Governor Newsom signed SB 162 creating a $600 million Community Economic Resiliency Fund (CERF) Program. While this program will have a regional approach, we hope to reinforce that regional solutions require local voices and engagement to ensure long-term success.

State officials are working now on an accelerated rollout of the CERF Program, with a timeline to launch the program as soon as January 2022 with more information to be released this fall for public comment. The funds will be put out by the California Labor Agency through the Workforce Services Branch at EDD. Local agencies and EDCs seeking to participate in this program should review CALED’s detailed summary of the bill and begin organizing local collaboratives now to be better positioned to compete for funding.  With such a significant allocation of funds, we know several groups are already looking at the CERF for potential funding and even providing influence in program design. That said, we believe that a city or county could take the lead as a “skilled and impartial convener” for initial collaborative stakeholder discussions, so that a structure is in place as the program comes together.

As you plan for your role in this program, whether that is as an applicant or participant, here are a few points to consider:

  • While not detailed specifically in the legislation, we understand that there will be an effort by the state to align, to the extent possible, with the US EDA’s Build Back Better Challenge, which is absolutely an economic development program focused on long-term, transformative outcomes tied to metrics such as income levels, job creation, and business creation through the lens of equity and inclusion.
  • If economic development is part of the solution to the problems CERF applicants plan to address, economic developers should be heavily engaged in the implementation of this program– as in other economic development programs at the local levels.
  • Local governments are key/instrumental partners in regional solutions and should assume leadership roles in the collaboratives formed under CERF.
  • It looks like, the initial focus for the CERF will be the identification of regions and the establishment of collaboratives. That said, we believe that will shift quickly to identification and implementation of significant projects with long-term economic development outcomes. All the more reason for local governments and local economic developers to assume leading roles in these collaboratives.