Non-profit organizations across California will be able to apply for funding from a pool of cash created with an initial investment of $15 million from two foundations.
The money will help local Community Based Organizations (CBOs) gain access to almost $200 billion in federal and state funding coming down the pike for economic development projects.
The Center at the Sierra Health Foundation, a Sacramento-based organization that promotes health and racial equity, and the James Irvine Foundation, a private San Francisco-based philanthropic nonprofit that advocates for Californians who earn low wages, are the first two foundations investing in the fund called the Community Economic Mobilization Initiative (CEMI).
“CEMI will strengthen nonprofits working in marginalized communities and help them secure and influence the use of public funds designated to reduce economic and environmental inequities,” said Chet P. Hewitt, president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and The Center.
This year, California is expected to receive close to $200 billion in federal and state funding. The money will be sourced from the American Rescue Plan ($43 billion) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act ($56 billion), as well as the state’s Community Economic Resilience Fund ($565 million) and its budget surplus ($46 billion).
“This is a much-needed investment for community-driven organizations particularly those that support the most vulnerable Californians. Historically, they have not been invested in the same manner as larger organizations. Many of them were affected throughout the pandemic and need this fiscal and operational support. My hope is that there will be intentionality to be inclusive of the organizations that can have the greatest impact in our communities,” said Kellie Todd Griffin, convenor of the California Black Women’s Collective, an organization of more than 1500 Black women leaders.
CEMI is expected to begin funding the CBOs in the summer of 2022 with $14 million from the James Irvine Foundation and $1 million from the Center at Sierra Health.
“We have a golden opportunity to make sure these investments reach community-based organizations that best know the infrastructure their communities need for economic growth that is inclusive and resilient,” said Don Howard, President and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation.
Howard says the funding from CEMI aligns with the James Irvine Foundation’s mission of supporting low-income workers because it helps grassroots organizations and community advocates participate in the planning and decision-making that goes into the distribution of public funds.
“We need an economy built on inclusion, equity, and dignity for all work and workers — and that starts by making room for diverse leaders to have a say in how these once-in-a-generation investments shape their communities’ futures,” Howard continued.
The CEMI funding will provide technical assistance and training to the CBOs that qualify to build their capacity and infrastructure and build models for what community-driven economic development looks like, according to the Center at Sierra Health Foundation. The funders of CEMI say they believe the organizations they support will grow into a strong network that can drive more “equitable economic development policy, regulation and accountability at state and local levels.”
The California Endowment (TCE), a private foundation with headquarters in Los Angeles, has also committed to investing in CEMI. TCE is a 56-year-old foundation that supports programs that improve the health care of Californians living in underserved communities.
“The availability of state and federal funding provides California with an important opportunity to address critical health and economic challenges for the most vulnerable Californians,” said Dr. Bob Ross, president and CEO of TCE. “This potential can only be realized by investing in community-led change,” Ross added.
Hewitt says the project will result in “transformative change” in California.
“The past few years have laid bare the impact of long-term disinvestment in poor communities. We must do all we can to position community institutions to grow power and create opportunity for the places and populations they serve, “ he said.