Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
October 16, 2020

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California Statistics

Positivity testing rates continue to be below 3%. 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 at a time when much of the country is experiencing rapid growth. THESE are the most recent facts released by the Department of Public Health.

Newsom Administration

Homelessness, COVID-19 and wildfire response top of mind for Governor Newsom. Below is a recap of additional actions and announcements:

  • Project Homekey Update - Governor Newsom announced the release of $30.7 million of Project Homekey awards that have been awarded to numerous rural communities to assist them in their effort to address homelessness. This is the fifth round of awards to local jurisdictions and brings the total amount of monies awarded to $627 million.
  • Presidential Disaster Declaration - Governor Newsom announced that the President has approved California’s Major Disaster Declaration to bolster the state’s emergency response to wildfires and support impacted residents in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, San Bernardino, San Diego and Siskiyou counties.
  • Gathering Guidance - Governor Newsom released updated California Department of Public Health guidance on gatherings. The guidance allows for outdoor gatherings of up to three households.
  • Halloween Guidance - Governor Newsom’s Health and Human Services Agency Secretary, Dr. Ghaly, discussed at length the newly released guidance from the California Department of Public Health on Halloween and Dia de los Muertos celebrations. The guidance advises against going trick-or-treating and offers multiple alternative ideas on how to celebrate.
  • Policing Recommendations - Governor Newsom released recommendations that his policing reform advisors have made on a number of policing related issues, such as protests and demonstrations. We expect that a number of these recommendations will take the form of legislative bills in the upcoming session. The recommendations can be found here.
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day - Governor Newsom issues a proclamation declaring Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday, a day that has been historically known as Columbus Day.
  • Great Shake Out - Governor Newsom encouraged Californians to participate in the Great Shake Out, a drill to prepare people all over the state for an earthquake.
  • 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. This week, there was significant movement of counties into less restrictive tiers, which in turn will allow additional sectors to open back up. The most recent updates leave the counties standing at:

Purple: 10 counties

Red: 27 counties

Orange: 13 counties

Yellow:  8 counties

Budget

The 2020-2021 enacted budget contained $11 billion worth of cuts that would have been revisited, and some reversed, if the federal government would have passed a coronavirus relief package by October 15. The federal government did not pass a stimulus package by October 15 and now the state will be faced with the increased possibility of having to make additional cuts or defer payments. Without additional federal assistance, legislators may revisit efforts to increase revenues (e.g. wealth tax, tax voucher system) and make regulatory and statutory changes to expedite economic recovery.

California Legislature
 
Important Dates:

  • November 3 – General Election
  • December 7 – 2021-22 Legislative Session Begins

Start of the 2021-2022 legislative session expected to begin as the last session ended. With the ongoing pandemic, we have learned that the legislature is gearing up to continue with the same policies/procedures that were put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last session. On December 7th the Assembly will be holding their swearing in ceremony at Sacramento State, which will allow for all 80 members and their limited invitees to practice physical distancing, only one staffer per office will be allowed in offices when the Legislature reconvenes, and meetings should continue to be conducted remotely. We do not expect that members of the legislature will be asked to limit the number of bills they introduce. The Legislative calendar for the 2021-2022 session is expected to be released in the next 2-3 weeks and we will share that as soon as it becomes public.

Assembly committees hold informational hearings on hot topic issues–digital divide, healthcare and police reform.  This week, several hearings took place on issues that have been ongoing discussions during the pandemic. Below is a brief recap:

  • The Assembly Education and Communications and Conveyance Committees held a joint informational hearing on student access to the internet for distance learning. Members heard from several panelists representing the Department of Education, educators, telecommunications providers, and counties that spoke about the pressing need to ensure all students have access to adequate internet connections and the ongoing initiatives at the state and local level to try to ensure this goal is met. There is still an evident gap that needs to be closed and we expect legislative bills on this matter will be introduced in the next session.
  • The Assembly Select Committee on Native American Affairs held an informational hearing on making health care more accessible in Indian Country. Members heard from several panelists representing the Governor’s office, tribes, and health care providers that spoke about the challenges Indian Country has faced during COVID, the government to government partnership to tackle the pandemic, and recommendations to grow this partnership.
  • The Assembly Select Committee on Police Reform held its inaugural hearing this week. Members heard from several panelists representing academia, law enforcement and community advocates. This first provided a historical context on police reform and a couple of issues dominated the conversation, including decertification and improved training for peace officers. The committee will hold additional hearings over the interim where they will do a deeper dive on policy issues. We expect a number of bills will be introduced (and reintroduced) on this issue in the next legislative session.

Upcoming legislative hearings. The Assembly and Senate have several legislative hearings scheduled during the interim. Here’s a list highlighting some of the currently scheduled hearings:

  • Tuesday, October 20 – Assembly Budget Subcommittee 3 on Resources and Transportation will hold an informational hearing on wildfire mitigation measures
  • Monday, October 26 – Senate Special Committee on Pandemic and Emergency Response will hold an oversight hearing on K-12 distance learning
  • Tuesday, October 27 – The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 2 on Education will hold an informational hearing on safely reopening public schools
  • Tuesday, November 10 – The Assembly Committee on Health will hold an informational hearing on Health Information Exchange
  • Thursday, November 15 – The Assembly Committees on Higher Education and Budget Subcommittee 2 on Education will hold a a joining oversight hearing on the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education

Regulatory Agencies and Department Actions

Multiple departments provide updates on their efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and the wildfires. Here are some highlights:

  • ACES Training - Almost 14,000 health care providers have been trained in trauma-informed care through California’s ACES Aware initiative.
  • CAISO Flex Alert - The California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) issued a flex alert for grid stability as temperatures rise. More information can be found here.
  • Wildfire Victims Food Benefits - The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) announced that individuals and families impacted by wildfires in six counties may be eligible to receive Disaster CalFresh food benefits as part of continuing disaster recovery efforts.
  • Federal Wildfire Victims Aid - Victims of wildfires can register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for aid while they wait on their insurance settlement.
  • Post Fire Floods - The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is warning Californian’s living downhill from fire zones of possible flooding as the season’s change. 
  • SBA Deadline Approaching - The deadline to apply for an SBA federal disaster loan for economic injury caused by the severe storms and flooding in San Bernardino County that occurred Nov. 27 – Dec. 1, 2019 is November 13, 2020.
  • Personal Documents - Wildfire survivors in California who lost important documents may need replacements to apply for services.
  • Federal Rental Assistance - The FEMA Individuals and Housing Program is available to all eligible renters and homeowners in the counties of Butte, Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo, which are covered in the Aug. 22 federal disaster declaration.

Federal Government

Talks continue on stimulus package as Republican leadership disagrees on amount. President Trump has signaled he is open to a relief package of $1.8 trillion, a figure closer to that of the Democrats’ plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is breaking with the White House, calling the package too large and is preparing a vote on a $500 billion package next week. The lack of a federal relief package means the state will move forward with $11 billion in cuts that state leaders and advocates had hoped to “trigger off”.  Below is a recap of additional federal actions:

  • Census Count Ending - The 2020 census ended Thursday as the Supreme Court denied an extension requested by those concerned the pandemic will affect the annual count.
  • Confirmation Hearings - President Trump’s selection for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, underwent 4 days of confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Barrett is expected to be confirmed to the Court before the General Election on November 3.
  • Tree Planting Initiative - President Trump signed an executive order creating a federal council on a global tree planting initiative. The Council will be in charge of developing, coordinating, and promoting tree growing, restoration, and conservation.

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