Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
July 31, 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. HERE are the most recent facts released by the Department of Public Health.

Newsom Administration

Governor moves to reinforce programs designed to assist working families during the pandemic. Here is a recap of recent actions and announcements:

  • Executive Order - Governor Newsom signed an executive order that extends the deadline for county assessment appeals boards to issue a decision on pending tax assessment appeals filed on or before March 4. The text of the order can be found here
  • EDD Strike Team - Governor Newsom announced a strike team to aid the Employment Development Department with the backlog due to an unprecedented amount of claims brought on by the pandemic induced recession.  The strike team is responsible for creating a blueprint for improvements at EDD, including a reimagining of their technology systems. 
  • Earned Income Tax Credit - Governor Newsom announced that over $1 billion has gone back into the pockets of 3.6 million Californians through the Earned Income Tax Credit. 
  • Minimum Wage Increase - Governor Newsom announced that he will not delay the increase in the State’s minimum wage. The minimum wage will increase on January 1, to $13.00 per hour for businesses with 25 or fewer employees, and to $14.00 per hour for businesses with more than 25 employees.
  • Water Resilience Portfolio - Governor Newsom announced the release of the finalized water resilience portfolio that will prioritize the funding of safe drinking water, groundwater recharge, healthy waterways, and progress on the Salton Sea. 
  • Central Valley Investment - Governor Newsom announced a $52 million investment to slow the spread of COVID-19 for the following 8 Central Valley Counties:  Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Kern. The monies are designed to be used for testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine efforts.
  • State Withholds Money - Governor Newsom announced that he has blocked more than $100,000 from two California cities–Atwater and Coalinga– that have not complied with local and state health orders. 
  • Data Collection - Governor Newsom’s Health and Human Services Agency Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, announced new data collection protocols that will allow the California Department of Public Health to collect additional information on sexual orientation and gender identity for those being tested for COVID-19.  
  • County Monitoring List - Governor Newsom’s county monitoring list stands at 38 counties, which represents a majority of the population of California.
California Legislature 

Important Dates:

  • 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 reconvenes to finish the legislative year.  Both houses of the legislature reconvened this week after their summer recess was extended due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among legislators and staff.  The houses have hundreds of bills they must work through but tensions between the houses continues to mount as leadership and chairs decide what bills should or should not be set for policy hearings during these last few weeks of session. This tension was evident earlier in the week as Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon cancelled all of Tuesday’s Assembly policy hearings after the Senate had postponed their Monday and Tuesday hearings. The Speaker felt there was an “imbalance” of work being conducted between the houses and several members of the Assembly expressed displeasure about their bills not being set. Hearings did resume later in the week and the Senate schedule indicates they will be holding weekend hearings in order to process the remaining bill load. The Senate and Assembly have also implemented special voting procedures to accommodate high-risk legislators. These special voting procedures include the implementation of proxy floor voting in the Assembly and remote voting in Senate hearings.

Assembly and Senate introduce a $100 billion joint economic stimulus package. After approving a budget aimed at addressing the $54 billion deficit induced by the COVID-19 pandemic last month, legislative leaders from each house announced efforts for a joint $100 billion economic stimulus package. This plan aims to protect Californians and spur job creation during and even after the COVID-19 crisis through a new tax voucher program and the acceleration of other existing revenue streams. For example, the proposal would provide expanded unemployment benefits if the federal government does not expand those benefits, expands the Earned Income Tax Credit and, and invests in infrastructure . The details of the proposal are still fairly general but a workgroup of legislators is actively fleshing out details of the proposal and are pushing to pass this package by the end of session. As conversations continue in the Legislature, we expect that there will be coordination with the Governor’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery and we have already seen several organizations criticize the plan for borrowing from future generations without demanding high wealth individuals step up and contribute. 

Assembly holds an Employment Development Department oversight hearing. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 4 on State Administration held an oversight hearing on the Employment Development Department (EDD) after nearly 1 million Californians have seen weeks and months long delays in accessing unemployment assistance. Though EDD has paid nearly $55 billion in benefits to more than 7.6 million people since the onset of the pandemic, it’s struggled to keep up with demand. Its rate of paying claims within two weeks fell from 88% in March to 52% in June, despite hiring 5,300 temporary employees, expanding its call center hours, and creating an online chat bot. Additionally, if more federal benefits are in the works, it could take the department up to 20 weeks to process them. Committee members criticized the Department and pushed the EDD Director to answer a number of questions to help them understand why EDD has been unresponsive to their offices and constituents. The EDD Director announced that they will be assigning a contact person per legislator to directly assist them with constituent cases. 

Additional budget action expected in the last few weeks of session. The budget deficit stands at $54 billion but the Department of Finance estimated this could be minimally lower — by $1 billion — after the July tax filing deadline. The $1 billion is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the overall deficit but if there are additional revenues the state will have access to we could see an allocation to safety net programs. The Legislature has pending trailer bills that are awaiting action; these include the public safety trailer bill and greenhouse gas reduction fund (GGRF).  The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 5 on Public Safety will meet on August 6 for an informational hearing on the Division of Juvenile Justice; the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 6 on Budget Process and Oversight and the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee will meet on August 6 for an informational hearing on the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Department; and the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 6 on Budget Process and Oversight is scheduled to meet on Monday, August 10 to hear trailer bills.

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.  The Governor also declared a budget emergency in June, which allows the state to draw down additional monies from the Rainy Day Fund to round out the budget as well as assist in the state’s COVID-19 response efforts. The budget sets aside $716 million for the Governor to allocate to COVID response in the same manner as the $1 billion the legislature authorized in March.  A full breakdown of the state’s COVID-19 spending can be found here

Regulatory Agencies and Department Actions

Numerous departments provide updates on their efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID. Here are some highlights:

  • Chiropractic Schools - The Department of Consumer Affairs announced waivers related to chiropractic school schedules and length of classes. Specifically, DCA is waiving California Code of Regulations, title 16, section 331.7 to the extent that it requires recitation or lecture periods to be at least 50 minutes in length, restricts schools’ operations to a five- or six-day week or any combination thereof, and restricts the total number of hours of instruction to between 30 and 35 hours per week.
  • DMV Expands Online Renewals - The California Department of Motor Vehicles is expanding eligibility for people to renew their licenses online or by mail for licenses that expired in March through September. Licensees will have additional time to renew but DMV is encouraging individuals to take advantage of the expanded online and mail services.
  • SBA Tops $1 million - The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Field Operations Center-West announced that SBA has approved more than $1 million in federal disaster loans for California businesses and residents impacted by civil unrest in Alameda and Los Angeles counties that began May 26, 2020. 
  • Kern County Testing - With the Central Valley being heavily impacted by COVID-19, a new testing site with mass testing capabilities has been opened in Bakersfield. 
  • Imperial County Community Outreach - Listos California has partnered with the California Department of Public Health to create a public awareness campaign on COVID-19 for the County’s Latino population based on the Loteria card game. Advertisements based on the card game will include billboards placed throughout the County. 
  • Division 3 Waivers - The Department of Consumer Affairs has extended waivers on continuing education for professionals licensed under the Business and Professions Code Division 3. This will allow individuals to temporarily renew their licenses without meeting continuing education requirements.
Federal Government

Republicans introduce HEALS Act, Congress continues stimulus package negotiations as CARES Act benefits expire. After Republicans introduced their stimulus bill on Monday, Democrats immediately criticized it for having $8 billion set aside for the purchase of military jets and an FBI building, lacking funding for state and local governments, not extending the $600 additional unemployment benefits from the CARES Act, and not offering eviction protection. Thursday, the Senate rejected two competing proposals as unemployment benefits expire today. In a meeting at the White House, Democratic leadership rejected a temporary extension deal offered by the Administration. This morning, the White House signaled it is willing to cut a deal without the liability shield that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been insistent upon. Leadership will likely be working through the weekend to reach a compromise on an additional stimulus package. Here are some additional highlights: 

Local Government

Local governments continue to take actions they deem appropriate given their unique circumstances. Here are some highlights:

  • Sacramento Increases Testing - Sacramento County  is adding new testing sites that will have 3 day turnaround times for results in Folsom, North Highlands, Rancho Cordova, and Galt. 
  • San Diego to Diversify Contact Tracers - San Diego County will hire a more diverse workforce for contact tracing to better ethnically match tracing efforts with those testing positive.  
  • Contra Costa Fine - Contra Costa County approved a $100 fine for residents violating the mandatory mask order. 
  • Palm Springs Closes Early - Palm Springs has ordered all bars and restaurants in the city to close by 11:00 pm to slow the spread of COVID-19 or face fines. 
  • Basic Income for Foster Youth - Santa Clara County has launched a program to offer a basic income of $1,000 to foster youth, a first of its kind program in the nation. 
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