Last month, we virtually convened over 600 funders from across California for a day dedicated to philanthropy's role in strengthening our democracy and civic engagement during this unprecedented moment. Now, SCG is excited to launch our Post-Policy Summit Blog Series to elevate critical learnings from the Summit and further the conversations we explored.
California’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has focused on providing immediate relief across the state. As we move into the next phase of this pandemic, California needs to urgently enact long-term plans to rebuild our social and economic infrastructure. Philanthropy has the unique ability to support our public institutions by holding space for future thinking and planning.
For the 2020 Philanthropy California Virtual Policy Summit, we invited Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California's Health Care Services Agency, and Dr. Sandra Hernández, President & CEO of the California Healthcare Foundation, to discuss California’s current response efforts and share key opportunities for philanthropy to align with state agencies to support communities across the state.
1. Avoiding the Tipping Point with Vulnerable Communities
California’s overwhelming compliance and support of the Governor’s “Stay-at-Home Order” has led to a unique opportunity for the state to focus on COVID-19 hotspots and its hardest-hit communities. California will need to direct resources into protecting populations at high risk for transmission in the coming months.
California’s historically underserved and overlooked populations are shouldering an undue burden of COVID-19 as the virus is disproportionately impacting brown and black communities across the state. Many of these communities have large numbers of essential workers who will work without the necessary personal protective equipment to mitigate the spread of COVID. This dire situation also plays out with some of California’s most at-risk facilities, such as residential care facilities for the elderly, foster youth facilities, jails and prisons, homeless shelters and encampments, congregation spaces, and many more. These facilities need better access to testing, staffing, and broad-scale communication to slow down the transmission of COVID-19. California will soon be setting up nearly 100 new sites for testing across the state through a new initiative focused on lower-income communities considered testing deserts. However, there is an urgent need to ensure that our communities have equitable access to affordable testing.
2. Philanthropy as the Trusted Messenger
For the last two months, California’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has focused on mitigation and containment efforts. As California enters the pandemic’s suppression phase, the state will begin directing its resources to quickly identify potential transmission hotspots through testing, tracking, isolating, and quarantining infected people. These strategies will look different across the state and in various communities.
Governor Newsom will bring thousands of new contact tracing staff into local health departments to support suppression efforts in the coming weeks. However, the state will need additional capacity to bring contact tracing, isolation, and targeted quarantine to all communities affected by COVID-19. California will look to its philanthropic partners to help communicate with and support diverse communities across the state. Because funders have relationships with community leaders and members, which makes them credible messengers, community members are more likely to trust and engage with them. Philanthropy has the opportunity to leverage its relationships with community-based organizations to support communities in culturally responsive ways.
Additionally, California’s suppression efforts for the next 18-24 months will likely result in creating jobs for people who are currently unemployed or underemployed. These new jobs have the potential to become a tremendous stimulus and public health opportunity for California. There is an opportunity for philanthropy and health-focused foundations to launch various economic development and workforce development programs. It will be increasingly crucial for the nonprofit sector to synchronize with public institutions to ensure that jobs get developed in places where they're most needed.
3. Advocating for Long-Term Permanent Housing
Project Roomkey is a partnership between Governor Newsom, California’s Social Services Department, and various business and community development colleagues. The project will provide housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, who are often burdened by significant chronic illness and a higher risk of mortality from COVID-19. Since its inception, this initiative has become an opportunity to move thousands of vulnerable and unsheltered individuals into hotels with the services they need and a way to help hotels with a secure source of business and revenue. Down the road, there is an opportunity to turn some of the Project Roomkey facilities into permanent, supportive housing for a considerable segment of our population facing homelessness.
Philanthropy can encourage the adoption of Project Roomkey across California by advocating for the initiative as a critical strategy in creating long-term permanent housing. By providing safe shelters for individuals in need, we can, in turn, prevent our health system from becoming overwhelmed.
4. Aligning State and Local Efforts
COVID-19 is a call to action for philanthropy to come together and establish ways to work jointly with the Governor, the California Department of Public Health, and other state agencies. As the state continues to give guidance, resources, and set guardrails, local communities must take charge of figuring out their unique regional opportunities and challenges. Fortunately, many of these locations already have community foundations with deep roots in historically underserved communities. Leveraging their relationships with businesses, local health departments, universities, and many others, philanthropic institutions can support the administration's efforts to maximize impact. There is an opportunity for philanthropy to continue aligning with local governments to ensure that marginalized communities don’t suffer preventable outcomes.
5. Imagining Different Futures
It is time to start planning for the long-term economic and public health challenges that will emerge in the next 1-3 years or risk missing a pivotal opportunity to rewrite history for decades to come. Philanthropy must ask: “What have we learned from this? What does it mean for our funding? What will our delivery system look like in the future?” Everything we have learned from this moment will be critical, and philanthropy will need to work with local and state governments on the policy solutions that will move California forward.