The Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) Budget Action Team (BAT) has been meeting regularly to learn about the city budget process, consider new sources of revenue, and try to make sure money is spent in the best possible ways. At the March meeting, Richmond resident Jaime Perez looked over a list of cities receiving COVID-19-related stimulus money and raised a concern -- it really seems like Richmond is not getting it's fair share.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that President Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021 includes $42.3 billion dollars in payments to city and county governments in California. The money is paid to cities in two installments, and all of it must be spent by the end of 2024 on projects that help offset the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The amount allocated for Richmond is $20.8 million. That sounded great to the RPA Budget Action Team, until Jaime looked at the list of what other cities are getting and saw that Berkeley is receiving 68.26 million dollars in ARPA stimulus money, despite having about the same-sized population as Richmond.
To put it more clearly, Berkeley is getting $562 per person in stimulus money, and Richmond is getting only $188 per person. What's going on here? That's what the RPA Budget Action Team is now trying to find out.
One clue is that the list of what cities are getting has put Richmond on the tab called "Other Non-Counties"; our research revealed that cities and towns with fewer than 50,000 people are listed on that tab. In actuality, Richmond has 110,000 people and should be on the "Metro Cities" tab along with Berkeley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the like. So it seems the federal government has cut a smaller stimulus check for Richmond because they think we are less than half the size we are.
Documents found by the BAT show that the feds admit there might be mistakes, saying the grant amounts "were based on incomplete Census data" from several agencies. They also stated that "as a result of incomplete data, some cities, towns and villages are missing or misclassified. The Act permits the Treasury Department to correct the estimates by supplementing federal data with state and locally- derived data."
So what local agency is going to provide that supplemental data to show the Treasury department Richmond's actual size and increase Richmond's stimulus award? So far an email to the city has been ignored, and a letter to Congressman Desaulnier resulted in a generic form letter response that did not acknowledge the problem (below). The RPA Budget Action Team will keep pushing to make this right, and will release an update when we learn more.
How Should We Spend It? Get involved with Budget Action Team's work on Richmond's stimulus money
Desaulnier's non-responsive response:
Richmond will receive at least $20.8 million in stimulus money from the federal government, all of which must be spent by the end of 2024. How do YOU think it should be spent?
RSVP Here to join us May 1, 2021 from 12 - 1:30 for a brainstorming session to share your ideas and to hear what others are thinking. The session is open to anyone who lives or works in Richmond, you need not be a member of any of the sponsoring organizations (RPA, Richmond Land, ACCE) to participate.
Here's a form where you can share your ideas on how you think the stimulus money should be spent.
What We Know About Richmond Stimulus Money
1. Under the American Rescue Plan, the federal government has pledged $20.8 million dollars in stimulus money to Richmond. The amount actually seems low compared to what other similarly sized cities have received, so the RPA Budget Action Team is in the process of seeking clarification from the city. (Download our request here)
2. All the money must be spent by the end of 2024.
3. Some of the ways the money can be used are: (Download source document for complete list)
- -To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households or small business, or to aid impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality.
- -To provide essential workers in state and local government premium pay and/or to provide grants to eligible employers who employ essential workers. Premium pay is defined as up to $13/hour in addition to wages otherwise received and the amount per worker is capped at $25,000 total.
- -To make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.
“The tides are rising and so are we.”
This has become a rallying cry for climate activists, and Richmond, with its 32 miles of shoreline, must rise up to prevent rising sea levels from poisoning our people and our Bay. Just a couple feet above sea level north of Point Isabel, developers are planning to build a 4,000-unit housing development on top of the toxic “Zeneca site” while leaving its 550,000 cubic yards of toxic material in place.
In the biennial elections held at the February membership meeting, Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) members re-elected twelve members to the Steering Committee (SC) and added four newcomers.
Both the returning Steering Committee members and the newly elected can be characterized as bridge-builders. Collectively, the SC members actively engage with at least 24 city and/or community organizations on top of their work with RPA. Going beyond our core group of members to cultivate relationships with more people and organizations is a shared goal of this Steering Committee. That’s how political power grows.Read more
As of 3/31, EVERYONE 16 years or older who lives or works in Contra Costa County can be vaccinated at one of the county-run vaccination sites - without health issues, without being a front-line worker. You can request a county appointment online here or by calling 1-833-829-2626. Vaccination sites run by the State (which you find on My Turn), health systems (like Kaiser or Sutter), and pharmacies (like CVS and Walgreens) are also vaccinating, but they might have more restrictions than the sites run by the county do. Contra Costa County continues to maintain an excellent webpage that lists who is qualified for vaccination at each kind of vaccination center, and gives links and phone numbers for all the places you can schedule a vaccination appointment locally. Because supplies of the vaccine are still limited, you may need to try more than one option, more than one time, to find an appointment.Read more
Out of all the strategies to stop the spread of COVID-19, the ability for people to isolate is one of the most obvious and impactful. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that stopping all US evictions and utility shutoffs through November of last year could have saved 164,000 lives lost to the virus. Never has there been a more urgent need to prevent individuals from sliding into homelessness.
On March 23, the Richmond City Council passed a an urgency ordinance to enact a temporary moratorium on evictions related to the pandemic. Richmond tenants are now protected from eviction for the duration of the state of emergency and 60 days thereafter.
With SB91, the COVID-19 tenant relief act signed into law in January, California legislators also took some partial steps to help tenants across the state. The Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency recently published resources and eligibility guidelines for renters and small landlords seeking relief through the Housing Is Key program. This information is also available in Spanish, and by phone at 1-833-430-2122.Read more
From Healthy California Now, a healthcare reform coalition of which RPA is a part:
We are Californians who believe that healthcare should be guaranteed as a human right. We are calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to fulfill his promise to fight for single-payer healthcare in California. Sign the petition here www.petition.healthcare.
Gavin Newsom led the fight for universal healthcare as mayor in San Francisco and made single-payer a pillar of his campaign for governor. On his first day as Governor, he made the same request of Trump that we’re now asking him to make of the Biden Administration. It seems complicated, but requesting the federal Medicare waivers is mandatory for a state to have its own single-payer system. The official who would grant these waivers is the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Biden Administration has nominated Xavier Becerra — who is also an advocate for single-payer, and is the outgoing California Attorney General under Governor Newsom's administration. With this unique situation, there has never been such an enormous opportunity for Governor Newsom to guarantee that every Californian receives high-quality, comprehensive healthcare.
We understand the power of the healthcare industry and the millions they will spend trying to defeat our efforts. We are asking Governor Newsom to lead the way and request the necessary federal waivers, to fulfill his promise of single-payer healthcare. Californians, please join our fight.
By Claudia Jimenez, Richmond City Councilmember
On February 23, after years of planning by City staff, much discussion from City Council, and varied input from Richmond residents, the City Council voted to approve the Safe Parking Pilot Program to be located at the city-owned parking lot at Barrett Avenue and 25th Street. Our vote also approved city staff’s recommendation for Housing Consortium of the East Bay (HCEB) to serve as lead provider.
While council’s approved location was not my first choice, I am glad we came to a decision and were able to secure $560,000 of funding for this one-year pilot project. I believe we need to leverage whatever resources we have to better serve Richmond's many residents who are experiencing homelessness and the community as a whole.
Richmond residents who are interested in working with us to make the project successful can reach out to me at [email protected], and we will connect you to opportunities.
By Tarnel Abbott and Deborah Bayer
Where We Stand Now
The Richmond Shoreline Alliance, Citizens for East Shore Parks, Sierra Club, Green Action and the Sunflower Alliance, have filed a lawsuit against the City of Richmond, based on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and due process violations, to stop the proposed development of housing on top of the contaminated soil of the AstraZeneca (former Stauffer Chemical) site. The community is advocating for the City to insist on a full clean up before any housing is built. The lawsuit and the development have been discussed in Closed Session twice already, but the public is not privy to how those discussions are going.Read more
By Eduardo Martinez, Richmond City Councilmember, and Eli Moore
The Chevron oil spill into the Bay in February is only the latest in a series of devastating fires and releases of toxic chemicals into the air, water and soil of Richmond and the region.
The refinery is also the second largest source of greenhouse gases in all of California.
Scientists have determined that the only way for California to reach its goals for overcoming the climate crisis is to start closing refineries and switching to renewable energy sources.
For years, the prospect of the refinery closing was only a threat Chevron used against us, to silence calls for public health protections and fair corporate taxes. But lately the scenario of a refinery closure is much more visible, with refineries in Rodeo and Martinez both announcing in the past year that they were halting fossil fuel processing. The economic effects of Covid 19 have rocked the oil industry, and that has speeded up a process that was already underway to replace fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy sources. The end of oil refining is actually in sight. Even General Motors realizes this and has planned to end its production of gas-powered cars by 2035.