Bill by Sens. Hueso and Durazo Prioritizes Workforce Development for Underserved Communities in Emergency and Climate Response

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Bill by Sens. Hueso and Durazo Prioritizes Workforce Development for Underserved Communities in Emergency and Climate Response

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As California considers a COVID-19 recovery plan, state leaders have an opportunity to align economic and climate goals by prioritizing workforce development in the expanding green economy, all while targeting underserved communities throughout California. This is the goal of Senator Ben Hueso’s (D-San Diego) and Senator Maria Elena Durazo’s (D-Los Angeles) bill SB 604, which was approved unanimously last week by the State Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water. 

SB 604, the Nature and Parks Career Pathway and Community Resiliency and Equity Act of 2021, would create grant programs at state conservancies and the Wildlife Conservation Board to support critical climate-beneficial and climate-resiliency projects. These projects would include those that help prevent natural disasters such as wildfires or mitigate climate impacts such as the heat-island effect, among other climate change phenomena. 

Equally important, the grant programs would establish and facilitate workforce development criteria for climate resilience programs. This bill would require the administering entities to seek input from state and local workforce partners to develop career pathway strategies that align with their program goals. SB 604 would facilitate hands-on training, certification, and job placement services for individuals with barriers to employment. 

“The empowerment of working-class communities and communities of color is fundamental to California’s economic recovery and climate resilience efforts,” said Sen. Hueso. “Men and women in these communities have faced exclusionary hiring and educational practices that have put them at a significant disadvantage in the job market and the economy at large. With the implementation of these workforce development programs, these underserved communities could receive the necessary education, training, and certifications to pursue diverse, well-paying careers in the climate and natural resource industries.” 

COVID-19 has exacerbated economic hardships, especially among working-class communities and communities of color. These are the same communities that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment has projected that costs associated with direct climate impacts will be in the order of tens of billions of dollars by 2050. To address the economic impacts of COVID-19 and climate change, currently two of the nation’s most pressing issues, the State must invest in the implementation of climate-beneficial projects and high-quality, well-paying workforce development programs to introduce real jobs to the green economy. 

“We need to prioritize workforce development and climate resilience in the communities that have been hardest hit not only by COVID-19, but by decades of environmental and racial injustice," said Sen. Durazo. "It’s these same communities that will be most affected by 21st century climate change and its economic impacts. With some of the largest state and federal stimulus packages presenting a significant economic windfall for California this year, California can be a leader in creating high-road, well-paying green jobs, workforce training for these jobs and pathways to careers, in particular for historically underserved Californians.” 

SB 604 is sponsored by Community Nature Connection and California Association of Local Conservation Corps. 

“Whether addressing our graduates during Commencement, hosting question and answer sessions on Facebook-live, or advocating for legislation that benefits the communities in which they live, Senator Hueso has been a consistent voice of support for our multi-faceted mission of helping young adults succeed in life,” said Urban Corps of San Diego County CEO Kyle Kennedy.  “SB 604 not only aligns with the senator’s priorities to increase job readiness and economic opportunity for disadvantaged youth and communities, but with State’s objectives for climate resiliency and a post-COVID-19 economic recovery for all Californians.”