To assist families who were already vulnerable to economic uncertainty before the COVID-19 pandemic, two Los Angeles city councilwomen are calling for the creation of a new city department.

Council President Nury Martinez and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez filed a motion toward the end of a long council meeting Wednesday to establish the Department for Families, Children and Community Investment.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated that in the face of a crisis, problems that our families face arise not independently but are compounded by ones that already existed, especially for our low-income families,” Martinez said. “Our working-poor families need a focused commitment from the city of Los Angeles in order to help them recover and allow their children to reach their full potential.”

Martinez said the department could help with job training and resources for parents as well as youth development programs.

New health and economic crises exacerbated social inequalities the city was already facing, the council president said. In May, unemployment skyrocketed to 24% in Los Angeles, causing deeper economic distress in low-income communities of color, Martinez said.

The Council President said 17% of Latinx people and 6% of African Americans in Los Angeles don’t have health insurance, making them the most susceptible groups to being exposed to COVID-19 in their jobs and through public transportation.

The motion also calls for the incorporation of efforts led by Rodriguez over the last two years, including the creation of a task force on youth development and a Los Angeles youth development strategy.

“Youth deserve a city that prioritizes their voices and equips them with the skills to achieve their full potential,” Rodriguez said.

The heightened struggles of the economically vulnerable areas of Los Angeles are a direct result of COVID-19 and are deeply rooted in social and economic inequities that must be rectified through focused, increased and long-term investments, Martinez said.

The motion calls for a report back from the office of the Chief Legislative Analyst, with input from the office of the City Administrative Officer, the Housing and Community Investment Department, the Economic and Workforce Development Department.

It also directs the City Attorney’s Office to develop primary duties and work structure for the new department.

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