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New Campaign Shows How California Climate Change Laws Help Disadvantaged Communities

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BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA – Today The Greenlining Institute launched a new campaign to highlight how California’s climate change and clean energy laws bring jobs and consumer savings to communities of color and low-income neighborhoods across California even as they fight smog and promote health. Centerpiece of the new campaign is a just-launched website, UpLiftCA.org, with the tagline, “Our Air. Our Jobs. Our Neighborhoods.”

At the heart of UpLiftCA.org are stories of real Californians already benefitting from the state’s exploding clean energy economy – people like 21-year-old Denny Sisaknoi of Fresno, who escaped a slide into crime and gang involvement (his brother has been in prison since age 15) and built a new life and career as a solar installer, and the Ramirezes, a low-income Madera family that recently got solar power. The story bank will grow over the coming months, and a Spanish language version of the site will launch in January.

“The oil industry and its front groups have shamelessly tried to mislead communities of color about California’s laws to fight global warming, masquerading as consumer advocates when all they want is to protect their own profits,” said Greenlining Institute Executive Director Orson Aguilar. “We’re going to make sure our communities hear the truth.”

Thanks to AB 32, California’s climate change and clean energy law, and followup legislation called SB 535, one quarter of the money raised by sales of carbon permits under California’s cap-and-trade program must go to projects that benefit highly polluted and economically challenged communities.

For the current fiscal year that amounts to $272 million for priorities such as clean energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, urban forestry and affordable housing near public transit.

“California is doing something incredibly forward-thinking,” said Leonard Robinson, chair of the California Black Chamber of Commerce Energy and Environment Committee and former chief deputy director of the Cal/EPA Department of Toxic Substances in the Schwarzenegger administration.

“Part of the fees that companies are charged for putting greenhouse gases into the air are being invested in California’s most vulnerable and underserved communities to improve health and create local jobs. These jobs are real – California added over 3,500 solar power jobs last year alone.”

More jobs will be coming soon as funding begins to flow. Just before Thanksgiving, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) announced a series of grants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from solid waste disposal, projects that will bring new jobs and cleaner air to places like Perris, Oakland, Tulare and Fresno.

In addition to real-world stories of clean energy policy in action, UpLiftCA.org features clear, plain-English explanations of how the laws work and how they will cut smog, protect health and generate jobs as they fight global warming. It also includes practical information for individuals and business owners seeking assistance and information regarding energy efficiency, low-cost solar power, rebates for plug-in electric vehicles, and much more.

“For too many decades, low income neighborhoods and communities of color were used as toxic dumping grounds,” said Greenlining Environmental Equity Director Vien Truong. “This is a huge chance to right a historical wrong and bring real benefits to our communities, and community advocates are working closely with the state to make sure these benefits are real and get to where they need to go.”

-PRESS RELEASE-

California Congregations Celebrate Passage of Proposition 47

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People of faith encouraged support of redemptive social justice policies

PICO California issued the following statement in response to the historical passage of Proposition 47: “The passage of Proposition 47 by California voters provides a hopeful sign that we can reverse the trend of mass incarceration that is plaguing our nation,” states Corey Timpson, PICO California Director.

By passing proposition 47, California is the first state in the nation to end felony sentencing for a select group of non-serious and nonviolent crimes. In doing so, California will permanently reduce incarceration and shift over $100 million in the first year from state corrections to K-12 school programs, victim services, as well as mental health support and drug treatment.

PICO California, a statewide network of 19 local community organizations, worked in partnership with Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools and California Calls to build a powerful grassroots civic engagement program focused on exercising the voting power of new and infrequent voters to end mass incarceration by passing Proposition 47.

PICO California groups across the state contacted more than 200,000 voters and identified and worked to turn out 104,000 Yes on 47 voters via statewide phone banking and local canvassing efforts. In all, PICO groups contributed more than 6,000 volunteer shifts and invested approximately 18,000 hours of time in this unprecedented grassroots campaign.

PICO California clergy from across the state have also weighed in on the historic passing Prop 47:
“Today, Californians expressed their voice with the humanization of all people being worthy of redemption. This victory of Proposition 47 begins our necessary journey of reforming our criminal justice system in a way that is fiscally responsible and represents our moral values. While there is more work to be done, we celebrate this important milestone,” said Rev. Ben McBride, Director City Team Ministries.

“With tonight’s victory, the fear mongering forces against proposition 47 have failed. It's time they join fellow Californians and help us move justice forward. The truth prevailed tonight and we gladly welcome this victory because it has the potential to greatly improve the lives of currently and formerly incarcerated individuals,” said Imam Shakeel Syed is the Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council.

African-American and Latino men and women are disproportionately caught in the web of incarceration and its aftermath.  The passage of Prop 47 indicates that the majority of Californians also recognize racialized sentencing and prosecution disparities and instead wish to invest in programs and strategies that support individuals and enable them to stay connected to their families and support systems.  As a faith based organization, PICO California believes prison reform is the only moral choice that is consistent with our values.

-PRESS RELEASE-

Enrollment for Health Coverage with Covered California Starts Nov. 15

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Greenlining Institute Urges Californians to Learn About Their Options as Covered California Builds on Last Year’s Success

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA – Following a successful launch which brought affordable health coverage to 1.1 million Californians, Covered California – the health insurance marketplace created by federal health care reform – is about to begin its second open enrollment period, beginning Nov. 15 and running until Feb. 15.

“Health care reform has been a major step forward for communities of color in California, but many still have not taken advantage of the new options that are available,” said Greenlining Institute Health Policy Fellow Anthony Galace. “We’re happy to report that Covered California has made improvements this year that should make shopping for coverage easier.”

Among other things, Covered California has:

  • Improved the customer experience by collaborating with community-based organizations to help with outreach and enrollment. There are more than 6,400 Certified Enrollment Counselors and more than 12,000 Certified Insurance Agents to help consumers choose and enroll in the best coverage option.
  • Added over 250 additional bilingual staff in its service centers in order to better serve Californians whose English is limited. The need for improved language assistance was a major issue highlighted by Greenlining last June in its analysis of Covered California’s first year.
  • Provided $16.9 million to 135 community organizations that will help people enroll and also provide post-enrollment and retention assistance, providing a more streamlined “one stop shop” for California residents who need assistance with their health coverage.
  • Added dental coverage for children to all 2015 Covered California plans.


Galace noted that renewal for the 1.1 million Californians enrolled last year has already begun. “Those who like their current plan can keep it without doing anything,” he explained, “but since some prices have changed , it’s a good idea to check your options.”

The Greenlining Institute has assembled important information for Californians seeking health coverage at http://greenlining.org/issues-impact/bridges-to-health/affordable-care-act-information-for-californians/

-PRESS RELEASE-

Revamped Covered California Campaign Seeks Greater Minority Enrollment

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In the six months following the end of the first Affordable Care Act enrollment period, officials with the Covered California insurance exchange analyzed data to revise strategies aimed at removing more Californians from the ranks of the uninsured. The result of the analysis is Covered California's 2015 Community Outreach Campaign, a multi-pronged effort that will employ more than 200 community-based organizations, or Navigators, to work within their constituencies to provide personalized enrollment assistance.

Many of the Navigator groups represent African-Americans, Asians and Latinos, groups Covered California is hoping to enroll in greater numbers beginning in mid-November. The community outreach effort that includes $14.6 million in Navigator grants is being launched in conjunction with a $46 million advertising campaign that is heavily focused on minorities.

The combination of targeted advertising through minority media outlets and community partnerships is key to increased participation according to Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee.

"We are getting ready to roll out the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, building on the experience of last year's first open enrollment to seek to get every Californian covered," Lee said. "To do this we want to build on the partnerships we developed a year ago that made California the leader in the nation in expanding coverage of the Affordable Care Act.

"During the first open enrollment period, more than three million Californians got coverage either through Covered California or were newly covered through Medi-Cal. In California we've reduced the rate of uninsured from 22-percent to 11-percent. That's good news but it's not enough," Lee said. "We want to keep working together in every community in the state until every Californian gets insurance and keeps it. We are optimistic we will be well on that path during the second round of open enrollment."

Lee's optimism isn't shared by everyone. Critics of the initial six-month open enrollment effort claim Covered California did not do enough to target minorities, African-Americans in particular.

Forty-five-percent of the new advertising budget will be spent targeting Latinos, who represent 40-percent of California's population, but were underrepresented among new health insurance enrollees.

A nine-percent advertising allocation has been set aside for African-Americans, who comprise six-percent of the state's population, but were similarly underrepresented among enrollees.

From October 2013 through March 2014, 1.4 million Californians signed up for coverage. With nearly 31,000 signing up, African-Americans represented only 2.2-percent of new enrollees.

"We're looking at other data to see where we did a great job or not so great of a job," Lee said. "Within Covered California about five-percent of subsidy-eligible people are African-American. About four-percent of our enrollment was African-American. But we still want to lean in and double down.  If you look at the Navigator grants we specifically looked out and said who can we add who is anchored in the African-American community that can show they know that community and can reach out effectively and bolster education and enrollment efforts?"

Dr. Brownell Payne, whose Los Angeles-based Crenshaw Health Partners organization received $300,000 in Navigator funding, says the raw enrollment numbers may not give an accurate picture of African-American participation because they don't factor in enrollment in Medi-Cal, California's low-income health coverage assistance program.

"When we talk about enrollment among African-Americans, we're not just talking about Covered California, we're talking about Medi-Cal," Payne said. "Where we operate a significant portion of our community has Medi-Cal. So while the Covered California numbers may have been lower, the Medi-Cal numbers have been huge. With every insurance enrollment we make in the African-American community we will enroll two to three people in Medi-Cal because a lot of people didn't know that they were eligible."

"We invested heavily in reaching the African-American community and the data we have shows that we did a pretty good job," Lee said. "Among the previously uninsured, whether they get it through Covered California or Medi-Cal or through a job, about 61-percent of the previously uninsured got insurance, whether you're African-American, Latino, Asian or White."

The new marketing campaign that includes television, online, radio and print advertising is specifically designed to attract more minority participation by increasing awareness.

One challenge for Covered California and its partner organizations is how to convince African-Americans to sign up for coverage despite reportedly high-levels of awareness about the Affordable Care Act and the Covered California insurance exchange.

Results from a University of Chicago tracking survey show that in May and June 2013, prior to the first enrollment period, awareness of the Covered California insurance exchange among African-Americans was less than 10-percent. By February 2014, the enrollment mid-point, African-American awareness had risen above 80-percent due to advertising and marketing efforts. The survey also reported more than 50-percent of African-Americans had medium to high levels of exposure to the advertising campaign.

Based on the results, Covered California concluded, on average, 40-percent of consumers with high levels of exposure enrolled in a health insurance plan.

Yet, despite higher than average levels of exposure and awareness, African-Americans represented only 2.2-percent of the 1.4 million Californians signing up for coverage during the initial six-month enrollment period.

Payne says misinformation is another factor that may be preventing African-Americans from signing up in greater numbers.

"There are a lot of barriers in the African-American community, and unfortunately part of those barriers are old myths," Payne said. "We had a lot of Brothers and Sisters come up and say, 'We're not going to enroll in Obamacare because they put a chip in your wrist and they can track you for the rest of your life.'"

Conspiracy theories aside, Payne and other Navigator organizations will have to deal with more practical issues like communicating the merits of insurance to people who have never participated in the health care system or whose first insurance policy began last year.

"Part of our purpose in running the ads is to remind people who are not used to having insurance not to cancel because they didn't use it because insurance is there in case really bad stuff happens, as well as for preventive care," Lee said.

"We also  have a lot of people who have been used to relying on the county. So they say, 'Why should I enroll? I might get a $95 penalty, but i'll just go to the county," Payne said. "But what they don't understand is that penalty will increase every year. And the worst possible penalty of not having coverage is if you get in an accident and you don't have coverage."

When the new enrollment period begins November 15, organizers will have only three months to sign-up new enrollees and convince those currently covered to renew or make changes to their existing plans.

Both Payne  and Lee are optimistic about enrollment prospects and point to the strategy of relying on grassroots partnerships as a primary component.

"In the African-American community they trust us and we're in the community moving things forward," Payne said. "Now it is a matter of them gaining trust in the system. A big part of gaining that trust is in-person enrollment. In our center they can sit down and talk to us and gain the trust.

“We've taken care of the low-hanging fruit," Payne said. “ but there are huge numbers in the African-American community who qualify for subsidized enrollment, so we expect the enrollment numbers to be much higher than they were before.

Donna Brazile Announces Democrats for Public Education

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Addresses 3,500 members of the American Federation of Teachers

LOS ANGELES — Addressing more than 3,500 members of the American Federation of Teachers at its national convention, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile announced the formation of a new group that she will co-chair called Democrats for Public Education, which will focus on uniting the vast majority of Democrats, who believe in the promise of public education.

In confronting her political opponents, Brazile asserted, “The very premise of ‘market-driven education reform’ rests on the fallacy that the public school system is in crisis, and that the only solution is to let the market pick winners and losers.”

She expressed the desperate need for classrooms to focus on "educating character, teaching skills, creating an environment of dialogue and inquiry, establishing a community from a diversity of cultures, nurturing potential and empowering people in the pursuit of happiness."

On Friday morning, AFT President Randi Weingarten remarked on Brazile’s new group. She said, “The promise of America is being undercut by people who devote their fortunes to decreasing our strength, to advancing the politics of division, and to promoting economic policies that redistribute more income to fewer people. And they’ve been aided and abetted by some lawmakers, judges and even some Democrats. Some—like those who call themselves Democrats for Education Reform—mimic the Jeb Bushes and Eli Broads of the world, promoting competition and test-obsession.”

She continued, “But a new group of Democrats is emerging: the Democrats for Public Education, led by Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Donna Brazile, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who want to stand up for our students, for our educators and for public education.”

As the weekend progressed, delegates listened to elected officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Reps. Judy Chu, Michael Honda and Mark Takano, as they shared their ideas on how to fight back against divisive politics and lopsided economic policies, and fight forward on behalf of students, families and communities.

-PRESS RELEASE-

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