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Proposed Measure H Budget: LA County Should Double Down & Invest In What Works

This piece was co-authored by Carla Javits, President & CEO of REDF, and Maria S. Salinas, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

When healthy food is delivered to the ‘Jones’ family, whose income disappeared due to the pandemic-fueled economic shut down, they are thankful for the meal but also to ‘Ramon’ for bringing it. They have no idea that he spent 21 years in and out of prison and on Skid Row or the challenging road he’s traveled to reach this point of stability in his life. ‘Ramon’ works for one of Los Angeles’ premiere employment social enterprises, Homeboy Industries. He is getting paid and enjoying the dignity of working for an employer that appreciates as well as respects its workforce, instead of working a ‘gig’ job that lacks security or support.

They would not know that the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE), a remarkable, home grown, nationally-recognized model, is the reason Ramon was able to go to work with Homeboy Industries. He started as a dishwasher and then moved on to meal delivery because LA:RISE helped the organization provide the job, the gas card and clothes Ramon needed. LA:RISE provided personal support to deal with challenges Ramon may experience to re-enter the workforce after the decades of homelessness and incarceration.

The Situation:

Programs like LA:RISE are at risk of coming to an end. LA County has made a short-sighted and counterproductive recommendation to zero out this business-oriented approach in the budget starting November 1, which would negatively impact over 1,000 jobs, like the one Ramon holds.

What many Angelenos may not know is that our region is a national leader in ‘employment social enterprise’. These are proud, local businesses with a social mission to provide jobs, on-the-job training and support to people who have faced challenges in their lives and are unlikely to get or keep a job without some level of support. The enterprises earn revenue from the products and services they provide in the competitive marketplace and reinvest that revenue so they can deliver more jobs, training and support.

Government complements the earned revenue by investing in support for the services and training that business revenue cannot completely cover, and by paying for businesses and agencies to work together accountability is provided by tracking data on results achieved.

The Issue:

The proposed Measure H budget would eliminate funding for LA:RISE and all workforce development and employment services after October 31. Now is the time for the County of Los Angeles to invest more in workforce development and employment programs. It is jobs like these that will help our region recover economically from COVID-19. The loss of funds will deprive over 1,000 county residents of transitional employment and intensive wrap-around support.

Now, in its fifth year, LA:RISE is fully operational, scalable, and delivering impressive results by helping the most vulnerable Angelenos get on a solid path to economic stability. Many of them, like ‘Ramon’, are essential workers who our communities rely upon to deliver food, keep our streets clean, and make life bearable during this challenging time.

With COVID-19s’ impact leaving 3.8 million (and growing) Angelenos unemployed, competition for jobs as the economy slowly reopens is going to be fierce. Demand for employment social enterprise services will be at an all-time high.  LA:RISE partners are committed to working with the County of Los Angeles to ensure they are ready to meet that demand so that no one is left behind.

What’s Needed:

We strongly urge LA County Supervisors to maintain these workforce development programs at their current funding level of $7 million in all areas of the County, including both unincorporated areas and all cities. While this represents a small fraction of the total Measure H budget, its impact on the lives of thousands of striving Angelenos, their communities and families, is immense.

The County should double down and invest in what works. Invest in our communities and in solutions that ensures a thriving region for all.

Contact your Supervisor and urge them to restore LA:RISE funding. 

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