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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 eliminate 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 "eliminating the ceiling" means emphasizing post-secondary education and training, and access to good jobs that provide living wages, strong benefits and career paths. Eliminating 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.


Economic Mobility & 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 efforts that advance workforce development and entrepreneurship 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’ve funded in this work.

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What We Fund

  • Comprehensive workforce development efforts that focus on formerly incarcerated men and women, immigrants and refugees, or low-income people of color and provide all of the following:
    • Placement into living-wage jobs that offer robust benefits and pathways for career advancement;
    • Job retention services; and
    • Case-managed wraparound support services.
  • Efforts that support and strengthen small businesses through culturally-effective advising services and access to trustworthy capital for owners and operators who are persons of color, immigrants and refugees, or low-income individuals.
  • Public policy efforts that address one of the following: 
    • Advance comprehensive workforce development approaches; or
    •  Strengthen supports for small businesses.

What We Don't Fund

  • Workforce development efforts that emphasize resume writing, interview skills training, placement into low-wage jobs, or job training with minimal job placement or support services.
  • An individual organization’s efforts to develop, build, or expand its in-house workforce or its own small business.

Grantee Organizations We've Funded

Take a look at these grantee organizations to get a better sense of what we fund.

A Time for Change
Oakland
$300,000/3 years

Core operating support to advance the economic well-being and mobility of justice-impacted Inland Empire residents, prioritizing women of color, through comprehensive workforce development, leadership development, and public policy efforts.

Prospera Community Development
Oakland
$250,000/3 years

Core operating support to advance the economic wellbeing and mobility of Latina immigrants through incubation of worker cooperative enterprises and community engagement.

Small Business Majority
Washington, DC
$450,000/3 years

Core operating support to strengthen small businesses in California and their access to capital, affordable health care and other entrepreneurial and workforce benefits, with attention to racial and gender equity, as social determinants of health.

UCLA Labor Center
Los Angeles, CA
$475,000/3 years

Project support for UCLA Labor Center’s Center for Advancement of Racial Equity at Work to expand comprehensive workforce development, leadership development, movement building and public policy efforts for Black workers in the Inland Empire and San Diego.


Post Secondary Education & Health Professions Training

By supporting the efforts of colleges, universities, career/technical programs, training programs for the health professions, and nonprofits to to serve youth and underrepresented racial minorities, 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.

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What We Fund

  • College campus-based support programs and supportive housing programs that support the postsecondary educational success of our priority youth population.
  • Health professions schools and training programs that improve the admission and success of underrepresented students of color. In particular, this portfolio will prioritize positions with the greatest racial disparities (e.g., physicians, dentists, pharmacists).
  • Public policy efforts that: 
    • Advance the postsecondary educational success of our priority youth population, or 
    • Address barriers to careers in the health professions for underrepresented students of color.
  • Leadership development efforts that support advocacy of our:
    • Priority youth population on issues impacting their postsecondary educational success, or 
    • Underrepresented students of color on issues impacting their success in health professions.

What We Don't Fund

  • Programs that focus on college preparation, high school completion or the acquisition of a GED or HiSET certificate, or K-12-focused programs, including efforts addressing STEM.
  • Supportive housing programs that are not tailored to our priority youth population nor oriented to advancing their postsecondary educational success.
  • Health professions schools and training programs that address students broader than underrepresented students of color.
  • Efforts that focus on health workforce or workplace diversity and cultural competence.

Grantee Organizations We’ve Funded

Take a look at these grantee organizations to get a better sense of what we fund.

Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science
Los Angeles, CA

$450,000/3 years

Core operating support to continue to plan and implement a regional coordinated pathway (inclusive of community colleges and Charles Drew University’s new four-year medical education program) for underrepresented minority students in South Los Angeles pursuing careers in health professions.

Education Trust Inc.
Washington, DC
$250,000/3 years

For core operating support for Education Trust-West to advance racial equity in educational and training systems for medical and other health professions in California through public policy and narrative change efforts.

First Place for Youth
Oakland
$350,000/3 years

Core operating support to sustain and strengthen career-focused programming in six California counties for foster youth who are pregnant or parenting, with an emphasis on supporting their postsecondary educational progress and overall well-being.

Los Rios Community College District
Sacramento
$200,000/3 years

For core operating support to sustain and strengthen the well-being and postsecondary educational progress of youth connected to Sacramento County’s juvenile justice system, while they are in detention and at Sacramento City College.


Economic Safety Net

We want to make sure there is easier access to safety-net income supports. 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.

More Information

What We Fund

  • Public policy efforts that:
    • Strengthen and improve access to income supports, such as CalEITC, CalFresh, and CalSavers; or
    • Address improvements with wages, benefits, and other employment practices.
  • Innovative and emerging income support approaches (e.g., guaranteed income).

What We Don't Fund

  • Efforts that primarily address occupational health and workplace safety.

Grantee Organizations We’ve Funded

Take a look at these grantee organizations to get a better sense of what we fund.

Center on Policy Initiatives
San Diego
$250,000/3 years

Core operating support for public policy and leadership development efforts to improve the economic security of low-income communities and communities of color in San Diego County.

Golden State Opportunity Foundation
San Francisco
$300,000/3 year

Core operating support to improve health outcomes through outreach, communications and public policy efforts related to the state and federal earned income tax credits.

Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration
Stockton
$150,000/3 years

Project support to improve health outcomes through a guaranteed income demonstration in Stockton.

Western Center on Law and Poverty
Los Angeles
$350,000/3 years

Core operating support for public policy efforts to improve health care and public benefit systems in California.


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. Watch the above video to learn more.
Cal Wellness Issues in the News

Each week, we collect news relating to each of our four portfolios. Read on to learn more.

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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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