Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, July 29.

Could lose billons of $, thousands of jobs

California has a lot riding on federal unemployment benefits set to expire this week.

The Golden State could sink even deeper into recession and lose thousands more jobs if the Republican proposal to decrease weekly benefits from $600 to $200 is enacted, according to several recent studies. Congressional Democrats want to keep the $600 weekly addition to state unemployment benefits, which in California max out at $450.

California would lose about $1.4 billion weekly and $12.9 billion by the end of September under the GOP plan, according to the nonpartisan Century Foundation. It would also lose nearly 560,000 jobs over the next year, more than any other state, the progressive Economic Policy Institute found.

But if California Democrats have their way, the $600 additional weekly benefits will continue even if the GOP’s plan is approved.

Lawmakers on Monday released a $100 billion plan that proposes borrowing money from the feds to make up the difference in unemployment benefits — one of the few options California has to stimulate its own economy, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

  • Assemblymember Adam Gray, a Merced Democrat: “We cannot count on Washington, D.C., for anything these days. If we want solutions to the economic challenges created by COVID-19, we must have the resolve to create and fund them ourselves.”

More than 292,000 Californians applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total to nearly 7 million since the onset of the pandemic.

Lawmakers on Thursday will conduct an oversight hearing on California’s beleaguered unemployment department — but a committee this week delayed consideration of Republicans’ request for a formal audit.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 466,550 confirmed coronavirus cases and 8,518 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.


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Other stories you should know

1. California takes Trump to court over undocumented immigrant count

Attorney General Xavier Becerra at a press conference on Sept. 25, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Marking his 86th lawsuit against the Trump administration, Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the president Tuesday for a recent memo that would prevent undocumented immigrants from being counted when determining the number of seats in Congress and federal funding each state receives following the 2020 census. California stands to lose at least one congressional seat — and billions in federal dollars — if the memo goes into effect, though it was already likely to lose a seat or two due to glacial population growth. Joining Becerra in the lawsuit are the cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland and Los Angeles Unified School District.

  • Becerra: “You can’t be a law-and-order president if you keep breaking the law. The latest attack on the census is just that — it’s unlawful. President Trump still believes he can sidestep the U.S. Constitution.”

2. Audit: California shouldn’t change its involuntary mental-health treatment law

A homeless person sits on a wheelchair in Los Angeles on April 6. Photo by Damian Dovarganes, AP Photo

California shouldn’t change its law governing which severely mentally ill people can be placed in treatment without their consent — instead, it should ensure those individuals receive better ongoing care, according to a highly anticipated state audit released Tuesday. The report follows a flurry of recent bills that have attempted — and failed — to expand the state’s definition of “grave disability” and allow more severely disabled people who resist treatment to be conserved, CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener reports. Though generally well-received, some mental health advocates disagreed with certain findings.

  • Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health: “The system is broken, it’s always been broken. … And we need help. I need help. I don’t need to be handcuffed more than I’m already handcuffed.”
  • Randall Hagar of the California Psychiatric Association: “The auditor thought the legal framework … was adequate as it was; we would say there’s a lot of work to be done to update it.” But “it will serve as a template or blueprint for changes that can be made in coming years.”

3. Exclusive: Hardest-hit California county proceeded with evictions

Homes in Bombay Beach along the Salton Sea in Imperial County. Photo by Sasha Abramsky, Capital & Main

Imperial County — which has the highest COVID death rate in the state — proceeded with evictions amid the pandemic, despite the state Judicial Council banning the practice in April, CalMatters’ Matt Levin writes in an exclusive report. Though it’s unclear if all of the evictions were ultimately carried out, county officials appear to have been unaware of the Judicial Council’s eviction moratorium — which could expire as early as Aug. 14, increasing pressure on state lawmakers to pass tenant protection and landlord relief measures.

  • Adriane Bracciale, directing attorney for Imperial County’s chapter of California Rural Legal Assistance: “People being evicted from their homes is a public health and safety problem. That’s why this emergency rule was instituted so people aren’t being kicked out of their homes during a contagious, deadly pandemic.”

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Legislation to abolish California’s test of prospective teachers’ ability to teach reading should be shelved in this pandemic-shortened session.

Broadband access for all: Nearly 1 in 3 California students lack access to broadband networks needed for remote learning. Senate Bill 1130 would help close the digital divide, argue state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, a Long Beach Democrat, and James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.

Invasion of privacy: Government agencies in Los Angeles and other California cities are requiring e-bikes and e-scooters to share real-time location data with them, write Assemblymembers Jacqui Irwin, a Thousand Oaks Democrat, and Buffy Wicks, an Oakland Democrat.


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Other things worth your time

Orange County Board of Education will sue state over school shutdown. // Voice of OC

California will track coronavirus’ toll on the LGBTQ community after months of delay. // San Francisco Chronicle

Inside the California county hit hardest by COVID-19. // Los Angeles Times

San Joaquin Valley company “encouraging” COVID-infected employees to work, lawyer says. // CalMatters/Fresno Bee

Why is San Mateo the only Bay Area county not on the state’s watchlist? // Mercury News

California will also be on the ballot if Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris or Karen Bass as his vice president. // San Francisco Chronicle

Esselen Tribe of Monterey County regains land 250 years after being removed. // Mercury News

Federal bill could mean huge investment in California national parks and improved access for communities of color. // CapRadio


See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...