When First District Supervisor Hilda Solis was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2014, there were only two women on the board—she and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
Now, she’s leading an all-female board.
Solis reassumed position of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors chairwoman on Dec. 7. Solis also held the position in 2016, but many things have changed.
“After a few years, (in 2016), we saw another couple of termed out members, (Supervisor Don Knabe and Supervisor Michael Antonovich), and with that two other women came on board,” Solis said.
“So, we had four women and that was good. It changed a lot as far as our dynamics and how we interacted with each other.
“It’s about getting the assistance or the aid out there,” she continued. “Those are the values that we bring to the board, and now with the full complement of five women, it’s even more impactful.”
The chairwoman position is a rotating role that is limited to a year and then passed on to the other members in order of seniority. Solis’ priorities are combatting homelessness and building affordable housing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The homelessness in LA County continues to rise, also because of COVID,” Solis said. “We are trying to ramp up interim, low-income and long-term housing as soon as possible. It started before the pandemic but now it’s magnified. You can see the gaping hole in lack of access to health care, housing, jobs and education. It’s an all-in focus for us.”
Much of the money from the CARES Act that LA County received, or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which is a $2 trillion stimulus bill for the purpose of economic relief for the country, already went out, but there is still a need, Solis said.
“I’m happy that they are concluding a packet in Washington of over $900 billion to provide more assistance to people who are unemployed and to families,” Solis said.
“PPP, or Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, is also very important for those businesses who have really taken the brunt of the economic crash.
“We were able to use about $46 million from our CARES Act money from the county to develop 332 units of interim housing. The monies are going to help us provide the sufficient foundation for assistance to the unemployed as well as rental relief and providing enough funding to get the COVID-19 vaccine out. We want to make sure that our hospital systems and workers are being taken care of. The money will pay from the vaccine and the administration of that as well as small businesses who need the relief now.”
Despite the federal relief funding, Solis said it will not fix everything.
“We are going to need more funding after January 20, when the Biden and Harris administration comes in, and we will need to work with Congress to get more funding for local and county government,” Solis said.
“The (county) government we run here is for everybody. We’re talking about infrastructure, hospitals, clinics and other essential services, but we need the money to keep our operation of county government running.”
Solis said there is a pressure that comes with being chairwoman. She has been regularly working hands-on with department heads and coming into the office every day.
“It wasn’t done deliberately,” Solis said about her schedule. “The need was so great to make sure that we were keeping on top of what was happening.”
Since March, Solis has also been working closely with the LA County Economic Resiliency Task Force for an economic recovery plan. The task force is designed to come up with a plan to form recommendations for phased economic recovery for Los Angeles County to reopen safely.
The task force’s plan will “articulate what the needs of stakeholders during this time and what the county should be doing, how we can streamline and cut red tape and reimagine how we deal with our communities,” Solis said.
As far as plans for 2021, Solis said, “More housing. Building up more affordable housing and working with our city government as well as our agencies like Metro, (LA County Metropolitan Transportation). Metro is helping us build housing along major throughfares where we will have light-rail systems so people can live close to where they work so they won’t have to own a car.
“Also, creating a better, robust system of health care so we don’t have people falling through the cracks. Hopefully empowering our community so that they take advantage of the health care services that their county has to offer.”
Making COVID-19 testing more available as well as looking out for essential workers is also a priority for Solis.
“I want to make sure that they are safe and have access to (resources) that they may need to keep the economy going,” she said.
“Making sure that essential workers and health care workers are OK and have enough equipment, assistance and time off when they need it is important.”
In conjunction with more affordable housing Solis said, “We have to have more treatment centers for people that are sick, in the streets or have mental health or addiction problems. We have to have a recuperative bed space for them. … We can’t just turn them in to the jail and think they will get well, because that is not treatment.”
The Nov. 3 passing of Measure J, which dedicates a portion of LA County’s funding to address the impact of racial injustice through community investments, such as supportive housing and alternatives to incarceration, will help with building and implementing more treatment and health services.
“We’re going to be building more ‘recuperative care villages’, as we’ve termed them, so people can get treatment in a setting that isn’t jail but is health care first,” Solis said.
“Where they get the services that they need and get stable, then transition to transitional and more permanent housing, as well as getting help with jobs. … That has been the outcry that the public has wanted, and we heard it loud and clear.”
Solis said it’s important that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines be readily available to the public.
“(Prioritizing this) means not only having people come to our clinics but us going out there and having health care navigators who can explain to people in our community—especially people of color—(why we should take the vaccine). We need more participation there,” Solis said.
“We have a lot of work to do, and I’m excited to bring about health care navigators (for the Latino and Spanish-speaking community)—or in Spanish, ‘promotoras’—who can help us get the message out to our communities in a trusted format so they can understand what’s at stake, how to provide prevention, where to get tested and get the services they need.
“The key here is making sure people understand that (the vaccine) is something good,” Solis continued. “That it’s the right way to go to provide protection against the virus, death and illness.”
Solis, in a county-tier legislative position, emphasized the necessity to work together.
“We’re going to reach out to our colleagues in the federal government and the state and city officials, as well as the community level, because it’s important that we work together,” Solis said.
Solis is hopeful for the future, and she and her colleagues can lean on each other.
“I really want to salute our county family,” Solis said. “All of them. Our department heads, management and especially employees.”
“I want to wish everyone going into the new year my sentiments. My condolences go out to those who have lost family or have gotten ill because of COVID or are facing economic challenges. If we work together, we will get through this and hopefully we will see the light at the end of the tunnel. (The community) needs to know that the county of Los Angeles has their best interest at heart.”