News flash! Every week, following the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl picks five items you might find interesting, important, and/or fun. It’s your way to get a quick rundown of several highlights of the meeting in no more than 5 minutes! Looking for more? Click here to get the entire agenda.
Supporting the “I am Vanessa Guillén” Act of 2020
In 2019, 20,500 American servicemembers were raped or sexually assaulted, 13,000 women and 7,500 men. Further, if that statistic is not sufficiently chilling, there is evidence that almost 2/3 of assaults in the military go unreported. Recently, the heinous murder of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood has brought this extremely disturbing issue to the forefront of the national conversation.
In Congress, two federal bills, HR8270 and S4600, have been introduced to make critical changes in the ways in which sexual assault and harassment cases are handled in the military. Some of these bills’ main objectives include making sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and moving prosecution decisions of sexual assault and harassment cases out of the military chain of command. The Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis that formalizes our support for these bills.
Reentry Employment Support for AB 109 Fire Camp Participants
Every fire season, California’s use of incarcerated people to fight our many wildfires faces criticism for the fact that inmates work in hazardous conditions and receive minimal compensation while incarcerated, and then are faced with serious employment barriers after release. As LA County furthers its anti-racist policy agenda and develops programs to fulfill our Alternatives to Incarceration vision, we have to do more to help those who are willing to risk their lives to fight our wildfires while in jail, so that they are not barred from training and employment as firefighters after they’ve paid their debt to society.
On the heels of Governor Newsom’s signing of Assembly Bill 2147, the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis that presents both short and long-term visions for improving employment linkages for this population. Fire Camp participants will be connected with meaningful job opportunities and vocational training at the County, and prepare a system to help expunge the criminal records of those eligible so that they can apply for their EMT certification and jobs with LACoFD.
Through this motion, LA County will reduce its constant reliance on the labor of incarcerated people by offering the services and support necessary for them to be successfully employed by LA County and LACoFD after release from custody.
Family Assistance Program
I’m very pleased that the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas that will re-evaluate the Family Assistance Program’s goals and funding.
The Family Assistance Program was established to improve compassionate communication and provide trauma-informed support to families who lose a loved one through a deputy’s fatal use of force or in-custody death.
The motion calls on the Office of Inspector General to identify continued funding and potential changes to help this valuable program become more impactful.
Housing Mobility and Safe RV Parking Program Pilot
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has made ten grants available for the Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration project, which assists families with children under 13 to help them move to lower-poverty areas.
This week, the Board passed a motion authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas authorizing LA County Development Authority to join forces with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles and submit a joint application to HUD. If approved for the funds, this grant could help over 2,000 Section 8 families secure stable housing!
We also passed my motion allocating funding towards the Safe RV Parking Program Pilot in Van Nuys. North Valley Caring Services will operate the site, which will have space for 14 RV’s.
Veteran Suicide Review Team
Across the US, the veteran suicide rate is more than twice the civilian rate at about 14 per 100,000 individuals vs. 30.1 per 100,000 veterans. In California, the rate is even higher, at 39.1 per 100,000 veterans.
The alarming number of suicide deaths among our veteran population has led the LA County Board of Supervisors to invest in a peer-based “vet to vet” access initiative known as the Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN). We also created a unique partnership between the County, City, and VA to review thousands of suicide deaths in LA County and comb data to identify veterans within the group.
Furthering this vital work, this week, we passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Kathryn Barger that directs the Medical Examiner/ Coroner to create an official partnership for data sharing with the VA. The motion also asks for a report back in 90 days on the feasibility of creating a Veteran Suicide Review Team, much like those developed in New York and Montana, to understand the underlying causes of veteran suicides better and produce policy recommendations to better serve our nation’s veterans.
This is the first partnership of its kind, and we commend the strong partnerships between LA County and the VA of Greater Los Angeles as we move this work forward together.