Akee on Need for Federal Funding to Support Tribes

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee was featured on Indian Country Today discussing the need for federal funding to support Native American economies. Akee co-authored a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin along with a report about the need for CARES Act funding to support tribes during the pandemic. While Congress has allocated $8 billion in relief aid, about half of it was tied up in litigation because of the use of the word “tribe.” Akee also noted that “having to spend the money by the end of the actual year 2020 and document all of those expenses in a way that is only tied to COVID-19 seems like a bit of an extra burden for tribal governments that are already strained.”


Taylor on Post-Pandemic Goals for Public Transit

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fast Company about what public transit might look like after the coronavirus pandemic ends. Public transit ridership has dropped dramatically as a result of stay-at-home orders and the closure of non-essential businesses, but Taylor noted that some will need to return to using public transit eventually. “Public transit is really good at moving a lot of people in the same direction at the same time. That’s when the music happens,” said Taylor, a professor of urban planning and public policy. Public transit riders may see changes such as sanitation tools on board, masks and gloves, more frequent service, different routes, or even fare-free service. This summer, Taylor will be working on a project looking at alternative ways to measure transit performance in a system where social distance will have to be maintained.


Ong on Evictions and the Worsening Housing Crisis

Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox 11 News about the impact of impending evictions on the housing crisis. A moratorium in Los Angeles prohibited landlords from evicting renters during the coronavirus pandemic, but many families fear they will lose their homes when the moratorium is lifted. The threat of eviction comes as widespread unemployment has pushed many households further into debt. After studying how the coronavirus crisis has affected different communities, Ong said that African American and Latino households in Los Angeles County are at high risk. “These are the same workers that … are on the financial edge,” he said. “By the end of the crisis, [they] will be deeply in debt.” 


Abrams on Setting Priorities in the Next L.A. Budget

LAist cited Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams in an article about budget cuts the city of Los Angeles is facing amid an economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. At issue is the appropriate level of funding for the Los Angeles Police Department. LAPD supporters say uniformed police have been expected to provide an ever-expanding array of community services, especially during the pandemic. Activists argue that law enforcement funding should not be increased while vital services go underfunded. On a conference call organized by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Abrams said, “Police officers, even when well-intentioned, are not social workers.” Becoming a certified social worker requires special training, including adhering to a code of ethics and gaining the ability to advocate for vulnerable communities, she said, adding, “These skills or training cannot be paralleled by any work in law enforcement.”

Umemoto on Translating COVID-19 Information

In an Ed Scoop article, Karen Umemoto, urban planning professor and director of the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA, discussed the importance of translating public health information and recommendations into several languages. UCLA has launched a website with health and safety recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic translated into more than 40 languages. The website will help inform the many communities that lack access to official news, public health information and safety recommendations in a language other than English, Umemoto said. According to U.S. Census data, more than 50% of people in the Greater Los Angeles area do not speak English at home. “Los Angeles is home to a critical mass of many non-English-speaking communities, including Asian and Pacific Islander,” Umemoto said. During a pandemic, households representing racial minorities often face a disproportionate burden of illness and death.


Torres-Gil on Generational Impacts of COVID-19

Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil discussed the disproportionate generational impacts of COVID-19 as a guest on the “COVID-19 Heroes” podcast. The coronavirus pandemic has had a greater impact on older persons and persons with disabilities, who are more vulnerable to infection. Torres-Gil explained that “society as a whole tends to focus on youth and forgets that someday they will be older.” Pointing out that “no one escapes old age,” he said each generation has a responsibility to support the generation that comes before and after it. Without universal health care, minimum income, or adequate compensation and security for essential workers, many individuals have been left on their own during the pandemic. “It’s important to look at the long-term implications of this virus in hopes that we will learn from it,” Torres-Gil concluded. “We left too many people to be on their own and to be vulnerable during this terrible pandemic.”


Akee on Underrepresentation of Ethnic Minorities

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee spoke to ABC News about the risk of underrepresentation of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the 2020 census. Government attempts to count smaller populations of ethnic minorities, including Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, in the United States have historically been inaccurate because of unwillingness or inability to participate in the census. Profound distrust of the government and language barriers have also contributed to inaccurate census results. Experts worry that the added challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic may exacerbate inaccuracies in the 2020 census, which could result in small ethnic minorities being denied public funds and resources. “I’ve seen most clearly in the last two to three months the vital importance of as accurate as possible population counts, especially for small populations like NHPI,” Akee said. “Because without that, it may potentially throw off our public health figures.”


Yaroslavsky on ‘Mind-Boggling’ Use of Police Chokehold

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Institute at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox 11 News about police use of force in the case of George Floyd, who died in custody in Minneapolis. Images of a white police officer with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for several minutes as the unarmed black man pleaded for help have ignited protests around the country. “There is no excuse whatsoever. There is no chief of police who could defend engaging in that kind of physical restraint when somebody is already handcuffed and submissive,” Yaroslavsky said. In his years as a Los Angeles City Council member, Yaroslavsky was outspoken in his criticism of police use of chokeholds. The tactic was banned in Los Angeles in 1982 except in circumstances that call for deadly force. “Nearly 40 years ago, we ended that chokehold, and it’s just mind-boggling to me that law enforcement agencies across the country still use it,” Yaroslavsky said.


Schools Need Flexible Federal Funding, Reber Writes

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a Brookings article about the importance of flexibility in coronavirus stabilization funding for schools. Schools need federal funding to offset decreases in state funding due to the coronavirus pandemic. Reber argued that Congress should send federal aid to states and school districts through a fiscal stabilization fund, instead of expanding existing federal programs like Title I that come with complicated compliance requirements. She recommended creating a “straightforward and streamlined federal application process for states and school districts.” She also highlighted the importance of using concise, plain language to avoid any confusion about how school districts are allowed to use funding. To best serve students, Congress should craft a relief program that “grants districts the flexibility that they need to use funds most effectively.” The article is the second installment of Brookings’ “Federal aid for schools and COVID-19” series by Reber and Nora Gordon of Georgetown University.


Yaroslavsky Seminar Becomes Crash Course in L.A. Crisis Management

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was featured in a Los Angeles Times column about his spring public policy graduate course, which shifted to an online seminar because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The former L.A. county supervisor and city councilman typically focuses the course — co-taught by his former chief deputy Alisa Katz — on regional institutions and leaders and how they influence policy and quality of life. The change has allowed guest speakers, including those on the front lines of leadership during the crisis, to participate. Guests have included county supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Most recently, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, broke away from their daily press briefings and other public appearances to chat directly with students via Zoom. “What better way to counterbalance their theoretical and quantitative training than to show them real-world, life-and-death decision-making in the moment?” Yaroslavsky said.