Water is life for us here in the Central Valley. It impacts every facet of our day-to-day lives, from our jobs to sustaining our daily needs. This summer, a few communities in my district ran dry. One town —Teviston—was without running water for a full month. The families there were unable to turn their taps on to cook, bathe their children or even flush the toilet.
Years ago, a high school friend of mine – a single mom living in fear due to her legal status – came to my door. “I don’t have formula to feed my baby,” she said.
That moment is still very vivid and painful in my memory. Here was my friend – living as I do in a state that feeds the world – at my door, desperate and in fear for her and her infant child.
Unfortunately, her story is not unique. It is a painful story that many immigrant and migrant communities have and continue to experience.
Today, in California, almost 20 percent of high school students say they seriously considered attempting suicide, with almost one-half of LGBTQ students reporting suicidal ideation — more than three times the estimate for their straight peers. Furthermore, suicide rates among teenage girls have hit a 40-year high.
On a local level, since 2010, Kern County has experienced a surge in suicide rates — leading California as one of the top counties when it comes to deaths by suicide per 100,000 population. According to the California Department of Public Health, from 2010 to 2017, Kern County has seen a consistent rise in deaths by suicide from 10.7 percent per 100,000 population to 14.1 percent per 100,000 population.
I am the daughter of immigrants who came to the City of Sanger, searching for the Central Valley Dream. My parents seized opportunities in the agricultural industry that helped them achieve that vision. The road there has been a tumultuous one, and I know that this is something true for many who live here.
Poverty in our Central Valley DOES NOT discriminate. Our current statewide unemployment rate of 16% compared to the Central Valley exceeding a whopping 18%.
As the world continues to grapple with the most devastating public health crises in modern history, the San Joaquin Valley has been hit particularly hard, resulting in mass disarray. Small rural regions and underserved communities are now experiencing threefold the challenges that existed prior to the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic life for the average family in the Valley was already marred with an unemployment rate above the national average, inadequate access to clean water as well as limited health-care services.
During my first year as state senator for the communities of Fresno, Kings, Kern and Tulare counties, I’ve had the opportunity to work directly with two leaders who deeply care about California and our environment — Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Gov. Gavin Newsom. At the same time, I’ve experienced firsthand how policies developed around water issues affect everyone.
As we approach Tax Day on April 15, we’d like to take a moment and reflect on a policy that is having tremendous success helping women, especially single mothers, attain financial security. That policy is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a cash-back program that puts money in the pockets of low-income workers.