Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 27

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this Tuesday, April 14th, to approve a program providing $1,000 per month for three months to households in L.A. County where workers have been hit particularly hard by the halting of the economy due to COVID-19. The program is still in early stages and therefore not open to applications yet, and it’s also not clear how many families in L.A. County will be able to benefit from the program, but the bells have been sounded. This is also a separate program from the Angeleno debit cards announced by the mayor’s office earlier, which applies to residents of the city of Los Angeles.

As supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion for the program alongside supervisor Janice Han, noted in her introduction of the item:

“About 57% of L.A. county renters are rent-burdened, and 1/3rd of residents are considered severely rent-burdened, meaning that they spend more than 50% of their income on rent (and that they’re only one paycheck away from being evicted and unhoused).”

The Board of Supervisors team oversees many of the less visible cities and communities throughout Los Angeles outside of the city proper, including public parks, libraries, juvenile detention facilities, and the men and women’s jails in the county where Black and Latino inmates over-represent the population of the incarcerated, and more. The job of the supervisors, as servants of the public good, is, at the very least, to voice the concerns of L.A. county residents, and during this time, to be within their reach as they work to commit L.A. county resources to be of service to the public.

The goal of JIMBO TIMES is to provide readers with this type of information regarding the city’s leadership, even if only to inform readers of key numbers for their reference; For instance, in response to supervisors Hahn and Solis’ introduction of the motion to support the county’s renters, supervisor Sheila Kuehl pointed out:

“Los Angeles County has one of the lowest home-owner rates in the entire United States. Over 55% of the people who live in the county are renters.”

This is a number that every one of those 55% of renters in Los Angeles County should be familiar with, if only just to conceptualize exactly how many of us live in such similar straits to one another.

While the board’s meetings aren’t popularized to the same degree as those of those of mayor Garcetti’s or governor Newsom’s, their work is just as crucial to keeping the wheels turning for Los Angeles County, where over 10 million residents depend on someone to access the roads, schools, and other public services that situate our lives here.

I think in the same vein of Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of L.A. County’s Public Health department, whose daily briefings have frequently shown her to be precisely the type of leader for this moment; one who provides transparency regarding the case’s progress through Los Angeles, and who also urges residents to remain calm despite the hardships presented by the toll of the virus. Dr. Ferrer also understands that racial inequality is an important factor when discussing public health, as well as that deaths related to the virus are not “a small price” for anyone during this time. In her remarks for the meeting, she noted that:

“We see a disproportionality [in cases] across the board…African-American communities, Latinx communities, Native Hawaiian, Native Alaskan, American Indian, the GLBTQ communities. We need to make sure that when we’re addressing the pandemic we’re not allowing the disproportionality to once again inevitably lead to poorer health outcomes among those least able to have the resources needed to protect themselves.”

I sincerely hope that one day, not long from now, we have biopics on people like Dr. Ferrer, Supervisor Hilda Solis, and more of their colleagues, as public faces who made an effort to place themselves on the right side of history through this chapter in our history. Make no mistake about it: there is still a long way to go both during and after this crisis before L.A. County can be considered a truly-forward city in its response: rent forgiveness, a renewed effort on affordable housing, the end to placing any of L.A.’s kids–and residents of all ages–in custody unnecessarily, and so much more. But this work is simply not solely for Solis, Hahn, Garcetti, or any other local leader’s to do on their own. Not in a million years.

The people need to see that this is our work too. That these public servants are our representatives today, but that they can be elsewhere tomorrow. The people can therefore also be of service to our city in this way. We can lead the way for public health and uplifting; I can’t wait to see those biopics.


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