People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Long Beach’s 9th District councilman Rex Richardson, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought considerable uncertainty to our lives. We are consumed with our health as well as concerned for the well-being of our families, friends and community members. Our city, along with communities across our country, is navigating how to keep people physically distant while staying connected. Financial security is at the top of the mind for working families whose income abruptly ended, and small business owners deemed unessential during this crisis.
This health crisis affects all of us. Like many families, my wife and I are working from home while simultaneously homeschooling and entertaining our two daughters who are unable to attend their preschool. My stepfather stopped making deliveries as a truck driver to protect my mom’s health, making it difficult for them to make ends meet.
Everyone will have their own stories of how the “Safer At Home” order affected their lives. Every business will have struggles with bringing in revenue and paying their employees. Every health care professional and first responder will put their lives on the line to help fight this pandemic.
We’re all in this together. We are facing difficult challenges, but I have faith that we will overcome them if we all do our part to help. Everyone needs to do their part for the safety and security of our city and collective future. This effort will require a great sense of social responsibility from every member of our community, residents, businesses, faith-based, and community-based organizations alike.
First, we all need to follow the “Safer at Home” order. Many who have the virus don’t show symptoms right away and contribute to its spread in our community. We are fortunate to be one of only three cities in California with its own local public health department, which has provided crucial information at LongBeach.gov/Covid19. I encourage everyone to visit the website frequently to get the most up-to-date information about our response to this crisis.
Second, we should all look out for one another. I have been proud to see neighborhoods in North Long Beach — like Hamilton, Grant, and DeForest Park — safely organize check-ins with vulnerable members of our community. They’ve shared food and cleaning supplies and established online support groups, all while observing the “Safer at Home” order and practicing social distancing. We need to continue to take these types of actions in the coming weeks and potentially months ahead. If you are healthy, please consider lending a helping hand. If you are ill, please stay home and reach out for help.
Third, all levels of government will need to step up and provide relief, starting with local government. Our city has already taken action to address the needs of our residents. Last week, we suspended utility shut-offs on residents and small business customers for non-payment. This week, our city council placed a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions to provide much-needed relief to all renters and small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 emergency, no matter the immigration status, through May 31st, with a grace period to make up overdue payments by November 30th.
The Long Beach City Council has also directed city staff to implement a comprehensive economic relief program. We are exploring what we can do to support our local small businesses with technical and financial assistance. They are finding ways to protect workers’ jobs with a right to return to work and to support our vulnerable restaurant and tourism sectors by creating recovery and “shop local” programs. As chair of our city council’s Economic Development Committee, I am committed to making the economic relief agenda my top priority. The entire City Council is united in our commitment to responding rapidly to the needs of our residents and taking action to protect the health and economic welfare of our community.
On the national stage, a relief package passed Friday will include aid for local governments and health care systems for COVID-19 response. Their plan also consists of an expansion of unemployment benefits for small business owners and independent contractors, direct financial relief for working families, and support for small businesses. On the state level, we have been working with our state legislators to advocate for mortgage relief for impacted homeowners, expanded health care and homeless aid, expanded paid family leave, and increased unemployment insurance for workers. As chair of our State Legislative Committee, it is my goal to maintain a focus on these critical issues.
Fourth, now is the time to utilize our public-private partnerships. Businesses are encouraged to leverage their procurement power to secure personal protective equipment for our doctors, nurses, and health care workers, so they can care for our community safely. Corporations should rally in support of their employees, the communities they operate in, and help small businesses in their supply chain.
We already see great examples of this. Bridge Partners, the company redeveloping the old Edgington Refinery into a modern industrial center, pledged to provide housing counseling, small business support, and to help connect hundreds of North Long Beach families and college students to free or low-cost internet with access to WiFi hotspots. Companies across the city can also support local community-based organizations working on the front line by donating to the Long Beach Coronavirus Relief Fund.
I applaud the formation of the new Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion, a community development corporation established to expand economic opportunities across the city. With so much economic uncertainty, this agency will be crucial in our local relief and recovery efforts for small businesses and working families. I want to thank and congratulate board president Bob Cabeza, founding board members Dr. Juan Benitez, Pastor Wayne Chaney, Sharon Diggs-Jackson, Vivian Shimoyama, and Darick Simpson, as well as the Wells Fargo Foundation for partnering to launch this critical organization.
Finally, let’s be grateful for those on the frontlines of this crisis. Our doctors, nurses, health care workers, and first responders are caring for those infected with the virus. Our public health department is coordinating response efforts and guiding us through this process. Our workers at grocery stores, shipping, child care, financial, hospitality, and many other industries are providing us with essential services. Let’s honor these warriors with kindness and empathy.
In this time of crisis, remember that we are all inextricably linked together as part of the same social fabric. We are bonded together in our collective responsibility to protect our communities, while we maintain our social distance. We’re in this together, so let’s all do our part to help support the safety and security of our community and keep our city on firm footing for the future.
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