Governor, lawmakers to announce new virus spending

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers have reached a spending deal on small business grants, stimulus checks for individuals and housing for farmworkers infected by the coronavirus, Newsom said Wednesday.

It includes a fresh $24 million for a program that puts farm and food processing workers up in hotels if they contract the virus and have no place to isolate, Newsom said as he spoke at a community vaccination clinic in the Coachella Valley, a region that’s home to many farmworkers.

Virus Outbreak California Vaccine

Motorists wait to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a federally-run vaccination site set up on the campus of California State University of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

“It’s candidly been underutilized, and we recognize that,” Newsom said of the farmworker housing program. “And the purpose of this new appropriation is to maximize its effectiveness.”

Newsom said he and lawmakers would release a joint statement with details on the other spending items later Wednesday. It will include money for grants of $5,000 to $25,000 for small businesses, nonprofits and cultural centers.

The deal will also cover Newsom’s proposed stimulus plan to give a $600 one-time payment to low-income Californians.

The governor’s visit to the Coachella Valley was his latest stop in a tour around the state to highlight vaccination efforts as California’s virus numbers continue to improve. Local and county governments have teamed up with nonprofits and community groups in the valley to vaccinate farmworkers and at-risk populations.

“We’re helping to ensure that we not only talk about equity, but more so that we deliver a solid plan and act on that plan to make sure that the vaccine is equitably administered to the people of color, and that our communities have a chance to survive and prosper,” Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez said.

California has now administered more than 6 million vaccines, but the rollout has been slow and rocky and demand continues to far exceed supply. The state is in the process of shifting to a new distribution system run by insurer Blue Shield, which will take some decision-making power away from counties.

The state’s virus numbers continue to improve. The state’s test positivity rate, hospitalizations and deaths are all down. The rate of people spreading the virus to others is now at its lowest in months, Newsom said.

The positive news means more counties will soon be allowed to reopen businesses for indoor services like dining, Newsom said Monday.

California created a four-tiered reopening system last summer that controls how businesses and schools must operate and sets guidelines for gatherings. By next week, a “substantial” number of counties are likely to enter the “red” tier, which allows indoor dining at 25% capacity and other indoor spaces such as movie theaters, museums and gyms to open with limits, Newsom said.

A half dozen rural counties in Northern California and along the Sierra Nevada are already in the red or orange tier. State data indicates at least five small counties are moving toward the red tier.

The more populous counties will take longer.


Categories: California News, Coronavirus