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California State Capitol
Issue 34

Happy New Year!

Happy 2022! I hope you all had a safe and fun holiday season. The Assembly has returned to Sacramento for Session. I'm already missing the time I had to work directly in the AD63. Yet, I'm also excited to be back in the Capitol to get to work on the issues most important to SELA and all of California.

As we see a rise in COVID cases, due to the omicron variant, I want to once again encourage you all to get vaccinated if you haven't yet. If you are already fully vaccinated, once eligible, please get your booster dose as soon as you can.

Second Chance to Reduce Student Debt

Student writing with pen

There is good news for some Californians facing student debts. I was lucky when I went to college. Costs were much lower than they are today. Even though I went through graduate school, I was able to leave without crushing debt. Not everybody has the same experience. Maybe you or someone in your family is currently having to pay thousands of dollars each year to try to retire their student loans. In California, we've worked hard to make education more affordable for today's students, but the Biden Administration announced in October that it would help out with some federal loan debt.

A program enacted almost 15 years ago was intended to forgive some federal student loans for people who used their education to give back to the community. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) was offered to people in jobs like nursing, teaching and the military. Other professions also qualified. Unfortunately, when the first applicants were considered in 2017, 99 percent of them were rejected by the U.S. Department of Education. That was just cruel, if you ask me. Holding out a lifeline and snatching it back showed a lack of conscience by the then-Administration. The California Department of Justice thought it represented a violation of the original law and sued the U.S. Department of Education. Other states also complained.

This year, the new administration revived and expanded the offer, including for those who were rejected before. There is also a Temporary Expanded program (TEPSLF) as a reaction to problems people are having paying loans under COVID. The U.S. Department of Education now says it has $2.4 billion in the pipeline for almost 40,000 borrowers. What that means is that anyone with a federal student loan working in public service should look into their eligibility for loan forgiveness. In some cases, they may even qualify for reimbursement of payments that did not qualify before. The rules are a little complicated, but there is a website to guide you through it. It even includes a tool you can use to help you navigate the process. Please, if you or someone you know has student loans that may qualify, visit www.StudentAid.gov/pslf. This is the least we can do to thank you for your public service.

The Legacy of MLK

MLK with fellow demonstrators

Every January 18th, we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. who was an activist and minister who was a leader during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In 1957, King founded and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group that would harness the power of Black-led churches to organize non-violent protests in the interest of civil rights reform. From bus boycotts, to sit-ins, to peaceful marches, King forged a peaceful path towards progress. Often, however, many of King's peaceful protests were met with violent retaliation by local police forces and community members. King was arrested 29 times protesting racist laws and segregation practices. King persisted, continuing his role as an outspoken activist against the Vietnam War and racist institutions throughout the American South and the rest of the nation. In 1963, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC after the March on Washington in which over 100,000 citizens took the street to peacefully demonstrate for civil rights reform.

King's legacy lives on still in our fight for equality in America. This year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day let us remember the foundation he laid down in the name of justice, and let us keep on this path towards progress until his dream is realized.

Here are some ways to celebrate MLK Day this year:

  1. Support Black Businesses
  2. Volunteer with organizations that directly provide services and give back to the Black community directly.
  3. Learn about MLK's history and the racial justice movement.
  4. Have meaningful conversations about racial justice and equality.
  5. Donate to organizations working for racial justice.

California Outdoors For All

California Outdoors For All

Green space is important and vital for community health and success!

Last month, California State Parks announced $548.3M in grants for over 100+ communities to build parks & community space.

I'm proud to have been a leader on the legislation that led to these grants.

This included $13.8M for #AD63

Cudahy received $6.9M for Cudahy Park renovations, which includes constructing a new performing arts stage, outdoor gym, walking/jogging path, splash pads, picnic area, new lighting and shade throughout the park. Paramount received over $890 thousand for Dills Park improvements. This includes new walking trails, public art, restrooms, landscaping and a gated parking lot with lighting and security cameras. South Gate received over $4M for Hollydale Community Park renovations, which includes a new community center, outdoor gathering spaces, turf lawn with movie screen, playground, water play, picnic areas, parking and new lighting. South Gate also gets $1.9M for the Urban Orchard Project. This will construct wetlands, a new community recreation center, jogging/walking path, picnic area, shade structures, a community garden, artwork, and much more.

I'm excited to see these projects come to life. Green and community spaces are important and #AD63 deserves them.

What's Happening in SELA?

Here are events happening in AD63 this month.

Too Toxic To Trash (Drive-Thru Hazardous & Electronic Waste Collection) - Jan 15 in Bell

Too Toxic To Trash flyer

Community Tree Planting - Jan. 19 in Bell

Community Tree Planting flyer

Virtual Visual Arts Workshop - Starts Jan. 22 hosted by Maywood & CA Arts Council

Virtual Visual Arts Workshop flyer

Paw Place Pet Health Fair - Jan. 29 in Bell

Paw Place Pet Health Fair flyer

Have an idea or topic for a future R Guide?
Send your suggestions to Julian.Gonzalez@asm.ca.gov!