About budget advocacy
State and local budgets are valuable documents. They dictate what government will use the money for, how much, and for how long. Budgets are value statements representing choices people make about what should receive funding and what shouldn't. Budgets dictate whether the government will spend money on education, housing, public transportation, social services, and a host of other community uses.
Budget advocacy empowers individuals, communities, and grassroots organizations to bring their voices to the state and local budgeting process. These groups analyze, monitor, and comment on public budgets so that they better reflect their priorities. Citizens United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) is an organization that does this work and has an excellent description of the power of budget advocacy.
The impact of the budget on frontline communities and disaster resilience
Preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters costs money. Frontline communities that have suffered disinvestment and disenfranchisement need crucial yet expensive infrastructure, such as retrofitted apartment buildings to withstand earthquakes. For this investment to occur, State and local governments need to prioritize these needs in the budget.
Unfortunately, most localities invest very little funding in disaster resiliency, especially relative to the need and the cost of doing nothing. As one example, the City of Los Angeles typically spends 50% of its budget on the police department. Meanwhile, the Office of Emergency Services, which handles preventing and managing disasters, has .05% of the budget despite Los Angeles being one of the riskiest places to live in terms of natural hazards. The reality of this budget means that there is minimal capacity and funding to mitigate risks or support people during a disaster. It means waiting for funding to arrive from the private actors or the state or federal government.
The People's Budget LA Coalition, convened by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, calls this out in their proposal for a different LA budget. Their proposal would redirect 45% of funding to Universal Aid and Crisis Management, including funding basic needs and disaster resiliency. The people surveyed by the coalition felt that this is the top priority for the budget. Meeting people's basic needs is a key component of disaster resiliency.
Actions to take
For individuals, community-based organizations, affordable housing providers, and philanthropy
Learn more about your local and state budgets. What receives a lot of funding? What doesn't? Does that seem right?
Attend budget meetings and give public comments. Identify budget gaps and offer what you think the community needs, given your community partners' input and vision.
Create your version of a budget, like the People's Budget LA.
Get involved in local advocacy to have a more democratic budgeting process. Use The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's In the Eye of the Storm: A People's Guide to Transforming Crisis & Advancing Equity in the Disaster Continuum tools on legislative advocacy.
For local and State government
Prioritize basic needs, disaster, and climate resilience in budgets.
Create a process to have a more open and democratic budgeting process.