California’s state and local governments are set to reap $40 billion of the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package that narrowly passed the Senate on Saturday and which President Joe Biden is expected to sign this week after a final vote in the House of Representatives. The massive measure, which represents nearly one-tenth of the U.S. economy, closely follows a $7.6 billion state stimulus package Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law late last month. It also fulfills one of Newsom’s major requests of the federal government: The governor in January asked Biden to provide emergency funding for state and local governments after it wasn’t included in the December stimulus package.
The American Rescue Plan also includes $1,400 stimulus payments for millions of Americans and supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 per week through Sept. 6. This could spell trouble for California’s beleaguered unemployment department, which just began certifying on Sunday claimants’ benefits from the December stimulus package.
- Assemblymember David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat: “I’m not sure how EDD can imagine that people can just go without income for months at a time.”
Here’s a closer look at what else California can expect from the package, according to Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla’s office:
- $15 billion for K-12 school reopenings, in addition to $5 billion for colleges and universities.
- Billions for vaccine distribution and coronavirus testing and tracing.
- $4.6 billion for California’s transit systems, plus $898 million for airports.
- $3.8 billion to stabilize California’s child care sector and expand the child care tax credit, lifting an estimated 533,000 children out of poverty. (The tax credit is essentially a one-year guaranteed income for most families with children.)
- $2.2 billion in emergency rental assistance.
- $1.2 billion in homeowner assistance.
- $590 million in homelessness assistance funding.
- An extra $117 million monthly through Sept. 30 for CalFresh, the state’s food stamps program.
- A nearly 300% increase in the state’s maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for 1.85 million workers without children.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,501,394 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 54,124 deaths (+0.5% from previous day), 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.
Check out the newest episode of the California State of Mind podcast, in which we discuss California’s school reopening plan and how stimulus payments may be hiding a more complicated personal debt issue.
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1. Counties don’t like state vaccine policies
California on Friday crossed the milestone of 10 million vaccines administered, an achievement partly marred by what continues to be a chaotic and contentious rollout. Although Blue Shield began taking over California’s vaccine program last week — a week behind schedule — none of the state’s 58 counties have signed contracts with the insurance giant, and many want to opt out entirely, the Los Angeles Times reports. Advocates are also concerned the new system could reduce the number of clinics vaccinating farmworkers, many of whom are eager to get the shot, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports.
Many counties also aren’t pleased with the state’s recent pivot to allocate 40% of vaccines to 400 low-income ZIP codes. Only 10 of those ZIP codes are in the Bay Area, angering counties who say it will now be even harder for their vulnerable populations to access doses.
- San Jose City Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco: “It’s like, what the heck, man? Allow us to make the decisions about where the essential workers are and send it where it’s needed. Don’t handcuff us, don’t pigeonhole us, don’t decide for us.”
Even as doses remain scarce, the state on Friday unveiled a new program that allows Californians who volunteer at vaccination sites to get the vaccine themselves, as long as the clinic gives its approval.
2. Big venues are reopening — will schools?
Amusement parks, outdoor sports and live performance venues can reopen April 1 with restrictions, Newsom administration officials said Friday in the latest announcement propelling California into its fastest reopening yet. The news came the same day Newsom signed a $6.6 billion package aimed at getting kids back into the classroom, though it appears Disneyland may reopen before many of the state’s largest urban districts. Oakland Unified has yet to reach an agreement with its teachers union. Although San Francisco school officials announced a tentative deal with the district’s union to bring some elementary students back to campus on April 12, the agreement has yet to be finalized. And around 91% of teachers in the union representing Los Angeles Unified voted Friday to not return to in-person learning until all of its demands are met.
- Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles: “No one wants to open only to have to close again, which is a realistic possibility if safety measures are not put into place first.”
3. The weird math of recall elections
Organizers of the campaign to recall Newsom said at a Sunday rally in Sacramento they’ve collected 1.95 million signatures — which they believe will be enough to trigger a recall election. (They have until March 17 to submit around 1.5 million valid signatures.) Under California’s unique recall rules, Newsom could lose his job even if he garners more support than the top candidate to replace him — prompting some critics to suggest the constitutional procedure is undemocratic, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. Should the recall qualify for the ballot, voters will first be asked whether they want to replace Newsom. A second question will ask who should take his place. If more than 50% of voters say Newsom should be recalled, whoever gets the most votes in the second question wins — even if they secure far less than 50% of the vote.
- Ken Miller, a Claremont McKenna political science professor: “If the outcome is that Newsom ends up with 49% opposing a recall — so thus supporting him — and whoever wins in question two gets, say, 35%, then Newsom, in theory, had more support.” That’s “a little tricky from a democratic theory perspective.”
Prioritize farmworkers for vaccine: California should allocate at least 10% of its vaccine doses to agricultural employees, write Casey Creamer of California Citrus Mutual and Ian LeMay of the California Fresh Fruit Association.
Stop the Prop. 22 domino effect: Lawmakers must oppose efforts by gig companies pushing legislation to further dismantle workers’ rights, argues Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Western States Council and UFCW Local 324.
Other things worth your time
California teacher shortages could make reopening schools for in-person instruction difficult. // EdSource
Two parents have a plan to shake up the San Francisco Board of Education. // San Francisco Chronicle
Arrested 22 times as a youth, Antioch councilwoman now crusades for police oversight in East Bay city. // San Francisco Chronicle
Southern California adopts plan to build 1.3 million new homes by 2029. // Los Angeles Daily News
After California’s blackout debacle, state tells utilities to bulk up for summer. // Sacramento Bee
How legal titan Tom Girardi seduced the California State Bar. // Los Angeles Times
Aaron Rodgers swipes at Newsom while talking about helping California businesses. // Fox News
See giant Gavin Newsom cutout near Harris Ranch? Animal rights activists make demands. // Fresno Bee
Satellite images show kelp forest off California almost gone. // Associated Press
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