2021 Inland Empire Policy Summit Report
The Inland Empire, which includes all of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has been built on decades of rapid population growth, job growth, and racial diversification. According to the U.S. Census, the region grew from about 4.2 million residents in 2010 to 4.6 million in 2020, with people of color representing 71 percent of the region’s population. These patterns and trends present both challenges and opportunities for inclusive upward mobility, with housing, transportation, and economic development as key concerns.
Additionally, the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the inequities faced by historically disenfranchised communities in the region. We see these challenges as opportunities for our region to recover and build back using inclusion and equity as core values and principles.
Federal funds from The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is available to states and local municipalities, with the aim of facilitating an equitable economic recovery. The plan includes $350 billion in aid to states, cities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories. The funds are designated to help replace lost tax revenue due to the pandemic, providing needed relief to state, local, and Tribal governments to enable them to continue to support the public health response and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable economic recovery. Funding will also include assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, aid to impacted industries, and support for essential workers. It will also provide resources for investment in infrastructure, including water, sewer, and broadband services.
At the state level, Governor Newsom and the state legislature have passed budget bills with a $30 billion increase in spending over the prior year, with significant investments in health care, small business support, education, workforce development, and infrastructure investments in broadband and natural resource management.
As these funding opportunities and recovery efforts reach the Inland Empire, it is more vital than ever for the region to work together, identifying core values and principles that can solidify the cross-sector collaborations that have been underway for several years. To aid in setting this agenda for the region, we convened the 2021 Inland Empire Policy Summit focused on inclusive and sustainable economic development. The summit tied into both regional work already underway (e.g., the Southern California Association of Government’s Inclusive Economic Recovery Strategy), and efforts to build back better at the state and federal levels.