- Increased Funding and Incentives to Support the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. The Inland Empire cannot reach air quality goals without federal involvement in regulation of diesel emissions from heavy duty trucks.
- Support capacity enhancement for infrastructure. Inland Empire residents can no longer pay for capacity enhancing highway improvements to move goods in the national supply chain through the vast network of San Bernardino County highways.
- Urge Congress to support the health of the Inland Empire through efforts that include the delay or elimination of DSH, Medicaid and Medicare cuts; enhanced coordination of mental and physical health care services; funding to address workforce shortages and geographic disparities; as well as programs and services that address the social determinants of health.With designations as Medically Underserved Areas and Health Professional Shortage Areas for primary care, dental health, and mental health, Inland Empire hospitals and health systems cannot sustain cuts to federal programs. Access to healthcare for the most vulnerable populations in the region will be jeopardized.
- Support action to double the maximum Pell Grant to $13,000. The Inland Empire, which suffers from one of the lowest baccalaureate degree attainment rates in the nation for metropolitan areas of one million or more residents, as well as one of the highest poverty rates, needs more skilled and educated workers to advance the region’s economy. Pell Grants are the cornerstone of financial aid, targeting federal resources to students most in need of support to afford a college education.
- Urge that the chronic shortfall in Federal Judicial Resources in the Inland Empire be addressed by:
- Confirming the Honorable Kenly Kiya Kato’s nomination to serve as U.S. District Judge,
- By constructing a new federal courthouse in the Inland Empire, and
- By supporting creation of new judgeships for the Central District of California.
- The Central Judicial District of California, home to 4.6 million people and spanning 27,408 square miles, is served by only two District Judges sitting in the Eastern Division. For many years, there has been only one. In 2022, of the 1,609 civil cases filed within the Eastern Division, 620 (39%) were reassigned predominantly to Los Angeles. In addition, of the 161 criminal cases filed in the Eastern Division, 79 (49%) were reassigned.
- Support reauthorization of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
- Support for Affordable Housing Resident Services.
- Support protection of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program.
- Support action to double the maximum Pell Grant to $13,000.
- Support Infrastructure and Capital Support for Higher Education.
- Support Increased Funding and Incentives for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act.
- Support for Funding for Continued Management of the Salton Sea.
- Support for Increased Funding for Water Supply, Water Quality, and Water Storage Projects through:
- Support for permitting of the Delta Conveyance Project.
- Funding for Monitoring and Remediation – PFAS.
- Enhance Reliability of Long-Term Supplies, Storage and Drought Resiliency for California.
- Support Water Conservation Rebate Tax Parity.
- Federal Support for Water Purveyor Consolidation Efforts
- Urge Congress to support the health of the Inland Empire through efforts that include the delay or elimination of DSH, Medicaid and Medicare cuts; enhanced coordination of mental and physical health care services; funding to address workforce shortages and geographic disparities; as well as programs and services that address the social determinants of health.
- Urge that the chronic shortfall in Federal Judicial Resources in the Inland Empire be addressed by:
- Confirming the Honorable Kenly Kiya Kato’s nomination to serve as U.S. District Judge,
- Constructing a new federal courthouse in the Inland Empire, and
- Supporting creation of new judgeships for the Central District of California.
- Support capacity enhancement for infrastructure.
- Support extension of Clean Air Act conformity deadlines.
Economic Development Issues
Support reauthorization of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Inland Action urges its Congressional representatives to show support for business in the Inland Empire by reauthorizing the Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). According to most measures, including but in no way limited to employment, wage, growth, retail, and commercial vacancy rates, the Inland Empire’s economy is healthy. However, Inland Empire businesses of all sizes are struggling to find, hire, and retain capable, well-trained, reliable employees.
Enacted in 2014, the WIOA authorizes federal employment, workforce and training programs, and formula funding to state and local governments. The WIOA provides the needed framework for a modernized, demand-driven workforce development system to meet the needs of employers and jobseekers alike. The WIOA enables county workforce development boards in the Inland Empire to train workers in the region who may otherwise struggle to enter the workforce. In times like these, the ability to expand the workforce is essential to the continued growth of the Inland Empire economy. The WIOA is, therefore, a vital funding source for workforce development that helps counties tackle and overcome the challenges facing the local workforce area.
Inland Action joins statewide associations, local agencies, and other stakeholders to advocate for legislation, budget actions, or administrative proposals that support the reauthorization of the WIOA to include:
- Continued local control.
- Greater engagement with local area employers to provide business retention, on-the-job training, job placement services, and offset business closures through layoff prevention services.
- Continued funding of career centers and other programs such as Individual Training Accounts that provide jobseekers choices for occupational training, career pathway programs to meet strategic planning goals, and build a workforce customized to meet local demand and emerging sectors.
- Continued support of career growth and employment advancement opportunities to meet local economic development needs in accordance with the Countywide Vision.
Continuing to move WIOA forward without a reauthorization creates instability in the programing that makes these efforts less effective. In order to see the WIOA maximize efficiency and continue to be progressive rather than reactionary, Inland Action urges members of Congress to address reauthorization of WIOA this year.
Support for Affordable Housing Resident Services. Last year through the omnibus spending bill, Congress authorized demonstration funds for pilot programs to deliver quality residents services aimed at empowering children, families, and seniors living in affordable housing communities. Implementation of these pilot programs will take a few years to produce final results, but the investment in determining best practices and proof of concept projects is necessary. Inland Action thanks our legislators for this important step.
Inland Action urges Congressional representatives not to lose sight of the next step, however, and to enact legislation that authorizes funding to implement the programs developed and lessons learned through the pilot programs at a national scale.
Federal, State, and local governments have invested billions of dollars toward building much needed housing across California and the nation. That investment has been vital in addressing a growing housing crisis. However, even when low-income housing units exists, tenants often need additional support in order to work toward living healthier lives, achieving greater academic success, and increasing self-sufficiency. Investment in supportive resident services maximizes the efficacy of the investment in the building of housing. Owners of affordable housing properties can use grant funding to support services including:
- After-school programs for children and teenagers,
- Educational opportunities for youth and adult residents,
- Mental health, alcohol and addiction treatment,
- Self-sufficiency resources,
- Resources on future home ownership,
- Financial literacy training,
- Elderly care,
- Assistance to residents with disabilities, and
- Other community services.
Funding for services like these enable residents to reach higher academic attainment and increased employment for youth and families, increase the ability for older residents and residents with disabilities to remain in their homes for longer and with greater independence, and provide support and community for residents in need of help with recovering from personal crisis. Better outcomes for residents improve the lives of the residents, benefit our communities, and reduce the future need for government services.
Support protection of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program. California Housing Partnership published housing needs data which shows that across California there are 1.2 million low-income households that cannot find affordable housing, with approximately 10% of those households living in the Inland Empire.
In California, building housing to meet that need involves blending several funding sources in order to maintain affordability. One of the critical sources that is often used to leverage investment in these developments is Low-Income Housing Tax Credit financing. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program (LIHTC) finances the construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of housing affordable to lower-income households. The LIHTC program encourages private investment by providing a tax credit: a dollar-for-dollar reduction in federal taxes owed on other income.
In the last two legislative sessions, the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act has been introduced to strengthen and protect the program. Changes proposed in the legislation would increase affordable housing production and preservation, better serve hard-to-reach populations, remove barriers to affordable housing preservation, streamline program rules, and promote efficiency.
Given the significant roll the ability to leverage tax credit financing plays in the development of new low-income housing, failure to protect this resource will mean families across the county, including thousands in the Inland Empire, will continue to be rent burdened and struggle to find stable, affordable housing. This has negative effects on the members of the family, as well as on the economy of the region.
Support action to double the maximum Pell Grant to $13,000. Inland Action recommends doubling the maximum Pell Grant to $13,000. Doubling the maximum Pell Grant award and indexing it to inflation ensures that all students who wish to attend higher education can afford to do so and protects the Pell Grant from inflationary pressures that have eroded the grant’s purchasing power over time. This increase would substantially contribute to students’ overall aid packages and will help sustain students’ basic needs—including housing and food security, health care, and access to childcare—and promote on-time graduation among the most vulnerable student populations. Additionally, Inland Action supports expansion of access to the Pell Grant to eligible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students.
Inland Empire educational institutions are preparing an educated and skilled workforce for the Inland Empire. Inland Action urges support for legislation and programs that increase equitable access to higher education and help produce more skilled college graduates to meet workforce needs and advance the region’s economy.
Inland Action is appreciative of the action taken in Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus that provided critical investments for higher education and our nation’s education, research, and health care enterprises. In particular, we want to express our gratitude for the $400 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award—the largest single increase in a decade. While progress has been made to support our most vulnerable students, Inland Action supports further action to double the maximum Pell Grant Award to allow more Inland Empire students to complete college and earn degrees more quickly.
The Inland Empire, which suffers from one of the lowest baccalaureate degree attainment rates in the nation for metropolitan areas of one million or more residents, as well as one of the highest poverty rates, needs more skilled and educated workers to advance the region’s economy. The federal Pell Grant program continues to be one of the best investments in our future, opening the door to a college degree and upward mobility to millions of students. More than 67,000 low- to moderate-income students currently attending Inland Empire community colleges and public and private universities rely on Pell Grants to complete their degrees.
Pell Grants are the cornerstone of financial aid, targeting federal resources to students most in need of support to access and afford a college education. Last year marked the 50th Anniversary of the federal Pell Grant program. During this time, the program has provided over 80 million students with the opportunity to pursue higher learning and achieve their full potential. Over seven million students, or about 40 percent of undergraduates, receive a Pell Grant each year, including more than 2.5 million students at public four-year institutions.
Pell Grants are targeted to students with clear financial need: approximately three-fourths of all Pell Grant dollars are awarded to students with a family income below $30,000. For many students, Pell Grants make the difference between being able to afford college or not. But over the years the size of the grant has not kept pace with the costs of attending college. While the maximum grant used to cover nearly 80 percent of the cost of attending a four-year public institution, today the maximum grant of $6,495 covers less than 30 percent of that cost. As the nation moves forward with pandemic recovery, we need bold federal action to make higher education more affordable and accessible to those most in need of support.
Doubling the Pell Grant award takes on added urgency brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased economic strain felt by so many students struggling to cover the rising costs of housing, food, transportation, and childcare. Increasing the maximum Pell Grant award from $6,495 to $13,000 would simultaneously address the basic-needs crisis that students face, while also preparing the educated workforce and future leaders who will be integral to building back our economy. Inland Action calls on Congress to double the maximum Pell award to $13,000, which can occur through a combination of both mandatory and discretionary program increases.
The time also is now to open Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to ensure these vital resources are within the reach of thousands of Dreamers who wish to purse an education to better themselves, as well as their families, communities, and nation.
By increasing the maximum Pell Grant, students will be less inclined to take out loans and more likely to graduate without a mountain of debt. Additionally, Inland Action supports increased investments in programs for Minority-Serving Institutions. In the Inland Empire, all the public institutions within San Bernardino and Riverside counties have met the federal criteria for a Hispanic-Serving Institution. The University of Redlands is also a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution. The University of California, Riverside has also met the criteria for an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution.
Inland Action strongly believes that all Americans, regardless of their family income, should be able to pursue a college degree if they so choose, and that family income should not be a barrier. Pell Grants are central to this goal.
Support Infrastructure and Capital Support for Higher Education. Inland Action supports efforts to uplift schools and universities in undertaking the critical work of building and maintaining healthy and safe educational facilities which also create jobs in our region. The Administration and federal agencies are encouraged to prioritize the Inland Empire in recent investments including the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 made the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, enabling America to tackle the climate crisis, advancing environmental justice, securing America’s position as a world leader in domestic clean energy manufacturing, and putting the United States on a pathway to achieving the Administration’s climate goals, including a net-zero economy by 2050.
In 2022, the Administration launched a $500 million Grant Program from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Program to Save Schools Money with Energy Upgrades. The Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure is meant to upgrade our public schools with modern, clean, energy efficient facilities and transportation—delivering health and learning benefits to children and school communities, saving school districts money, and creating good jobs. The action plan activates the entire federal government in leveraging investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and American Rescue Plan to advance solutions including energy efficiency retrofits, electric school buses, and resilient design.
Research from science of learning and development demonstrates that students need physical environments filled with safety, belonging, and health to learn and thrive. Yet many schools lack basic critical infrastructure or have major deferred maintenance needs including outdated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that make classrooms less comfortable and may pose health risks to students and teachers exposed to contaminants or particles in the air that can trigger allergies or asthma attacks and potentially spread infectious diseases – including COVID-19. Dirty diesel buses pose additional health risks for students on board and the neighborhoods they travel through — and exhaust from idling buses can pollute the air around schools. Studies show that poor air quality inside classrooms takes a toll on student concentration and performance, and diesel exhaust exposure is linked to increased school absences. Reducing this pollution will provide better health and educational outcomes — particularly in low-income communities and communities of color that have long faced underinvestment and the burden of high pollution.
Higher education institutions in the Inland Empire also have significant facilities needs, including new space to accommodate enrollment growth and improve seismic safety. As an example, California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB) invested $30.9 million annually for deferred maintenance. From 2022-2031, CSUSB anticipates a required investment of $376 million to ensure campus buildings continue to functionally serve students, staff, faculty, and the community. Federal funds will allow for projects in energy efficiency, classroom expansions, seismic retrofits, and capital renewal. In addition, these funds will provide much needed local prevailing wage employment opportunities.
The University of California, Riverside is a public land grant institution with robust agricultural research. Inland Action supports an allocation of $365 million which is proposed as part of an infrastructure package, or through the FY 2023 appropriations, to support addressing agriculture research infrastructure needs on campuses throughout the United States, including needs on University of California campuses, as well as on Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) facilities throughout California. Many existing agriculture research-related buildings and facilities, such as greenhouses and research and extension sites, are aging and need replacement or updates. Bringing agriculture research facilities up to modern standards would allow for agriculture-related research to be conducted more effectively and efficiently. With updated agriculture research facilities in place, it would be possible to conduct greater levels of cutting-edge agricultural research.
Support Increased Funding and Incentives for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. The Inland Empire will never be able to meet Federal Air Standards without a more robust effort at the federal level.
As the Inland Empire becomes the nation’s largest major inland port, the health effects of the diesel emissions that inevitably accompany warehouse development has become the most controversial growth issue in the region. Emissions from diesel engines — especially particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides, and air toxics — have been shown to contribute to air pollution that adversely impact public health, with 70 percent of smog-causing pollution and 80 percent of particulate matter coming from diesel engines.
Since 1970, the Clean Air Act has required the federal government to limit these emissions. EPA’s most recent set of emission standards for newly manufactured heavy-duty highway and non-road diesel engines took effect in 2007 and 2008, respectively. At the time, the standards required a 90% and 95% reduction in emission levels for PM and NOx, respectively, over the previous standards. However, because of the long operational lives of diesel engines, millions of pre-2007 engines remain in use. According to EPA’s estimates in 2016, 10 million pre-2007 diesel engines remain in use in the United States, and 1 million of those engines could still be in use in 2030. The Clean Air Act does not provide EPA the authority to set new emission standards on existing or “legacy” diesel engines. To address concerns over legacy diesel engines, EPA began a Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program in 2000 and a Clean School Bus Initiative in 2003, among other programs.
Congress enacted the “Diesel Emissions Reduction” program in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It authorized EPA to administer a national and state-level grant and loan program to promote emissions reductions from legacy diesel engines. Through the Diesel Emissions Reduction program (as amended), EPA has provided loans, grants, and rebates to projects that use certified engine configurations and verified technologies, or that develop and commercialize emerging technologies, in order to replace legacy diesel engines. The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) of 2010 authorized $100 million annually through FY 2016 and modified provisions related to the program. The Act authorized EPA to offer rebates in addition to grants and loans to eligible entities, including any private individual or entity that owns a diesel vehicle or fleet. The distribution of funds was revised to provide not less than 95 percent of funds to projects using a certified engine configuration or verified technology and not more than 5 percent of funds for development and commercialization of emerging technologies.
Under the Act, EPA was to develop a simplified application process to expedite provision of funds, taking into consideration special circumstances affecting small fleet owners. The Act expanded the priority given to applications that serve areas receiving a disproportionate quantity of air pollution from diesel fleets to include construction sites and schools in addition to truck stops, ports, rail yards, terminals, and distribution centers. In 2020, the DERA program was reauthorized through FY2024.
Only in the last four fiscal years has the enacted appropriation been anywhere near the $100 million authorized under the act. EPA reports that since the inception of the program, DERA funding requests have exceeded availability by as much as 35 to 1 for the rebate program and 7 to 1 for the national grant competition.
This program needs to be enhanced through greater funding, better incentive plans and a streamlined assistance program to help small operators take advantage of the program. Considering the impacts of diesel exhaust, this needs to be a much higher priority. Our region is exponentially damaged by the lack of attention to this issue.
Support for Funding for Continued Management of the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is located in Riverside County, yet few projects in our region come anywhere near the Salton Sea in terms of the potential for calamity or, conversely, enormous gain.
The Salton Sea is impacted by rising salinity, as well as changes in runoff from irrigated agriculture (supplied by Colorado River water). Reduced water flows to the Sea could result in the exposure of nearly 100 square miles of dry lakebed, resulting in diminished habitat, significant air quality problems, and a damaged economy.
A key issue at the Salton Sea is exposure of previously submerged lakebed, known as playa, as the lake surface shrinks. This playa exposure is subject to wind erosion and can be a source of fine airborne dust smaller than 10 micrometers, known as particulate matter 10, or PM10; as well as a source of PM 2.5. The dust is a significant health hazard and can contribute to respiratory illness in humans. It can also damage agricultural crops and wildlife and harm the region’s tourism industry. Areas downwind from the Sea are already suffering from severe non-attainment for PM10 under the Clean Air Act. These areas suffer the highest rates of childhood asthma in California, with emergency room admissions for children under four years of age roughly twice the State average. In the near future, tens of millions of citizens downwind from the Sea could be impacted by dust blown from the playa into densely urbanized areas throughout Southern California.
In recent years, local, State, tribal, and federal governments have achieved significant progress in addressing the long-term management of the Salton Sea. These efforts have resulted in the development of the Salton Fee Funding and Feasibility Action Plan, a living document and framework for the future management of the Salton Sea, and Phase I of the Salton Sea Management Program 10-Year Plan, which guides investments at the Salton Sea in line with an MOU between the United States Department of the Interior and the California Natural Resources Agency. Current efforts are designed to address playa exposure by developing habitat or dust suppression projects on exposed playa.
With a plan in place, funding generally available to the projects through the 2018 Farm Bill at the federal level, and through the passage of Proposition 68 at the State level, it is critical that funding be delivered to these projects in a timely and efficient manner. At the federal level, the following steps are suggested:
- Support for any necessary successor bills in the 118th Congress to H.R. 3877 (D-Ruiz) and S. 2693 (D-Padilla), collectively the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act, which were both introduced by the 117th Congress proposed to authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to provide grants and enter into cooperative agreements to carry out important projects in the Salton Sea.
- Support action by federal agencies, consistent with the MOU implementing E.O. 13807. Specifically, Inland Action encourages: (1) the Department of Agriculture to ensure conservation funding and funding related to air quality concerns (connected to agricultural operations) be directed to Salton Sea projects; (2) the Army Corp of Engineers appropriate available monies for Salton Sea revitalization and support the Tribal Partnership Program; and (3) the Bureau of Reclamation to continue its engagement with Salton Sea partners and ensure funds are directed to habitat restoration and air quality management projects in the Salton Sea.
In addition to the foregoing, Inland Action wishes to express its appreciation for the Inflation Reduction Act, which enabled the Bureau of Reclamation to enter into an agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District and the Coachella Valley Water District to accelerate up to $250 million in investments to support Salton Sea efforts.
Support for Increased Funding for Water Supply, Water Quality, and Water Storage Projects through:
Support for permitting of the Delta Conveyance Project. Water reliability is a vital issue for inland Southern California, including for major local State water contractors such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and Mojave Water Agency. Inland Action supports upgrading the State’s infrastructure to improve conveyance in the Delta and ensure more reliable long-term water deliveries for the California State Water Project (SWP), which provides 30 percent of Southern California’s water. Inland Action also supports continued federal funding for scientific research and habitation restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to advance ecosystem improvements in support of California’s coequal goals of water supply reliability and Delta ecosystem restoration.
In December of 2022, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) published the Draft Environmental Impact report for Delta Conveyance Project, as required under their regulatory mission and under the authority of both the Rivers and Harbors Act and the Clean Water Act. The permitting request is made by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Sacramento District of the USACE prepared this report.
Currently the report is going through the public review process of the draft, and Inland Action has provided testimony during this process in support of approval. Inland Action supports the DWR’s preferred Bethany Reservoir alignment. To be specific, Inland Action supports the concept of the conveyance’s intake being moved upstream to take advantage of high flows and any of the alternative alignments accomplish this in various degrees.
The Bethany Alignment appears to have the best approach to taking advantage of the high-water flows that have been experienced in recent years. Under current conditions with the southern intake, there is not any opportunity to take advantage of high flows during Winter and Spring. Recent flood events could not only have been mitigated by the proposed intakes, but significant volumes of water could have been recovered.
Over 20 million people in California depend on the SWP for drinking water. The health of the Delta and the sustainability of the SWP are greatly enhanced by this project. There will be impacts of the construction of a project of this magnitude, but they are significantly outweighed by the benefits.
Inland Action supports the approval of the permit and encourages stakeholders to have meaningful dialogue with each other to consider each other’s needs. Failure to move forward on this project would have devastating economic and environmental consequences to the entire State.
Funding for Monitoring and Remediation – PFAS. Ensuring safe drinking water is a fundamental requirement for healthy communities and economies. With growing concerns about the presence in some water supplies of a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), water agencies are working to ensure inland Southern California has a safe and reliable drinking water supply. Inland Action supports administrative and legislative actions to secure funding to help public water agencies defray the cost of monitoring and/or remediation of constituents (including PFAS) in drinking water supplies, including full cost-recovery by drinking water and wastewater providers.
Inland Action appreciates Congress’s willingness to provide funding to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants (the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, for example) and appreciates the EPA’s work to date on the PFAS issue (particularly, the PFAS Strategic Roadmap). We do, however, want to continue to urge caution in legislating in this emerging field. There are no doubt areas where legislation is required to pave the way for good science and regulation; e.g., addressing requirements for PFAS in firefighting foam. However, a rush to legislate in this increasingly “popular” area, without letting the science lead the way, could easily result in conflicting and confusing statutory commands and additional burdens for local agencies and businesses.
Inland Action supports legislation that accomplishes the above goals while protecting public water and wastewater agencies (and, therefore, their ratepayers) from third-party liability associated with new standards.
Enhance Reliability of Long-Term Supplies, Storage and Drought Resiliency for California. Diverse sources of water supplies, increased water storage capacity, and enhanced resilience to drought are high priorities to maintain and grow California’s economy. Inland Action supports continued actions to implement measures that improve California’s water reliability and drought preparedness. Specifically, Inland Action wishes to express its support for continued investment in water projects including investments in drinking water, wastewater, water reuse, conveyance, and water storage infrastructure. Inland Action is particularly appreciative of the roughly $134 million in federal funding for the Sites Reservoir from the Bureau of Reclamation. Funding critical water infrastructure projects, such as the Sites Reservoir, provide reliable water sources for millions of Americans impacted by drought.
Support Water Conservation Rebate Tax Parity. Water conservation rebates provided by public utilities or governments are not currently exempt from federal taxes. Inland Action supports a federal tax exemption for water conservation rebates to encourage additional water savings. In particular, Inland Action supports any successor bill introduced by the 118th Congress to H.R. 4647 (Huffman) and S. 2430 (Feinstein), which were both introduced in the 117th Congress. Those bills, known as the Water Conservation Rebate Tax Parity Act, would extend the tax exemption that currently exists for energy conservation devices to include water conservation and stormwater management devices as well.
Federal Support for Water Purveyor Consolidation Efforts. In recent years, the State of California has looked for mechanisms to address significant infrastructure and water quality issues associated with small, typically private, water systems. This is a significant problem in rural areas, particularly the Central Valley. Most stakeholders agree that consolidation of these water systems is one mechanism to address this. Unfortunately, State efforts to address the issues have thus far focused on the prospect of a universal water tax, paid by all customers on a per unit or per person basis. Instead, Inland Action supports federal cooperation with and funding to the State to incentivize consolidation of water systems, ideally into public bodies with local accountability and decision-making. Incentivizing consolidation requires significant funds to address infrastructure needs and address water quality problems.
Health Care Issues
Urge Congress to support the health of the Inland Empire through efforts that include the delay or elimination of Disproportionate Share Hospitals, Medicaid and Medicare cuts; enhanced coordination of mental and physical health care services; funding to address workforce shortages and geographic disparities; as well as programs and services that address the social determinants of health. As the Inland Empire looks ahead and prepares for a new normal, Inland Action continues to prioritize patient care despite the challenges that continue to slow our recovery from effects of COVID-19. As we approach the end of the National Public Health Emergency, set to expire May 11, 2023, Inland Action thanks Congress for their bipartisan work to support the region and our safety net population. Congress acted quickly and decisively early in the pandemic, giving hospitals and health care providers the flexibility needed to respond. The continued support of the health care safety net and partnership in addressing the needs of our most vulnerable residents are evidence of what we can continue to do together.
However, the pandemic’s lingering effects continue to take its toll on hospitals and health systems. Over $12 billion in losses for California hospitals have occurred since the pandemic began even after accounting for federal relief. Additionally, over the past two years, the cost of caring for patients has skyrocketed.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to Kaufman Hall, since 2019:
∙ Labor expenses have spiked 16%.
∙ Pharmaceutical costs have grown by 41%.
∙ Medical supply costs have jumped 19%.
With a vision of vibrant health for the region, Inland Action looks to our federal leaders to protect Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) funding and oppose any Medicare cuts. Both pay far less than the cost of providing care in even the best of circumstances. Now, with inflation skyrocketing, the systemic lack of annual cost-of-living adjustments and no emergency financial relief on the horizon, access to care is in great jeopardy for the most vulnerable Californians. The Inland Empire is home to over 4.7 million residents, of which over 1.8 million rely on Medicaid for health care coverage. Within the region, we also continue to hold the designations for Medically Underserved Areas (MUA) and Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) for primary care, dental health, and mental health.
Inland Action understands that Congress has many priorities, including funding the federal government for the next fiscal year, a formidable challenge in light of the looming debt ceiling debate where the focus is on reducing expenditures. As this debate moves forward, Inland Action urges Congress not to reduce funding of any kind to our nation’s hospitals, including cuts to Medicaid funding. Hospitals are the nation’s first responders, and they need financial resources and regulatory relief to help rebuild their workforce and strengthen their financial situation so that they can continue to provide access to care in the Inland Empire and beyond.
With this in mind, under current law, $8 billion in cuts to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) are scheduled to begin October 1, 2023, and will continue annually through Federal Fiscal Year 2027. These cuts have been delayed since 2014 and must be further delayed or eliminated. If implemented, it would be catastrophic for safety net hospitals and could force many to reduce services or even permanently close. As an example, Madera Community Hospital near Fresno closed its doors on December 31, 2022, after facing a devastating financial crisis. Many other hospitals are facing similar financial crises and are on the brink of closure. Inland Empire hospitals are no exception.
Access to health and safety, humane housing, and meaningful work remain priorities for our region. Inland Action urges Congress to support the health of the Inland Empire residents, through efforts that:
- Support hospitals and delay or eliminate DSH cuts.
- Support the safety net and preserve vital funding, including Medicaid and Medicare.
- Support flexibilities for the enhanced coordination of mental and physical health care services.
- Support efforts that address health care workforce shortages and allocate funding to address geographic disparities.
- Support programs and services that address the Social Drivers of Health (SDOH) before disease and chronic conditions set in.
Urge that the chronic shortfall in Federal Judicial Resources in the Inland Empire be addressed by (1) confirming the Honorable Kenly Kiya Kato’s nomination to serve as U.S. District Judge, (2) then by constructing a new federal courthouse in the Inland Empire, and (3) supporting creation of new judgeships for the Central District of California. The federal trial court having jurisdiction over the Inland Empire is the Central District of California – the most-populous federal judicial district in the country. Recognizing that the federal government has the responsibility “to provide quality services which are readily accessible to the people it serves” and that the combination of population growth in the Inland Empire and the inability of freeway connections to keep pace rendered “Federal offices along the coast no longer accessible to the residents of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties,” Congress in 1992 divided the Central District of California into three divisions “to provide for the delivery of judicial services to all areas and all residents of the Central Judicial District of California.” The Eastern Division of the Court, to cover Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, was thus born on August 26, 1992, when the President signed what became P.L. 102-357. However, the Eastern Division does not have the necessary resources to provide the services Congress created it for.
The Division is now home to 4.7 million people, spanning 27,408 square miles. Its population is greater than that of 25 states, and its land mass is larger than 11 states. It is comparable in population to the State of Kentucky, and in land area to the State of West Virginia. Those states each have two federal districts, with nine and eight authorized judgeships, respectively. By comparison, there are presently only two District Judges sitting in the Eastern Division of the Central District of California, and for many years, there has been only one.
The number of cases arising in the Eastern Division far exceeds the capacity of only two District Judges to preside over. In order to get the Eastern Division cases heard, the Court administratively reassigns cases among its three divisions (Eastern in Riverside, Southern in Santa Ana, and Western in Los Angeles) in a random process called “blackout dates” to keep the number of cases per judge roughly equal throughout the whole of the Central District. In 2022, of the 1609 civil cases filed within the Eastern Division, 620 (39%) were reassigned due to blackout, predominantly to Los Angeles. In addition, of the 161 criminal cases filed in the Eastern Division, 79 (49%) were reassigned due to blackout.
This represents a substantial burden on the parties, their attorneys, witnesses, and family members, who must travel long distances to Los Angeles for hearings and trials and incur significant additional time and expense in resolving their cases. A roundtrip from San Bernardino to Los Angeles for a hearing can take 4-5 hours with traffic, even for a short court hearing. Moreover, because juries are drawn by division, these parties also face trial by a jury drawn not from their own community, but the communities of the presiding court to which their case is reassigned.
A recent example illustrates the issue. One of our Inland Action members represents parties in a federal civil rights case recently filed against an Inland Empire law enforcement agency. The incident at issue in the case occurred in Wonder Valley, outside Twentynine Palms. All of the parties are from San Bernardino County, mostly in the Twentynine Palms area. The case therefore was filed in the Eastern Division. Nevertheless, due to the shortage of District Judges in the Eastern Division the case was reassigned under the blackout system to a District Judge in Los Angeles, 155 miles and three hours away (without traffic).
Inland Action has three priorities to address the need for additional federal judicial resources for the Inland Empire:
Priority 1 –Confirmation of the Honorable Kenly Kiya Kato as U.S. District Judge. As the statistics and example above clearly illustrate that we urgently need additional District Judges in the Eastern Division. To address this need, the President has re-nominated the Honorable Kenly Kiya Kato, currently a U.S. Magistrate Judge sitting in the Eastern Division, to be a District Judge. Her nomination is now pending in the Senate. Inland Action strongly supports the prompt confirmation of Judge Kato to be a District Judge so she can address the judicial shortfall in the Eastern Division. Judge Kato’s prior nomination in the last Congress unfortunately stalled in the Senate last year. Had that not occurred and had she instead been confirmed as the third District Judge in the Eastern Division, the Twentynine Palms case in the example above likely would have stayed in the Eastern Division. To avoid that situation in the future, we urge the Senate to confirm Judge Kato’s nomination as soon as possible.
Priority 2 – A New Federal Courthouse for the Inland Empire. Confirming Judge Kato to sit as a District Judge in the Eastern Division will only partially address the lack of federal judicial resources in the Inland Empire. Based on present case-filing statistics, the Court’s administration estimates that the Eastern Division presently needs four to five District Judges and will need approximately ten District Judges 10 years from now.
Unfortunately, there is no physical space within the existing courthouse for the necessary additional judges (beyond Judge Kato) to sit. The George E. Brown, Jr. Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse in Riverside was designed and constructed in the early years of the Eastern Division. It has only four courtrooms, and once a pending remodeling project is complete, will have six judicial chambers. This is insufficient to house the judicial resources needed to serve the community adequately, let alone to handle the expected growth in the region. Once Judge Kato is confirmed, there will be six judges assigned to that courthouse (three District Judges and three Magistrate Judges), sharing four courtrooms (only three of which have a jury room). While the Court has efficiently remodeled the interior space on multiple occasions to maximize the utility of all available space, there is simply no more room in the present building to accommodate the necessary judicial officers our community needs.
A new, larger Federal courthouse is desperately needed to serve the judicial needs of the Inland Empire – the very needs Congress recognized 30 years ago in creating the Eastern Division. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has determined a new courthouse for the Eastern Division to be number two overall nationwide on the priority list for courthouse construction. The project has already been approved by both the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference and the United States Judicial Conference. The Administrative Office has now referred the project to the General Services Administration (GSA) to conduct a feasibility study. Unfortunately, we understand GSA is presently working on such studies for several other courthouses ahead of our project, and that the expected timeline for completion – of just the feasibility study – is roughly four years.
While we recognize the necessity and importance of careful planning for such an important project, four years for a feasibility study – even before land acquisition, design, and construction work can begin (let alone appropriations) – will mean it will be decades before an adequate Inland Empire courthouse will be open to serve the needs of the community. At this point, Inland Action urges our Senators and Members of Congress to impress upon the General Services Administration the importance of this project to the community and to prioritize the study in accordance with the extreme need for the project. When the time comes, Inland Action also urges our elected officials to provide the necessary appropriations for this critical facility.
Priority Three – Creation of New Judgeships for the Central District of California. Beyond the immediate needs of confirming Judge Kato and addressing the physical-space needs in the Eastern Division, in the longer term new judgeships must be created in the District (and promptly filled) in order to provide adequate judicial resources to the people of the Central District of California. New judgeships can only be authorized by Congress. Congress last created a new permanent judgeship in the Central District of California in 1990 (which was also the last time Congress enacted comprehensive judgeship legislation).
The most-recent study from the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policymaking body of the federal courts, confirms the need for additional judgeships in the Central District of California, beyond the current 28 positions. The Judicial Conference makes biennial recommendations to Congress for which districts and circuits around the country need new judgeships. In March 2021 it recommended Congress authorize fifteen additional judgeships for the Central District, in addition to making the one temporary judgeship in the District permanent. Several bills were introduced during the 117th Congress in both the House and Senate but none were enacted. Inland Action urges Congress again to consider the urgent and growing need to address the long backlog in creation of new judgeships to match the increased business of the Courts, especially the Central District of California.
At the very least, the existing temporary judgeship in the Central District of California must be made permanent or extended. The existing temporary judgeship created in 2002 was most recently extended on December 29, 2022, and now expires on April 27, 2024. If not made permanent (or further extended by then) the Central District will revert to 27 authorized judgeships and the next-occurring vacancy cannot be filled. We need additional judgeships in this District, but at minimum must retain those that we currently have. Inland Action urges that the current temporary judgeship be made permanent.
Support capacity enhancement for infrastructure. Inland Southern California is once again one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States, year-over-year. It is now the 12th largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States; and with that growth, there is a continued need for enhanced capacity in our transportation infrastructure. With self-help transportation organizations providing billions of dollars in local funding amidst rising costs of construction, there is an eminent need to implement many shovel-ready projects today.
For years, Inland Action has long-awaited a new multi-year transportation authorization bill and greatly appreciates the incredible work to achieve this level of support. However, we continue to push important Inland Empire projects that can be deployed quickly across many agencies. The following top Inland Empire infrastructure projects will have an immediate but also long-term impact on alleviating the on-going strain on our Southern California supply chain while enhancing the quality of life for our residents and businesses that continue to support that same system of systems.
- Highway 395 (3 miles, $7.5M)
- I-10 Express Lanes (23 miles, $1.2B)
- Ontario International Airport (ONT) Loop ($60M)
A short description of each priority project is provided below:
- S. Route 395 Widening – Phase 2
U.S. Route 395 is one of the main north/south highways in Southern California providing access to and linking economic centers, recreational areas, and urban and rural regions. The Phase I project was completed in 2021, which widened US-395 between S.R.18 (Palmdale Road) and Chamberlaine Way from two lanes to four lanes and installed turn lanes and signals at various intersections within the project limits. U.S. 395 was previously environmentally cleared from I‑15 to just south of Desert Flower, a total distance of 15.3 miles. The southern project is 7.2 miles in length. SBCTA completed construction of the middle portion of the project (5.4 miles), and the northern 2.7 miles remains to be constructed. All right-of-way and design work has been completed for the Phase 2 segment. Project Completion Cost: $7.5 Million.
- I-10 Express Lanes
Phase 1 of I-10 Express Lanes is in the southwestern portion of San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles County. The project will widen the existing I-10 freeway between the Los Angeles/San Bernardino County line and I-15, approximately ten miles. The project includes two tolled express lanes in each direction. In addition, lanes to assist drivers getting on and off the freeway (auxiliary lanes) will be constructed in selected locations. West of Haven Avenue, a single new lane will be constructed and combined with the existing HOV lane to provide two express lanes in each direction. The HOV lane will still be available to motorists but will increase from 2+ to 3+. East of Haven Avenue, two express lanes will be constructed. The total project would improve a new 23-mile segment. Project cost: $1.2 Billion.
- Ontario International Airport (ONT) Loop
The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority has initiated a critical next step to advancing the innovative transit tunnel connection between the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink Station and Ontario International Airport as it prepares to review proposals to deliver the environmental phase of the project, which should be completed in the fall of 2023. Environmental clearance will pave the way for identifying a preferred construction alternative, final design, and construction for service in late 2026/early 2027, in time for the 2028 Olympic games. Project cost: $60 Million.
Support extension of Clean Air Act conformity deadlines. Capacity enhancement must be a component of the funding formulae for reaching air quality attainment administered by South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet, the 2023 air quality mandate in the Clean Air Act continues to be a compounding issue. The horizon mandate for certain reductions of pollutants is still 2023 and is quickly approaching. Federal highway funds will be withheld if California and others cannot show conformity with the ozone threshold through the State Implementation Plan. There is a two-year grace period, so 2025 is the critical year.
Inland Action urges a reset of the current deadline so that all can comply. Technologies in the Inland Empire of Southern California are innovating and adapting every day, but industry certifications lag behind production and commercialization of the products. Solutions abound, but more time is needed to support the transportation and supply chain sectors.