Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
September 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 continues to improve. New cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations from the virus in California continued to decline in the latest data released by state and local health departments, and even the hardest-hit regions appeared to be on the mend. State officials are still urging residents to abide by the physical distancing and mask order to minimize the spread. THESE are the most recent facts released by the Department of Public Health.

Newsom Administration

Governor Newsom continues COVID-19 focus, but adds wildfire response and energy supply concerns to his priority list.  Following the ongoing extreme weather events, 730 wildfires are burning across California, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate. At least 7 people have died, over 2,100 structures have been destroyed and 1.4 million acres have burned. In addition, the state has experienced rolling blackouts for the first time in nearly 20 years and more blackouts could occur this weekend. Here is a recap of recent actions and announcements:

  • COVID Executive Order - Governor Newsom signed an executive order extending consumer protections around price gouging through March of 2021. The text of the executive order can be found here
  • Energy Proclamation - Governor Newsom signed a proclamation to increase energy capacity as California enters another heatwave expected to put stress on the grid. The text of the proclamation can be found here
  • Housing is Key - Governor Newsom announced a new website, Housing is Key.  This campaign is aimed at connecting renters and landlords experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19 with helpful information and resources. The campaign will be run by the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency and will start by targeting vulnerable communities.
  • Preparedness Month - Governor Newsom issued a proclamation declaring September 2020 preparedness month in California. The Governor’s Office, the Office of Emergency Services, and others will be holding preparedness events for Californians to learn how to respond to a state of emergency related to COVID-19 or the wildfires. 
  • Testing Executive Order - Governor Newsom signed an executive order to build out California’s lab capabilities. California is aiming to stand up a laboratory facility and begin processing tens of thousands of additional tests by November 1 and run at full capacity by ­no later than March 1, 2021. The text of the order can be found here. 
  • Workplace Rights Project - The California Labor Commissioner, the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, have partnered to host a series of trainings on the Equal Pay Act as part of the Workplace Rights Ambassador Project to provide women and girls with the tools to fight pay discrimination and file claims under California’s Equal Pay Act.

California Legislature 

Important Dates:

  • September 30 – Last Day for the Governor to Sign/Veto Bills 
  • November 3 – General Election
  • December 7 – 2021-22 Legislative Session Begins

Legislature adjourns the 2019-2020 legislative session.  The Legislature adjourned their legislative session on Monday night. During the last few days of session, hundreds of bills were taken up while others did not make it through the process because of a lack of votes or the clock running out at midnight on August 31. The legislature sent the Governor a number of high profile bills such as, AB 3088 (Chiu) related to rental protection, SB 1159 (Hill) related to workers’ compensation and COVID-19,  SB 1383 (Jackson) related to the expansion of family leave, SB 275 (Pan) related to creating a stockpile of PPE, AB 376 (Stone) related to student loan servicing, AB 890 (Wood) related to expanding the scope of practice for Nurse Practitioners, and AB 1710 (Wood) related to allowing pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines when they become available. On the other hand, a number of bills many were watching closely did not make it through. These include SB 1120 (Atkins) related to housing development, SB 731 (Bradford) related to peace officer decertification, and AB 1659 (Bloom) the Wildfire Prevention and Community Resilience Act of 2020.  Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins released a statement on the work the Legislature did during the truncated 2020 legislative session. 

Speaker Rendon apologizes to Assemblymember Buffy Wicks for denying her a proxy vote. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued a formal apology to Assemblymember Buffy Wicks for denying her the right to vote by proxy, which would have allowed Wicks to avoid being in the Capitol in person. Assemblymember Wicks interrupted her maternity leave to attend the last day of session and cast her votes on what she believed were crucial matters, including AYE votes on SB 1383 and SB 1120. The Speaker denied the proxy vote request because her status was not considered to be at a “higher risk” of COVID-19.

Senate Pro Tempore and Senator Bradford commit to continue their work on police reform. Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Senator Bradford, author of SB 731 on peace officer decertification, released a joint statement publicly committing to working with the Legislative Black Caucus on policy reform such SB 731. This bill faced strong opposition from law enforcement groups and was seen as the most highly controversial police reform of the year. The bill was never taken up for a floor vote in the Assembly. While some measures related to law enforcement and racial justice were sent to the Governor, there is still a big push from advocates to advance police reform legislation.

Senators send Governor Newsom a letter of priorities for oversight hearings. Chairs of the Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response, Health Committee, Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, Health Committee, and Public Safety Committee sent Governor Newsom a letter outlining priorities that still need to be addressed and announcing their intention to hold hearings on the topics over the break. Priorities stated in the letter include looking into the Employment Development Department; testing, tracing, isolations and preventing community spread; reopening schools with a focus on vulnerable children; the supply chain of personal protective equipment; project homekey; broadband access; and influenza vaccination. The full letter can be found here.

Employment Development Department to be audited. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee called for an emergency audit of EDD. The request for the audit was submitted by the Chair of the committee, Assemblymember Rudy Salas. Months after the pandemic caused the nation and the state to enter into another recession, EDD is still under fire for its handling of a historically high number of requests for unemployment insurance. Recent reports of fraud have raised concerns from lawmakers with reports of individuals receiving dozens of unemployment insurance disbursement debit cards addressed to different individuals. In a letter to the committee, Assemblymember Salas informed the committee that the emergency request for the audit of the department had been approved. 

Judicial Council

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Chair of the Judicial Council,  announced the appointment of two new voting members, four new non-voting advisory members, as well as the reappointment of four voting members and two non-voting advisory members to the Council. Along with those appointed by the Chief Justice, members are appointed by the State Bar Board of Trustees as well as the Senate and Assembly. The terms vary in length and will commence September 15. More information can be found here

COVID-19 Spending

The Department of Finance released a report to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on state spending on COVID-19. 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). 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-19 and the wildfires. Here are some highlights:

  • Renewal Waiver - The Department of Consumer Affairs issued an order waiving license renewal requirements for holders whose licenses expire between August 30, 2020 and October 31, 2020. 
  • Labor Day Precautions - California State Parks announced the closing of all state beaches in Monterey County and implementing full or partial vehicle access closures in Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz counties. This comes ahead of the hot holiday weekend, which is expected to drive thousands of Californians to the state’s beaches. 
  • New Parks Director - Governor Newsom announced the appointment of Armando Quintero as the new Director of the State Department of Parks and Recreation. 
  • CPUC Director - The California Public Utilities Commission announced the firing of Executive Director Alice Stebbins. The CPUC took this step after determining that Stebbins violated hiring policies. Stebbins claims she was fired because she was looking into $200 million in uncollected fees and fines from companies the CPUC regulates.
  • CalOSHA Heat Warning - CalOSHA is reminding employers to take precautions for their outdoor workers during the upcoming heat wave. 
  • FEMA Victim Assistance - CalOES sent out an announcement that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering one time payments to households displaced by wildfires. 
  • Local Assistance Centers - CalOES announced that local assistance centers have opened in northern California to help victims of the wildfires. 
  • International Firefighters - CalOES announced that firefighters have arrived in California from Israel to assist in combating the wildfires burning across the state. 
  • Operational Surge - CalOES announced that mutual aid has arrived in the state from requests through the State Assistance for Fire Equipment Act. The equipment and personnel adds to the state’s ability to combat the wildfires burning across the state. 
  • UC Must Drop SAT - The University of California must immediately suspend all use of SAT and ACT test scores for admissions and scholarship decisions under a preliminary injunction issued by an Alameda County Superior Court judge.

Federal Government

Trump administration and Speaker of the House reach informal deal to avert government shutdown.  Below is a recap of federal actions: 

  • Shut Down Deal - Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reached a deal for a stop gap measure to avoid a government shutdown.
  • Federal Eviction Ban - The Trump Administration issued an eviction ban that will protect tenants through the end of the year from being evicted because of failure to make rent due to COVID-19.
  • Public Health Crisis - Congressional Democrats introduced legislation that would declare racism a public health crisis.

Local Action

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

  • L.A. Eases Restrictions - With cases on the decline, Los Angeles County is once again beginning to ease its health restrictions. 
  • L.A. Eviction Defense - Los Angeles will spend $10 million on eviction defense and will spend an additional $50 million on programs for the poor during the pandemic. 
  • Drive Through Voting at the Honda Center - Orange County announced that the Honda Center will be a drive through voting center for this upcoming November General Election. 
  • San Francisco to Move at a Slower Pace - Despite being in Tier 2 under the state’s new reopening plan, San Francisco will move at a slower pace for their reopening compared to the state guidelines. 
  • San Diego to Resume Trials - San Diego Superior Court will resume jury trials in October with safety precautions in place. 
  • Orange County Delays School Reopening - Orange County has pushed back their school start date for in-person instruction to September.

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