COVID in California
The state Senate has formed a Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response of 11 members, chaired by Senator Lena Gonzalez (SD33-Long Beach). The committee will analyze the state response to COVID-19 and work on how the state can prepare for future pandemics.
The LA Times has a podcast, “Coronavirus in California: Stories from the Frontlines.” “Every weekday, the podcast will give listeners dispatches from Californians who are in the thick of this pandemic. We’ll hear from medical workers struggling to care for people who’ve fallen ill. We’ll talk to renters and teachers, farmworkers and athletes, from Crescent City to Chula Vista. And we’ll reach out to LA Times staffers to get reports from the field.”
The USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research has released a tracking study of coronavirus in the United States, which shows that less than half of Los Angeles County residents are currently employed. The survey also gauged how people are behaving and feeling during the crisis.
According to initial data released by the California Department of Public Health and county health agencies, African Americans are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates and Latinxs may be disproportionately infected in California, reflecting a deeply troubling national trend tied to overall inequities compounded by the virus (link to op-ed written by Senator Kamala Harris for Elle).
CA Budget and Policy Center also explores how California workers with less education, people of color and immigrants are at greatest financial risk during the COVID-19 crisis.
California lawmakers and budget experts are projecting how the COVID-19 crisis will affect the state’s budget for the short- and mid-term, especially in terms of its impact on the social safety net. While Governor Newsom is warning that the state will need to cut budget and policy ambitions because of COVID-19, many Democratic legislators and health advocates are arguing that this is exactly the time for the state to expand health coverage and access. The Sacramento Bee reports that several legislators are hoping for greater collaboration between legislators and the governor.
The Atlantic lays out what each state and groups need to do to ensure access to the ballot, especially as more look to doing vote-by-mail. The PPIC explores how this will need to be done in California. The American Association of the Advancement of Sciences is warning public officials against using internet voting, due to security concerns.
Community groups are shifting their Census outreach strategies to reach hard-to-count populations in an effort to at least achieve the 2010 participation rate of 68%. CDT partners Communities for a New California, Bay Rising, San Francisco Rising, Lift Up Contra Costa, Orange County Civic Engagement Table, LA Voice, Inland Empowerment and Engage San Diego are prioritizing Census outreach (link to their COVID-19 plans, including Census outreach).
Assemblymember Robert Rivas has proposed emergency legislation, AB2915, that would raise the hourly wage of farmworkers by $3 an hour, give them additional sick time and provide temporary housing for appropriate distancing during the coronavirus crisis. The legislation would apply to all farmworkers, regardless of immigration status. Governor Newsom announced two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for farmworkers and other workers in the food industry.
While undocumented immigrants were excluded from the federal stimulus, CalMatters dives into other benefits that they can qualify for. CA Budget and Policy Center demonstrates how the exclusion of many immigrants from COVID assistance impacts family income and provides ways California can support them in other ways. California is partnering with philanthropic groups — including CDT partner Akonadi Foundation — to launch the California Immigrant Resilience Fund, a $125 million fund to provide disaster relief to undocumented immigrants affected by the crisis.
Criminal Justice Reform
The California Board of State and Community Corrections, the jail watchdog, is not collecting or publishing information about how many inmates and employees are infected by coronavirus. A coalition of advocacy groups sent a letter to Governor Newsom to demand that the board collect and publish the data.
The ACLU South California has filed a lawsuit against federal immigration officials and the company that runs the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County to have them implement social distancing at the center, including the option of releasing detainees.
The San Diego City Council, led by President Georgette Gomez (who is running in CD53), took an unprecedented step to decline to certify the outcome of Measure C — “which would have raised San Diego’s hotel tax to bankroll a convention center expansion” (San Diego Union-Tribune) — in the March election in order to open the door to changing the vote threshold for approval/defeat after the fact.
Andrea Guerrero, executive director of CDT partner Alliance San Diego, issued this statement following the vote at city council:
“We are disappointed in councilmembers who chose to undercut voters today instead of honoring their will. The role of city council following an election is simple: Tell the voters which ballot measures won and which lost. Instead of dealing straight, the majority of councilmembers played a shell game to give proponents of Measure C a leg up in their long-shot litigation strategy to change the vote threshold after the fact.
With this move, the San Diego City Council has undermined and violated the sacred trust of the voters. Our democracy is built on trust that our elected officials will carry out their duties faithfully. We are deeply disappointed in Council President Georgette Gomez and Councilmembers Chris Ward and Jen Campbell, who have decided to engage in the shenanigans perpetuated by Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilmembers Kersey, Cate, and Sherman, and that have marred Measure C from the beginning. Now more than ever, we need leaders like Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry and Councilmembers Monica Montgomery and Vivian Moreno who uphold and respect the will of the voters, especially in difficult moments.”
Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry is running for San Diego mayor against Assemblymember Todd Gloria. Councilmember Chris Ward is running for Todd Gloria’s AD78 seat.
Per SacBee, CDT-endorsed Assemblymembers Ash Kalra and Robert Rivas are part of a group of Democratic legislators who requested that the Legislature’s budget chairs support a bill this year, SB795, that establishes ongoing funds that could reach up to $2 billion for affordable housing. Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom rejected a similar bill based on financial concerns.
CDT partner UC Riverside Center for Social Innovation has released a new report on the state of nonprofits in the Inland Empire. “The future of California is inland, and the future of Southern California is the Inland Empire. … Investors would be well served to pay attention to emerging and innovative organizations, many led by youth and people of color.”
Webinar: The Fight for Democracy Continues During a Pandemic, April 22, 1-2pm PT
The USC California Civic Engagement Project and the USC Schwarzenegger Institute are co-hosting a webinar, The Fight for Democracy Continues During a Pandemic, on Wednesday, April 22, 12-1pm PT featuring California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn, USC CCEP Director Dr. Mindy Romero, USC Schwarzenegger Institute Academic Director Dr. Christian Grose, and USC Price Dean Jack Knott.
CDT ally Dr. Romero will discuss states’ efforts and challenges around vote-by-mail and voter access at the polls. Dr. Grose will discuss attempts to delay the Census and redistricting by the Trump administration and implications this has for 2021 redistricting efforts across the country. Secretary Padilla will discuss California’s efforts around the 2020 elections during COVID-19, and Hobert Flynn will discuss Common Cause’s efforts around voting rights and election reforms going forward. Please RSVP by today/April 21 here.