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California was home to over 11 million immigrants in 2023, making up 28% of the state population — the largest percentage of immigrant residents of any state.

Immigrants are essential to California’s labor force, with a total of 6.1 million immigrants employed in California from 2021 to 2023, representing 1 in 3 workers in the state. Immigrants and children of immigrants made up over half of all California workers during this same period. In addition, nearly half (45%) of working households in California included immigrants in 2023.

Immigrants are vital in creating the vibrant, prosperous communities and strong workforce that propelled California into becoming the fifth largest economy in the world. Recognizing the invaluable cultural and economic wealth immigrants bring to the state, policymakers should continue ending immigration status exclusions from our safety net programs to ensure all Californians have access to the supports they need to thrive.

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key takeaway

While domestic and sexual violence disproportionately affects women, transgender, non-binary, and women of color, prevention programs that address root causes like gender and racial inequities can significantly improve safety for all Californians.

All Californians should be able to live in safe environments, free from violence and fear. However, millions of Californians experience domestic and sexual violence every year and women, transgender, non-binary, and women of color are most likely to experience these types of violence.

Domestic and sexual violence prevention programs are proven ways to stop violence from occurring in the first place. Prevention programs take a proactive approach and seek to shift culture on racial and gender inequities. Examples of prevention work include educating people on healthy relationships, increasing economic security for families, and reducing systems and beliefs that can lead to violence. These programs have been shown to:

  • Improve the safety of school and community spaces,
  • Lead to significant community and structural changes,
  • Lead to sexual violence prevention being added to school district budgets,
  • Make physical spaces safer in order to reduce vulnerability to sexual violence,
  • Increase student conversations about sexual violence as a problem,
  • Reduce dating abuse, and
  • Result in substantial cost savings due to reductions in sexual violence-related costs.

How does California support domestic and sexual violence prevention?

Since 2018, California has provided small, one-time grants for prevention programs. The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) administers multiple grants with this one-time funding to support prevention efforts. There are also some federal funds available for prevention, but the large majority of federal funding for addressing domestic and sexual violence is for intervention only, and in fact, is prohibited from being used for prevention efforts. Despite domestic and sexual violence prevention’s proven effectiveness, state funding is relatively new and has been sporadic.

What organizations have received state prevention funding?

Many organizations across the state have received state funding in the form of Cal OES prevention grants. These grants are focused on supporting community-based organizations in the implementation of domestic and sexual violence prevention and education initiatives, especially those that focus on serving communities that are disproportionately impacted. Examples of organizations that have been able to increase their prevention efforts because of the state funding are described below.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Special thank you to Korean American Family Services, Project Sister Family Services, and Rainbow Services for providing the information included in these examples.

How has state prevention funding impacted what services organizations can provide?

Dedicated prevention funding has a meaningful impact on communities. Perspectives from these organizations demonstrate how funding has supported the services that can be provided.

What would happen without ongoing domestic violence prevention funding?

Each organization recognized that their important work, which supports survivors and helps prevent domestic violence, is at the peril of sporadic state funding. Organizations describe how without these grants, they would not have any prevention funding to continue sustaining these programs.

  • Both Project Sister and Rainbow Services explained how they are not able to do more ongoing prevention education due to a lack of ongoing funding, and that the sustainability of current programs relies on the state’s grants.
  • KFAM shared that the only prevention funding they have is from the Cal OES grants. Although there is much more funding provided for intervention efforts, prevention grants allowed them to be more creative with programs to prevent violence in the first place, rather than only supporting survivors afterward.

Domestic and sexual violence prevention efforts take time. These programs work on shifting culture, which takes long-term planning and commitment. However, as the organizations in the examples all noted, organizations doing this critical work cannot commit to long term programming without permanent, ongoing funding. The governor’s proposed 2024-25 budget does not include any additional funding for domestic violence prevention, which puts these programs providing critical domestic violence prevention services at risk for termination.

No Californian should live in fear over their safety. In order to adequately protect Californians from domestic and sexual violence, the state should provide ongoing, sustained funding for prevention programs that can help stop the violence before it starts.

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key takeaway

California’s unemployment benefits fall short, leaving many struggling to make ends meet when they lose work. State policymakers can raise unemployment benefits, ensuring this crucial support system adequately sustains Californians during job loss.

Unemployment benefits provide a critical safety net for many workers who lose their jobs, helping them to support their families while they seek to reenter the workforce. However, state unemployment benefits have not been raised in two decades and currently don’t provide enough money for Californians – particularly those with low incomes – to cover the cost of living. This points to the urgent need for California to increase state unemployment benefits so that workers can make ends meet when they lose work.

California’s unemployment benefits only replace up to half of a worker’s lost earnings. But many workers struggle to pay for food and rent even while working full-time. Covering the costs of living on half of their earnings is impossible. For the majority of California renters with low incomes who spend at least half of their income on rent, their entire unemployment benefit would go to rent if they don’t have other income sources. Or it might not even cover the full cost of rent, leaving them in debt, at risk of eviction, and with nothing left over to pay for other basic needs. For example, a worker who loses a full-time minimum wage job (at $16.90-per-hour in Los Angeles County) receives just $1,465 in monthly unemployment benefits, which falls $69 short of covering rent for a studio in Los Angeles.

Workers of color, including American Indian, Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander Californians – and particularly women – are especially at risk of being unable to support their families while out of work because many have been segregated into low-paying jobs where unemployment benefits are too low to cover basic living costs. Insufficient benefits pose a particularly significant threat to the economic security of Black Californians, who consistently face twice the unemployment rate of white workers due to hiring discrimination and other barriers to work created through centuries of structural racism.

Losing a job would be less devastating if Californians could count on getting unemployment benefits that allow them to cover the costs of rent, food, and other basic needs while they search for work. State lawmakers should increase state unemployment benefits, especially for low-paid workers, and make sure that businesses uphold their responsibility to adequately fund this critical safety net for their workforce.

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California businesses pay taxes on the smallest share of wages in the United States, leading to insufficient funds for unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits provide a critical safety net for many workers who lose their jobs, helping them to support their families while they search for new employment. Millions of Californians turned to unemployment benefits after losing work due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, policymakers previously failed to require businesses to pay the true costs of unemployment benefits for their workers, leading California to borrow billions of dollars from the federal government to pay for benefits – a repeat of what happened during the Great Recession.

California is one of just four states that allow employers to pay unemployment insurance taxes on the smallest wage base permitted by federal law, despite the lessons of the last recession and the need for businesses to contribute more to support the workforce.

State unemployment benefits are financed through payroll taxes paid by employers, which generate revenues that are deposited into the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. But California businesses don’t pay these taxes on their entire payroll — they pay based only on the first $7,000 of each employee’s annual pay. This low base limits the amount of revenue the state can generate for unemployment benefits. For example, a 4% payroll tax would raise just $280 per worker in California, compared to $2,500 per worker in Washington state, where the taxable wage base is $62,500. Even with the same payroll tax rate, Washington would generate almost nine times more revenue than California for each employee making at least $62,500.

California’s taxable wage base has been frozen at $7,000 since 1983, failing to increase with rising wages. Consequently, the state’s base amounts to just 8% of the average annual earnings for a year-round worker – the smallest share in the US. In contrast, the taxable wage bases in 13 states are at least half of average annual earnings. Most of these states paid for unemployment benefits during the pandemic without federal loans.

California’s leaders must ensure that businesses uphold their responsibility to pay the true cost of unemployment benefits for their workers by increasing the taxable wage base for employer payroll taxes. This would not only prevent future debt, but also make it possible for California to increase unemployment benefits so that workers can meet rising costs of living as they seek to reenter the workforce and provide for their families.

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