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Economic Security and Dignity

To be healthy, people need the stability, confidence and aspiration gained through earning a reliable and growing income, saving money, and owning assets.  Yet many Californians face barriers to achieving enough income to meet basic needs, let alone build wealth – the single most important factor that influences health.

Using the metaphor of a house to talk about economic security, we strive to strengthen the floor and raise the ceiling. "Strengthening the floor" means focusing on reinforcing a social safety net that protects people from economic distress when faced with unexpected situations.  And "raising the ceiling" means emphasizing post-secondary education and training, and access to good jobs that provide living wages, strong benefits and career paths. Raising the ceiling also includes entrepreneurship and growing assets – from homeownership to retirement savings.

According to the Asset Funders Network, wealth helps to explain the long-standing racial health inequities that endure in our nation. It may be surprising to realize that the term "wealth" doesn’t necessarily refer to millionaires.  Rather, AFN defines “high wealth” as possessing $104,000 or more in total assets. On average, White households are about 10 times wealthier than Black ones, and Whites have traditionally and historically had more assets than Blacks. To challenge entrenched inequities, we prioritize Californians from communities of color and low-income communities. These communities have long faced, and continue to face, systemic barriers to realizing their aspirations and achieving fulfilling lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the economic security of millions of Americans and set off a catastrophic economic event for our country. It’s clear that millions are on the edge of financial ruin. Yet the current crisis offers both an opportunity to plan for economic recovery, and to reimagine what a more economically just world looks like. Our commitment and work in this area predates COVID-19 and will endure beyond this moment—and we’re committed to long-term change.

Our Economic Security and Dignity portfolio aims to advance the economic well-being of Californians, especially those from low-income communities and communities of color.

This is what we will support:

Economic mobility and wealth creation. All Californians should be able to get good-paying jobs, build businesses as entrepreneurs if they choose to, and be financially secure. We will support nonprofits that advance entrepreneurial efforts that increase the opportunities and support for communities of color and low-income communities.

Improving health outcomes is not just a matter of promoting good jobs and increasing income — it’s also about building assets and the confidence and cushion that wealth provides to expand opportunities. This portfolio also includes the work of our re-entry program to create opportunities for women recently released from prison to succeed. Read more to learn more about leaders we’re funding in this work.

Post-secondary education and training. We’ll strengthen the educational ecosystem that helps formerly incarcerated youth, homeless youth and foster youth to succeed at the post-secondary level. By supporting the efforts of colleges, universities, career/technical programs, training programs for the health professions, and nonprofits to serve these youth, we can help make sure that young people can graduate with degrees and certifications that pave the way to greater long-term economic success. We know that these programs help young people who are too often neglected to deepen their sense of dignity, hone their vision for the future and build economic security for the future.

Economic safety net. We want to make sure there is easy access to safety-net income supports such as California Earned Income Tax Credits, and food stamps. According to the Center for American Progress, a strong safety net reduces poverty, increases economic mobility, and strengthens our national economy. Furthermore, studies show that many safety-net programs offer an excellent return on investment to taxpayers. We will help expand and strengthen the safety net to support low-income Californians in both maintaining their financial stability and in building their economic progress.

Jeff Kim image
PROGRAM DIRECTOR Jeffrey S. Kim

Jeffrey S. Kim is a program director at The California Wellness Foundation where he currently manages grantmaking related to the Economic Security & Dignity portfolio.

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PROGRAM OFFICER Monica Gomez

Monica Gomez is a program officer for the Economic Security & Dignity portfolio.

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