Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
July 4, 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

California cases continue to rise, alarming public health officials. With a rising number of positive COVID cases and local governments seeing their limited resources dwindling, the Governor has mandated that certain counties reinstate closures of indoor activities (e.g. bars, dining, theaters, museums). State officials continue to urge residents to abide by the physical distancing and mask order to minimize the spread. CLICK HERE for the most recent facts released by the Department of Public Health.

Budget

Governor Newsom signs a 2020-21 budget. Two weeks after the Legislature passed a placeholder budget to meet the June 15th constitutional deadline,  Governor Newsom signed a budget deal negotiated with the Legislature. The Governor signed the main budget bill, a “budget bill jr.”, which amended the Legislature’s June 15 budget bill, and over a dozen trailer bills. The budget that the Governor signed totaled $202.1 billion and closes a $54.3 billion shortfall by scaling back certain programs, includes new ways to bring in revenue, and includes a number of trigger cuts that will take effect on October 15th if California does not receive an additional $14 billion in federal assistance.

The budget allows $5.7 billion for the state’s pandemic response as well as $5.3 billion to mitigate learning loss. The enacted budget utilizes $8.8 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, $10.1 billion of federal funds, and defers or borrows $9.3 billion from special funds.  The budget also includes over $2 billion in federal CARES Act money to be distributed on a monthly basis to counties if they are adhering to health orders–the state will have the authority to withhold such payments if a county is not meeting specific public health orders. We expect budget activity to continue through July and August, the last couple of months of the legislative session. 

Newsom Administration

Governor Newsom announces a rollback of California’s reopening as an increasing number of counties become hot spots for COVID-19.  Hospitalizations have increased 51% from two weeks ago and the state reported 110 deaths on Wednesday, its second highest number during the pandemic, which led to the Governor mandating that bars and indoor activities close in the state’s hardest hit counties. Here is a recap of recent actions and announcements:

  • Wear a Mask - Governor Newsom announced a new comprehensive public awareness campaign to encourage Californians to wear a mask. The campaign will last through the end of the year and feature ads in multiple languages. 
  • In-Door Activity Closures - Governor Newsom announced he has directed 19 counties that have been on the County Monitoring List for three consecutive days or more to close indoor operations for certain sectors which promote the mixing of populations beyond households and make adherence to physical distancing and wearing face coverings difficult. The guidance applies for a minimum of three weeks and is subject to an extension based on epidemiologic indicators. In addition, all brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs in these counties must close immediately, both indoor and outdoor.
  • Project Homekey - Governor Newsom announced the next phase of Project Roomkey, a more permanent program called Project Homekey. The program is backed by $1.3 billion from the budget to county and city government to procure facilities and provide services for the homeless. 
  • Enforcement Strike Teams - Governor Newsom announced the creation of enforcement strike teams, composed of staff from multiple state agencies, that will assist counties in ensuring that businesses comply with the statewide health orders.
  • Omnibus Executive Order - Governor Newsom issued an executive order extending a number of previous executive order actions. These include authorization for local governments to halt evictions for renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through September 30, extending orders allowing couples to obtain marriage licenses via videoconferencing, suspending face-to-face visits for CalWORKS, permitting in-home supportive services (IHSS) program caseworkers to continue caring for older adults and individuals with disabilities through video-conferencing assessments, and allowing for mail-in renewals of driver’s licenses and identification cards. The text of the order can be found here. 

California Legislature

Important Dates:

  • June 19 – July 13 -  Assembly Summer Recess
  • July 2 – July 13 -  Senate Summer Recess
  • July 13 – Legislature Reconvenes
  • August 31 – Last Day of Session
  • September 30 – Last Day for the Governor to Sign or Veto Bills
  • November 3 – General Election
  • December 7 – 2021-22 Legislative Session Begins

Legislature passes additional constitutional amendments. As we reported last week, the Legislature bought themselves additional time past the June 25th deadline to pass legislative bills seeking to place a measure on the November ballot by passing SB 300, which the Governor signed into law. The Legislature passed an additional two Assembly Constitutional Amendments, ACA 4 and ACA 11, making it a total of four ballot measures the Legislature successfully placed on the November ballot. The Secretary of State Alex Padilla has since certified the measures that will be appearing on the ballot this November. The 11 measures that will be in front of the voters include the following: stem cell research bond, split roll property tax, repeal of Prop. 209, reinstating voting rights for parolees, rent control, employment classification for app-based transportation/delivery companies, regulation of dialysis clinics, consumer privacy, a referendum on the replacement of the cash bail system.  Additional details on the initiatives can be found here

Senate Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response holds joint information hearing. The Senate Special Committee held a joint hearing with the Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation to discuss the impact COVID-19 has had in California’s border region. The hearing highlighted the elevated needs along the border, with particular focus on Imperial County, which has been one of the hardest hit counties in the state, and a discussion on the increasing concern over the lack of treatment in immigration detention centers. Given the geographical area where Imperial County is located (near the Mexico and Arizona border) the Legislature discussed how to best ensure the spread can be contained and that hospitals are being provided with adequate assistance. 

Senate Public Safety Committee holds an informational hearing on the impact of COVID-19 in state prisons. COVID-19 has been spreading in state prisons, most notably at San Quentin where there are currently over 1,000 known cases. The Senate Public Safety Committee held a hearing Wednesday morning where top officials from the Administration testified, including Secretary Ralph Diaz of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Clark Kelso, the Federal Receiver for Correctional Health Care Services, Susan Fenelli of the California Department of Public Health, and Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. They discussed the outbreaks in four institutions and mitigation tactics being employed, and experts weighed in with suggestions such as high level strike teams and decarceration strategies.  

Legislature will begin work immediately upon returning. Policy committees will resume hearing bills on July 13 in both houses, as all fiscal measures must be processed by committees in the second house by July 31. This will provide very little time for policy committees to hear bills and the existing COVID prevention protocols will require the Senate to meet on Saturdays because of the compressed timeframe. Additionally, the Assembly announced that they would be suspending remote testimony but walked the decision back after receiving complaints about limiting public participation in the process.  

COVID-19 Spending

In early March, the Legislature authorized $1 billion in general funds for the Governor to fight COVID-19. To date, the Administration has spent $826.8 million of the monies on pandemic response and $1.4 billion from the Disaster Response-Emergency Operations Account (DREOA), mostly on procuring masks and respirators for industries across the state. The Budget includes $750 million to provide support for counties experiencing revenue losses for realigned programs as a result of COVID-19.  A full breakdown of the state’s COVID-19 spending can be found here. 

Regulatory Agencies and Department Actions

Numerous departments navigate the rollback in reopening and provide updates on their efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Here are some highlights:

  • Testing Sites - The Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency has confirmed that the state is pulling state funded testing sites out of counties that are not generating high enough demand and cutting off funding for new locations. The State has two contracts with private companies totalling $132 million. 
  • Alternative Care Sites - The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services announced that four alternative care sites in California will be reactivated to assist in decompressing the local hospital systems. 
  • Devices and Internet Access - State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is reaching out to more than 100 of California’s top private industry partners, businesses, and donors with a new call to action: contribute to a $500 million initiative that would provide computing and connectivity devices to all of California’s public school students in need.
  • State Park Safety Measures - The California Department of Parks and Recreation announced that it will be implementing measures such as beach closures, reduced vehicular access and closing state parking lots to decompress areas that would typically see a high volume of people over the holiday weekend. 
  • Commercial License Extension - The Department of Motor Vehicles announced commercial truck drivers do not have to renew expiring licenses to ensure essential products are being delivered in a timely fashion. The extension lasts through September.
  • 20 Additional Weeks of Unemployment - The Employment Development Department announced the extension of unemployment benefits for 20 more weeks for those that are impacted by COVID-19. 
  • EDD Sets Limits - The Employment Development Department also announced it was setting time limits on requests for hardship cases. With over 6 million unemployment applications filed, cases have fallen behind as the department has found itself overwhelmed. This new announcement is designed to help the department work through the backlog of those still awaiting benefits.

Federal Government

President Trump states his support for a second round of stimulus payments. In a recent interview, the President stated that he not only supports another round of stimulus checks, but that he wants the payments to be larger.  The Democratic led HEROES Act, a $3 trillion relief package that includes a second round of stimulus checks, is still sitting in the Republican controlled Senate. The HEROES Act is not expected to pass but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that an additional relief package may be necessary as states are back tracking on their reopening efforts. The additional relief package will likely be taken up when the Senate returns from their July recess. California had made a request of $14 billion from the federal government to avoid trigger cuts set to take effect on October 15.  Here is a recap of recent federal actions and announcements:

  • Small Business Extension - The House of Representative voted unanimously to extend the deadline for the coronavirus small-business loan program. This follows the Senate’s vote late Tuesday to keep the program alive as it was set to end Wednesday. 
  • Juneteenth - Senate Republicans engaged in debate on whether to replace Columbus day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday. 

Local Action

Local governments grapple with an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Here are some highlights:

  • LA County Beaches to Close for 4th of July - As large crowds are expected to gather in Los Angeles county beaches as the county is seeing one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the state, Los Angeles officials will close the beaches for the holiday weekend.  
  • Riverside County ICU Beds Full - 99% of Riverside County’s ICU beds are full, forcing the county to begin to move into their surge plan as cases continue to rise. 
  • Yolo County Voluntarily Closing - Yolo County has made the decision to preemptively close bars and a number of other indoor activities as neighboring counties are mandated to close down some activities.

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