 million General Fund.

On Wednesday, the California Can’t Wait Coalition convened a press conference to highlight the urgent need for investing in the state’s local health department infrastructure. Senator Richard Pan, chair of the Senate Health Committee, and Assembly Member Jim Wood, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, appeared during the press conference to push for a $200 million in annual state investment to begin rebuilding California’s battered public health infrastructure and workforce. A video recording of the California Can’t Wait Coalition press conference is available here using password 2!66MTS!

Following the coalition’s press conference, numerous media articles from outlets statewide, including California Healthline, Mercury News, the Sacramento Bee, and KQED, highlighted the coalition’s request. The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board today called on Governor Newsom to adequately fund public health in California.

“Newsom’s reluctance to support public health departments after a deadly and economically catastrophic global health crisis is disturbing. … Nearly 63,000 Californians have died from COVID. We shudder to think how many could have been spared if public health was properly funded.”

The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, May 21, 2021

Notably, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, in a press interview, expressed support for the California Can’t Wait Coalition budget request. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon similarly expressed strong support for stable funding to local public health.

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Also on Wednesday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services convened a hearing to review health-related proposals included in the Governor’s May Revise. Subcommittee members received a presentation from California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón on the state’s continued pandemic response. Drs. Ghaly and Aragón discussed the Administration’s $3 million one-time investment proposal to conduct a pandemic response assessment to inform future investment proposals to improve California’s public health system.

During the hearing, Assembly Member Jim Wood expressed concern that the Administration did not propose any new funding to support public health and called for an urgent investment to support the work of California’s 61 local health departments. Members of the California Can’t Wait Coalition additionally provided public comment, urging the Legislature to invest $200 million ongoing General Fund to support the state’s public health infrastructure and workforce.

Next week, the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 on Health and Human Services will similarly convene a hearing to review health-related investments proposed in the Governor’s May Revise.

The agenda from the Assembly Sub. 1 hearing is available here. A video recording of the hearing is available here.