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Inflation Worries Grow as California Legislature Approves State Budget

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed. “We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

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If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.
If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles and Edward Henderson, California Black Media

Diane Lanette Barkum is an in-home care provider and mom of three. She commutes about 40 minutes every workday between the Riverside County cities of Lake Elsinore, where she lives, and Moreno Valley, where she works.

Over the last few months, Barkum says she has been stressed and scraping by, struggling to balance sharp increases in the cost of gas and food with making enough money to pay for other expenses.

“What worries me most about rising prices is that they’ll continue to rise, making it more difficult for low-income working parents to be able to support their families,” she said.

Terence Henry, who lives in Patterson in the Central Valley, used to drive 77 miles to the Bay Area to make deliveries as an independent contractor. He says the high cost of gas forced him to give up the job late last year and opt for only making local runs.

“It used to cost me about $50 each way to fill up the tank to get to Oakland, San Francisco and other cities,” he said. “It just was not worth it anymore. I was losing money.”

Barkum says she hopes there is relief around the corner for people like her who are working hard, raising children and still unable to make ends meet.

Barkum and Henry are not alone. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 27% of Californians say jobs, the economy and inflation are their top concern over housing costs and availability (12%) and homelessness (11%).

Across the United States, the inflation rate is 8.6% — up from 4.7% last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And the American Automobile Association reports that the average price per gallon of regular gas in California has risen above $6. Several economists agree that the effects of inflation hit poor and working-class families the hardest.

In Southern California, the inflation rate in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the Inland Empire has risen to 9.4%, according to the UCLA Anderson School of Management. That number is among the highest of increases in the country.

Last week, the California Legislature approved a record $300 billion-plus budget for the next fiscal year, the largest annual spending plan in the state’s history. The package includes a surplus of close to $100 billion dollars, half of which must be used to fund schools by law.

Included in the budget are plans to spend the other half. So far, legislators have allotted $8 billion in rebates to taxpayers. Another $1.3 billion has been designated for grants to small business and non-profit organizations. Another $600 million has been specified for tax credits to the lowest-income Californians.

While lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – and the governor’s office agree that addressing spiraling inflation is urgent, they have not reached agreement on how to provide relief to struggling families.

Anthony York, Newsom’s senior advisor for communications, said in a statement that the governor still wants “more immediate, direct relief to help millions more families with rising gas, groceries and rent prices.”

At the federal level, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell approved a three-quarter (0.75) percentage point rate hike — the highest single percentage rate increase since 2008.

“African American-owned businesses and families are experiencing the damaging effects of inflation including the current interest rate increase instituted by the Federal Reserve Board.

“It is important for financial institutions to work with Black-owned businesses and their families to help navigate the rising cost of capital needed to operate and sustain all businesses,” said Timothy Alan Simon, board chair of the California African American Chamber of Commerce.

By statute, Newsom has until June 30 to veto the legislators’ budget bill or sign it into law.

If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed.

“We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

On June 15, Republican leaders held a rally at the State Capitol blasting their Democratic colleagues for their inaction on addressing the high cost of gas.

“Legislative Republicans are gathered here to remind Californians that it has been 100 days since the governor and the Democrats here in Sacramento promised California consumers relief on gas prices. One hundred days is far too long,” said Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Yuba City). After 100 days, we are still waiting with no relief in sight. We need action now. We’ve been calling since January to suspend the gas tax.”

Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said the state’s wealth needs to work for hardworking Californians. She pointed to a provision in the budget that provides $200 rebates to working families earning up to $250,000 a year and $125,000 for single filers.

“We are focused on providing struggling families the relief they need to weather rising costs of fuel and groceries, investing ongoing funding in core programs and services, funding one-time infrastructure projects that will keep California moving for years to come,” she said.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) echoed Atkin’s optimism.

“We share a firm belief that our state is strongest when it cares for the weakest among us,” said Rendon. “Our budget proposal continues to lay the groundwork with infrastructure and other investments for future prosperity.”

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Activism

Cal Black Chamber of Commerce’s Biz Summit 2022 Offers Opportunities to Bid on Contracts

“The Economic Summit was created to bring ‘change makers’ together with minority-owned businesses with a mission to create meaningful economic opportunities to increase spending with small businesses and strengthen the conversation of small business diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Jay King, the president and Chief Executive Officer of California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌, California Black Chamber of Commerce.

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The California Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Inc. was created as a public charity dedicated to education, training, community growth, and youth entrepreneurial development.
The California Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Inc. was created as a public charity dedicated to education, training, community growth, and youth entrepreneurial development.

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

The California Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation Inc. (CALBCCF) is offering “game-changing opportunities” for mini micro, micro, and small business proprietors of the state at the Economic Business and Roundtable Statewide Summit 2022.

Under the theme, “Pitch Your Business,” the summit is scheduled to be held in Sacramento on Friday, Sept. 30, and Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Embassy Suites Sacramento Riverfront Promenade.

Jay King, the president and Chief Executive Officer of CALBCC, said the Economic Summit provides a different outlook and “a bold new journey into the ecosystem of business and how it’s effectively done.”

Startups or established businesses attending the summit will be able to present their services to potential clients on the spot or set up a bidding process in the near future. Interested individuals will be able to explore employment opportunities at the two-day event.

“This is not the same format that it has been in the past,” King told California Black Media. “We’ve been working with California Transportation (Caltrans) and DGS (California Department of General Services), to identify contracts that smaller firms can bid for and win if not at the summit days afterward. We will have workshops but all of them are interactive.”

A workshop on how to pitch a bid will be held on the first day of the summit. The pitch presentation is scheduled to be done in front of a panel of corporate judges with the hope of winning investment capital.

The next day, the participants will pitch their business concept with a chance to land $50,000 in capital. Two second-place winners will receive $25,000 each, and 10 functional businesses each have a chance at $10,000 in cash prizes.

“We are only awarding businesses in the state that have done all the hard work. It’s difficult running a small business,” King said. “Because small businesses are micro (a business that makes less than $100,000 per year) or mini micro (less than $35,000 per year), especially in the Black sector, it’s extremely difficult. About 96% of the African American businesses fit that description.”

The Economic Summit will feature Black chambers of commerce from across the state, including operations from Los Angeles, Fresno, Bakersfield, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Diego.

Wells Fargo, Lyft, UC Davis Health, the city of Sacramento, the Department of General Services, and the Black Small Business Association are Economic Summit sponsors.

“The Economic Summit was created to bring ‘change makers’ together with minority-owned businesses with a mission to create meaningful economic opportunities to increase spending with small businesses and strengthen the conversation of small business diversity, equity, and inclusion,” King said.

The Summit is also set up to assist interested homebuyers. King said attendees will have a chance to see if they qualify for a home loan.

The summit will feature guest speakers Chris Horton, National Black Entrepreneur Project, Ann Tompkins, Director of Professional Services at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis); and Mike Condrin, Chief Operation Officer at UC Davis.

The California Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Inc. was created as a public charity dedicated to education, training, community growth, and youth entrepreneurial development. Its mission starts with educating local and state-wide communities about the importance of financial literacy.

“We believe in diversity, equity, and inclusion,” King said. “We are not excluding any business sector, racial groups, or White, Asian, Latinos business chambers. We know that they have the same challenges. We (CALBCC) are putting on display [an Economic Summit] that we would like to see from other chambers and entities across the state when we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion. This means everybody to us.”

For more information about the Economic Business Summit, registration, and hotel accommodations, contact Angela Lowe of the California Black Chamber of Commerce at (916) 467-8878 or visit cbcc@calbcc.org.

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Activism

Black Farmers Concerned Inflation Reduction Act Will Roll Back Debt Relief Promised Last Year

“What they replaced (the American Rescue Plan Act 2021) with is Section 22006 that now states that any farmer can apply to see if they are economically distressed, get their loans written down, or have them restructured,” said John Wesley Boyd, Jr., National Black Farmers Association’s founder and president. “Now, can you tell me that’s not a big difference? You took $4 billion in debt relief at 120%, put it in a fund of $3 billion, taking $1 billion away, and you opened it up to every farmer.”

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A farmer observes the care and feeding of his livestock. Photo courtesy of CBM.
A farmer observes the care and feeding of his livestock. Photo courtesy of CBM.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

The National Black Farmers Association is worried that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will roll back debt relief provided Black, indigenous, and other farmers of color in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

When President Joe Biden signed the law, approximately 15,000 farmers of color across the country — including over 400 in California — were affected, according to the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA).

Of the 70,000 farms in California, less than 1% are Black-owned or managed, while more than 90% are white-owned or managed. In 2012, California had 722 Black farmers according to an agriculture census report released that year. By 2017, the number had decreased to 429. Nationally, 45,508 Black farmers (1.3% of all farmers) were counted in the 2017 agriculture census, making up 0.5% of the country’s farmlands.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which included $4 billion to help Black and other “socially disadvantaged” farmers will be replaced with a plan that makes relief funds available to all United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) farmers suffering hardships.

“I’m very, very disappointed in this legislative action,” said John Wesley Boyd, Jr., NBFA’s founder and president, in an August 9 statement. “I’m prepared to fight for debt relief for Black, Native American, and other farmers of color all the way to the Supreme Court. I’m not going to stop fighting this.”

The NBFA is a non-profit organization representing African American farmers and their families. It serves tens of thousands of members nationwide. NBFA’s education and advocacy efforts are focused on civil rights, land retention, access to public and private loans, education and agricultural training, and rural economic development for Black and other small farmers.

The American Rescue Plan debt relief program was expected to pay off USDA loans held by 15,000 Black, Native American, Alaskan Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic and Latino farmers, according to Kara Brewer-Boyd, NBFA’s Program and Event Coordinator, in a telephone interview with California Black Media on August 12.

“Socially disadvantaged Black, Native Americans, and people of color were automatically approved for 120% debt relief. They were to be paid in full,” said Brewer-Boyd. “Now they won’t get that money at all. It’s horrible. Those farmers were already identified and sent letters that their debt had been paid. These farmers are in a bad situation. Congress put them in a worse situation by telling them ‘You’re gonna get it.’ Now they are telling them ‘You’re not going to get it.’”

Objections raised by non-Black farmers to the debt relief the federal government pledged to Black farmers has put the program in limbo.

Those opponents have filed a dozen lawsuits against the American Rescue Plan Act, including one class action case. The courts are currently hearing the cases.

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, the USDA is authorized to provide $3.1 billion to distressed borrowers. Another fund has been established to supply farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who faced discrimination before 2021 with a package of $2.2 billion.

“What they replaced (the American Rescue Plan Act 2021) with is Section 22006 that now states that any farmer can apply to see if they are economically distressed, get their loans written down, or have them restructured,” Brewer-Boyd said. “Now, can you tell me that’s not a big difference? You took $4 billion in debt relief at 120%, put it in a fund of $3 billion, taking $1 billion away, and you opened it up to every farmer.”

Brewer-Boyd said Black farmers from California were approved under the original debt relief program.

“Discrimination at USDA against Black farmers was rampant and severe. Section 1005 Loan Repayment program was a necessary step towards fixing those harms. To acknowledge and correct racism is not unconstitutional or racist,” James Wesley Boyd, Jr., stated.

Last year, Lawrence Lucus, who founded the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, told the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans that racism is prevalent in agriculture, and it is the primary reason why there are just a little over 400 Black farmers in California.

“I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better under the times we are faced with,” Lucus said. “You have white farmers, who own most of the land and get all the benefits from the land, they are the ones now bringing court cases around the country. They are saying that it’s discriminatory to have debt-relief for Black farmers.”

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Activism

Book Banning Is a Concerning Trend in the Golden State

In 2020, the liberal leaning City of Burbank banned five well-known titles: “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, “The Cay” by Theodore Taylor, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor and “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. The Burbank Unified School District objected to the inclusion of these books in their schools’ curriculum because according to them these titles “cast Black people in negative, hopeless, and secondary roles; and all but one are written from the lens of a White author.”

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This trend of widespread book banning could lead to complications at the local level for educators and institutions who want to avoid legal trouble.
This trend of widespread book banning could lead to complications at the local level for educators and institutions who want to avoid legal trouble.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

Nationwide, book banning is on the rise. It’s reached a 20-year high, according to the American Library Association and Unite Against Book Bans.

Some of the books that have been banned include titles like “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “I Am Enough” by Grace Byers and “Maus” by Art Spiegelman.

“It is also worth noting that most challenged books feature LGBTQIA-related topics or are by BIPOC authors,” Kadie Seitz, a librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library who focuses on youth services, wrote on the organization’s blog.

Troy Flint, Chief Information Officer at the California School Boards Association (CSBA), pointed out that book bans are not happening in California at the same level as in other states but cautioned that there is still cause for concern.

“There are a wide range of books that have been banned in a number of districts, although it’s a relatively small number,” Flint said.

“However, this is a concerning trend because the actual effects are on a much bigger scale than they might appear,” he continued.

Gov. Gavin Newsom says the bans are largely partisan.

“Republicans are trying to destroy public education. Banning history. Banning books. Banning student speech. And now Betsy DeVos is admitting it,” Newsom tweeted last month, responding to the former U.S. Secretary of Education declaring that she believes the nation’s Department of Education “should not exist.”

In March, the governor tweeted a picture of himself reading several frequently targeted books with the caption, “reading some banned books to figure out what these states are so afraid of.”

Flint also spoke about some of the perceived political motivations for the renewed vigor of book-banning efforts across the U.S.

“Partisan interest has been driving these kinds of decisions as opposed to objective assessments of material on the basis of what children can handle and what they should learn,” Flint said.

In 2020, the liberal leaning City of Burbank banned five well-known titles: “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, “The Cay” by Theodore Taylor, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor and “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck.

The Burbank Unified School District objected to the inclusion of these books in their schools’ curriculum because according to them these titles “cast Black people in negative, hopeless, and secondary roles; and all but one are written from the lens of a White author.”

The same year Burbank Unified made its decision to challenge the use of five books, Pennsylvania’s Central York School District banned eight times the number of books and educational materials banned by the California district, including Brad Meltzer’s “I Am Rosa Parks” and the James Baldwin centered documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” directed by Raoul Peck.

While all the 40 books and multimedia articles that the Central York School District banned are either written by authors of color or relate to race, the board insists that the motivation for its controversial decision was the “content” of the material — not the race of the material’s content creator.

Flint argued that this trend of widespread book banning could lead to complications at the local level for educators and institutions who want to avoid legal trouble.

He warned that districts that ban several books in similar demographic target audiences could risk “self-censorship at a classroom and district level, even if some books have not been officially banned.”

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