LOS ANGELES — County residents will finally start to see the Measure H sales tax go into effect on Oct. 1.

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration sent out a release to remind locals of the upcoming quarter-cent sales tax increase.

Currently, the county tax rate is 9.25 percent and the new rate will be 9.5 percent. However, cities that impose their own sales tax such as Inglewood and Downey will have a new rate of 10 percent, because their current rate is 9.75 percent.

Voters approved Measure H on March 7. The tax is aimed to pay for homeless services to quickly find housing and case managers for people living on the streets.

It also will go into homeless prevention and fund efforts towards housing subsidies and rental assistance for families.

Measure H is projected to raise $355 million annually for 10 years.

In June, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a three-year spending plan. They unanimously voted to accept almost all of the recommendations of a 50-member planning committee on how to split approximately $259 million projected in the first year of Measure H.

The .25 percent tax increase will not apply in Compton, La Mirada, Long Beach, Lynwood, Pico Rivera, Santa Monica, and South Gate.

The sales tax in those cities is already at the 10.25 percent maximum allowed under the law in Los Angeles County.

Nevertheless, if the existing tax in one of these cities expires, the Measure H tax will be immediately imposed in that city.

As the county prepares to begin collecting the new tax, a coalition has formed in South Los Angeles to make sure the African-American community receives its share of homeless funds.

The African American Homeless Collaborative, organized by Pace Newspaper publisher Gloria Zuurveen, wants to ensure that the black population, which accounts for about 40 percent of the county’s homeless population, receives a similar amount of money from the tax.

“We have to define what the African American Homeless Collaborative is,” Zuurveen said. “We are assessing how we go about what we want in [an] audit.”

Back in June, Zuurveen sent a letter to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the agency overseeing homeless support services demanding participation in the county disbursement of Measure H money.

“What you may not know is that although African Americans comprise more than 40 percent of the county’s homeless population, there are few (if any) African American providers at the table to ensure that these resources are spent intelligently, judiciously and effectively,” Zuurveen wrote.

“Most homeless service providers aren’t sensitive to the community nor do they understand the plight of African Americans,” Zuurveen said.

“Services should be culturally and linguistically specific to these people so they could provide services to the scale of homeless African Americans.”

That is the reason why the African American Homeless Collaborative — made up of black business owners, clergy, nonprofit and professional organizations — was created.

Zuurveen aims to address the specific needs of the predominantly black homeless people in the county. The coalition is a branch of the Parent Action Coalition for Education, a nonprofit based in South L.A.

“[The African American Homeless Collaborative] is one of the few entities in L.A. County that have the cultural competencies vital to having a positive and productive impact on African American homelessness in the region,” Zuurveen wrote.

Zuurveen was angry about a public meeting held last April to discuss homelessness that she wasn’t informed about.

“How can you say that you’ll serve 40 percent of African Americans, but not even touch black media to keep people informed?” she asked.

However, some disagree with Zuurveen’s statements.

“The letter Gloria sent was inaccurate, because she said there was no African-American representation, but in fact there were African-American providers at the table,” said Dhakshike Wickrema, assistant senior deputy for homelessness and mental health for county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“I’ve been doing homeless work for sometime, and I’ve never heard of the African American Homeless Collaborative. They’ve never been to any of the homeless coalition meetings that I’ve been to or that I’m aware of. Also, other African American providers have not heard of them either.”

Al Naipo, Ridley-Thomas’ senior deputy for communications, said that the county held five public planning sessions before any Measure H spending decisions were made.

In those meetings, African American community members were present, involved and gave input on how the $250 million would be distributed in its first year.

He added that at those meetings approximately 100 members of the public attended, and that over 200 organizations submitted comments on the planning drafts; all the recommendations and documents presented by the public and organizations were reviewed.

“The L.A. County Homeless Initiative overall, and the revenue planning process around Measure H, have both been extra inclusive, collaborative, and transparent,” said Phil Ansell, CEO of the Homeless Services Authority.

“There was an exceptional level of public participation that went into the decision-making process.”

In regards to the 50-person planning committee, Ansell said 45 members were selected by organizations hand-picked by the Board of Supervisors; the other five were personally selected by the board from faith-based communities.

Contributing Writer Dorany Pineda also contributed to this story.


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