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President's Blog

Op-Ed: Explaining The Caregiver Program and The Veteran's Judicial Review Act

Friday, June 25, 2021
The SCG Public Policy team welcomes Aimee Pila-Bravo as the Director of the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative and is pleased to have her insight and expertise in veteran’s affairs. SCG’s Public Policy Agenda includes a commitment to supporting legislation affecting veterans and their families.


As a member of the armed forces for over ten years, I have witnessed our country make dramatic policy changes in housing, employment, and mental health to improve the lives of veterans and their families. I have also seen our nation come a long way in bringing awareness to the effects of Shellshock, Battle Fatigue, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, Moral Injury, and Invisible Wounds. All of these victories for veteran populations have been a result of extensive advocacy and community mobilization efforts. 

However, there is still much work to do. As Director of the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative (LAVC), I have become a liaison for veteran-centered needs and help bring awareness to veterans’ issues and opportunities to support the community. There is an astonishing number of veterans who still struggle with the transition from their service. There are also always new obstacles emerging that prevent veteran populations from accessing the life-sustaining services they need. 

Today, the veteran community is focused on building awareness and support for the ability to appeal decisions for those in the Caregiver Program. The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), also known as the Caregiver Program, is open to veterans who were injured or experienced an aggravated injury in the line of duty after September 11, 2001, or on or before May 7, 1975. For a veteran to be eligible for the program, they must have a 70% or greater disability rating and need assistance with the activity of daily living. If they qualify for the program, their primary caregiver can receive several benefits for caring for the veteran. 

Historically, the Caregiver Program has lived within the scope of The Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA), which Congress enacted in 1988 and created a comprehensive judicial review process for veterans’ benefits decisions. The Act gives exclusive jurisdiction regarding benefits under laws administered by the Department of Veteran Affairs. It also gives veterans the right to reopen claims, obtain independent medical opinions, and establishes the burden-of-proof standards. In other words, veterans may appeal an adverse decision regarding their benefits to this Court.

In 2015, the US Department of Veteran's Affairs decided that the Caregiver Program is not considered a “benefit” within the scope of the VJRA and can be excluded from the VJRA’s board-review mandate. Specifically, the VA stated that the Caregiver Program’s benefits “may not be adjudicated in the standard manner as claims associated with veterans' benefits." Since then, the VA has excluded the Caregiver Program from appellate review claiming jurisdictional issues with the court, and concluded that benefits decisions under the Caregiver Program may not be appealed to the Board. 

In April 2021, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) issued an opinion finding in favor of a petition to expand appellate rights to include the Board of Veteran’s Appeal (BVA) under the Caregiver Program. The class consists of all veterans who had exhausted review before the Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) but were denied review before the BVA. The CAVC’s decision was a huge win that will impact not only Post 9/11 veterans but also MISSION ACT veterans. 

The VA Office of General Counsel is currently determining whether it will file an appeal in this case to the federal circuit. The veteran community has taken steps to encourage the VA not to appeal this case. If the court overturns the decision, thousands of disabled veterans and the family members who care for them will be left without due process. 

At the moment, the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative Legal and Re-entry working group has been working with several organizations and leaders to address the benefits review process for veterans under the Caregiver Program. The working group has also been seeking out stakeholders in the veteran community with contacts who can influence policy and legislation to ensure that veterans and their caregivers have due process under this program.

You can learn more about the decision here. If you would like to get involved with the LAVC’s efforts, you can contact me directly at [email protected]


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An Invitation to Bravery: Omar Brownson on the Social Power of Gratitude as an Antidote to Fear

Friday, June 25, 2021



“When you look down, your brain shifts to an egocentric point of view, centered only on you and yourself,” Omar Brownson responds when asked if he believes technology is hindering our capacity to be present. “Alternatively, when you look up at the sky, your brain automatically turns to what's called an allocentric point of view — ‘allo’ meaning other — which causes you to think about your relationship to the world and others. For thousands of years, we’ve navigated by looking up at the stars and noticing our location in the world. Today, we’re often looking down, glued to our phones, not paying attention to what’s around us.” 

Prior to the pandemic, Omar’s reflections on technology’s pull and narrowing effect on our perspective would likely have felt timely and true. After a year of physical isolation, however, the observation carries a different, more complicated resonance. For many, technology has been a vital tool in remaining connected to other people and the outside world. Looking down at my computer screen, it’s not lost on me that my conversation with Omar was only possible because of Zoom. 

But Omar’s comments are not an indictment of technology as much as a gentle reminder to just be aware of ourselves and how we navigate the world. Omar himself has spent the last few years leveraging digital platforms to spread mindfulness at scale. In 2019, he created gthx, an app to help people notice the good within and around themselves. During the pandemic, he also launched a virtual Thankful Thursday series to help folks combat fear, isolation, and loneliness by connecting them with mindfulness experts. 

Like many other of Omar’s observations, the lesson is consistent: sometimes, the most profound action we can take is simply to notice. Any tool that facilitates awareness — of ourselves, our relationships, of our world — becomes necessary to building a culture of wellness, particularly as the boundaries of personal and professional spaces are being redefined. 

Today, Omar continues his virtual mindfulness work via a Gratitude Circle series in partnership with Belinda Liu, Founder of Gratitude Blooming, and evolve, SCG’s suite of programming championing transformational leadership. The Circles seek to foster self-awareness and shared connections by practicing gratitude in a community. With work and home boundaries being disrupted, Gratitude Circles offer a new and intentional approach for bridging personal self-care and community culture building. As we approach our next Gratitude Circles, SCG connected with Omar Brownson to discuss the multifaceted nature of gratitude and its unique potential to help us grow personally and collectively. 


The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 


How did you arrive at gratitude as the focus of your work? 

Seven years ago, I received the Durfee Foundation’s Stanton Fellowship, an award given to Angelenos to help them think differently about tackling the city’s most intractable problems, for a project I was leading on the Los Angeles River. I knew I wanted to begin the process by going inward, so I used the fellowship’s travel stipend to visit a silent retreat center in Big Sur. I spent six days in silence searching for answers, but all I encountered was my impatience. At the end of the sixth day, I shared my findings with a monk who laughed and simply said, “The root word for impatience is ‘patis,’ which means to suffer. So that is your burden.” 

His words flipped a switch in my brain, and I sought to become more patient by meditating every day for six months. But, of course, incorporating a practice on top of being a husband and father only added additional stress to my life. It wasn’t until I heard Harvard Professor Ellen Langer claim that “you can meditate or you can just be mindful” that my entire orientation to mindfulness changed. Instead of adding to my day, I realized I could practice awareness at any time of the day. Gradually, I began prioritizing noticing the good in my life, which brought me to gratitude. 


In your work, you draw a distinction between mindfulness and gratitude. Can you elaborate on how these practices are different?

I distinguish them in this way: the practice of meditation begins with noticing each breath; the practice of mindfulness begins with noticing change; the practice of gratitude begins with noticing good. These practices all require you to train your brain to bring awareness to your noticing. But, gratitude is distinct in that it’s both a practice and an actual emotion. We’re born with the capacity to feel gratitude; all we have to do is notice it. And in many ways, what we notice is who we are. 


You also call for a reframing of gratitude as a social emotion. What opportunities does this shift provide?

Gratitude is inherently relational; it involves us and our relationship to others, making it a social emotion. And, as a social emotion, it has two wings: self-care and shared connection. I like to imagine that practicing gratitude is like learning to fly with both wings. In our Western culture, we view self-care as an individual and often isolated practice, when in reality, we heal best with other people. As the saying goes, “the only difference between wellness and illness is ‘we’ versus ‘i’.” When self-care happens in a community, it has a compounding effect. 


Turning inward is challenging for many people. Even you struggled to adopt a practice. What internal barriers must we overcome to arrive at gratitude? 

The brain has a biological bias to see the negative. Adopting a new practice is about learning to have self-compassion and moving away from a right or wrong mindset. I practice gratitude with my daughters every night before bed, and I remind them that “practice makes progress.” I’ve never used the term “practice makes perfect” because perfection is not present in self-compassion. What’s more important is maintaining a practice. It’s about taking lots of small steps and not worrying about giant leaps. 

I also always remember the monk who told me that impatience means to suffer. My impatience was born out of a need for control. And my need for control was born from fear. Facing my fears of uncertainty helped me to let go of trying to control everything and become more present. Gratitude helped me to learn to appreciate what is happening and worry less about what is not happening.


What inspired the first Gratitude Circle, and what are these spaces designed to do? 

During the pandemic, I started hosting a virtual Thankful Thursday series and partnered with an array of mindfulness experts, including Belinda Liu, founder of Gratitude Blooming and the creator of a 39-card deck designed to inspire insights nature-based illustrations and prompts. Belinda and I decided to incorporate her card deck and previous circle practices with my Thankful Thursday series, and this eventually became our innovative virtual Gratitude Circle with first-of-its-kind digital tools. We have held Gratitude Circles with SCG, foundations, social impact leaders, healthcare workers, and others who seek to accelerate their self-care and build healthier relationships.

Gratitude Circles were inspired by nature, and in nature, everything is connected. We like to say that a flower needs the soil, the water, and the sun to bloom. Gratitude Circles work similarly. We believe in the power of participants experiencing self-care, shared connection, and synchronicity. None of those things work in isolation; they work best together. Participants co-create the conditions for openness where they can embrace not having all the answers, where they can heal, and where they can listen to and experience the beauty of serendipity. Gratitude Circles are the space where these conditions can be created and where people can bloom.


You’ve mentioned previously that Gratitude Circles are an invitation to bravery. How can these spaces help guide the work of personal transformation and the broader efforts for social change?

Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Gratitude exists at the intersection of how we show up in the world and how we show up for ourselves. I realized that if we want to take care of our communities and this planet, we must begin by taking care of ourselves. These conditions are inextricably linked — we can’t change the world if we are not aware of what’s hurting within ourselves. 

Gratitude Circles are an invitation to bravery because they require us to be vulnerable, to be comfortable not having all the answers, and to have the courage to examine ourselves fully. Part of internal, anti-racist work is learning from different perspectives and realizing that we hold and perpetuate biases that fuel racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice. We must have the humility to become aware of our biases before we can erase them. I’ve come to believe that the scale of equity and justice we seek only proceeds at the pace of our own inner transformation. Change starts within.


Any final reflections on gratitude? 

For thousands of years, people across many cultures have been counting their blessings with prayer, mala, or worry beads. Science is finally catching up and realizing the benefits of gratitude. I've been practicing gratitude for five years, and I’m still learning how to listen and pay more attention to my relationship with both nature and my inner nature. There’s also so much we can learn from one another. The beauty of gratitude is finding folks who think differently about doing the work and learning from them. What I appreciate about working with Kameron Green at Southern California Grantmakers is the deep recognition that our personal leadership is part and parcel of creating the change we want to see in the world.


Register for an upcoming Gratitude Circle at SCG and learn more about Omar’s work at

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SCG Public Policy Statement 2021-2022

Friday, June 25, 2021

2021-2022 provides Southern California Grantmakers with an opportunity to manifest our vision and values through public policy efforts to impact the evolution of the institutions and systems of democracy that bind us as people. In the last year, the systemic inequalities exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, racial injustice, increased hate crimes, and nationwide attempts at voter suppression have created a sense of urgency for philanthropy to support marginalized communities. In addition, the inauguration of a new presidential administration, the convening of the 117th Congress, and the historic amount of federal financial resources allocated to state and local governments thus far offer hope that systemic change is attainable. 

SCG pledges to pursue a bold policy agenda that advances racial equity and social justice. We are committed to forging relationships, pursuing partnership opportunities, engaging in advocacy, and building coalitions. We will engage with policymakers and departments within the counties we serve, the State of California, and the Federal level. Our commitment to equity extends beyond legislation and includes advocating for equitable budget allocations and improves administrative processes within public agencies and departments. The SCG Public Policy Agenda includes nine broad, issue-based categories centered on community voice, racial equity, and justice. 


  • Child Welfare: We advocate using philanthropy’s convening role to advance public policy that supports the healthy development of children. We bring together different governmental agencies and nonprofit partners to identify opportunities for effective systems change while enabling grantmakers with less policy background to participate in this process. 
  • Justice Reinvestments: We support justice reinvestment efforts that advance sentencing reform; promote alternatives to incarceration; invest in prevention; and increase successful civic, economic, and social re-entry.
  • Economic Inclusion: We support an inclusive market economy that ensures anyone, regardless of their race, gender, age, or other circumstance, over which they have no control, has full and fair access to economic opportunity, including economic, workforce, and financial development. 
  • Environment: We believe that the environmental health of our communities is a key component of a vibrant society. We primarily focus on climate change resiliency and air and water quality in our region.
  • Housing and Homelessness: Affordable housing is essential for our communities. We support public investments in permanent supportive housing for persons experiencing homelessness, tax policies that support affordable housing and community development, and streamlining of approvals for the construction of affordable housing. 
  • Immigrant Communities: We believe civic, economic, and social immigrant inclusion contributes to a thriving California. We stand for federal immigration policies and practices that provide fair and humane treatment, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; ensuring that immigrants can safely access vital social services; guaranteeing immigrants are counted in the 2020 Census. Furthermore, we support inclusive, comprehensive immigration reform efforts that safely enable people to become citizens.  
  • Social Safety Net: We recognize that the cross-cutting social safety net plays an essential role in ensuring that Californians have access to social services that offer a greater quality of life, including, but not limited to health care, food security, and housing. While the government is primarily responsible for public programs, we also recognize philanthropy’s ability to re-imagine government through collective impact and partnerships. These partnerships can lead and have led to innovative pilot programs that make government more responsive. We equip grantmakers to become involved in this process while adamantly opposing changes that unsustainably shift the responsibility to philanthropy and nonprofits.
  • Veterans Affairs: We support systems change efforts that ensure veterans and their families safely reintegrate into their communities and that they receive the benefits and supports which their service guarantees. 
  • Issues Affecting Philanthropy and Nonprofits: We believe in advancing public policy that nurtures our nation’s philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to strengthen and grow our civil society. We do so by protecting nonprofit nonpartisanship and a fair tax policy that promotes charitable giving.

The SCG Public Policy Committee will update this statement and consider changes to this policy agenda as appropriate and relevant to the needs of our members and community.

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Preventing a “New Jim Crow”: Advancing Voting Rights and Access through H.R. 1 and H.R. 4

Friday, June 25, 2021


Tracing the Racial History of Voter Rights Legislation

On March 7, 1965, John Lewis laid battered on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, fighting for equitable voting rights and democratic access for all people, especially Black people. On August 6, 1965, his vision was manifested when the Voting Rights Act became law. Unfortunately, fifty years later, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act’s protections with their verdict in the Shelby County vs. Holder case in June 2013. The major voter protection lost was “preclearance,” which required states to acquire federal permission before changing their voting laws. Without federal oversight, states (mainly in the south) immediately began passing restrictive laws that primarily targeted the voting rights of Black and Brown communities.

Our country has a long history of restricting voting access for people of color. Since the end of Reconstruction (1867-1877), White Supremacy has created systemic barriers to limit people of color’s access to democracy, usually through violent intimidation and restrictive voting laws. During Reconstruction, Black people actively participated in the political process due to their newly available right to vote. At this time, sixteen Black people served in the U.S. Congress, and hundreds of others did in state legislatures and local governments. As a reaction to the increase in Black leadership and representation in government, white supremacists began to engage in voter intimidation and violence, usually at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, which emerged in response to the advances taking place during Reconstruction. By 1877, marred by violence and changing political will, Reconstruction ended, and the “Jim Crow” period began. It would be almost 100 years before another Black person served in Congress, and, until then, the Black vote would be substantially silenced until the courageous efforts of John Lewis and other activists. 

Today, we are experiencing another critical moment in voting rights history. Catalyzed by the pandemic’s disproportionate inequities and last summer's racial justice protests, voter turnout for the 2020 election hit record levels across the country. Voters leveraged new civic participation methods, including mail-in voting, early voting, voter drop-boxes, and extended voter registration deadlines. Heavily influenced by the minority vote, the 2020 election resulted in many groundbreaking firsts for racial and gender representation across the country, including the first woman and person of Black and Asian heritage as Vice President of the United States. The nation also saw shifts in the composition of the Senate and an increase in progressive ballot measures passed across the country. The results of the 2020 election have allowed record investments to be made in social services, healthcare, education, homelessness, and racial equity. The possibility of an equitable recovery has increased significantly because the voices of a diverse population were heard during the 2020 election. 

As before, many states have reacted to an increase in voting access for people of color with a wave of highly restrictive voting rights legislation. Currently, fourteen states have passed more restrictive legislation, and similar legislation proposed in 48 states. Unsurprisingly, many of the states that have enacted restrictive voter rights legislation have a history of disenfranchising Black and Brown voters, extending back to the Jim Crow era.  For example, in Arizona, SB 1713 proposes that early voters submit a copy of their IDs. According to the Washington Post, this disproportionately burdens minority voters who are less likely to hold the required I.D. for voting due to cost or general accessibility of DMV locations. Without federal legislation in place to support free and fair elections, states could severely limit the rights and voices of BIPOC populations in future elections and reverse many of the racial equity advancements made in our current political landscape.

Within this historical context, the SCG Public Policy team would like to share vital information regarding two federal bills that will determine the future of voting rights in this country: H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. SCG is committed to advancing racial justice and ensuring that our democratic access and participation are equitable. We believe that the philanthropic sector can strengthen democracy by supporting a fair and accurate census, equitable drawing of districts, and equitable access to voting. Now, SCG is committed to mobilizing philanthropy to engage in efforts that advance equitable access to voting.


What does H.R. 1 For the People Act do? 

H.R. 1 For the People Act of 2021 is an effort to expand all Americans’ access to the ballot box, police the use of finances in politics, and decrease corruption via increased security and strengthening of ethical rules. Each reform listed in the bill is a significant step in ensuring that our democracy is fair and inclusive. Additionally, many of these reforms will be implemented in November of 2022, except for redistricting and public finances. Some of the bill’s key reforms are listed below. You can view the bill’s full text here


Voter Access:  

  • Modernizing voter registration with an upgraded system, same-day and online registration, and moving toward an opt-out option when utilizing government agencies (I.e., DMV, public university, etc.). This modern approach will help curb extensive voter purges such as those seen during the 2018 midterm elections that disproportionately impacted minority voters who are more likely than white voters to have common last names. 
  • Restoration of the Voting Rights Act would give the federal government power to regulate state voting rules. Historically this act was used towards states with a history of discrimination to monitor changes in voting rules. H.R. 1 would also restore this act for people with prior convictions. Given the disproportionate representation of minority communities in the criminal justice system, this act would amplify their voices. 
  • Moving toward equitable voting options via the improvement of the mail voting system, a nationwide institution of early voting, and regulation of voter wait times. These improvements would increase the chances of diverse voter turnout, especially for those with disabilities, inflexible working schedules, etc.  

Campaign Finances:  

  • Matching Funds for both Presidential and Congressional campaigns to give more Americans the options for running and support elected officials running for office. The commitment of the government to match small funds in a campaign helps to decrease financial barriers in place for minority groups and women.   

Redistricting Reform: 

  • Outlaw partisan gerrymandering and impose a set of rules for how districts should be drawn to give special protections for communities of color and prioritize keeping communities with a shared interest together. This reform would help combat historically discriminatory practices of redistricting and the suppression of minority voices. This legislation would also require the hiring of an independent redistricting commission.  

Election Security:  

  • Replacement of paperless voting systems and funds used toward the audit of election results to ensure physical evidence and increase the validity of the election results.  
  • Oversight of private vendors who maintain the election systems by requiring certification and verification of cybersecurity best practices. According to the Brennan Center, the 2018 election saw system failures that could have been prevented if vendors had notified clients promptly.  


  • Requirement for the President, Vice President, and others who run for office to disclose tax returns.  
  • Prevent members of Congress from serving on corporate boards by expanding conflict of interest law.  
  • Code of Ethics requirement for the United States Supreme Court  
  • Strengthening the Office of Government Ethics, charged with overseeing and preventing conflicts of interest for federal executive branch officers and employees via the increase of enforcement authority.


Current Status: 

House Democrats have introduced H.R. 1, the For the People Act in the 117th Congress. The Senate has received it. The biggest concern will be the filibuster. Given that democrats such as Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Sinema have expressed they want to keep the filibuster and it is unclear if fifty votes could be reached. Additionally, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell openly disagrees with this bill because of the proposed rules around campaign finance. 


What does H.R. 4 The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act do?

John Lewis and many other civil rights activists lost their lives fighting for equal voting rights. Their sacrifice resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided federal protections to prevent discriminatory practices and prejudicial barriers in voting. Specifically, it created the “pre-clearance” system, which prevented states with a history of voting discrimination from making changes to voting laws and practices unless federal officials cleared those changes. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 faced considerable challenges since its inception, but the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder removed the “preclearance” requirement. The court’s decision opened the door for many discriminatory changes to voting practices, including changing district boundaries to disadvantage select voters, instituting more onerous voter identification laws, reducing or changing polling locations with little notice, and many other tactics. 

Voting rights activists have been advocating for the reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act since 2019, when they first introduced H.R. 4. Since the 2020 election, there has been an increase in discriminatory voting laws that disproportionally affect people of color, the elderly, low-income people, transgender people, and people with disabilities. This doubling down on voter suppression has increased the need for the passing of H.R. 4 and created the need for additional legislation, such as H.R. 1. In many ways, voters are more vulnerable to discrimination now than when the Voting Rights Act became law in 1965.


What does The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act do to protect voting rights?

  • The Shelby County v. Holder decision was limited in scope and recommended Congress create a new formula for calculating a states’ history of discriminatory voting practices. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act proposes a new formula and restores the protections of the Voting Rights Act by:
  • It modernizes the VRA’s formula by determining which states and localities have a pattern of discrimination. States subject to the oversight would include any state that has had 15 or more voting rights violations within the last 25 years, any state that has had 10 or more voting rights violations with at least 1 of those violations committed by the state itself (as opposed to a jurisdiction within the state) within the last 25 years, and any subdivision in a state that has had 3 or more voting rights violations within the previous 25 years.  
  • It would ensure that last-minute voting changes do not adversely affect voters by requiring officials to publicly announce all voting changes at least 180 days before an election.
  • It would expand the government’s authority to send federal observers to any jurisdiction where there may be a substantial risk of discrimination at the polls on election day or during an early voting period.


Current Status:

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act has not yet been reintroduced in the 117th Congress. The original sponsor of the bill, Rep. Terri Sewell, stated that this is an intentional move. According to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others, the bill will not likely face a vote until September 2021. Although H.R. 4 has not been reintroduced in the 117th Congress, the legislation has already received public support from Senators Raphael Warnock, Joe Manchin, and President Joe Biden, who advocated for the bill’s passage in his first address to Congress. The bill will face a significant hurdle of getting through a Republican filibuster in the Senate. It would require 60 votes to break the filibuster and proceed to an actual vote on the bill.


How Philanthropy can Engage

Philanthropy can advance racial justice by supporting efforts that counter the rise of voting restrictions and legislation that predominantly impact communities of color. Our sector can partner with and invest in communities, organizers, coalitions, and movement builders working tirelessly to protect and expand voting rights. 

Protecting democracy and promoting civic participation is a year-long effort. Communities and organizations need support between elections to connect, educate, and mobilize. Currently, nonprofit litigation groups such as NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Native American Rights Fund, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and others are working to fight against policies with restrictive provisions across the U.S. Such groups work throughout the year with local communities and national partners to protect American democracy. In addition, Philanthropy can support this work through various grantmaking opportunities, such as pooled funds that create space for funders to coordinate their efforts with other grantmakers and work together to increase their impact. For example, the State Infrastructure Fund operates as a funder collaborative to support state-based and state-focused nonpartisan organizations that engage their communities through advocacy, organizing, and litigation. Such efforts provide funders with the opportunity to invest both at the local and national level, partner and work across sectors, and learn from donors from across the nation. Another form of support is funding organizations working on litigations to stop anti-democratic policies through general operating grants.

While some grantmakers cannot advocate or take a position on legislation, there are additional forms of taking action. Public and private foundations can call or write members of Congress to educate and inform them about what they are hearing and seeing in their communities, grantees, and partners around voting restrictions. All types of foundations can participate in public comment. Public foundations can contact policymakers to share a formal position in support or opposition of specific legislation. Finally,  funders can connect with other funders through philanthropy-supporting organizations such as Southern California Grantmakers. SCG's policy team will continue to monitor legislation that impacts those we serve.


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Radical Black Joy is the Revolution

Sunday, June 6, 2021

By Erica Rey & Sequoia Thompson 


Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. — Audre Lorde


Black people have historically reckoned with disparaging narratives centered on dehumanization and trauma in our culture and our stories. Today, non-Black people have a duty to bear witness to the full breadth, richness, and beauty of Blackness.

Non-Black people have an opportunity to share their platforms and allow Black communities to speak to their lived experiences. We must lean into the revolutionary impact of elevating Black stories that explore the complexity of their experiences; Black people can hold and express a range of feelings from joy, love, grief, fear, excitement to hope. 

We urge non-Black people to help create space in our cultural landscape for new stories that combat legacies of anti-Blackness. Today, we ask everyone to uplift and embrace the power of Black Joy. 


Radical Black Joy is revolutionary by design. 


It challenges the cruel narratives that white supremacy has globally propagated against Black Bodies. It directly denounces the lie that our worth is in proximity to or defined by anything outside of ourselves. Radical Black Joy is an emotional celebration that uplifts the value in “both-and”:
It is creating happiness amidst dystopia AND… reframing the fetishization of Black strength and resilience by honoring the inherent beauty in Black existence.
It is being told we are not valuable AND… still valuing ourselves.
It is seeing our culture, our bodies, and our brilliance being positioned in America’s historical narrative to be feared, avoided, fetishized, displaced, appropriated, shunned, AND... knowing that Black Culture gave birth to traditions of art, community, love, and celebration.
It is seeing how other people of color have been told to distance themselves from Blackness to gain value in society AND… our culture valuing the inherent beauty in difference.
It is boldly naming, then denouncing, the plague of systemic anti-Black racism AND… living, healing, and loving past that insidious fallacy.
It is knowing we are portrayed in a light that is NOT indicative of our cultural love for humanity AND… loving the magnificence we see in the mirror and the beauty that exists in others.  
Radical Black Joy means coming together to uplift what has been historically shunned. To return to the collective happiness that white supremacy insidiously corrupted to separate us from each other and ourselves.


Radical Black Joy... is the revolution.

An Invitation to Dismantle Anti-Blackness

If Black women [and Black femmes] were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression. — Michele Wallace


There are many ways for non-Black people and institutions to elevate and center Black voices and truth. We urge you to imagine how you can move past rhetorical allyship toward tangible transformation for Black communities. The philanthropic sector can commit to eliminating models of giving that force Black people to prove their worth or compete against their community members for limited resources. Grantmakers can fund programs that celebrate joy, culture, and legacy, not just trauma. Funders can also create space at the decision-making tables and share their platform with radical Black voices in their panels, programs, and keynote speeches. Most importantly, we can get out of the way and allow Black people the space to create without watering down or censoring their messages. Black people must be allowed to express their truth, even if it creates discomfort for non-Black bodies. 


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From 2010 to 2020: Understanding the Longstanding Barriers to Collecting Census Data

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Full recording of the "Fair Representation for an Equitable Democracy" breakout session at SCG's 2021 Policy Conference: Build Anew



The census comes around every ten years, but ensuring communities are represented equitably happens every day in between. Lifting the voices of underrepresented communities, bringing together diverse groups, building capacity, and amplifying coalitions through the work of nonprofit organizations are essential to the ongoing process of fair representation for all Californians. 

At the 2021 SCG Policy Conference, we invited a panel of experts to help funders connect strategic funding to work happening on the ground floor. Among the panelists was Jonathan Paik, Executive Director of the Orange County Civic Engagement Table, who transforms the collective power of communities throughout Orange County. Christopher Wilson, Associate Director of Alliance San Diego, leads with the belief that people can achieve their full potential when communities are engaged in the civic process. Finally, spotlighting the relationship between community leaders and philanthropy, VY Nguyen, Director of Special Projects and Communications at the Weingart Foundation, ties census and redistricting work to democracy in action.In addition, by

Now that California has lost a congressional seat, it is time to reckon with the long-term barriers to collecting census data and the groundwork needed before a single map is drawn. As our speakers emphasized, supporting local organizations working with and for the communities they represent is crucial for building long-term, equitable solutions that will ensure higher accuracy in future counts.



The 2020 census counted 331,449,281 Americans, a 7.4 percent increase from the 2010 census. While the 2020 demographic data is not yet released, data from 2010 indicated an undercount of historically hard-to-count groups (HTC), including Latinos, African Americans, Alaska Natives, American Indians, and renters. History has likely repeated itself as we observe California and New York’s lost congressional seats in 2020 and the unrealized projection of gaining a seat in Arizona, despite a significant Latino population gain of 766,000 people since 2010.

For California in particular, the loss of a seat is a surprise considering the state leaped from a $24.7 million in 2010 to a $187 million outreach budget to ensure an accurate census count in 2020. However, outreach still fell on the shoulders of community organizations who faced long-stand problems, especially when it came to hard-to-count communities. Additionally, an unfriendly administration toward immigrants and people of color and altered timelines have heightened challenges to getting out the count. 

As our sector plans for the implications of California’s lost seat and the work ahead, it is important for funders to better understand the processes and history behind a fair count. 



Long before a census form is completed, community leaders and organizations assess how their communities can ensure an accurate count at the local level. Before conducting a national census, organizations are meeting their communities where they are through various community engagement activities to aid in completing benchmark local activities like the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) - conducted to confirm residential addresses. This process alone can take approximately two years for urban cities like Long Beach, with a hard-to-count population of nearly 500,000 residents. 

The next phase includes determining the best ways to communicate with and engage with hard-to-count groups. These activities are rooted in relationship building, education, and access, thereby giving us only a glimpse of the length of time it can take to build trust – a critical component of counting people who continue to face systemic inequalities. While it can take a mere few minutes to complete a census form, community organizations nurture constituents 365 days per year. 
Now that census data has been collected, population shifts determine how we will draw new district maps for municipal offices, congressional, Senate, and Assembly seats. The continuum of census work is redistricting. The relationships built through the ongoing exchange between community organizations, leaders, and communities pave the way for a redistricting process that puts communities first. Philanthropy can help by championing the entire process, not merely the outcome. Funders can use their platform to elevate and support the work of communities working between census counts. Like any relationship, it takes an ongoing commitment that does not end in a single season.



In Orange County and San Diego alone, with a combined majority-minority population of 6.6 million, 40 cities, and several shared State Assemblymember and congressional districts, the physical ground to cover to ensure community engagement efforts is monumental. Looking at hotspots can be a way for organizations to prioritize all of the work that needs to be done. Determining where to allocate time and resources for specific goal areas like advocacy work, communications, or evaluating systems newly including a process for community participation in council meetings, etc., can be fundamental to successful community engagement work. In contrast, looking at hotspots reveals gaps where organizations and alliances can establish new efforts to set momentum over the years ahead. Other organizations can better understand who is doing what and when has also proven to be a strategic regional move – by dividing up the turf, individual organizations can do more. 

Now that CA has lost a congressional seat, organizations like Orange County Civic Engagement Table and San Diego Alliance are ready to face the implications head-on. Because of their tactical approach, robust, introspective application to community engagement, the process of redistricting this time around has the potential to be revolutionary in many ways. In addition, building a new foundation can set a precedent for how we can accomplish how census and redistricting work.  



Panelists from the Fair Representation for an Equitable Democracy program and the final reports issued by the bureau emphasized that meaningful community engagement strategies as critical components to building long-term, equitable solutions to addressing barriers within the civic process– including census and redistricting work. For example, the Orange County Civic Engagement Table named language barriers as a prominent barrier to participation. By centering language justice within community spaces and public hearings, communities of interest can feel empowered to walk into city council meetings with a sense of belonging, knowing they are welcome to receive information and contribute to the discourse within their neighborhoods. By sharing experiences across communities and neighborhoods, monolingual communities shift the power dynamics beyond representation through demographic data. 



Communities, by and large, are not equipped, nor do they have the knowledge or resources to use industry-standard technical tools needed for map drawing effectively. In 2010 the city of San Diego provided a free public mapping tool effective in helping communities draw their maps. Today, San Diego is investing in the expertise of Mapping Services and Demographics Consulting for their communities through an RFP process. With the cost of creating three maps in 2017 coming in at approximately $5,000, we can get a sense of the impact on a majority-minority region with nearly 3.5 million people. One way for funders to support map drawing is by providing unrestricted grants to help organizations access training and professional services required for map drawing. Without appropriate map drawing, communities fall at risk of accessing services vital to the wellbeing of all Californians. 



While a tumultuous political and social period continues to sweep the country, the US census and its ramifications are taking shape. It is imperative that funders draw the lines between census and redistricting work to systemic change while also providing a strategic vantage point for using funds most effectively. If representation is the core of a democratic process, acknowledging the systematic inequalities within systems that have not been inclusive can help communities feel in partnership with philanthropy. 
Philanthropy California recently released a statement on the New Apportionment Data and Redistricting with immediate actions funders can take to tackle the challenges for a fairer and more equitable count in the future. 



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Memorial Day Message: Honoring Veterans by Caring for Lives

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

By Nathan Graeser, MDiv, LCSW, DSW | Veterans Issues Consultant

Memorial Day is a sacred time for Army Chaplains like me. We honor the lives of those who have not made it home or died in the field of service. I take a moment to remember all those whose lives have touched me in some way. I think about the friends that I have lost in war or to suicide. For me, it’s a day to reflect on the difficult cost of service for myself and those I love. 

This year, I’m also thinking about the enormous pressures our military and veterans have faced since the start of the pandemic. “The last year has been tough, real tough,” a soldier tells me in downtown Los Angeles, a sentiment I’ve heard from many other California National Guard soldiers. 

Whether it was during the protests, the record fire season, or the mega vaccination sites at Cal State Los Angeles, our uniformed citizens have taken center stage. So many soldiers have been called away from their families for months, facing the same challenges their neighbors face, but with increased responsibilities and a heroic ability to shoulder risk on behalf of their communities.
Today, we see the unsurprising effects of a year of intensified crises. The Defense Department’s quarterly suicide report documents that 194 reservists took their lives in 2020, increasing by about 40 from 2019. National Guard suicides also increased in 2020 from 90 to 118. These increases build on a steadily growing rate of active-duty suicides since 2016. Los Angeles has felt these deaths most profoundly as it is home to nearly 300,000 veterans and over 10,000 transitioning veterans per year – the highest concentration in the U.S. 

While many social, economic, and policy factors contribute to this alarming trend within the veteran community, a persistent problem is apparent: many veterans struggle to connect with their communities and access the services they desperately need. Moreover, the physical isolation forced by the pandemic has made it even more difficult for veterans to find and access services. 

In November 2019, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion authorizing the Director of DMH to execute an agreement with Southern California Grantmakers to “create a public-private partnership focused on the implementation of services to veterans using a peer-to-peer model.” The motion appointed SCG as the fiscal intermediary for the Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN), a visionary response to the growing problem of veteran access. 
VPAN is the first publicly funded, community-driven support network serving veterans and their families in the United States. Los Angeles County’s agreement with SCG budgets $13.8 million over three years to build a network of veteran-focused partnerships designed to connect veterans to the life-sustaining resources and supports they so urgently need. The Veteran Peer Access Network has already begun making an impact. In the last month, VPAN battle buddies provided services, points of connection, and referrals for over 220 different military and veteran families across Los Angeles County. In addition, the service referral network has grown to over 62 service providers connected via the Unite Us Software referral platform. 
From the beginning, SCG’s Veterans Funders Group has played a significant role in the advisory board, grantmaking, and strategic implementation process. Leveraging the county funding, the Group helped shape the grantmaking process as SCG selected five community-based organizations (CBOs) across five Supervisorial Districts to lead the efforts to provide services to veterans and build out the network. Most excitingly, the group has recently directed funding to create a position at SCG to support the Unite Us network veteran service provider community and build a high-touch transition program here in Los Angeles through the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative. The program would provide mentorship and guidance to service members coming to Los Angeles from active duty, helping to connect with veterans and organizations that support them in transition.
This Memorial Day, SCG honors those who have lost their lives by building a world where veterans and those who serve know they matter. Where every service member, veteran, and family member can find and access the wealth of supportive services through the VPAN to live and thrive in our community. I can think of no better way to honor those who are not with us here today than by caring for those who are still with us. To find out more or get involved, please email Cristina Garcia, Director of the Veteran Peer Access Network, at [email protected].


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“The Justice Budget”: An Overview of Mayor Garcetti’s 2021-2022 Los Angeles City Budget

Monday, May 24, 2021




The 2021-2022 Los Angeles City budget is currently regarded as an ambitious effort to address inequity in the city. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s new budget will provide unprecedented funding for homelessness, racial equity, and other social service programs that support Los Angeles’ most marginalized populations. The budget will go into effect on July 1, 2021, and currently totals $11.2 billion, about $700 million more than the previous year’s. Deemed the “Justice Budget,” Garcetti has declared that it “is more than a financial document — it’s a dynamic roadmap to a city built on justice and equity.” 

The budget will pilot several bold and equity-driven programs. First is the Therapeutic and Unarmed Response for Neighborhoods (TURN) program to address public safety and the over-use of policing for public safety. Next, is The Basic Income Guaranteed: L.A. Economic Assistance Pilot (BIG: LEAP), the nation's most considerable program piloting guaranteed income and providing $1000 per month to 2000 households. Also included is the LA REPAIR (Reforms for Equity & Public Acknowledgement of Institutional Racism) Innovation Fund, which supports racial justice, healing, and reconciliation. Lastly, the budget calls for creating a Reparations Commission, tasked with exploring a pilot slavery reparations program for Black residents of Los Angeles City. 

The 2021-2022 budget also allocates funds to established programs. One of the budget’s priorities is restoring funding for the ongoing operation of pre-pandemic city services that were reduced or eliminated because of budget cuts forced by the pandemic. On average, city services will see a 9.4% increase in pre-pandemic allocations. Additionally, the budget expands the Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) program to provide youth opportunities and increases investments in homelessness programs, including Project Roomkey and the Comprehensive Cleaning and Rapid Engagement (CARE/CARE+) programs.

The SCG Public Policy Team has provided a breakdown of the budget’s key investment areas below. 


Budget Breakdown

Revenue received from the American Rescue Plan

The 2021-2022 budget includes $777 million in spending from the American Rescue Plan. This funding was obtained through aggressive advocacy on behalf of the City of Los Angeles and considered a win by the Mayor. The funds from the American Rescue Plan will strengthen Garcetti’s plan and assist the Angelenos disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The breakdown of the American Rescue Plan’s revenue is as follows: 

  • $151 million going to equity and justice programs
  • $281 million for homeless services 
  • $282 million to restore vital services
  • $64 million for COVID-19 response and recovery


COVID-19 Response & Recovery 

The 2021-2022 Budget includes $143 million in resources to address COVID-19 response and recovery. Bolstered by the American Rescue Plan, the funds allocated to COVID-19 testing and vaccines will help “end the pandemic” in Los Angeles and aid the city in emerging from the crisis. Garcetti also intends the pandemic recovery funds to “rebuild the city” by offering financial support to the Angelenos most economically devastated by the crisis, including L.A.’s street vendors, small businesses, and restaurant owners operating in low-income communities across the city. 

  • $75 million for ongoing funding for testing, PPE, and vaccines 
  • $25 million to provide a small-business recovery fund. The fund’s “comeback checks” will provide micro-grants to small businesses.
  • $1.9 million to support a permanent LA Al Fresco program to offset the costs of creating an outdoor dining space for restaurants in low-income communities.
  • $5 million for a marketing campaign to increase tourism and assist businesses in the hospitality industry decimated by the pandemic’s impact on travel and tourism.
  • $1.3 million to assist sidewalk vendors in purchasing carts and obtaining licenses and certifications.


Equity and Justice

The Mayor’s team considers the 2021-2022 LA City Budget to be “the most progressive spending plan in L.A.'s history” due to its record-breaking $1 billion allocation to equity and justice initiatives. The plan aims to advance racial and economic justice across the city by investing in critical areas such as youth services, public safety, and workforce development while also piloting innovative new programs that will explore universal basic income, reparations, digital access, and more. 

  • $33 million to expand the City’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development Program (GRYD)
  • $24 million for BIG: LEAP, America’s most extensive guaranteed basic income pilot to date
  • $18.7 million to fund new programs founded on Therapeutic and Unarmed Response for Neighborhoods (TURN), a community-based approach to reimagining public safety.
  • $8.7 million to employ high-barrier young adults to clean and beautify communities.
  • $5 million for stipends for the Angeleno Corps, a program for youth in environmental justice, community-based wellness, immigration, and closing the digital divide. 
  • $3.5 million to train and pay 1,000 low-income high school students to home-tutor young siblings who have struggled with distance learning.
  • $10 million to the REPAIR Innovation Fund to support racial justice, community intervention, and reconciliation.
  • $3 million to support the Social Equity Program within the City’s Department of Cannabis Regulation and promote equitable ownership and employment within the cannabis industry.
  • $2.1 million for Get Connected LA (GCLA) to provide Wi-Fi access points in communities and create innovation zones for businesses and residents.
  • $500,000 to build a Reparations Commission.


The pilot programs will offer an opportunity to explore new approaches to tackling inequity across the city and hopefully serve as a model for others working toward racial and economic justice in their communities. Moving forward, philanthropy should monitor the development and implementation of the pilot programs. In addition, once the one-time funding is exhausted, funders should be prepared to support the initiates through advocacy, new partnerships, and investments. 

However, while the plan as a whole makes a significant effort to center the needs of the city’s most marginalized populations, activists are expressing concern at the increase in funding for L.A.’s Police Department. Garcetti’s budget increases LAPD’s funds by 3% from last year to account for an “uptick of violence” and officer retirements. Some L.A. activists are elevating the contradiction in the budget’s expressed interest to “reimagine public safety” while also increasing LAPD funds, an approach they say does not center equity or community needs. Driven by last summer’s protests and demands against police violence, activists are continuing to advocate for decreased police presence and reinvestment of funds into communities themselves. 



Facing increased criticism and demands to address the growing rate of homelessness in the city, Garcetti has dedicated a larger portion of the 2021-2022 budget to tackle the issue through a multi-pronged approach. The 2021-2022 budget proposes the most significant investment in L.A. history to confront the homelessness crisis at $791 million, which more than doubles its current spending. In total, with carryover state and federal funding from last year included, the City is projected to spend $955 million to confront the homelessness crisis. The most considerable portion of the budget, about $350 million, is directed toward building apartments for formerly unhoused people, with subsidized rent and social services. While many commend the increase in allocated funds, others highlight that the total amount is still only half of what New York City designates to addressing homelessness.

Highlights include:

  • $362 million for 89 projects and 5,651 total housing units through Proposition HHH
  • Nearly $200 million for the development of affordable housing, homeless prevention, eviction defense, and other homeless services. 
  • $57 million for nine additional CARE+ teams and eleven new regional storage facilities.
  • $43 million for Project Roomkey. 


Climate Change

Garcetti stated that it is “time to go big, go bold, go green” and that Los Angeles would help lead the way. Alongside funding the city’s new Climate Emergency Mobilization Office, which will coordinate “the actions of the Mayor’s Office, City Council, and community leaders to meet the commitments of L.A.’s Green New Deal,” Garcetti made the following commitments: 

  • Get L.A. to 80% renewable energy and 97% carbon-free energy by 2030. 
  • Get L.A. to 100% carbon-free energy by 2035. 


Looking Ahead: Opportunities for Philanthropy

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved Garcetti’s 2021-22 fiscal year budget on May 20th, 2021. After the budget is updated with the changes approved during council discussion, it will receive a final vote. The council has until June 1, 2021, to send the budget to the mayor's desk for a final signature.

Throughout the pandemic, philanthropy and its nonprofit grantees shouldered incredible financial strain as they stepped up to support communities affected by the crises and fill the gaps left underfunded by governmental sources. Bolstered by the additional $777 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan, this year’s budget, if approved, will be a critical aid in supporting the communities in Los Angeles most impacted by the pandemic and systemic inequity.

Los Angeles’ 2021-2022 budget allocation aligns with the philanthropic sector’s growing commitment to racial equity and “building anew '' a more equitable Los Angeles. The budget’s priorities are also consistent with nearly many issues championed by the SCG network last year, including recovery, racial equity, housing/homelessness, workforce development, and many others. However, while many commend the budget’s step in a bolder direction, others question its limitations, especially around reimagining public safety and effectively addressing homelessness. 

Even with this apparent light on the horizon, now is not the time for the philanthropic sector to become complacent. Much of the funding proposed offers one-time allocation without a sustainability plan and may not reach those communities most in need. If the additional programs and funds do not meet the needs of all vulnerable Californians, or if there are challenges in reaching sustainability, philanthropy should be prepared to mobilize on behalf of the communities they serve. The past year highlighted the strength of the partnership between philanthropy and government, and this relationship will continue to be paramount to the long-term recovery of our region.



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SB 784: A Bill Advancing State Contract Flexibility for Nonprofits During State Emergencies

Monday, May 24, 2021

BY Noann Villalobos-Sanchez



Since the onset of the pandemic, nonprofit organizations have rapidly scaled their services to support communities disproportionately impacted by the crisis. In addition to meeting an increased demand for services, nonprofits have also needed to exercise caution to avoid jeopardizing the terms and resolutions of their government contractual constraints. SB 784 seeks to remedy the limitations put on nonprofit organizations by providing flexibility during a declared state of emergency, as currently exists for the state’s own departments and workforce.  


Recent events have demonstrated that when a national disaster strikes, nonprofits play a pivotal role in our state’s response and recovery. For example, nonprofits provided rapid response and essential services to California’s residents on behalf of the state throughout the entire pandemic. Many of the services nonprofits provided were a direct result of the contracts they held with California. 
Unfortunately, state contracts’ inflexibility during national emergencies often creates additional challenges for nonprofits to overcome. Traditionally, nonprofits have to grapple with various obstacles during crises, including a heightened demand for services, lack of financial resources, limited capacity, and more. However, during the pandemic, nonprofits also had to navigate additional restrictions imposed by the state’s emergency orders that prevented them from fulfilling their contractual obligations during the pandemic. For example, due to shelter in place requirements, nonprofits providing foster care services were unable to perform home visits to confirm the safety of foster children. California’s emergency orders also affected some nonprofit’s ability to provide services due to forced closures or limits on the number of people who could receive assistance. And yet, as a result of not carrying out their work, the state deemed many nonprofits as not meeting the requirements stipulated in their contracts. 
According to CalNonprofits, 86 percent of nonprofits contracted through the state reported needing changes in their contract deliverable requirements. Several counties eventually saw the value of this prioritization and implemented policies to grant nonprofits flexibility. SB 784 would ensure that similar flexibility is embedded into all of California’s nonprofit contracts during a declared emergency. With this new flexibility, nonprofits could alter the terms of their contract as long as they still meet the contract's goals. Finally, the bill would help nonprofits stabilize more quickly during a crisis, avoid permanent closure, and leave services unaffected. 


Existing State Law: 

The California Emergency Services Act authorizes the Governor to declare a state of emergency, suspending any statutes and rules prescribing the procedure for the conduct of state business. Furthermore, existing law requires all state departments to render all possible assistance to the Governor and the Director of Emergency Services in carrying out the Act. As it stands, California only extends this flexibility to the state’s department and workforce, not to nonprofit organizations with state contracts. 

Proposed Solution: 

Senate Bill 784 would provide that in a declared state of emergency, nonprofit organizations with a state contract may adjust their service method and terms as long as they continue to serve the contract’s primary purpose and meet its stipulations. However, nonprofits would still need to notify all departments from which they receive funds of an impending closure or impacted service and provide proper documentation.  


Southern California Grantmakers’ network of philanthropists and funders recognizes the tremendous work nonprofit carried out during the pandemic and supports their call for flexibility during emergencies to ensure they can continue delivering essential services to the state’s residents. 
The bill’s sponsor is Steven M. Glazer. Southern California Grantmakers supports this legislation along with our partners: 

  • CalNonprofits 
  • Catalyst of San Diego  
  • Northern California Grantmakers  


At the time of this memo, there are no known opponents to this effort. 


Action Taken/SCG Takes Action 

CalNonprofits has secured over 620 signatures from nonprofit organizations throughout California. Southern California Grantmakers was one of the signatories in support of SB 784. Review the letter
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Noann Villalobos-Sanchez at [email protected]


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"California Comeback Plan": Breaking Down Governor Newsom's May 2021 Revised Budget Proposal

Monday, May 24, 2021





On May 15, 2021, Governor Newsom released the May Revision to the 2021-2022 California budget. The revised budget builds on the January proposal by going beyond the emergency needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing the long-term systemic inequities in California. In a typical year, the Governor would present a budget representing the state’s needs, the administration’s aspirational goals, and a conservative estimate of the state’s revenue. The proposed budget would then be debated, and elements would be reduced or removed altogether for the May version. In 2021, the exact opposite has occurred. The 2021 May Revision has increased the proposed January budget by roughly $41 billion, moving it from $227 billion to $268 billion. This year’s May budget reflects an increase in revenue of $75.7 billion, primarily from high-income Californians and corporations who fared well during the pandemic. These revenue gains were also a result of Federal and state interventions that helped mitigate the economic effects of unemployment and evictions. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan provided $27 billion in direct federal aid.

The additional $75.7 billion in revenue will provide: $38.1 billion in discretionary funds, $37.6 billion in constitutionally required obligations for K-12 schools and community colleges, and $11 billion for reserves and to pay down long-term liabilities. Some analysts, including the Legislative Analyst’s Office, only consider the discretionary funds a surplus because the other funds include stipulations. Of the $38.1 billion in discretionary funding, the governor proposes the “Comeback California Plan,” which dramatically increases the funding enacted by the $5 billion “Early Action Plan” we presented in the previous SCG Budget Governor’s Budget Proposal Analysis. Thus, while the economic outlook seems more positive than it did in January, there is still an opportunity for policymakers to help expedite the state's recovery from the pandemic and address systemic inequities for Californians, especially those disproportionately affected by the crisis. 



Nevertheless, the May Revision has received some criticism for its proposed spending. For example, critics are concerned that the governor is still attempting to access $12 billion in reserves and borrowing to meet the proposed spending limits. Some say that if the tolls are exhausted now, they will not be available for future emergencies, and Federal funds may not be as readily available as they are currently. In addition, the State Appropriations Limit (SAL) will be exceeded this year and is estimated at $16 billion in revenues. The actual amount of a potential excess will ultimately depend on decisions made by the Legislature. The May Revision also includes about 400 new proposals, which, over the long term, are unlikely to be fully met by the surplus. Critics recommend focusing on fewer, higher-priority proposals and providing the resources needed to create and sustain them. Lastly, there are also concerns regarding the administrative and logistics challenges departments will face managing this amount of discretionary spending. Critics recommend a phased-in approach to offset the challenges of managing the new and large amount of funding.


Economic Security and Equitable RecoveryHealthcare & Human ServicesEnvironment and Climate ChangeNonprofit/Small BusinessJustice SystemHomelessness & HousingEducationCOVID-19 Response | Looking Ahead

Economic Security and Equitable Recovery 

As the state progresses into the next stage of recovery from the pandemic’s economic downturn, the new budget attempts to rebuild equitably by prioritizing low-income families, individuals, and communities of color. Accordingly, the May budget pushes beyond the emergency relief provided for families and individuals in the “Early Action Plan” by providing a springboard for economic stability through the “California Comeback Plan.” 

Overview of the California Comeback Plan: 

  • $8 billion in Golden State Stimulus payments to Californians earning less than $75,000 annually, including undocumented immigrants. The state will give a $600 payment to tax filers who did not receive the first Golden State Stimulus payments or an additional $500 payment to Californians who file taxes with SSNs. Californians who file taxes with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) would receive a $1,000 payment. People who file taxes with ITINs are primarily undocumented Californians or mixed-status families and were excluded from federal stimulus payments during the pandemic.
  • Emergency rental assistance to cover 100% of back rent owed by Californians with low incomes. $2 billion in American Relief Plan (ARP) funds for utility assistance for renters.
  • $12 billion in state and federal funds over two years to address homelessness.
  • $35 million over five years for basic income pilot programs administered by cities or counties.
  • Expanding eligibility for comprehensive Medi-Cal coverage to approximately 80,000 undocumented adults aged 60 and older.
  • Significant increases in funding for K-12 education, including additional ongoing funding to support English learners, students from low-income families, and foster youth.
  • Universal transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds in the state phased in over four years.
  • 100,000 new subsidized child-care slots and financial assistance for childcare providers using federal and state funds.
  • Base increases and one-time funding for the state’s higher education systems. 
  • Establishing college savings accounts for California children in families with low incomes.
  • $7 billion in American Rescue Plan and state funds to address the digital divide.


Healthcare & Human Services 

The pandemic highlighted California’s extreme health disparities, which are products of systemic racism and historic disinvestment in low-income and rural communities and communities of color. Governor Newsom’s May Revision reflects increased expenditures for the state’s healthcare system due to increased caseloads caused by the pandemic. 

The budget calls for the following under Medi-Cal:

  • Medi-Cal Expenditures: Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, is anticipated to cover approximately 14.5 million Californians in 2021-22, over one-third of the state’s population. The May Revision assumes that the caseload will continue to increase by roughly 6.6 percent from 2020-21 to 2021-22. This increase in caseloads, primarily due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 and households losing employer-provided health plans, is estimated to increase the state’s Medi-Cal expenditures by $13.5 billion. As a result, the revision has set the Medi-Cal budget to $115.6 billion in 2020-21 and then $123.8 billion in 2021-22. 
  • Telehealth Expansion: The revision proposes establishing Medi-Cal payment rates for audio-only telehealth to continue the telehealth flexibilities available during the pandemic while ensuring access to in-person care. Providers could claim reimbursement for audio-only care so long as recipients 1) are located in California or “border communities” and 2) can provide in-person services to each Medi-Cal enrollee served by audio-only telehealth.
  • Postpartum Medi-Cal Eligibility: The Administration will pursue a new federal option allowing states to extend pregnancy-related, postpartum Medicaid coverage from the current 60-day limit to 12 months. This coverage is a five-year option, which will take effect on April 1, 2022, and is included in the federal American Rescue Plan.  
  • California Advancing and Innovating in Medi-Cal (CalAIM): Last year, the Administration delayed its plans to initiate CalAIM in the 2020-21 budget due to the economic effects of COVID-19. Governor Newsom has increased CalAim’s launch allocation from $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion in the May Revision. Many of our funders deeply involved in the intersection of health equity, housing, and homelessness are excited for the state’s renewed framework for whole-person care that involves better coordination and service delivery of Medi-Cal programs. 
  • Office of Health Care Affordability: Although the January proposal included an $11.2 million initial investment to create the Office of Health Care Affordability within the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, Governor Newsom has delayed his proposal for one year. The new office would have been responsible for increasing transparency in medical services' cost and quality, establishing cost targets for providers, and enforcing compliance to those targets. Instead, the governor has allocated these funds to create a healthcare payments database slated to track health care costs.    


Human Services: 

  • Dignified and Healthy Aging: In less than a decade, 1 in 5 Californians will be 65 years of age or older. This significant demographic shift requires a statewide, coordinated response to this group’s unique economic and medical needs. In addition, the combination of the economic uncertainty from the pandemic and the high percentage of older adults, especially people of color, living in poverty in California, makes this group highly susceptible to future housing and food insecurity. To this end, the Administration has included these investments: 
    • Adult Residential Facilities (ARF) and Residential Care Facilities (RCF): $500 million for the next two fiscal years (total of $1billion) to provide one-time funding to build, acquire, and/or rehabilitate care facilities serving seniors and other adults – this is a vast improvement from the initial $250 million proposed.  
    • Office of Medicare Innovation and Integration: The revision builds on the original budget and supports the Administration’s intent to create an Office of Medicare Innovation and Integration within the Department of Health Care Services to provide better analysis methods and data-driven plans to expand access to Medicare for low to middle-class older adults. $602,000 ongoing ($452,000 General Fund) is allocated for this office. 
    • Older Populations: Notably, the Administration has chosen to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented seniors aged 60 and older no sooner than May 1, 2022. As we have witnessed, the risks of exposure and susceptibility to the COVID-19 virus are higher amongst older adults, especially within immigrant communities excluded from receiving federal assistance and the past COVID-19 relief packages. Moreover, expanding full-scope Medi-Cal services to undocumented older adults comes at a time when affordable and a stable source of preventative and chronic healthcare is critical to their health and well-being amidst a pandemic. 
  • The governor’s proposal would continue to leave undocumented immigrants ages 26 to 59 without access to comprehensive Medi-Cal coverage. However, state policymakers should expand comprehensive Medi-Cal coverage to all undocumented Californians, not only for the state’s collective wellbeing but also combat health inequities.


Behavioral Health: 

The pandemic has emphasized the need for behavioral health services, especially as people grapple with the psychological weight of Safer at Home orders, distance learning, financial stressors, and more. The revised budget builds on initiatives included in the proposed budget by investing in county health departments, capacity, and information-sharing infrastructure with schools to address the rising need for behavioral health services.

Highlights include: 

  • An increase of $431 million from the proposed $400 million to increase the number of students accessing behavioral health services through Medi-Cal managed plans, in partnership with county health services and K-12 schools. An additional $1 billion from ARP in 2021-22 and $1.7 billion from ARP, General Fund, and Federal Trust fund in 2022-23.  
  • The initial proposal of $25 million is increased to $30 million in one-time funding to provide grants to the Mental Health Student Services Partnership program, which funds partnerships between schools and county health departments. 
  • The governor proposed $750 million for a one-time general fund available over three years, for competitive grants for counties to strengthen the behavioral health services continuum ranging from acute, emergent services to rehabilitative programs. Counties can use the grants to acquire and rehabilitate real estate properties for behavioral health treatment centers to reduce the number of at-risk and unhoused individuals and increase available beds. The May Revision provides an additional $10 million from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and shifts $300 million from the General Fund to the ARP. 


Public Health: 
The May Revision does not include new investments for local public health departments. The underfunding of our public health system became even more apparent when the counties and cities were inadequately prepared to respond to the emerging health threats. The lack of preparedness largely impacted Black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Californians, as these groups experienced the highest rates of illness and death due to COVID-19. The state should allocate more support to bolster public health infrastructure, such as providing ongoing funding for local public health departments to address the population’s current and future health concerns and minimize health inequities for Californians. 


Environment and Climate Change 

Alongside the pandemic, California experienced one of its most devastating wildfire seasons last year. The undeniable reality of climate change demands bold actions and effective policies to mitigate further damage to our environment and our communities. 

The May Revision allocates the following to climate efforts: 

  • Wildfire Resiliency: $1.24 billion, an increase from the original $1 billion proposed, will be directed at wildfire resilience and disaster preparedness. 
  • Increase Fire Personnel: The revision allocates a one-time General Fund of $38.9 million to support the staffing of additional California National crews and maintain the CAL FIRE crews that began in April 2021. This increase is a significant adjustment from the original $143 million proposed to hire more firefighting personnel across the state. Notably, last fall, the Governor signed legislation that would reduce barriers to former inmates seeking careers in fire or other emergency response. 
  • Forest Management and Prevention: An increase from $512 million to $708 million will improve landscapes across California to strengthen wildfire resilience. Tactics will include forest thinning, prescribed fire, and other management methods.  


Cap-and-Trade: The May Revision proposes adjustments to the Governor’s Budget Cap and Trade spending plan, originally $1.37 billion, to shift funding included in the 2020-21 early action package to the fiscal year 2021-22.

  • AB 617 (Community Air Protection Program): $325 million for targeted air monitoring, emission reduction programs, and incentives for cleaner vehicles for communities at disproportionate risk of air pollution. 
  • Transportation and Zero-Emission Vehicles: Last fall, Governor Newsom signed an executive order that requires all cars manufactured and sold in the state to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. To this end, the May Revision promises an increase from the proposed $635 million to $650 million, a one-time fund over the next three years dedicated to reducing carbon emissions from cars, trucks, off-road, and other vehicles. In addition, the budget includes funding for sales tax exclusion incentives, infrastructure for manufacturers, and the Clean Cars 4 All trade-in program, which encourages low to middle-class households to trade in their older, higher-polluting vehicles.


Nonprofit/Small Business

The Governor’s 2021-2022 proposed budget included various investments to support small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The May Revision is similar but includes the American Rescue Plan’s additional funds. You can revisit our complete analysis of the January budget for a recap of the proposal. The January budget proposed more than a billion dollars to support struggling businesses and nonprofits via tax credits and cash grants. 

The May Revision includes an additional $1.5 billion in American Rescue Plan funds for the COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. This program provides grants of up to $25,000 for small businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by COVID-19. The grants will be distributed in three rounds, with the first two rounds directed at businesses on the waiting list during previous grant funding cycles.

The May Revision proposes the following supports for businesses and nonprofit organizations:

  • Maintains the proposed Main Street Small Business Tax Credit: The Administration allocates $100 million credit against state income or sales taxes for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. These resources aim to support retaining and hiring employees. 
  • Maintains California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA): Under CAEATFA, businesses can exclude sales taxes if they purchase manufacturing equipment that utilizes alternative energy. The budget proposes doubling the state’s investment in this program by providing a $100 million expansion. 
  • Reduces California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank): IBank would receive a reduction from the $100 million investment proposed in the January budget to a $70 million allocation due to additional support being provided under the State Small Business Credit Initiative. 
  • State Small Business Credit Initiative: Indicates the administration’s intention to apply for an estimated $895 million in American Rescue Plan funds to assist small businesses in accessing capital.
  • Maintains California Competes Tax Credit: The January budget proposed a one-time $430 million increase to California Competes Tax Credit, which incentivizes businesses to create jobs in California. In addition, the proposal includes $250 million in American Rescue Plan funds for a one-time California Competes grant program and $180 million for a one-time increase to the tax credit program.
  • California Ports: Proposes $250 million in one-time American Rescue Plan funds to assist California ports that have suffered revenue losses during the pandemic.
  • The California Rebuilding Fund: This California Rebuilding Fund, a partnership consisting of public, private, and philanthropic funds, would receive an additional $12.5 million to provide loans to small businesses. The fund is expected to provide $125 million in resources for small businesses.
  • Tax Forgiveness: Creates tax breaks to businesses who have had loans forgiven from the federal Paycheck Protection Program or received advance grants from the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. These tax breaks will reduce the state’s revenue by an estimated $6.2 billion over the next two years.


There is initial concern over specific components of the allocation for nonprofits and small businesses. Admittedly, much of the previous business funding was poorly targeted and did not support the companies most in need of financial support. While the funding is more intentional and directed this time, there is still concern that the resources will continue to create windfalls for wealthy individuals and businesses. Lastly, some of the tax credits proposed will create a future loss in California state revenue and may not provide economic benefit to the state.


Justice System

The Governor’s proposal for a program to allow individuals charged with traffic violations to avoid in-person appearances and pay fees online will see fruition. This program focuses on supporting low-income individuals, providing discounts over 50 percent of fines and assessments, and the opportunity to participate in a fee payment plan. The May Revision reveals that the initial proposal of $12.3 million will remain, increasing to $58.4 million by 2024-25.  

California will close two state prisons by June 2022, which will result in savings of around $270 million per year beginning in 2022-23. The May Revision does not propose to close additional state prisons in the coming years. 


Homelessness & Housing

Addressing Homelessness:
California has cited homelessness as a critical issue for the state and has made it a central focus of the May Revision. The budget proposal includes a total investment of approximately $12 billion over two years in state and federal funds to address homelessness. In addition, property acquisition remains a significant portion of the one-time funds to address homelessness. However, just as in the January budget proposal, the May Revision does not address permanent housing or a long-term plan to support ongoing funding at a local level or how the operations of the acquired properties will be supported.  

The proposed investments are as follows:

  • A total of $3.5 billion in one-time funds over two years for acquiring and rehabilitating hotels, motels, and other buildings. These one-time funds have been increased by $2.75 billion from the January proposal and include $1 billion targeted to housing for families experiencing homelessness through the Homekey program. California will convert the acquired property into interim or permanent housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. 
  • A total of $2.45 billion over two years to acquire and rehabilitate behavioral health treatment and community-based residential facilities. The Department of Health Care Services will administer the funds via grants to counties. This funding more than triples the total funds proposed in January and will focus on providing individuals with behavioral health treatment. 
  • $1 billion over two years (including $550 million one-time General Fund and $450 million ARP fund) to acquire and rehabilitate adult and senior facilities, an increase of $750 million over the January proposal.


Focus on Housing:

As we approach the end of the state's eviction moratorium on June 30, 2021, it is uncertain if the governor will sign another extension. A total of $5.2 billion in federal funds from the December Consolidated Appropriations Act and the more recent American Rescue Plan (ARP) are available to address renter needs. Governor Newsom proposes to use these funds to cover 100 percent of tenants' back rent and rent due, $2 billion for utility assistance, including water systems accumulated during the pandemic. 

To address the immense concern regarding California's longstanding affordable housing crisis, the May Revision also proposes using ARP funds, $1.75 billion, for "shovel-ready" housing projects that would bring 6,300 affordable units to the state. A proposed $4 billion one-time General Fund over two years to develop student housing through the University of California, California State University, and California Community Colleges. 

Additional housing investments proposed in the May Revision include*:

  • Legal assistance for eviction and foreclosure prevention: $20 million ARP funds per year for the next three years ($60 million total) for legal aid services for tenants and mortgage holders, administered through the Judicial Council.
  • Affordable housing preservation: $300 million ARP funds to preserve affordability for HCD legacy projects.
  • First-time homebuyer assistance: $100 million ARP funds to expand the existing program administered by the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA).
  • Seasonal farmworker housing: $30 million total one-time General Fund (an increase of $20 million from the January proposal) for deferred maintenance and habitability improvements

*Source: California Budget and Policy Center



The May Revision demonstrates Governor Newsom’s continued support of California’s students, families, and public education. Total funding includes a historic $121.7 billion for all K-12 education programs. As a reminder, Proposition 98 constitutionally guarantees annual funding for K-12, community colleges, and state preschool programs.  

A few highlights from the May Revise include:

  • $2 billion one-time Proposition 98 General Fund investment to reopen schools safely. 
  • $3 billion for community schools that focus on student wellness and comprehensive student support. 
  • There is an additional $1.1 billion to repay deferred payments to K-12 school districts and $623 million in one-time funding, including $2 billion in federal funds for schools to provide interventions such as tutoring to ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had on education.    


Focusing on our educators, an increased allocation of $1.5 billion through 2023-24 for professional development programs focused on educator effectiveness, justice, implicit bias training, and social and emotional learning. Educator programs received a massive increase from the initial $250 million proposed in January. In addition, the May Revision increases one-time funding by $950 million to focus on teacher pipeline programs. Specifically, the programs include:

  • $450 million in Prop. 98 dollars for the Teacher Residency Program to recruit and prepare special education, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and bilingual education teachers.
  • $400 million in non-Prop. 98 General Fund dollars for the Golden State Teacher Grant Program, a grant program for students enrolled in teacher preparation programs who commit to teaching in “high-need” subjects, including bilingual education, STEM, and special education.
  • $100 million in Prop. 98 dollars for the California Classified School Employee Teacher Credential Program, which provides grants to K-12 school districts to recruit school employees to become classroom teachers.
  • $20 million one-time General Fund to provide a credential fee waiver in 2021-22 for individuals entering the K-12 educator workforce.


Additional education investments proposed in the May Revision include:

  • Universal Transitional Kindergarten: The Governor’s revised budget proposes implementing universal transitional kindergarten for all four-year-olds in CA over four years. The 2021-22 school year will serve as a planning period to fully implement in 2024-25. An allocation of $250 million one-time Prop. 98 General Fund for planning and implementation has been set aside in place of the January proposal. The May Revision also includes a $10 million General Fund for the Department of Education to update the state’s preschool learning standards based on the most current research and provide resources to pre-kindergarten teachers. To address an increase in students, the May Revision administers $900 million from the General Fund in 2022-23 and increases to $2.7 billion by 2024-25. The May Revision also includes funding in 2022-23 through 2024-25 to add another staff person in transitional kindergarten classrooms. 
  • Community Colleges: A portion of Prop. 98 funding is allocated to California’s Community Colleges System, which serves close to 2.1 million students. In addition, the May Revision proposes to fully pay down deferred state payments (approximately $327 million), $30 million to establish basic need centers in colleges, and invest $100 million in student retention and enrollment that may have declined due to the pandemic, an additional $20 million than previously proposed. In addition, there is a $115 million one-time funding to invest in transitioning to a zero-textbook system, as well as $50 million one-time funds for in-person instruction.  
  • CSU & UCs:  For the CSU, the revised budget proposes a $373.4 million additional General Fund, including a $74.4 million ongoing General Fund support for operational costs. This is an additional $111.5 million from January’s proposal. There is also a $299 million General Fund to address 2020-21 reductions. For the UCs, the budget proposes a $371.1 million additional General Fund, including a $69.3 million ongoing General Fund to support operational costs and a $302.4 million General Fund to address reductions in 2020-21. In addition, to address the growing concern over student homelessness, a $4 billion General Fund allocation for low-cost student housing grant program. The program would prioritize students who are under-represented or have low incomes, to reduce non-tuition attendance costs.  
  • Digital Divide: Though a digital divide existed before the pandemic, the need and demand for secure internet were exasperated when California closed in-person schools. Though efforts to address this digital divide for students, there is concern that it will remain a consistent barrier. The revised plan proposes $7 billion of the American Relief plan and state funds over three years to address and close the digital gap across the state. The intent is to expand statewide infrastructure to reach unserved areas and expand local networks, especially in rural areas.
  • California Child Savings Accounts Program: In the 2019-20 budget, Governor Newsom provided funding to create the California Kids Investment and Development Savings Program in the State Treasury Department for children from low-income homes. Seeded with an initial deposit from the state, family, friends, and others may contribute to the child's savings. Once the child reaches adulthood, they will have access to the account. The revised plan includes about $2 billion one-time funds from ARP to establish the new California Child Saving Accounts Program. This program would create college savings accounts with a seed deposit of $500 for first graders enrolled in public school and defined as "low-income" by the Local Control Funding Formula. In addition, the revision reflects the governor's goal to invest $170 million ongoing General Fund in accounts for future first-graders, beginning in 2022-23.


COVID-19 Response

California continues to experience weeks of consistent improvements. As a result, the state is likely to fully reopen on June 15, 2021, as COVID-19 cases decline and over 50 percent of Californians have received at least one dose. The state continues to deploy federal, state, mutual aid, and private sector resources to support communities and help rebuild from the devastation caused by the pandemic. 

  • Federal Assistance: To date, the federal government has enacted six federal stimulus bills that have supported emergency response, testing, contact tracing, health care, and vaccination distribution. Funds also support unemployment and K-12 schools. California will benefit from over $600 billion provided through the federal bills. 
  • State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds: The American Rescue Plan Act allocates $350 billion to states, local governments, and tribal governments to address fiscal impacts from COVID-19 public health emergency or economic effects of the pandemic. California expects to receive over $43 billion in combined recovery funds to cover costs incurred between March 3, 2021, and December 31, 2024


According to the U.S. Treasury, California anticipates receiving the following: 

  • State: $27 billion
  • Counties: $7.7 billion for 58 counties
  • Metropolitan Cities: $7 billion for 191cities with populations over 50,000
  • Smaller Cities: $1.2 billion for 291 cities with populations below 50,000. These funds will pass through the state.
  • Tribes: $190 million based on the minimum amount of about $1.7 million for each of California's 109 tribes


The state will receive funds in a single payment, and local governments will receive half of their funding in May 2021 and the balance 12 months later.


Looking Ahead & Opportunities for Philanthropy

California’s stronger-than-predicted revenue streams combined with extensive federal relief should provide funders with the hope that we will soon be past the emergency response stage of the past year. California’s Assembly and Senate will propose their versions of the budget bill in the coming weeks, which will then be worked out in a conference committee. The conference committee will submit a single version of the budget bill to both houses. The Senate and Assembly will then vote on this final version before sending it to the Governor. Finally, California will adopt the budget upon signature between June 15 - July 1, 2021. As the budget is enacted, we encourage philanthropy to continue engaging in bold advocacy and connect with policymakers to meet the needs of all of California’s communities. 

However, even with robust investments, our analysis shows a concerning amount of proposals built on one-time funding that lack a sustainability plan and ongoing support for the communities. If the additional programs and funding introduced in the May Revision do not meet the needs of all vulnerable Californians or if they struggle to overcome legislative obstacles along the way, philanthropy should be prepared to use their platform and resources to lift communities and help inform budget allocations to where there is the most substantial need. Funders should monitor the implementation of the pilot programs to track the ones that are successful and advocate for their sustainability. In addition, the new programs will likely produce new opportunities for philanthropy to forge new public=private partnerships. Such partnerships will continue to be paramount to the long-term recovery of our state. 

Finally, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has modeled LA’s latest budget after the State funding proposed in the May Revision. For example, the LA Budget also includes increased resources for homeless services and pilot programs for guaranteed basic income. You can learn more about L.A.’s Justice Budget by reading SCG’s analysis

The Public Policy team at Southern California Grantmakers will continue to monitor the budget process and provide updates on significant developments. Contact our Public Policy team if you need further support on how funders navigate advocacy guidelines. 


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Angel Roberson Daniels' Commitment to Moral Courage and Transformational Leadership

Saturday, May 15, 2021
SCG is excited to announce that Angel Roberson Daniels, Executive Director of the Angell Foundation, and Marshall Stowell, Vice President of Partnerships, Advocacy, and Communications at The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, have joined SCG’s Board of Directors effective February 23, 2021. Marshall and Angel follow Jennifer Price-LetscherRaúl BustillosShawn Kravich, Alex Johnson, and Joanna Jackson as the latest leaders to join SCG’s Board of Directors, currently chaired by James Alva and vice-chaired by Nike Irvin.

Angel Roberson Daniels has spent the last twenty years working in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, helping community partners achieve positive outcomes for underserved communities. Throughout her career, Angel has worked to tackle some of Los Angeles' most pressing issues, ranging from public health concerns to educational inequity, while always prioritizing the needs of young children and families. Today, Angel serves as the Executive Director of Angell Foundation, where she oversees the Foundation’s strategic direction and partnership efforts. 

SCG connected with Angel to learn more about the events that propelled her career in the social impact sector, her commitment to transformational leadership, and her current book recommendations. 

What drove you to start a career in the social impact sector? 

I was introduced to the social impact sector through my family in the 1980s though honestly, we did not have a name for what we were doing at the time. We were simply trying to make a difference in the community, for our community. In the mid to late-1980s, crack cocaine surged throughout major cities with devastating consequences. During our weekly Sunday dinners, one of my aunts, who worked as a nurse at the time, would comment on the increasing number of newborns that were prenatally exposed to crack cocaine in her hospital. This problem was happening when the County had racialized policies that criminalized mothers with substance abuse problems and placed their babies in foster care. An even greater problem was that our child welfare system at the time lacked the infrastructure to adequately and safely care for the number of babies that they removed from their mothers and families. My aunt would often share heartbreaking stories of the hospital running out of space in the neonatal units or newborns staying in the hospital for extended periods while social workers searched for a suitable caregiver. After several weeks of this same story at our weekly family dinner, my grandmother warned that “If we don’t do something about this, you can no longer bring this up as a topic of conversation.” 
We were doubtful about our ability to make a meaningful impact because the issue seemed insurmountable. We just couldn’t put our minds around how to tackle it. However, my witty grandmother, who had little capacity for complaints, made it clear that we were spending too much time creating convenient excuses for what we couldn’t do versus plans for what we should. Soon after that dinner, various family members became certified as foster parents. We then began to recruit people from church and our extended networks to foster and later become adoptive parents. After several years, we founded a nonprofit organization and hired a professional staff that, nearly 30 years later, still provides support services to current and former foster youth and their families. 
I learned a great deal about the social impact sector through those early experiences and later as a public health evaluator. The social impact sector – nonprofit, public sector, philanthropy – with its combined power and resources, has a tremendous capacity to solve pressing social challenges. However, too frequently, our sector misses the mark because decision-makers and planners are often too far removed from the issues they are attempting to solve and the communities they intend to help. Our strategies often only address symptoms or teeter around the edges of a problem versus tackling deep structural roots or the sources of inequities. I was ecstatic when I had the opportunity to join the team at First 5 LA twenty years ago because I could use my experience and background to inform conversations around policy and strategy and be part of an organization that publicly prioritized conversations around systemic and structural change. I have been in love with philanthropy ever since and am honored to now lead a foundation. 


How do you define and approach leadership? 

Leadership is a topic for which I hold the most curiosity and passion, and being a transformational leader is the most extraordinary commitment that I have made to myself. I used to think leadership was simply a person’s ability to keep the train moving successfully. As I gain more experience and tenure in my career, my lens has sharpened to focus more on a person’s behavior and the consistency of their actions. Now, I define leadership as the ability to empathetically connect to and authentically develop relationships with other people to move toward a shared goal. Transformational leadership is about what a person does with their level of influence and how they leverage it. I define it as the ability to courageously use one’s power or influence to change the trajectory or improve the conditions of an organization, system, or individual’s life. I am constantly building my own capacity to show up as the kind of transformational leader I aspire to be – a leader brave enough to disrupt patterns that prevent us from living in a just and equitable society, empathetic enough to inspire people to show up as authentically as they can and compassionate enough to create environments for people to thrive. 
In full transparency, I am still very much a work in progress. Self-development work can be challenging. Thinking about the impact of your leadership on other people can feel uncomfortable, whether as ED of your foundation or as a parent. Taking accountability for your decisions or inaction can feel like defeat. Speaking truth to power can be terrifying. Learning and exercising new practices and behaviors can be exhausting. However, when I feel particularly challenged in my leadership, I think back to one of the most important lessons that my grandmother ever taught me, “there are no throwaway people.” While my leadership style has evolved over the last 20 years, I continually come back to that lesson of recognizing the humanity in all people and strive to lead from a place of empathy, integrity, compassion, and, most importantly, courage.
Working at Angell Foundation has been a gift because it provides access to opportunities for staff to strengthen our leadership practices and explore our personal development. In addition, we fund a national portfolio of organizations and fellowship programs under our Transformational Leadership portfolio that supports leaders in gaining the skills, moral courage, and resilience to create a more equitable world. Reflecting on the events of the last year, I think our world could benefit from more transformational leaders who embrace the belief that there are no throwaway people and are willing to use their platforms and power to confront injustice and work towards a broader movement for justice, equality, respect, and love for all people.

How can the philanthropic sector further its recent commitments to racial justice and equity? 

Philanthropy has made progress in acknowledging that there are political, structural, and social drivers of inequity. For example, racial justice, equity, and systemic racism were not sector-wide conversation topics ten or twenty years ago. In fact, many racial disparities in outcome data were referenced through the lens of meritocracy, which attributes success or failure to individual abilities and merits and rarely acknowledges the other factors at play. During my career, our conversations have moved beyond that frame to look at some of the centuries’ old policies and practices that harmed communities, reinforced disparities, and led to the deprivation of vital resources that allow them to thrive. Let's acknowledge that we have done some excellent work and that there is room for us to do much more to advance our commitment.
Thinking about the future, I would suggest that: 1) we commit to the practice of courageous accountability by reflecting on past and current practices that we may have employed, intentionally or unintentionally, in our foundations to exclude historically marginalized communities from decision-making roles or grant opportunities as well our role in efforts that may have run counter to a racial justice or equity imperative; 2) we listen more intently to community voices and implement their recommendations as well as some of those coming out of the philanthropic serving institutions and affinity groups like Association for Black Foundation Executives, Justice Funders, and others who are calling on philanthropy to push structural change by supporting policy and systems reform and increasing investments in efforts that lead to substantive, not superficial change in BIPOC communities and lastly, 3) we should fund like we believe equity is truly possible, like we truly want to foster a world in which one’s race or identity does not determine their life outcomes. 

What's the biggest lesson you've learned personally or professionally in the last year?

One lesson I’ve learned through the Angell Foundation’s transformational leadership work is the need for frequent self-reflection and contemplative practice. Pausing helps us observe what’s happening around us. It allows us to build empathy and understand our impact on others. When I think about the last year and how George Floyd’s murder took such a hold of our nation, I can’t help but think it was partly due to the collective pause brought on by the pandemic. We were all stuck in our homes and forced to witness — really witness — what has always been happening around us. Racism isn’t new; inequities and health disparities have always existed; state-sanctioned violence against Black people is centuries old. Folks just were not paying attention because they had their heads down or were always on the go to the next thing. I believe, now more than ever, that every person would benefit from including mindfulness or contemplative practices into their life. Pausing allows us to regularly pay attention to what is happening within us and external to us — and allows the space to process and make meaning of it all. Once you start to pay attention, you begin to ask the right questions, and then you begin to change or make changes.


What's a book or article you'd recommend to somebody interested in learning about systems change?

A few books that I recommend are Rhonda McGee’s, The Inner Work of Racial Justice, Isabel Wilkerson's Caste, and Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. All these wonderful women authors have been instrumental in helping to deepen my understanding of race, racial justice, leadership and offered strategies for building my stamina, awareness, and practices around vulnerability, courage, mindfulness, and resilience. How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi and Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer are also must-reads for those on the journey to living into their purpose as a transformational leader committed to advancing racial justice and equity.

What are you most excited about as a new member of SCG’s Board of Directors?

I admire that SCG curates space for philanthropists to think about their practices, expand their knowledge, understand the values that fuel their leadership, and forge community. I’m most excited about SCG’s evolve work that is helping leaders develop the skill sets needed to be more empathetic, compassionate, and courageous. I look forward to being part of the team and representing the voices of my colleagues in discussions about how we can amplify our collective impact.


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A Conversation with Marshall Stowell on Centering Community Presence and Power

Saturday, May 15, 2021
SCG is excited to announce that Angel Roberson Daniels, Executive Director of the Angell Foundation, and Marshall Stowell, Vice President of Partnerships, Advocacy, and Communications at The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, have joined SCG’s Board of Directors effective February 23, 2021. Marshall and Angel follow Jennifer Price-LetscherRaúl BustillosShawn Kravich, Alex Johnson, and Joanna Jackson as the latest leaders to join SCG’s Board of Directors, currently chaired by James Alva and vice-chaired by Nike Irvin.

For over twenty years, Marshall Stowell has dedicated his professional life to tackling pressing public health issues and inequities. He’s spent much of his career working in international health and development, where he’s grappled with the responsibility of being an agent of change on the global stage. Regardless of the scale of his work, Marshall has always been diligent in applying a ‘people first’ approach to his work. He believes that philanthropy’s work must be grounded in community leadership and wisdom for real change to occur. 
Building a more equitable world is also profoundly personal for Marshall. “As a gay man in the late ’80s and early ’90s, a lot of my friends became HIV positive and subsequently died of AIDS complications,” Marshall shared. “I planned too many funerals for someone in my 20’s and, as a result, knew I wanted to do something more for the world and my community.”
Today, Marshall is Vice President at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, where he’s spent the last two years forming the Partnerships, Advocacy, and Communications (PAC) team. The PAC team is responsible for improving the foundation’s policies, unlocking funding, and achieving greater impact through the organization’s grantmaking. In this role, Marshall aspires to create space in philanthropy for people with lived experience to be meaningfully involved in the decisions that affect their lives. 
SCG connected with Marshall to learn more about his work in global philanthropy, how communications teams can shift the paradigm on representation, and the role of equity in his work. 


What has your international work taught you about influencing change and disrupting systems?

I’ve learned that in the global health context, resources traditionally flow in vertical silos. Funding just one issue like HIV, malaria, or water is not always effective because it’s not how people experience these problems. We need to move away from a bureaucratic and departmental approach to our grantmaking and adopt a person-centered lens instead. As funders, we need to look at the bigger picture and align around what’s best for the people we’re serving. Our outcomes will be a lot better, even if it’s more complicated and takes longer to accomplish. 

Is there a moment that changed how you view philanthropy’s role and engagement on the global stage?

Towards the end of my time at PSI, I helped create an initiative co-chaired by Melinda Gates and the Crown Princess of Norway called Maverick Collective. Our goal was to help women philanthropists invest in the health and rights of girls and women across the globe and provide them with the training necessary to become better advocates. On one occasion, a philanthropist asked if it would be helpful to speak French to the people in a community in Cote D’Ivore. Someone responded, “You’re a white woman who’s incredibly wealthy. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. People are going to do whatever you say.” She was horrified by the power differential and recognized that her words would be taken as a directive regardless of intention. This moment was striking because it demonstrated how good intentions could go sideways without more thought. It also highlighted how easily philanthropy’s outsized voice could speak over and make decisions for other people. The women I worked with were tremendous people, but the power differential created by money, power, and privilege was undeniable. 

How is the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Partnerships team centering equity in its efforts? 

Our Partnerships team has three priorities. First, to try and ensure that people with lived experience have a meaningful place at the decision-making table. We advocate for folks to have both presence and power. Second, we work to make it easier to engage community members in program design and funding decisions. Finally, we encourage funding community-based organizations directly and for the long term. The Foundation recently made a $25 million commitment across five years in general operating support to organizations led mainly by people of color and other communities often excluded. Moving forward, we’re also thinking about how philanthropy can improve its multi-stakeholder partnerships, particularly by grounding them in community priorities. 

How can teams leverage their communications strategy to affect change?

Communications teams can work to right the wrongs we’ve unintentionally committed. To start, teams can examine their communications products and take stock of what perspectives they’re centering in their tools. Are you giving voice to people who already have an abundance of it? Do the photos and copy on your website position people as “vulnerable” or as leaders? Teams often represent the communities they serve in limited ways – either sad or happy - that don’t allow them a complexity of experience. Wealthy people are permitted a full spectrum of emotions and nuance, but our communities often don’t have the same privilege. 
Mission-driven organizations need to hold themselves accountable for the stories they tell and how they tell them. Instead of speaking for communities, we can ask them: how do you want to tell your story? What’s your advice and guidance? What’s your perspective on what needs to change? By asking these questions, communications teams can shift the paradigm on representation and reframe people with lived experience as the experts they are, not as mascots for issues.


What excites you most about joining SCG’s board?

I’m looking forward to getting to know the other board members and the broader SCG network. I’ve only been in L.A. for two years, and I’ve been at home for one of them, so I haven't had the opportunity to meet my SoCal peers. I’m also excited about the potential in SCG’s work, especially as the organization continues to sharpen its focus on racial equity, homelessness, and the many other issues prevalent in our region. I'm ready to help develop solutions and look for additional ways to partner with like-minded organizations and community leaders around our shared goals. If I can walk away feeling like I’ve helped make space for advocates to have a presence and power at the decision-making table, then that would be a good thing for me.


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A Willingness to Listen and Change: The Convergence Partnership Reflects on a Year of Realignment

Friday, May 14, 2021

By Ray Colmenar, The California Endowment, and Rachel Huguet, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The last year demonstrated what philanthropy is capable of if it feels the urgency. Our sector listened to communities, invested in local solutions, and built partnerships to make a greater impact while also supporting movements working for transformative change. Individually, funders acknowledged their power and privilege and clarified their role in supporting racial justice.
Our sector must continue to build upon the lessons from the past year. The job of the Convergence Partnership is to engage and partner with other leaders in our sector to grow the resources for transformative change. As a 14-year-old national funder collaborative focused on advancing racial justice and health equity, we are conscious that this is a long-term goal and that we can’t do it alone. The foundations involved in the Convergence Partnership are interested in growing our field, supporting power-building in our sector, and taking action — not just talking about it, but actually doing it. 
The California Endowment was one of the founding organizations of the Convergence Partnership. Our goal was to amplify our impact by aligning and leveraging our resources with other funders to address community health issues sitting at the intersections of health, race, place, and power. Over the past ten years, through our work in building healthy communities, The Endowment has gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of how racism creates health disparities and the role of power-building in advancing health equity. As The Endowment evolves its work over the next ten years, power building aimed at racial and health equity will be the centerpiece of the strategy. Through the partnership, we hope to continue learning and taking action with other funders and community leaders to address the many challenges exacerbated by the pandemic and take advantage of new opportunities for creating a more equitable recovery. 

As the newest Convergence partner, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation joined to be part of a space where multi-stakeholder partnerships across philanthropy and communities could thrive. The Partnership is an opportunity for the Hilton Foundation to play an active role in a learning community by sharing what we have learned with other foundations and listening to insights and expertise from different stakeholders. Transformative change happens when we work together, and we know there is power in relationships. In addition, these relationships create opportunities to examine new ways of working together that might fall outside of our traditional partnerships and structures. 

In January 2021, the Convergence partners were excited to announce our new strategies recognizing racial justice as an essential component of realizing health equity. Initially, we were concerned that the pandemic would halt or slow our process in this direction. However, the crises of last year made evident what is at stake in our work. The pandemic and uprisings reinforced the conversations we were having and accelerated the need for new strategies centered on investing in community power, supporting narrative shift, and organizing our sector to reckon with our biases. As a result, our new vision and strategies are focused on changing grantmaking strategies to center power building and reimaging governance to shift power for national and regional funders to have more balanced power at our table. 

Through the partnership, we’ve learned that being in true collaboration with regional, state, and national funders means that, while we may have a shared vision, we also value what each partner brings to the table. Therefore, we have to lead with curiosity and openness to new ideas, setting any ego aside. Whether new to the partnership or long-time members, our differences create the dynamic conversations that push us collectively and as individual institutions to act in more alignment to our commitments.

We’ve also learned that for those of us in philanthropy trying to advance a long-term agenda, we cannot afford not to engage others. We need to follow the leadership of community organizations by sharing and shifting power in ways that enable local leaders to shape how we do our work. There is too much at stake to remain in our silos. Instead, we must be willing to listen, let go, and be changed by what we learn together.


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How a Website Redesign Inspired the Specialty Family Foundation to Become a Bolder Grantmaker

Wednesday, May 5, 2021



Last year, the Specialty Family Foundation’s team and its Board of Directors began the stimulating and challenging process of revitalizing its strategic direction. As the team worked to establish the foundation’s new five-year goals and priorities, they remained undecided on the plan’s final form, where it would be published, and who they would share it with. 

The Specialty team cycled through various options for publication — a white paper, a glossy brochure, to name a few — but none of these formats lent themselves to the level of transparency and scale the team wanted. At the same time, the team realized that sharing their new plan in any form would instantly make the foundation’s website dated and obsolete. As a result, the team would have to update the website or shut it down entirely. 

The Specialty team understood that eliminating a website is frowned upon by many marketers who consider it the musculoskeletal system that houses an organization’s strategies and entire offerings. And, given that the website was the foundation’s most public channel, shutting it down would be equivalent to wiping themselves off the map.

Moreover, Joe Womac, President of the Specialty Family Foundation, shared that the team had more profound reservations about even having a website. “For some philanthropists, having a website can feel like patting yourself on the back or building a museum to the family. This is not the culture our foundation wanted.” 

After much contemplation over their reservations, purpose, and intentions, the team gradually realized that publishing their strategic plan on their website could serve as an opportunity. The Specialty team decided that they could leverage the website as a tool to hold themselves accountable for every word and commitment they were making. They also believed that sharing the plan would allow them to be more transparent about the changes they wanted to make in their communities. Joe and his team believed this approach would encourage the team to design a plan that everyone would be proud of and committed to two years down the line. 

Joe and his team eventually got the approval for the website, but the internal work had just begun. The team started asking themselves challenging questions ranging from their purpose (Why should a family foundation focused on private grantmaking even have a website) to their positioning (How do we check our motives when we’re publicizing ourselves?). What followed was a chain reaction spurred by the team’s decision to take a bold chance on their most public-facing tool.  

SCG spoke to Joe Womac to learn more about how the Specialty Family Foundation’s strategic planning process was influenced and altered by the team’s decision to revamp their website. Below, Joe shared some of the exciting opportunities that emerged once the foundation began being bolder in its approach and dared to reimagine its investments, internal relationships, and orientation to equity.



Given that the final iteration of the Specialty Family Foundation’s strategic plan would live on (and inspire) the new website, the team felt an intensified pressure to find alignments across all facets of the organization’s work. The team was adamant about engaging every person involved with the foundation’s governance to provide input and feedback on everything from the organization’s story, investment strategies, positioning, and more. Joe knew that there would be an inevitable argument if they did not have collective buy-in on the final iteration of the plan. 

“The website serves as the foundation’s public statement on where it wants to be in five years and how it plans to keep itself accountable,” explained Joe. “It was critical that the entire organization felt comfortable and galvanized by the end product. We wanted every staff member to feel proud to share our new direction with the world.”

The alignment also extended beyond the Specialty Foundation’s staff to its next generation of leaders. The Specialty team had spent the last few years getting its 2nd and 3rd generation members more involved in shaping the foundation’s future. The new website became one of the several strategies the team implemented to engage them. “The next generation sees relevance when you communicate through a medium they care about,” Joe mentioned. “Making our strategy digital-first demonstrated that we wanted them to be involved in this process.” The Specialty Foundation actively involved its Next Gen members throughout the strategic planning process. When they finalized the strategy, the team incorporated the next generation’s participation under Our Legacy, which cemented their investment in shaping the foundation’s future. 



From the onset of the planning process, the Specialty team wanted to focus on transparency and elevate the foundation’s vision for impact. For some time, the team had been grappling with the fact that the general public — and even some of its grantees — were confused or just unaware of the foundation’s core mission statement and their funding focus on poverty, housing, and substance reform. The team realized that shutting down their website would worsen the ambiguity around the foundation’s work and allow the outside world to assume how the foundation allocates its resources. 

“As a public trust and as a foundation, we are stewards of something that is not ours,” Joe stated. “Everyone from a grant recipient to other foundations to a ten-year-old doing a report has the right to know what we do and what we invest in as an organization.” The Specialty team concluded that the foundation’s website would be crucial in sharing its story of impact with the public and demystifying how it allocates its funds.

The team achieved transparency on the revamped website through simplicity. The Specialty Family Foundation’s Home page presents a direct and linear narrative: it starts with the values that frame the foundation’s investments (families, leadership, innovation, and partnership) before boldly (and in all-caps} showcasing its mission statement. The page then highlights the foundation’s asset classes that drive its long-term goals. Finally, Our Focus showcases the foundation’s core funding areas and the collaborations advancing its work. Hovering over any of the collaboration boxes pulls up an explanation of the partnership and the amount the foundation has allocated to it, all of which can be explored in greater detail by examining the full Our Focus page on the website’s navigation menu. Ultimately, this refreshed layout helped the Specialty team clarify to the public and all nonprofits in Los Angeles what the foundation invests in and values. Furthermore, by publicly sharing what the foundation wants to achieve in the long term, the team hopes to leverage the website as an accountability tool by inviting the public to hold it responsible for realizing its goals and vision. 


“Everything about a website forces you into a hierarchy,” explains Joe. “You have to be deliberate about how you prioritize and organize every single item.” As the Specialty team constructed the “skeleton” of their new site, they soon realized they would even have to adapt the foundation’s investment priorities and philosophy into this hierarchical structure. Inevitably, contemplating how the foundation would frame its investment portfolio prompted the team to ask deeper questions about the very nature of the budget itself.

The Specialty team had always viewed the foundation as an investor in impact, but, during the strategic planning process, they begun to reimagine its giving as a set of philanthropic asset classes ranging from high-risk (seven-figure, multi-year grants given to a handful of organizations) to low-risk (smaller capacity-building and individual grants). However, the organization had never shared its giving philosophy externally and had just defaulted to the old model of listing its investments on a webpage. Therefore, the team decided that the new website’s hierarchical structure could serve as an opportunity to reframe and broadcast the foundation’s investment strategy. 

The redesigned Home page showcases the Specialty Family Foundation’s investments through a visual and sequential hierarchy of its asset classes under the section Our Impact. First is Igniting Change — the foundation’s high-risk, multi-million dollar investments focused on systems change — is the first and largest content block in this section. Next are two smaller content blocks that showcase the foundation’s other, smaller asset classes: Accelerating Progress — a set of moderate-risk investments focused on expanding organizational capacity — and finally Empowering Individuals — low-risk, small grants meant for individuals. By organizing the foundation’s assets in this order, the team moved away from the dated “what we fund” model to “how we fund systems change,” which also announced that the organization’s shift to taking bigger and bolder financial risks.  

This new layout also required the foundation to reconfigure its existing budget to fit neatly within this new external structure. “Our budget now reflects the website and is organized in the same order of hierarchy,” said Joe. “The website has helped us articulate what’s most important and also share that while what we fund might change, our vision and commitment to systems impact will remain constant.” 


While the Specialty Family Foundation spent 2020 working on its new strategic direction and website, history was happening all around them. Like many, the foundation had to pivot as the entire globe navigated the interlocking crises of the pandemic, systemic racism, and climate change. Internally, the Specialty team had to pause and come to grips with their own privilege while also thinking through the foundation’s role and responsibilities amid the worsening crises.  

Joe acknowledged that the team was hesitant to issue an external statement last year, given the early stages of equity and DEI work the foundation was exploring. Instead, the team took the opportunity to reckon with the tough questions: Have we honestly made an effort to include all of these lenses? What mistakes have we made? How can we authentically incorporate DEI into our work? Since then, the foundation has moved to change the composition of its board, updated its grant application processes, and invested in long-term DEI training for its staff and board members. 

None of these internal shifts have been shared on the new website or been made public. Instead, the Specialty team took a different approach to the new website. “Our staff is motivated by our grantees’ work,” Joe elevated. “The best way to share our story of impact and commitment to equity is to decenter ourselves entirely and instead elevate our grantees’ stories.” As a result, the Specialty Family Foundation’s revamped website is unabashedly people-focused. Almost every page incorporates images of the foundation’s grantees and the community members it is serving. The Our Focus page emphasizes the initiatives and grantees the foundation has selected to advance its vision and goals. Additionally, the Specialty team has made an intentional effort to frame the foundation’s mission and giving structure through the lens of DEI and systems change. The team believes that these visual and rhetorical changes are more substantial than writing a statement that might come across as insincere or just get lost in the flood of communications.  

“Our grantees understand the problems and solutions better than anyone else because they lived experience. We hope that featuring them prominently will help spread their story and inspire other funders and grantees.” 


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Parting Words from Andre Perry, Keynote Speaker at SCG's Policy Conference, Build Anew

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Friends and colleagues,  
It was a pleasure to address you at SCG's 2021 Public Policy Conference, and my sincere thanks go to all involved for making my participation and the event possible. 
I’d also be delighted to connect directly with you to talk further about my work at Brookings. The research on housing devaluation is part of my Valuing Black Assets Initiative (VBAI). VBAI seeks solutions that restore the value that’s been extracted by racism. By centering Black people and their assets in our analysis, we take apart entrenched racist narratives as well as identify policy biases and other structures that throttle economic and social mobility.
There is nothing wrong with Black people that ending racism can’t solve. We haven’t known how much the country can gain through policies that properly value homes and businesses, family structures, voters, school districts, and other assets in Black neighborhoods. And we need to know. Many assets in Black communities are strong, but they are frequently and intentionally devalued. If we can account for the associated costs of racism, using an asset-based frame on individuals, enterprise, and community, then we can begin to properly deploy approaches that restore lost value by investing in the people who have been penalized simply for being Black. 
Just as my session demonstrated, the key to understanding a pathway forward through structural barriers facing the Black community will require metrics that will hold anti-Black policies accountable and create the narrative change that supports exclusionary policy. At this pivotal moment in time, we have an opportunity to repair some damage caused by past policies and replace them with anti-racist ones that encourage inclusion.  
I look forward to talking to you about my efforts.  
Andre Perry 
Senior Fellow 
Brookings Institution 
[email protected] 

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Six Ways Funders Can Help Win the Fight Against COVID

Monday, April 12, 2021

The piece below was based on SCG's program "Equitable Vaccine Distribution with Blue Shield and the State of California" hosted on Friday, March 26, 2021. We encourage you to watch the video embedded above to hear the entire conversation. 


Thanks to a robust public-private partnership, Blue Shield of California has accelerated and expanded California’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution as a third-party administrator. In March 2021, in collaboration with Blue Shield of California Foundation, Philanthropy California hosted an online dialogue about how such alliances have furthered the cause of public health during the COVID-19 crisis.
Panel participants included Aliza Arjoyan, Blue Shield of California’s Senior Vice President of Provider Partnership and Network Management; Debbie Cheng, President and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation; Kathleen Kelly Janus, Senior Advisor on Social Innovation to Governor Newsom; Dr. Erica Pan, State Epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health; Maricela Rodriguez, Director of Civic Engagement and Strategic Partnerships for the Office of Governor Newsom; and Marcela Ruiz, Director of the Office of Equity at the California Department of Social Services. Below are the key takeaways our panelists had for funders across the state. 


Invest proactively and for the long-term

Fundraising and philanthropy are often nimble in ways government simply can’t be. A simple mind-shift in the philanthropic sector can make a big difference: proactively focus on prevention rather than solely on a reactive mindset of immediate relief and response.

This proactive mindset could mean taking steps to fund local organizations or to provide technical assistance to CEOs so that grant application for long-term aid becomes a smoother process. It could mean investing in employee education so workers know what rights and medical offerings are available to them.

“Often we get government funding that’s very disease-specific,” Pan said. “It comes months after it’s needed and then takes a long time to implement because of bureaucracy. But what we really need in public health is people.”


Make use of the Healthy Places Index to channel aid to the communities that need it most.

In California, 40% of COVID cases and deaths occur in our least healthy communities — the same demographics often shoulder the weight of being frontline and essential workers.

Teams of ‘patient navigators,’ aided by targeted philanthropic investment, have the language and cultural facility to make sure vaccines get into the arms of these vulnerable Californians. Local, culturally knowledgeable investments in responsive resources are critical.

With the help of the Healthy Places Index, a service of the Public Health Alliance of Southern California, you can get a snapshot of a community’s income, education, access to healthcare, and other determinants of health.


Invest in (and use!) public technology and data analytics.

Public health and government have fallen well behind the private sector on having up-to-date information and data, and COVID-19 has widened that information gulf. Add your information to these databases, and encourage your peers to do the same.

Much of California’s COVID response has benefited from recent census data. Significant investments in data analytics and distribution will help position our state to be safer and more agile for unexpected events to come.

As just one example, public-facing online government resources like My Turn ( have helped match a limited supply of vaccines to the high-risk people who needed them most. Investments in, and use of, these sorts of services can genuinely save lives.


Invest in community education that is community-specific.

Public health education means sending the right message, from the right messenger, in the right way. Vaccine hesitance can often be effectively (and respectfully) combated with an empathetic message from a trusted source: a church, a community leader, a community physician.

There is ‘no one-size-fits-all’ way to persuade someone to take a newly developed vaccine, and there’s no substitute for a well-tailored message that respects someone’s questions and their humanity. For example, during the initial vaccine roll-out, it was important for California public health officials to oversample the reservations and hesitation of members of the Black community, given the traumatic history of the Tuskegee experiment and other areas of skepticism around novel medical developments.

Invest heavily in positive, community-specific messaging, led by the community members in question, to counter the waves of misinformation and disinformation we all regularly encounter about COVID-19.


Invest in smaller providers and support services.

In mid-April, California opened vaccine eligibility well beyond high-risk groups. Now it’s more challenging to prioritize high-risk groups and provide them with the vaccine. Keep in mind that not everyone can get to a mega-site for vaccination.
Investments in mobile vaccination sites and other small, third-party support services help strengthen a lifeline to communities of people who are disabled, housebound, or who otherwise lack reliable transportation. Consider championing resources that bring vaccines to Californians rather than (or in addition to) those that wait for Californians to get vaccinated.


Celebrate the power of public-private partnerships.

At the outset of the pandemic, an alliance between California and private funders resulted in a $111 million messaging campaign that spread crucial COVID safety tips far and wide. Thanks, in part, to targeted messengers from Sesame Street and more general messaging on massive public billboards or Instagram, the importance of mask-wearing and hand-washing became household topics rapidly. Each of these avenues required financial support.
Similar alliances can help with vaccine distribution and tailoring messaging for disproportionately impacted communities that need this life-saving help the most. Concurrent with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine rollout, the state produced a series of online videos featuring doctors taking the vaccines themselves, as well as answering questions around vaccine hesitancy. Consider how your leadership position in your sector might send a message to make a difference.



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Lessons from Early Vaccine Distribution Efforts

Friday, April 9, 2021

The piece below was based on SCG's program "Funders' Briefing on COVID-19 Vaccine" hosted on Monday, March 1, 2021. We encourage you to watch the recording above for the full discussion.



In March 2021, SCG proudly linked with Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, Los Angeles (EPIP LA) for a far-ranging conversation about one of the most urgent issues of the moment: COVID-19 vaccination, as seen through a lens of equity and access. Rose Veniegas, Senior Program Officer at the California Community Foundation, moderated a panel that included Isabel Bercerra, CEO of the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers; Aquillina Soriano Versoza, Executive Director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California; and Dr. Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer with Watts Healthcare Corporation.

Together, these community and health experts addressed the current challenges in administering the vaccine equitably and the connections these obstacles have to historic inequities. 



Unsurprisingly, many of the inequities of the COVID vaccine distribution process fall along racial and socioeconomic lines. As just one example: according to Brooks, Black Americans have received only about 3 percent of COVID-19 vaccinations, despite that demographic making up 13 percent of the overall population. But this vaccination gap, Brooks said, isn’t simply a question of roll-out procedure — it speaks to both skepticism and hesitance around the vaccine itself.
“In the African-American community, there are legitimate concerns,” Brooks said. “Everyone knows about Tuskegee. Henrietta Lacks. Black women were sterilized forcefully. Latinas were sterilized just last year in detention facilities. So let’s respect vaccine-hesitant people.”



In response to what Brooks calls the twin challenges of “logistics and hesitancy” among members of the Black community, Watts Healthcare Corporation recently partnered with East Bay Community Foundation, funded through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation, for an innovative program of focus groups, targeted messaging, and influencer outreach.
That program’s intent was ambitious: to gently inform and reframe local “knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs” surrounding COVID-19 and healthcare among underserved populations. Its intimate focus and outreach, respecting the community’s psychology, Brooks said, is crucial to encouraging vaccination by leveraging trusted messengers and messages. This approach’s power is perhaps vital when considering 50% of African-Americans receive medical care from intimately trusted solo and small-group practitioners.

The value of that person-to-person trust — the sort found in churches, neighborhood groups, and among family — reverberated throughout the panel conversation. Soriano Versoza also noted that larger vaccination sites, such as the Forum or the Disney Center, often seem too daunting and ‘militarized’ for Latinx and Filipino visitors who may not speak English fluently or who may feel under threat by the presence of officials. For immigrants who, due to their immigration status, may not be able to use available health services or public benefits, the prospect of lining up at a major vaccination site can be terrifying.

While reinforcing the value of intimate, trust-based connections, Soriano Versoza celebrated the hard work of the peer advocate members at Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), which supports low-wage Filipino immigrants who often live in multigenerational homes, rely on public transportation, lack reliable healthcare, and thus are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. She also noted these groups of peer advocates regularly offer valuable clarity around what might otherwise be confusing information for some communities.
“Messengers matter, and messages matter,” Soriano Versoza said. “Having targeted messages that meet people where they are, and having messengers that [community members] trust is truly important. We need refined ways [to build] real conversations, and to hear real conversations.”


With interpersonal relationship-building so central to vaccination strategy, Becerra noted that, even in the early days of this pandemic, community health centers up and down the state found themselves uniquely positioned to respond to this once-in-a-century crisis.

“We are strategically located not only to do the testing, to do the treatment, to do the education,” Becerra said, “but also to do the vaccines because we're trusted entities [in our communities]. If [policymakers] want to apply the equity lens [to] what they are doing, they cannot leave community health centers out of the mix, because without us, they cannot achieve equity.”
Given community health centers’ strategic placement, their role as trusted messengers in the community, and their rapid pivot to the pandemic, funders should consider making ongoing financial commitments to these local institutions. These investments will help build the infrastructure to provide long-term and reliable support to the institutions that best understand the needs on the ground. Grantmakers can search the zip code of the community they are serving to find and invest in a local health center. 

Funders can also leverage and elevate equity metrics, such as the Healthy Places Index (HPI) created by the Public Health Alliance of California, to locate and support regions with more significant health needs and risk factors. These metrics are essential indicators of areas that should be priorities for vaccine distribution and where philanthropy can channel assets and resources to support local efforts. 

Resources for Funders' Briefing on COVID-19 Vaccine

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Three Lessons on Advancing a Bold Environmental Agenda Under a New Administration

Friday, April 9, 2021

The piece below was based on SCG's program "Urban, Green Infrastructure Under the New Administration" hosted on Friday, February 19, 2021. We encourage you to watch the recording above for the full discussion.



Radical ideas challenge our norms. Making lasting environmental change calls on us to pull away from traditional solutions and shift toward systems change, which will allow us to think deeper and act boldly. Looking beyond the Green industries to lead us into the future is an opportunity to approach an environmental agenda as it truly is - an economic development, workforce development, and regional plan. This interconnected structure paves the way for leaders across sectors to identify the intersection of engagement and provides an avenue to address how racial, social, and economic realities show up in those areas, applying a community-centric lens to environmental change.
To illustrate this approach, SCG called on Alfredo Gonzalez, program director for the Resources Legacy Fund; Calvin Gladney, president of Smart Growth America; Kate Gordon, Director of the Governor's Office of State Planning and Research; and Cecilia Estolano, CEO and founder of Estolano Advisors. The panel brought forth thought-provoking yet practical solutions to what is likely to be a one-shot opportunity to enact a radical approach to environmental change. Looking at California as a model and deconstructing traditional methods to approach environmental solutions at the federal level, philanthropy has a unique opportunity to shift the power dynamics to community organizations that operate in related but different fields.



Amplify the multiple benefits of environmental initiatives by supporting the connection between transportation, climate change, public health, racial justice, economic inclusion, and social equity in your funding priorities. By championing organizations enacting inclusive solutions, funders are illustrating the inherently interconnected system that relies on every sector and region to play a role in realizing a shared vision. Groups implementing a water quality project and including educational workshops to help communities understand how they can actively help decrease the heat island effect are doing more with each public dollar while engaging meaningfully with communities. Transportation for America, an advocacy-based organization, made up of local, regional, and state leaders - called for Congress to stop funding like its 1982. Their work challenged the archaic 80/20 transportation funding structure by centering the need of 2.8 million essential workers who rely on transit, supporting a recent resolution presented by Congress members to introduce equal funding between public transit and highways.



Fund your values by trusting community organizations. In honoring their lived experience, funders make space for organizations to feel they have the freedom and capacity to act on solutions that directly reflect, support, and benefit their communities. Ensuring organizations lead the way creates ownership, attracts and fosters authentic engagement, and reinforces shared values. Providing multi-year, unrestricted funding to fuel the organization's ability to apply its dollars to the areas it needs most supports the belief that organizations best understand how inequities may impact their ability to build resiliency and deliver on their mission. Rather than imposing external ideas onto organizations, we can honor their experience by shifting that power dynamic so they may determine how and if they are serving their communities in the best way.



Encourage community organizations to build reflection and experimentation into their work, rather than explicitly telling folks what they need to know. When funders support organizations at this level, they are encouraged to approach methods most authentic to their experience. They challenge perceptions around the role of failure - by way of reflection and experimentation. Empowering organizations to design their path invites them to look at failure as a viable strategy to approach challenges, find solutions and reach goals. It provides the freedom and flexibility to lessen unnecessary burdens and unleashes a sustainable path to learn, evolve and innovate.


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How Local Leaders are Addressing a History of Systemic Inequity in South Los Angeles

Friday, April 9, 2021

The piece below was based on SCG's program "Philanthropy’s Role in Addressing Inequity in South LA and Advancing Policy and Systems Change" hosted on Thursday, February 25, 2021. We encourage you to watch the video embedded above to hear the entire conversation. 


In March 2021, a robust SCG panel of experts celebrated the launch of South Central Rooted, a 2020 report outlining the ways white supremacy and anti-Black racism have perpetuated systemic inequities for Black and brown communities in South LA. Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), led the panel conversation on the report and was joined by Barbara Lott Holland, Associate Director of the Labor Community Strategy Center; Karen Mack, Founder of the LA Commons, which promotes diverse neighborhoods through artistic programming; Benny Torres, President and CEO of CDTech, which focuses on community organizing and leadership training; and Laura Muraida, Director of Research and Communications at SCOPE in South Los Angeles. 

The South Central Rooted report was born from conversations among the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Collaborative. The Collaborative wanted to provide a historical analysis of Black and Brown communities’ structural impediments in South LA. From the report, the panelists highlighted four lessons funders can leverage to help community leaders pursue a safer and more equitable future in the region. 



Drawing from the findings of the South Central Rooted report, four consistent “drivers of disparity” emerged that have kept Black and brown communities, like those of South LA, behind for generations:

1) Gentrification and displacement: The collision of exclusionary housing and a disappearing social safety net has driven a disproportionate amount of uncertainty for communities of color. 
2) Poverty and joblessness: Limited homeownership is reinforced and exacerbated by a lack of equitable public infrastructure spending. 
3) Policing, deportation, and mass incarceration: A pattern of erasure or disruption of families of color persists, as people are routinely locked up or sent away.
4) Environmental racism: Exclusionary housing ultimately shapes the health and parameters surrounding where people of color live, work, and play.



“When someone goes to prison, just the same as when they go to college,” Lott Holland remarked, “it’s as if the whole family goes with them.” The intergenerational impacts of over-policing in South LA, largely in Black neighborhoods, routinely have devastating effects far beyond an arrest’s initial impact. Such circumstances often leave young people in their grandparents’ care or increasingly reliant upon public transportation and other services. As an example of effective leadership on the issue of over-policing, Lott Holland applauded LAUSD Board Member Monica Garcia for initiating a $25 million cut to LAUSD that, last year, ultimately reduced police presence in schools and reinvested the funds in improving equity for Black students. “That means more intermediaries, not cops,” she noted.



Local initiatives have begun to leverage the uniquely persuasive power of art and culture to reframe perceptions about L.A.’s under-resourced and underrepresented community. One new initiative, Creating Our Next LA, draws heavily from the passions and collaborations of young artists to reshape the city in the aftermath of COVID-19. An example of this initiative’s transformational output, the Destination: Crenshaw project, galvanized what Mack described as “narrative change through the built environment.” Together, artists used wide-scale artistic expression to claim space for the African-American community in response to Metro transportation that currently cuts through a section of Crenshaw Boulevard. “If [the train] is going to be above-ground,” Mack said, “let’s give [riders] something to see.”



The South Central Rooted report’s multidimensional lenses underscore why stand-alone, issues-based advocacy will not solve the systemic and structural challenges of South L.A. Instead, leaders should champion a plan that considers where gentrification, criminal justice, and school reform overlap. Reluctance to establish sustainable, long-term solutions only means the same challenges are left to re-emerge, again and again. The result reinforces historic disparities between and among underserved communities in South LA, as Black and Latino demographics are left to compete over space and resources.

“The challenge many times is we're very siloed in terms of how we are given resources,” Torres said. “Economic development. Workforce development. Environmental justice. Arts and culture. We have not been able as much to push back and say, ‘Let's have a broader conversation about these issues intersect.’” 

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SCG Policy Blog: What to Know about Community Funded Projects (CFP)

Monday, March 29, 2021



On March 2021, Southern California Grantmakers, alongside our Philanthropy California partners across the state, participated in United Philanthropy Forum’s first-ever virtual Foundations on the Hill. Given the new federal administration and Congress, it was imperative to bring our collective voice of over 300 philanthropic and philanthropic-serving organizations to Capitol Hill. The Philanthropy California delegation, made up of over 40 members, held nearly 30 Legislative meetings with Democrat and Republican Congressional members and staff, representing the entire State of California. 

As our delegation shared information met with Congresspeople to discuss the importance of supporting charitable giving in policy, Community Funded Projects (CFP) became a prominent and unexpected conversation topic. Community Funded Projects are the new iteration of “earmarks.” Traditionally, earmarks have been provisions attached to a discretionary spending appropriations bill that directs funds to a designated recipient. The earmarks process does not adhere to the merit-based or competitive funds allocation process. Earmarks have not been allowed since 2011 and often carry the perception of being wasteful spending for favors and special interests. However, CPF is a new initiative for Fiscal Year 2022 that will enable Members of Congress to request direct funding for projects that benefit the communities they represent. The initiative will include strict eligibility, ethics, and transparency to eliminate past perceptions of earmarks and are strictly for the use of nonprofit, governmental, and tribal organizations. 

To access CFP resources, organizations must apply directly to the Congressperson representing the district they wish to support. Each Congressional District will have up to 10 projects they can forward to Appropriations, who will make the final decisions. Republican representatives of Congress have indicated that their caucus has not decided if they will support CFP’s; however, they will accept project proposals to be held if they choose to participate. 

This funding is for the Fiscal Year 2022 and does not offer multi-year support. Congresswoman Nanette Barragan was the most intentional about soliciting applications and provided some additional guidance for those wishing to participate. Her advice for any submitted projects is that they be visible in the community, have matching funds available, and can be completed/partially completed in the fiscal year awarded. Congresswoman Barragan provided additional information regarding the funds, application, and process below. 

Community Funded Projects offer an opportunity to significantly reduce philanthropy’s responsibility to meet funding gaps and increase our sector’s overall impact. Given that CPF is limited to nonprofit agencies and governmental entities, the funds are realistically attainable and can provide hundreds of thousands of funding. These projects, by design, are meant to be short-term and visibly impactful. Nonprofits can work with elected Congresspeople to engage in projects that create real and immediate benefits to communities. Inherent to CFP’s is the incentive to collaborate. These funds have to provide matching resources for approval. Philanthropy and nonprofit can use CFP funding to create public-private partnerships and leverage resources in a way that can make an exponential impact for both the funder and nonprofit alike.  

While we expect CPF to be available every year, this year’s turnaround is very short, with most offices requesting applications by the end of March or early April. All have expressed some flexibility but will need to submit the recommended projects to Appropriations by mid-April. If you're interested in CPF, we highly recommend you visit your representative's website or contact them directly to learn if they are accepting applications. 

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