Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
April 24, 2020

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The spread of COVID-19 across California and the country is impacting everyone’s personal and professional lives. To ensure you are receiving the most up to date and pertinent information, Weideman Group is closely monitoring actions being taken by the state (Governor, Legislature, regulatory agencies) and the federal government. We will be sharing the most significant COVID-19 information with you on a periodic basis. Here is a summary of important information from this past week.

California Statistics

COVID-19 cases continue to rise but the curve is flattening. The upward trend in COVID-19 positive cases continues in California, but due to compliance with stay at home guidance there has been a flattening and stretching of the curve. Unfortunately, California saw it’s deadliest day for COVID-19 yesterday and the Governor stressed the need to maintain physical distancing. These are the most recent facts released by the Department of Public Health.

 

Newsom Administration

Governor Newsom announces new policies to help mitigate the impact COVID-19 has had on Californians and shares the progress his Testing Task Force is making in ramping up testing. Through his executive orders and press briefings, Governor Newsom and his Administration have been announcing a number of actions that have been taken to assist the most vulnerable populations, front line workers, and those feeling the economic effects of this crisis. Here is a recap of recent actions:

  • Meals for Seniors - Governor Newsom announced a partnership with FEMA and local governments to hire restaurants to prepare and deliver 3 meals a day to vulnerable seniors living alone. This partnership will allow restaurants to rehire or retain staff, and the sales tax revenue from these meals will benefit local governments. 
  • Social Bridging - Governor Newsom announced that Listos California is partnering with CERT, the California Department of Aging, Sacramento State University and United Airlines to proactively reach out to older Californians who are isolated at home via telephonic welfare checks.  More than 1,000 people will be placing calls. 
  • Friendship Line - Governor Newsom announced the expansion of California’s “Stay Home. Save Lives. Check In.” initiative, launching a friendship line for seniors to call to express their concerns or just to talk to combat feelings of isolation. The phone number is 1-888-670-1360.
  • Omnibus Executive Order - Governor Newsom signed an executive order containing a number or provisions such as suspension of the plastic bag ban and bag fees, allowing CEQA requirements to be met through electronic means, granting a 60-day extension on renewal of driver’s licenses/identification cards and suspending late fees on vehicle registrations. The text of the order can be found here
  • Flexibility for Providers - Governor Newsom signed an executive order to provide health providers with additional flexibility to ensure the continuity of care. The order allows hearings for California Children’s Services to take place remotely, allows DHCS and DSS to continue providing mental health services, temporarily suspends requirements for in-person signatures to obtain certain prescription drugs covered by Medi-Cal, and allows a 90-day extension for providers on cost reporting, change of scope of service and administrative hearings. The text of the order can be found here.
  •  School Requirements Extended - Governor Newsom issued an executive order extending the deadline of when a local education agency can file their Local Control and Accountability Plan and waives the requirement for physical fitness minutes and tests.The text of the order can be found here
  • Student Loan Relief - Governor Newsom announced that 21 student loan services have agreed to put student loans into forbearance, waiving fees and preventing negative marks on credit. This will impact 1.1 million Californians with privately held student loans.  
  • Prohibition on Garnishment - Governor Newsom signed an executive order that exempts garnishment for any individuals receiving federal, state or local government financial support. However, funds can still be garnished for outstanding child, family or spousal support or criminal restitution for victims. The text of the order can be found here
  • Select Health Procedures to Resume - Governor Newsom announced that due to the flattening of the curve and adequate hospital capacity, select surgeries (e.g. heart surgery) and health screenings (e.g. colonoscopies) can resume. 
  • Additional Testing Sites - Governor Newsom announced that California will be opening 86 new testing sites throughout the state with a focus on rural areas and other disadvantaged communities. This was made possible through the leadership shown by the Testing Task Force, co-chaired by Paul Markovich (CEO of Weideman Group client, Blue Shield of California) and the partnerships they have been able to secure with lab testing companies. California will also train 10,000 people that will staff such sites. 
  • Californians for All  – Governor Newsom announced the launch of a new website (californiansforall.ca.gov) designed to connect people who would like to volunteer with a number of local volunteer opportunities. 
  • Bridging the Digital Divide - The First Partner announced that California will receive 70,000 digital devices to distribute to students without access to them and will assist with their distance learning. As part of this effort, the California Public Utilities Commission will be spending $25 million to make wireless hotspots available.
  • Project Roomkey - Governor Newsom provided an update on Project Roomkey, an effort designed to secure hotel/motel rooms for the homelessness. To date, the state has secured nearly 11,000 rooms. 
  • Foster Youth Services - Governor Newsom signed an executive order granting temporary waivers to foster youth programs allowing flexibility for face-to-face interactions. The text of the order can be found here 
  • Economic Task Force Update - The Governor’ Economic Task Force, charged with developing a path forward on economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19 has been divided into subgroups. These subgroups are tasked with crafting ideas for short, medium and long-term solutions: 

    Immediate Recovery

    Job Recovery – Long Term

    Leveraging Positive Change

    Capital Market and Infrastructure

    Workforce Transition

    Economic Equity

    Climate Reality

    Financial Systems

    Small Business

    Innovation and Progress

    Operational Committee

    Governors’ Ex-officio Committee

  • Weideman Group clients supporting Field Hospitals - As part of the preparations to expand hospital capacity, the Sacramento Sleep Train Arena was converted into an alternate care site. We are proud to say that Weideman Group clients are doing their part in helping with these efforts.  Bloom Energy is powering the training gym facility which houses 80 beds and Nuro is providing its R2 unmanned vehicles to provide contactless delivery of critical medical supplies at the arena. 

 

Regulatory Agencies and Department Actions

California regulatory agencies and departments continue to work and act to address issues brought on by the pandemic. Numerous regulatory agencies and other departments are providing updates on their efforts to address issues such as distance learning and unemployment. Here are some highlights:

Department of Education - With distance learning at top of mind, the CDE is hosting webinars on a regular basis on issues such as best practices for distance learning, guidance for educators and districts, and updates on the numerous waivers they have received from the U.S. Department of Education.

EDD Relaxes Requirements - With the crush of unemployment insurance claims due to COVID-19, EDD will not require individuals to report every two weeks in order to receive unemployment benefits. 

CHP Bans Rallies at the Capitol - After questions arose about the CHP’s permit policy when hundreds of people showed up to the Capitol on Monday to protest the stay-at-home order, the CHP announced it will not be issuing any more permits for gatherings at the Capitol.

 

California Legislature

Assembly preparing to reconvene on May 4, and COVID-19 hearings continue to take place. Senate has yet to announce return date. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 6 on Budget Process Oversight and Program Evaluation held a hearing on the COVID-19 response. The purpose of the hearing was to provide an overview and oversight on the Administration’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. The subcommittee heard from the Department of Finance, Legislative Analyst’s Office, Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Health and Human Services Agency on topics such as the expenditure of the $1 billion of SB 89 funds, $1.4 billion Disaster Response-Emergency Operations Accounts, how the state intends to use its authority to spend any legally available funds, and how the federal stimulus funds interact with the state’s decisions. Members asked questions on topics such as childcare, the status of the state’s unemployment insurance fund, and efforts to secure necessary personal protective equipment. The subcommittee will hold another hearing on Monday, April 27 that will focus on economic stimulus. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 2 on Education Finance will hold a two-part informational hearing on Tuesday, April 28th focusing on K-12 and childcare. A major theme that emerged from this hearing is that frustration seems to be growing among members of the Legislature who want to be more involved in the Governor’s decisions related to COVID response. 

Bill Amendments and Upcoming Hearings. Throughout the recess, the Senate has been processing amendments for bills. As for the Assembly, they have recently referred a number of bills to policy committees, which will allow authors to start amending their bills. The Assembly will be pre-amending bills starting next week. Processing these amendments is a sign that the Assembly is gearing up for policy committee hearings the week of May 4. We understand that each bill will only go through one policy committee hearing, as opposed to the common practice of bills being heard by multiple committees. 

Budget Timeline. The Department of Finance and Assembly Budget Committee both released memos indicating that the June 15 budget will become a “workload budget” that reflects 2019-2020 current service levels. The Assembly stated that subcommittees will be directed to only agendize items necessary to build this baseline budget or items providing direct oversight of disaster response and recovery spending. Given the delay to personal income tax receipts until July 15, there will be an August revision that will allow for a second round of budget deliberations to consider issues that they did not discuss in May/June. The legislature will take up the state’s greenhouse gas reduction fund budget in the fall. 

 

Federal Government

President Trump signed a $484 billion stimulus  package that will provide funds for small business loan programs, funds for hospitals seeing economic loss, and to improve and fastrack COVID-19 testing. Congressional leaders and the White House are likely to shift gears to discuss a fifth stimulus package that would likely include financial help for state and local governments and policies to drive economic activity. Here are other federal government highlights: 

CDC Updates COVID-19 Symptoms - The CDC adds six new symptoms associated with COVID-19 – chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headaches, sore throat, loss of taste of smell.

Senators Introduce SNAP Bill - California Senator Kamala Harris, in collaboration with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders, introduced a bill to expand SNAP benefits. 

Economic Woes -  The Congressional Budget Office projects a 39.6% quarterly drop on GDP and a $3.7 trillion deficit. 

 

Local Action

Some local governments go beyond the requirements of the state stay at home order while others are hoping to reopen in the near future. Every city and county has been responding to COVID-19 as they see best for their communities. Just recently a growing number of local governments are urging Governor Newsom to allow them to begin to return back to normal. Here are some local news highlights:

 

Resources

  • California Coronavirus Response website can be found here
  • California Department of Public Health guidance documents can be found here
  • California COVID-19 risk screening and testing can be found here
  • California Local Public Health Authority information can be found here
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 updates can be found here
  • Looking for ways to help your community? Visit this site here