Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
September 18, 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 continue to decline in the latest data released by state and local health departments, and even the hardest-hit regions appear to be on the mend. State officials continue to urge 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 and wildfire response focused. Wildfires continue to burn across the state forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate. At least 25 people have died, almost 5,400 structures have been destroyed and 3.4 million acres have burned with the 5 largest fires in California history currently burning. Here is a recap of recent actions and announcements:

Family Leave - Governor Newsom and the First Partner announced the signing of SB 1383 (Jackson) into law, which expands access to job-protected Paid Family Leave to millions of Californians who work for an employer with five or more employees. This expansion allows employees to bond with a newborn, care for an ill family member, address a military exigency or care for their own illness. Congratulations to Weideman Group client SEIU on this monumental victory. 

Worker Protection - Governor Newsom held a signing ceremony where he signed SB 1159 (Hill) and AB 685 (Reyes). SB 1159 expands access to workers’ compensation for critical sectors (first responders, health care workers) if they contract COVID-19 and AB 685 requires employers to notify employees, local and state health officials if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace.

Exposure Pilot Program - Governor Newsom announced that Washington and Oregon are joining California in a pilot program for an exposure notification technology the state is working on with Apple and Google. 

Project Homekey - Governor Newsom announced that 10 projects in several different jurisdictions have been awarded a total of $76.5 million under Project Homekey to help address housing needs for the most vulnerable populations. 

Latino Heritage Month -  Governor Newsom issued a proclamation declaring September 15 to October 15, 2020 as Latino Heritage. 

Fire Crew Barriers - Governor Newsom announced he signed AB 2147 (Reyes) into law, which eliminates barriers for inmates that serve on fire crews to become firefighters upon release. 

POW/MIA Proclamation - Governor Newsom issued a proclamation declaring September 18th as POW/MIA Recognition Day. The text of the proclamation can be found here

County Status - Every week the state updates the list of counties on the 4 colored tiers that allow for various degrees of modified business operation as part of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The most recent updates leaves the counties standing at:

Purple: 30 counties

Red: 17 counties

Orange: 9 counties

Yellow:  2 counties

 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

The Legislature has adjourned their 2-year session and are not scheduled to reconvene until December 7. While the Legislature is in interim recess for the next few months, members are awaiting action on their respective bills that are still pending with the Governor. Newsom has hundreds of bills on his desk that he must act upon by the September 30th deadline – items that are not signed or vetoed by that date automatically become law. The Senate Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response is expected to hold additional hearings over the interim as will several other policy committees. Informational and oversight hearings on a multitude of issues, including COVID-19, wildfires, EDD performance and economic recovery are also expected to continue. Calls from Legislators for the Governor to convene a special session to deal with COVID-19 and wildfire issues continue but significant momentum for that concept has yet to materialize and the Governor has not indicated a desire to bring the Legislature back to Sacramento.   

Focus has also shifted toward the November 3 election. All 80 Assembly seats are up for election in November as are the 20 odd numbered seats in the Senate. California Democrats reached a highwater mark during the 2018 elections and currently enjoy strong super-majorities in both houses. Republicans are aiming to reverse that trend in 2020 but could face an uphill battle given the recent transition to blue we’ve witnessed in the California suburbs and the increased turnout typically associated with a Presidential election.    

State Auditor to begin an emergency audit of the Employment Development Department by the end of September. As we previously reported, Assemblymember Rudy Salas, Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, and a few dozen other legislators submitted an emergency audit request of EDD. The audit will focus on the following issues: the UI claims backlog and response, the call center’s performance, magnitude of EDD’s workload, and assessing the department’s technological infrastructure. The Governor put together a Strike Team back in July that was set to release a recommendations report within 45 days, but that report is still pending. The Governor has recently stated this roadmap report is within days of being released.

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), 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-19 and the wildfires. Here are some highlights:

  • DCA Waivers - The Department of Consumer Affairs announced the extension or a number of waivers, including a waiver associated with chiropractic schools.
  • Workplace Safety - CalOSHA recently announced they will be creating emergency rules for COVID-19 workplace safety.  
  • Yosemite Closes - Yosemite National Park is closing for an indeterminate amount of time due to extremely poor air quality. 
  • Mutual Aid - California has deployed emergency support to Oregon to assist in their efforts to combat wildfires. 
  • Unemployment Numbers - The Employment Development Department and Go-Biz released a joint statement reporting that California’s unemployment numbers fell to 11.4% in August, gaining 101,900 jobs. 
  • Disaster Assistance - The Small Business Administration has made available low interest loans to certain private nonprofit organizations in California following President Trump’s federal disaster declaration for Public Assistance as a result of wildfires that began Aug. 14, 2020.
  • Testing RFP - The Department of Public Health released a request for ideas to innovate COVID-19 specimen collection and transportation. 
  • Butte County Assistance -  Butte County has been added to a list of California counties approved for assistance to individuals and households as part of the major disaster declaration granted to California on August 22. 

Federal Government

Bipartisan group of legislators introduced a stimulus package. A bipartisan group of republican and democratic members of Congress introduced a $1.5 trillion stimulus package that takes key elements of both parties’ packages, including another round of stimulus checks, with the option of increased and decreased spending, depending on the state of the economy. Frustration with the lack of a much needed deal led to the coalition introducing the measure. Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that the measure doesn’t go far enough to provide relief and Republican leaders are criticizing the measure for being too large. The President has come out in favor of a larger relief package. These same arguments are what has kept Congress at an impasse on a second relief measure for months. Below is a recap of federal actions: 

  • Farmer Relief - The Trump Administration announced $13 billion in aid to farmers that have been affected by COVID-19. 
  • CDC Vaccine Plan - The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a plan for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, which could take 9 months. The plan can be found here. 
  • Student Loan Relief - Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer introduced a plan to cancel $50,000 of student debt for all federal borrowers. 
  • Patriotic Education - President Trump announced a new commission to ensure patriotic education in schools. 
  • Discrimination Resolution - The House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning descrimination against Asian Americans for COVID-19.
  • Masks - The Director of the CDC said during testimony in a Congressional hearing that masks could be more effective at preventing the transmission of COVID-19 than a vaccine would be.

Local Action

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

  • Back to School - Orange Unified School District announced the reintegration of their students for in-person instruction that will begin in late September and early October. 
  • Berkeley Mask Fine - The Berkeley City Council passed a resolution allowing a $100 fine for people that are not wearing masks. 
  • San Diego Revenue Loss - San Diego is estimating that the COVID-19 pandemic is costing the city $300 million in lost revenue. 
  • Garden Grove Stays Online - The Garden Grove Unified School District has reversed its decision to begin in-person instruction in schools.

 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