California kicked off a two-year study into how the state might compensate African Americans for slavery and its lingering effects on Tuesday, when a newly formed reparations committee met for the first time.
The first-in-the-nation committee is the result of Gov. Gavin Newsom last year signing a bill authored by then-Assemblymember Shirley Weber, whom he subsequently appointed as California’s first Black secretary of state. The nine-member task force will draft an apology to Black Californians and recommend ways the state might make up for discriminatory policies, which could include issuing direct payments to the descendants of enslaved people or passing laws to close racial disparities.
- State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Gardena Democrat and member of the reparations committee: “It might mean free college at our CSU and our UC systems to African Americans. It might be zero down payment for first time African American homeowners. We know they have the biggest challenge in homeownership, not only in California but across this nation.”
State lawmakers have zeroed in on homeownership as one of the main ways to close the wealth gap between Black and white Californians. On Tuesday, the Assembly and Senate unveiled a joint spending plan — which they’ll use to negotiate with Newsom ahead of the June 15 deadline to pass a budget — that proposes developing a program in which the state would pay for, and own, up to 45% of a home. That would cut the purchase price nearly in half, allowing more families to buy homes and build wealth, lawmakers say. Both Newsom and legislators also proposed setting aside $200 million to facilitate homeownership for first-time buyers and low-income Californians.
President Joe Biden also announced a series of initiatives to expand Black homeownership during a Tuesday speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
The state Legislature also wants to funnel $115 million annually into community-based health equity and racial justice efforts and $63 million into the California Reducing Disparities Project. Newsom’s budget proposal had been slammed by California health groups for its “unfortunate absence of investments towards health equity.”
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,685,455 confirmed cases (+0.01% from previous day) and 62,021 deaths (+0.02% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
California has administered 37,557,507 vaccine doses, and 51.2% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.
Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.
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Other stories you should know
1. Inside lawmakers’ budget plan
The budget plan announced by top Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday is slightly smaller than Newsom’s $267.8 billion proposal — even though it would pour more money into certain areas — because it would launch fewer new social programs. As the two sides negotiate a budget that will impact millions of Californians, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall took a look at four key areas on which they need to reach a compromise: housing homeless people, rebuilding public health, helping undocumented immigrants and increasing college access.
Democratic lawmakers may have presented a unified front in the form of a budget agreement, but fissures emerged in other segments of the party. The California Labor Federation, which represents 2.1 million workers and 1,200 affiliated unions, announced Tuesday it would support Newsom against an all-but-certain recall election. One of the affiliated unions, SEIU Local 1000, scheduled an emergency meeting for today to discuss a $1 million donation to Newsom — against the wishes of its newly elected president, who made waves last week by saying he wants to run Newsom out of office. In other big money news, the California Association of Realtors, one of the state’s most powerful interest groups, gave $1.5 million to the campaign defending Newsom.
2. Paying to use EDD services
The situation at California’s unemployment department — where the backlog of unresolved claims has grown for six straight weeks — is so dire that jobless residents are paying private companies to help them bypass the Employment Development Department’s jammed phone lines. Meanwhile, many non-English speakers are paying intermediaries to fill out their unemployment applications and recertify them every two weeks, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The outsourcing of labor highlights fundamental gaps in EDD’s services: Although the department recently took steps to shorten wait times by allowing claimants to request a call back after waiting 15 minutes on hold, many people have trouble reaching the hold line in the first place — prompting them to pay companies to robo-call the department to secure a place in line. (EDD says the robo-calls could actually be contributing to lengthy wait times.) And lawmakers have long criticized EDD for not making information available in multiple languages, a problem both pending legislation and Newsom’s budget proposal aim to address.
Meanwhile, a federal judge on Tuesday ordered Bank of America, which pays California unemployment benefits via debit card, to stop using an automated fraud filter that blocked tens of thousands of jobless residents from accessing their claims after they reported suspicious activity on their accounts. The judge also required the bank to reopen all claims it had previously denied, restore account access upon proof of identity and resolve claims of theft within 45 days.
- U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of San Francisco: “Continued denial of these benefits will seriously hinder the ability of many (claimants) to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.”
3. Post-pandemic era approaches
Another eight counties flew into less restrictive reopening tiers on Tuesday, with Sacramento and San Joaquin among those moving into the second-least restrictive orange reopening tier and Marin, Monterey and Ventura among those moving into the least restrictive yellow tier. That gives them a few weeks to open businesses to more customers before the state does away with capacity limits altogether on June 15. But even as California prepares to return to something approximating normalcy, some residents are planning to carry pandemic action items into the post-COVID era. OpenSchoolsCA, a parent group that formed to advocate for a return to full in-person instruction, will this morning launch a nonprofit organization to develop policy recommendations and support parents running for elected office. Other parent advocacy groups have also suggested they plan to keep organizing post-pandemic, setting the stage for a potential ongoing conflict with teachers unions — and a new force in California politics.
- Megan Bacigalupi, executive director of OpenSchoolsCA: “Parent voices and student interests should never again be ignored or deprioritized as they have been during this year. Parents and kids must have a seat at the table.”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Marin County’s efforts to limit housing construction are taking an old turn — refusing to provide water service to new homes.
End laws sanctioning guilt by association: It’s time to reform California law that criminalizes kids of color under the guise of protecting people from the specter of gang crime, argues Emily Galvin-Almanza of Partners for Justice.
Reform senior care: The pandemic proved why lawmakers should expand programs that help seniors stay in their homes and out of long-term care facilities, writes Cheryl Wilson of St. Paul’s Senior Services of San Diego.
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Other things worth your time
The outreach effort to vaccinate Sonoma County’s farmworker community amid COVID conspiracy theories. // Washington Post
Recall fever sweeps across North County, targeting city councils and school boards. // San Diego Union-Tribune
‘This might be the guy’: Newsom foe Kevin Faulconer quietly had a very good May. Will it matter? // SFGATE
California bilingual programs ready to grow after slowing during pandemic. // EdSource
California DMV seeks to put nearly all services online. // Sacramento Bee
California eyes shuttered malls, stores for new housing. // Associated Press
Meet Seve Christian, who helped put California at the forefront of LGBTQ+ legislation. // The 19th News
Cleaner air and racial justice versus jobs: The battle over fossil fuels hits the Bay Area. // San Francisco Chronicle
San Diego won’t turn off the lights on its hometown utility. // Politico
From racial justice to dirty air, California’s new attorney general plots a progressive health care agenda. // California Healthline
How ‘rules are being rewritten’ for California health care giant. // Sacramento Bee
UC faculty authorize potential strike for better job security, higher pay. // San Francisco Chronicle
Amid historic drought, a new water war on the California-Oregon border. // New York Times
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