The state of California is paying itself $500,000 for administering Gov. Gavin Newsom’s vaccine lottery.
The news, which I first reported Thursday, comes about a week after Newsom wrapped up a whirlwind series of events in which he gave away millions of dollars and other prizes to encourage Californians to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s also the latest piece of information to cast doubt on whether the program’s results justify the cost: Recent data shows the lottery didn’t significantly increase the number of Californians getting their first shot.
Although the vaccine incentives were well publicized, the fact that the state would be required to pay the California State Lottery — which helped Newsom run the program — was not. In a Thursday letter to the California Department of Public Health, the lottery commission explained it must be reimbursed for spending money that doesn’t relate to its purpose, which is to fund public education.
H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance, told me California would repay the lottery commission with $500,000 from a General Fund account used for disaster response and emergency operations. However, the state will eventually reimburse itself with relief funds from the federal stimulus package President Joe Biden signed into law in March, Palmer said.
Most of the money related to the vaccine lottery will likely never come to light. California will pay out at least $116.5 million in prizes — including $1.5 million each to 10 individuals — but the state won’t share their names unless the winners give consent. Erin Mellon, a governor’s office spokeswoman, said the confidentiality of vaccination records also precludes winners’ names from being disclosed in public records requests.
Interestingly, the state isn’t paying itself in other areas of pandemic response. California businesses have paid only about 3% of fines levied by the state’s workplace safety agency for COVID violations, according to a Sacramento Bee investigation. Among those appealing their fines? The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which received a nearly $400,000 charge for transferring infected inmates to San Quentin State Prison and causing what was at one point the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreak.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 3,706,846 confirmed cases (+0.04% from previous day) and 62,822 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
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. The battle over child care provider pay
After prolonged haggling, Newsom and state lawmakers are expected today to finally announce a $267 billion budget deal for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The final sticking point in negotiations? Pay rates for child care providers, according to comments Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon made during a Thursday rally in which he, Senate President Toni Atkins and 400 members of Child Care Providers United marched to the state Capitol to demand higher wages. The disagreement is particularly noteworthy given that Newsom — who has long made family-friendly policies a hallmark of his platform — signed a 2019 bill allowing the providers to unionize and bargain with the state in the first place. Though the governor proposed using part of California’s budget surplus to fund 100,000 more child care slots, that wasn’t enough for the Legislature, which proposed $1.1 billion in ongoing funding to reform provider reimbursement rates. Newsom’s administration, however, is concerned the state may not be able to afford that in the future, Politico reports.
Advocates and lawmakers may agree on wages for child care providers, but they appear to be less in alignment on child support debt. The Legislature has proposed reducing or forgiving debt owed to the government from some parents who receive cash assistance — typically, California keeps a portion of their child support payments for itself. But advocates wanted lawmakers to forgive all old, uncollectible debt and stop imposing 10% interest on overdue payments, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports.
- Jhumpa Bhattacharya of the Insight Center, an Oakland-based nonprofit economic justice group: “This is a debt that’s being charged to low-income mostly Black and brown folks, being asked to basically reimburse the government for their safety net.”
2. Another bad week for EDD
California may have reopened, but things are still going south at the Employment Development Department. According to figures released Thursday, the number of unresolved claims pending EDD action for more than 21 days topped 230,000 as of June 19 — a significant uptick from the nearly 223,000 claims backlogged the week before. When you include claims pending certification from jobless Californians, the total backlog tops 1.1 million — a figure essentially unchanged from October 2020. Meanwhile, another 65,000 Californians filed new jobless claims for the week ending June 19, according to federal data released Thursday. That’s a slight decrease from the week before, but it represents nearly 17% of the nation’s total jobless claims — even though California makes up less than 12% of the civilian labor force, said Michael Bernick, a former EDD director and attorney at Duane Morris.
- Bernick: “We’ve entered a new phase in pandemic unemployment in California, in which nearly all businesses are formally open, but most workers who can work remotely are not physically coming back to their workplaces. Many other workers are remaining on the labor market sidelines.”
Many industries — especially those that employ low-wage workers — are struggling to fill open positions. The latest example: Less than half of Disneyland’s 32,000 employees have returned to work.
3. UC puts boundaries on religious hospitals
The separation between church and state was renegotiated Wednesday, when the University of California passed a policy that gives its doctors more latitude when working in Catholic hospital systems that prohibit services including in-vitro fertilization, contraception, abortion, gender affirmation surgery for transgender patients and some end-of-life options. Though activists and some lawmakers had called on the UC to sever ties with such hospital systems entirely, the new policy puts the onus on the hospitals themselves: If they want to keep working with UC, they must by Dec. 31, 2023 adopt rules allowing doctors to inform UC patients of all available health care options, give referrals if they don’t offer a certain service and allow UC doctors to provide the service at their facilities in emergency cases. If the hospitals choose not to abide by those rules, UC will phase out the partnerships.
- State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who introduced a bill to block the UC from contracting with hospitals that limit services: The decision “has the potential to significantly expand access to reproductive and gender-affirming care and to ensure UC physicians can exercise their own professional judgment in providing care.”
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Easing the path to college: Canceling administrative fees and penalties at California’s colleges and universities would remove stumbling blocks for vulnerable students, writes Su Jin Gatlin Jez of California Competes.
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Other things worth your time
COVID-19 Delta variant spread in California: How bad is it? // Los Angeles Times
Newport Beach terminates COVID-19 local emergency. // Los Angeles Times
As crazy as homes? California used-car prices jump 19%. // Mercury News
City spends more than $60K per tent at homeless sites. Now, it wants another $15 million for the program. // San Francisco Chronicle
Should California turn contaminated land into affordable housing? // Capital & Main
Exclusive housing development must open its gates to public, California Coastal Commission says. // Long Beach Post
San Diego spending millions for green bins to comply with game-changing recycling law. // San Diego Union-Tribune
New California national monument near Santa Cruz to open next summer. // San Francisco Chronicle
High-profile parent advocate abandons public schools over son’s pandemic learning loss. // San Francisco Chronicle
Orange County education board balks at punishing Costa Mesa charter school for possible violations. // Los Angeles Times
California community college transfer students face roadblocks to bachelor’s degrees. // EdSource
California lawmakers seek to remove ‘he’ from state laws. // Associated Press
Meet Amanda Gorman’s California successor as youth poet laureate: Alexandra Huynh. // Los Angeles Times
Dozens of cows escape slaughterhouse. But freedom in Los Angeles suburb was short. // Los Angeles Times
See you Monday.
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