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Obamacare Sign-ups Among Blacks Still Low in California; Increased Efforts Made to Engage and Enroll African-Americans

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By California Black Media

Concerned about the low number of African-Americans taking advantage of low-cost health insurance plans or free Medi-Cal coverage, Covered California is pumping new resources into an eleventh-hour drive to get more black Californians to seize the opportunities available through Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act enrollment deadline is March 31. Beyond that date, Californians without health care coverage — either through an employer, the Covered California insurance exchange or Medi-Cal — will face financial penalties.

Only about half of the blacks in California eligible for a dramatic improvement in their health care coverage have enrolled thus far. Of particular interest to advocates are the opportunities in Medi-Cal: it is now available, free of charge, to all single men and women earning less than $14,431 per year; families of four are eligible for Medi-Cal with an income less than $29,367.

In a recent press briefing, Covered California executive director Peter V. Lee acknowledged the challenge of getting more African-Americans engaged in the enrollment process.

“With African-Americans it’s about 2.6 percent of folks that have enrolled, and the percentage who are eligible is about 4 percent — so we are not doing as well as we want,” he said in response to a question from California Black Media. “So, one of our targets in the last month has been to redouble our efforts. We’ve made additional ad buys in African-American papers and are doing more outreach. We’re optimistic, because our aspirations are that we want to enroll everybody that is eligible.”

However, Betty Williams, of 1 Solution — a statewide certified Covered California enroller and educator, serving a predominantly African-American population — believes the turnout could have been better. “I’ve been saying that for a long time,” she said. “The coverage in print, radio and social media just wasn’t there from the beginning. I’ve had to step up and hire more staff. In addition, the 800 [information] number closes at 5 [p.m.], and I’ve partnered with some churches to enroll people from 5:30 onward. I’ve even used my own money to cover the expense.”

These challenges don’t exist in every community. At a recent public event in downtown Los Angeles, Lee, along with Toby Douglas, director of the California Department of Health Services (DHCS), announced that more than 3 million Californians have signed up through Covered California or Medi-Cal since Oct. 1.

According to Lee, the number of consumers selecting a Covered California health insurance plan reached 880,082 by the end of February — including 762,174 consumers who are eligible for subsidies. He added that the five-month enrollment figure exceeds by more than 200,000 the base projection for Covered California for the entire six-month enrollment period, which ends March 31.

Still, in the African-American community, advocates are pushing forward with culturally-specific methods of outreach. One of those avenues: getting people enrolled in houses of worship. Several faith-based organizations in California have been enlisted to spread the word about the importance of securing health care coverage.

“Churches are considered an important engine in funneling information to the African American community, because historically the church, family and the school have been the major institutions responsible for the viability of the African-American community,” said Tara Lynn Gray of the California Black Health Network. “In addition, the church is many times the center for social interaction in African- American communities — and therefore influences ideas, thoughts and cultural dynamics of the entire community.”

With the deadline drawing nearer, civil rights organizations are also stepping up efforts to boost enrollment. Frederick B. Young Jr., president of the Tri-City NAACP in Solano County, said his organization has hosted forums aimed at disseminating accurate information and encouraging peopleto enroll.

Most forum attendees have questions about cost and the process of changing coverage. Among the proudest successes for Young’s organization: helping secure coverage for both a cancer patient and a developmentally disabled young adult.

“Our primary objective,” Young said, “is to educate folks.”

CBM correspondent Kenzie Jackson contributed to this report.

New Study: California Banks Buy Little from Minority-Owned Businesses

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SAN FRANCISCO – California’s largest banks buy few goods and services from minority-owned businesses, reports a new study from The Greenlining Institute, released this morning in San Francisco. In a state where people of color make up 60 percent of the population, banks obtained less than eight percent of the goods and services they procured in 2012 from businesses owned by African Americans, Latinos, Asians or Native Americans.

ESCAPING THE OLD BOY NETWORK: The Banking Industry and Supplier Diversity is the first study to ever examine in detail the degree to which banks with the largest California market share contract with diverse-owned businesses.

”Banks are a key engine of our economy, purchasing over $51 billion in goods and services in 2012,” said Greenlining Institute Economic Equity Director Sasha Werblin. “It should not be considered acceptable that their supplier networks so completely fail to reflect the diversity of California.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • Entrepreneurship is essential to the health of communities of color. Minority business enterprises (MBEs) outpaced the growth of their counterparts between 2002 and 2007. When MBEs do business with major institutions like banks, they generate wealth and create jobs in their communities, but these firms still face challenges breaking through “old boy networks” and obtaining contracts.
  • Banks are major purchasers of goods and services, and thus a huge potential engine of economic activity. In 2012, the participating banks in this report spent over $51.05 billion on goods and services.
  • Nationwide, contracting with minority business enterprises was nominal, with median spending at just 5.96 percent of total contract dollars and ranging from 3.46 percent to 8.37 percent. Bank of America was responsible for nearly half of all total dollars spent with MBEs.
  • California MBE contracting was only slightly better, and pales in comparison to the state’s diverse population. The banks’ 7.72 percent median spending with diverse businesses fails to represent a state that is 60 percent people of color. Only five banks currently track state-specific spending in substantial detail, and many with substantial California market share do not.
  • Currently, no uniform standard exists for how to measure banks' investment in supplier diversity, making "apples to apples" comparisons impossible. The federal Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion should create standard reporting regulations to create transparency and assist the financial sector, advocates and small businesses as they work together to improve opportunities for minority business enterprises.

SEIU to Hold Black History Events in San Francisco

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The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021 will have 2 Black History Month events in February. The first event will be held on Feb. 27 at the SEIU 1021 office. The event will include food, music and a presentation on the challenges facing San Francisco residents and members.

The organization will also hold an event on March 29, "Wealth and disparities in the Black Community What's Next?".

The event will: Raise awareness of wealth gaps in the Black community, discuss problem solving ideas concerning violence, mass incarceration, workers rights in the workplace, Out-migration report, living wages, create a dialogue and partnership with SEIU 1021 leaders and much more. Board of Supervisors Malia Cohen and David Campos will also be on panels.

This event is open to everyone. RSVP at 1-877-687-1021 or by email brendabarros@rocketmail.com or hopereservation@yahoo.com.

More than 440 Events Planned Throughout California in Honor of "School Choice Week"

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This week is School Choice Week in California and across the country. More than 440 events are planned across the Golden State, in addition to 5,500 events nationwide.

The Week, which is the nation’s largest-ever celebration of educational opportunity, gives students, parents, and teachers in California a chance to raise awareness of the different types of educational options available to families in advance of the 2014-2015 school year. Events across the state will include rallies, school fairs, roundtable discussions, open houses, and parent information sessions.

National School Choice Week spotlights all types of education options for families, including traditional public schools, public magnet schools, charter schools, private schools, online learning and homeschooling.

In addition to raising awareness of school choice options in California, the Week also provides students, parents and teachers with an opportunity to call on leaders in Sacramento to expand access to high-quality education environments for children.

“California families know that when parents have the freedom to choose the best schools for their children, great things happen,” said Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week. “Student achievement increases, graduation rates rise, and children are better prepared for real life.”

Said Campanella: “We hope families across the state will use National School Choice Week as an opportunity to learn more about the educational options available to their children, and to begin researching schools for the 2014-2015 school year. If families want to switch schools, January is the time to start the search process.”

The Week officially kicked off at a major rally Saturday night in Houston, Texas. Today, students wearing National School Choice Week’s signature yellow scarves will ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange.

Children's Defense Fund-California Recognizes Students

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Summer vacation is fast coming to a close and colleges and universities throughout California are gearing up for the fall semester — and 2012 Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds® Scholarship and Leadership Program alumni will make the transition from high school to college! These outstanding students will be attending some of the state’s premier universities, including University of Southern California, UCLA, and Mount St. Mary's College.

The 2012 CDF Beat the Odds honorees are the embodiment of strength, determination, and resilience. These young people have faced tremendous hardships on the road to college, and survived childhoods marked by periods of homelessness, abuse, abandonment, and loss. Yet each of these incredible students have achieved academic excellence and personal success despite their difficult upbringings, with many going on to become class valedictorians, student body presidents, all-star athletes, and role models in their communities. Read more about our 2012 CDF Beat the Odds honorees and watch their inspiring documentaries.

For more than two decades, the CDF Beat the Odds Scholarship Program has recognized outstanding high school students who have overcome adversity to excel in school and as leaders in their communities. The college prep program awards $55,000 in scholarships annually, as well as provides awardees with intensive SAT preparation, one-on-one college counseling, leadership development, college tours, career counseling, and other services to support them through their college career.

The application for the 2014 CDF Beat the Odds program will become available next month. For information on the program or how to nominate a student, contact program associate Joanna Flores at jflores@childrensdefense.org.

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