More help is on the way for Californians struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed a $7.6 billion relief package into law on Feb. 23, which will provide one-time stimulus checks to 5.7 million people and provide more grant funding for small businesses.
The package was first passed by the Legislature and builds on initiatives in the Governor’s January state budget proposal to provide cash relief to lower-income Californians, increase aid to small businesses and provide license renewal fee waivers to businesses impacted by the pandemic. In addition to these measures, the new action’s will commit more resources for critical child care services and fund emergency financial aid for community college students.
“As millions of Californians are struggling to make ends meet amid the devastating impacts of this pandemic, we are taking immediate action in partnership with our legislative leadership to provide families and businesses the relief they need,” Newsom said. “This critical assistance – including child care, relief for small business owners, direct cash support to individuals and households, financial aid for community college students and more – will help keep our communities afloat as the state continues to confront the immense challenges of this moment.”
The relief package comes as Newsom faces backlash for closing businesses during the pandemic as well as a recall petition, which has amassed 1.1 million signatures so far according to a tally released by state election officials on Feb. 5. The funding was also signed by Newsom as Congress debates a much larger relief bill, which would provide direct cash payments as well.
In November, Newsom used emergency powers to set aside $500 million for small business grants and during the first round of funding, nearly 335,000 applications were sent into the program totaling $4.4 billion in request. The relief package signed by Newsom on Tuesday will contribute an additional $2 billion for that program, and businesses with annual revenues between $1,000 and $2.5 million are eligible to apply; however, businesses owned by women and minorities as well as businesses in areas with high unemployment rates will be given priority.
Senator Andreas Borgeas led the bipartisan charge to include business relief in the package through Senate Bill 87, which was included as an emergency budget measure thanks to momentum generated by Borgeas’ and Senator Anna Caballero’s Keep California Working Act.
“This has been an experience that I believe we should replicate as frequently and as often as humanly possible. This was a moment where this body transcended partisanship, and we’ve seen how hyper-partisan Washington can be and we’re certainly not immune to it in Sacramento, but our constituencies want us to deliver results and the circumstances demanded these results,” Borgeas said on Monday as the Legislature prepared to vote. “That is why SB 87 is so exciting, and it also brought to mind something that our former California governor said, President Ronald Reagan: There is no limit to what a person can do or where they can go if they don’t mind who gets the credit.”
The package also includes $3.7 billion to pay at least $600 in one-time payments to Californians who claim the state earned income tax credit on their tax returns, those who make $30,000 per year or less. Stimulus payments will also go to people who earn under $75,000 per year and use an individual taxpayer identification number to file their income taxes or those who don’t have Social Security numbers such as immigrants who were ineligible for the federal stimulus payments Congress approved last year.
According to Newsom’s office, residents will have to wait until “shortly after they file their 2020 tax returns” to receive the payment.
The relief package signed on Feb. 23 also does the following:
• Two years of fee relief for roughly 59,000 restaurants and bars licensed through the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that can range annually from $455 to $1,235. The action also reflects fee relief for more than 600,000 barbering and cosmetology individuals and businesses licensed through the Department of Consumer Affairs.
• Addition of just over $400 million in new federal funds to provide stipends of $525 per enrolled child for all state-subsidized child care and preschool providers serving approximately 400,000 children in subsidized care statewide. The new federal resources will extend care for children of essential workers through June of 2022, and funds increased access to subsidized child care for more than 8,000 children of essential workers and at-risk children – who are not currently served in the system – through June of 2022.
• Provides an additional $24 million for financial assistance and services through Housing for the Harvest – a program providing support for agricultural workers who have to quarantine due to COVID-19. The effort also provides a combined $35 million for food banks and diapers.
• Provides an additional $100 million in emergency financial aid for qualifying low-income students carrying six or more units, with award amounts to be determined locally and made available by early April. In addition, the agreement provides $20 million to reengage students who have either left their community college studies because of the pandemic or to engage students at risk of leaving.
• Provides roughly $6 million to support outreach and application assistance to University of California, California State University and California Community College students made newly eligible for CalFresh – the state-administered federal program for supplemental food assistance. The agreement also provides $12 million in state funds to support associated county administrative workload.