COVID-19 IN CALIFORNIA
Per the Sacramento Bee, Governor Newsom’s Department of Finance sent letters to the Legislature and government agencies “advising them that the normal schedule for state budgeting is on hold and that the goals the governor described in January are up for renegotiation.” They also announced that they are pulling $1.3 billion from the state’s reserves to buy supplies and prepare for coronavirus patients. Some pundits are saying that this is the time for the governor and legislators to be more ambitious with the budget, safeguarding our communities with more stable and comprehensive infrastructure.
The state legislature is due to reconvene in mid-April, but Governor Newsom, Senate President Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon are in talks about the legislative calendar as the statewide stay-at-home order will likely remain in place until the summer.
The SacBee looks at how the federal stimulus bill would affect Californians. The SacBee also explores comparisons between the federal stimulus checks to CDT ally Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs’ universal basic income pilot. Bottom line: people need recurring payments to ease their financial burdens, not one-time relief.
The California Budget and Policy Center looks at who the federal stimulus bill leaves out — most notably undocumented immigrants — the impact it will have on our state, and what state policymakers can do to address it. “Despite the many ways undocumented workers, individuals, and families are a vital part of California’s workforce and communities, they will not see a cent from the recovery rebates or qualify for expanded unemployment insurance benefits — the two major components of the federal response aimed at helping families and individuals hit hardest by the economic crisis.” CDT partner Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and CDT-endorsed Senator Maria Elena Durazo are advocating for expanding undocumented immigrants’ access to needed programs and services. California’s 400,000 agricultural workers (60%-75% of which are undocumented) are considered essential during COVID-19, but need more protections to ensure they stay healthy and have access to benefits if they cannot work.
California prison inmates are asking federal judges to consider an emergency order to release thousands of inmates as coronavirus spreads. Governor Newsom is resisting community advocacy to release some prisoners, especially the elderly and medically vulnerable, saying that current efforts to clean and socially distance in prisons is enough. However, the state is releasing 3,500 prisoners who were due to be released in the next 60 days already on an accelerated timeline. Immigrants detained by ICE are also suing for release because of health conditions that make them more vulnerable for COVID-19 and conditions in the detention centers that violate social distancing and personal hygiene requirements.
On Friday, the LA City Council approved a package of measures that will protect workers, consumers and tenants. The LA Chamber of Commerce opposed the measures. Housing advocates are pushing Governor Newsom to do more to protect tenants, who only have limited protection under his executive order (which stops well short of a total moratorium on evictions).
Demand for CalFresh, the state’s food stamp program serving over 4 million people, has risen significantly in the last month. Governor Newsom issued an executive order in March to “ease rules for those applying for a host of social service programs, including CalFresh, Medi-Cal health coverage, welfare assistance through CalWorks and in-home support services,” and the state has also asked the federal government to allow people to buy food online.
Over 90% of California voters may get their ballots by mail in the fall (75% did for the primary), setting an example for the rest of the country heading into the general election.