By Kevin Zwick
CEO, United Way Bay Area
At United Way Bay Area, we know that breaking the cycle of poverty in the Bay Area requires us to fight this battle on two fronts, addressing both short-term needs, as well as long-term systems change. Our policy agenda was developed to do just that. We have focused our advocacy work to provide greater support to our impact areas including meeting basic needs, financial stability, workforce development, and housing justice. We’ve also worked to ensure the policies we support provide an equitable framework to support communities of color.
With the 2022 state legislative session closed, and a slate of new bills passed, I am reflecting on how the policy landscape has shifted this year. We have accomplished much. As is always the case, however, there is much more to be done if we are to truly dismantle poverty and its root causes throughout our region.
So, how did we do this state legislative cycle?
One of the most significant ways we can see changes in our system toward supporting equitable outcomes for communities that need it most is by observing what gets incorporated into the final state budget, which was passed and signed earlier this year. The 2022-2023 budget is the largest in state history. Several key investments will support low-income families through various tax credits and rebates, free tax help, and education funding, which we and our allies through United Ways of California supported. Some highlights include:
The housing affordability crisis is one of the top issues that keeps Bay Area families in poverty while continually widening the racial wealth gap. Last year, UWBA launched our Housing Justice initiative to improve access to stable, affordable housing and homelessness prevention resources. Our current housing crisis was caused by generations of state and local inaction on housing, so we were glad to see Governor Newsom sign a package of key bills from the legislature that will help streamline the housing approval process.
Most impactful among these were the dual bills designed to open underutilized commercial properties throughout the state for more housing. AB 2011 by Assembly Member Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) and SB 6 by Senator Anna Caballero (D-Merced) provide new pathways to create much needed housing if builders agree to either higher affordable housing standards or to higher labor standards. We are grateful for Assembly Member Wicks for her leadership on this issue.
As we’ve stated before, poverty is a policy choice. And this fall we get another chance to choose something different. There is still an opportunity to make your voice heard in 2022. Election Day is November 8 and I’m urging each and every one of you to cast your ballots in local, county, state and federal elections.
To be crystal clear about where UWBA stands on key measures and propositions, we’ve put together a comprehensive voter guide for the eight Bay Area counties we serve. We’ve also partnered with VoterVoice to help you stay aware of our advocacy efforts year-round. As always, our endorsements align with our overall mission to dismantle the root causes of poverty and build equitable pathways to prosperity.
The Road Ahead
We’re proud of our work this year. With the support of our United Ways network, partners, donors, and volunteers, we successfully pushed for policies that will be incredibly beneficial for our Bay Area neighbors. But there is still work to be done. In this coming year, we are going to keep pushing at the state level for more policies to ensure lower income residents can stay within the communities where they live and work; we will continue advocating for funding 2-1-1, one of the most important pieces of the California social safety net; and we will keep looking for more ways to expand Guaranteed Income pilot programs and other credit and benefits for families, that centers trust in those families to know what’s best for their own current and future needs. As we remain committed to dismantling poverty and rebuilding for equity, we look forward to continuing our advocacy efforts with your support in the years to come. Please reach out if you have any questions or would like to get involved!