February 23, 2021 at 9:07 pm PST | by Brody Levesque
Newsom signs legislative relief package, answers critics on vaccination rollout missteps
coronavirus, gay news, Washington Blade
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Tuesday a comprehensive package of immediate actions that will speed needed relief to individuals, families and businesses suffering the most significant economic hardship due to COVID-19.

Crafted by Newsom and legislative leaders last week, the pandemic assistance plan also includes more than $2.1 billion in grants and fee waivers for small businesses. Another $2 billion in tax breaks for businesses is expected to be acted on by the Legislature later this week, which would bring the total package to $9.6 billion.

“As millions of Californians are struggling to make ends meet amid the devastating impacts of this pandemic, we are taking immediate action in partnership with our legislative leadership to provide families and businesses the relief they need,” said Newsom. “This critical assistance – including child care, relief for small business owners, direct cash support to individuals and households, financial aid for community college students and more – will help keep our communities afloat as the state continues to confront the immense challenges of this moment.”

Below are key provisions of the bills signed into law:

Direct Relief to Individuals and Families

Incorporates the Governor’s Golden State Stimulus plan to assist California households that have borne the disproportionate economic burden of the COVID-19 Recession – those with incomes below $30,000, as well as those unfairly excluded from previous federal stimulus payments.

Provides $600 in one-time relief to households receiving the California EITC for 2020. In addition, the agreement provides a $600 one-time payment to taxpayers with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs) who were precluded from receiving the $1,200 per person federal payments issued last spring and the more recent $600 federal payments. Today’s action also provides $600 payments to households with ITINs and income below $75,000. ITIN taxpayers who also qualify for the California EITC would receive a total of $1,200. The payments will be provided to these households shortly after they file their 2020 tax returns.

Provides direct relief to additional lower-income Californians through a $600 one-time grant to households enrolled in the CalWORKS program and recipients of SSI/SSP and Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI). Grant payments for CalWORKS households are expected by mid-April; timing for the delivery of SSI/SSP and CAPI grants is currently under discussion with federal officials.

Combined, the package represents a total of 5.7 million payments to low-income Californians.

Immediate Relief for Small Businesses 

Provides $2.1 billion – a four-fold increase over the $500 million currently being distributed – for grants up to $25,000 for small businesses impacted by the pandemic, and allocates $50 million of this total for non-profit cultural institutions.

Fee Waivers for Heavily Impacted Licensees

Two years of fee relief for roughly 59,000 restaurants and bars licensed through the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that can range annually from $455 to $1,235. The action also reflects fee relief for more than 600,000 barbering and cosmetology individuals and businesses licensed through the Department of Consumer Affairs.

More Resources for Critical Child Care

Addition of just over $400 million in new federal funds to provide stipends of $525 per enrolled child for all state-subsidized child care and preschool providers serving approximately 400,000 children in subsidized care statewide. The new federal resources will extend care for children of essential workers through June of 2022, and funds increased access to subsidized child care for more than 8,000 children of essential workers and at-risk children – who are not currently served in the system – through June of 2022.

Additional Aid for Individuals and Families

Provides an additional $24 million for financial assistance and services through Housing for the Harvest – a program providing support for agricultural workers who have to quarantine due to COVID-19. The effort also provides a combined $35 million for food banks and diapers.

Emergency Financial Relief to Support Community College Students

Provides an additional $100 million in emergency financial aid for qualifying low-income students carrying six or more units, with award amounts to be determined locally and made available by early April. In addition, the agreement provides $20 million to reengage students who have either left their community college studies because of the pandemic or to engage students at risk of leaving.

CalFresh Student Outreach and Application Assistance

Provides roughly $6 million to support outreach and application assistance to University of California, California State University and California Community College students made newly eligible for CalFresh – the state-administered federal program for supplemental food assistance. The agreement also provides $12 million in state funds to support associated county administrative workload.

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

Newsom also announced Tuesday that California would be making changes to a program designed to address inequities in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The announcement came after a Los Angeles Times report uncovered evidence that outsiders were misusing the program to grab appointments reserved for residents of neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic.

Access codes intended for residents of under-served Black and Latino areas are showing up in group texts and messages among the wealthier, work-from-home set in Los Angeles, the Times reported.

Newsom didn’t provide details about what changes would be made to the program, but said the state would be “moving away” from the group code system.

A spokesperson for Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city has resumed vaccination appointments after postponements and delays related to the winter storms that battered other regions of the nation.

Several of the city’s large-scale sites – including Dodger Stadium, Hansen Dam Recreation Area, San Fernando Park, Lincoln Park, Pierce College and Crenshaw Christian Center, were closed late last week when vaccine shipments were held up.

While new COVID cases and test positivity rates are declining, Los Angeles County remains in the most restrictive purple tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. In order to move into the red tier and have additional opportunities for re-openings, L.A. County’s daily case rate must be at or below 7 new cases per 100,00 people and the County’s test positivity rate must be at or below 8%. Tuesday, the State released updated numbers; L.A. County’s adjusted case rate is 12.3 new cases per 100,000 people and the test positivity rate is 5.1%.

Public Health on Tuesday also confirmed 157 new deaths and 2,091 new cases of confirmed COVID-19. In total, Public Health has identified 1,183,378 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and 20,057 deaths.

© Copyright Los Angeles Blade, LLC. 2021. All rights reserved. Protected with CloudFlare, hosted by Keynetik.