A Conversation with Rosemary Veniegas, Senior Program Officer, Health; Rosie Arroyo, Senior Program Officer, Immigration; and Ellah Ronen, Senior Program Officer, LA n Sync of the California Community Foundation.
Tell us about the EITC-related work you are currently supporting, and the path that led you to invest in this work?
The California Community Foundation made its first grant specifically for EITC outreach and expansion this past year. We are currently supporting Golden State Opportunity’s statewide outreach campaign to spread awareness of the EITC and put money back into the pockets of as many Californians as possible. In LA County, alone, the campaign has helped 960,000 receive $260 million in EITC benefits. These efforts are especially crucial during this time of economic and health distress.
Golden State was also part of the network that pushed for the recent CalEITC expansion to working families with young children whose households include filers who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The expansion is a good first step to create a more inclusive CalEITC; however, hundreds of thousands of Californians remain excluded from the credit, including many children, at a critical time when federal recovery payments and other public supports have also denied immigrant families the resources they need to meet basic needs.
Our EITC-related work was partially initiated through CCF’s LA n Sync – an initiative that brings together governmental, nonprofit, business, and philanthropic sectors to address the critical problem of insufficient state and federal dollars flowing into Los Angeles. Our County’s economy is larger than that of most countries, yet one in three children here live in poverty. We know from the research that the EITC, along with CalFresh (SNAP), is one of the most effective public benefits that helps lift communities out of poverty. By addressing the underutilization of these benefits, we are expanding our definition of what it means to leverage philanthropic dollars to attract greater federal and state funding to elevate the quality of life for all Angelenos.
How does this work fit into CCF’s grantmaking strategy and your mission to lead positive systemic change that strengthens Los Angeles communities?
At the California Community Foundation, we are driven to find long-term, systemic solutions that address the root causes of the most pressing issues facing Los Angeles County. At the heart of this work is a belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to fulfill their potential, contribute to society, and have their voices heard.
What does systemic change mean? What does that look like? For us, it’s about a community-driven approach led by the organizations, leaders, and residents who are closest to the realities and needs in our communities. We start with a clear vision and shared goals and then identify opportunities through partnerships, innovative approaches, and grantmaking. The EITC-related partnership is part of our work to support partners working on civic engagement and public policy as a way to focus on lasting change.
We pursue systemic changes in four inter-related areas: education, health, housing, and immigration. From the health perspective, the cash infusion that the EITC provides gives community members the opportunity to afford basic needs like food, rent, and ultimately healthcare. Through the immigration lens, this work fits into our goal of expanding access to safety net programs and resources to the most vulnerable.
This work is also about empowering communities to change the narrative. In the realm of public benefits, for instance, we leverage our resources to help change the story about what it means to access entitlement programs, of who is deserving and who is owed. Community empowerment in this effort is a goal in of itself, as well as a connection point to our mission.
What topic or issue would you be interested to talk with your funder-colleagues about?
Collaboration is at the heart of our work. What opportunities are there for state and local funder coordination and collaboration around this work? How can we leverage our resources in a collaborative funder model? Also, we’d like to learn from others who have been working in the EITC policy space longer than we have – what is a low-hanging fruit to continue to make gains in this area and what are the obstacles/landmines we should expect.