Senate Leader Atkins Creates Subcommittee on State’s COVID-19 Response; First Hearing Scheduled for Next Week
A newly-created Senate subcommittee focused on the state’s COVID-19 response will hold a hearing next week to review expenditures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While California continues its work to flatten the COVID-19 transmission curve and prevent health care systems from being overwhelmed – and given the need for critical legislative oversight – Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) announced that she has created the Senate Special Budget Subcommittee on COVID-19 Response, a bipartisan committee led by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), Chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.
“Managing the COVID-19 crisis has brought unprecedented change into all of our lives and in the way we are conducting the People’s work here in California,” Atkins said. “Everyone in this state, from families to our courageous medical professionals, has had to adjust, and so will our government. We have been doing, and will continue to do, what California so often does best – examine possibilities, determine solutions, and take to heart the needs of all Californians.”
“California has never been in a better position to weather a recession and our state will likely experience one in the aftermath of COVID-19. Fortunately, we have the resources and the ability to scale up to respond to this current crisis. As legislative leadership we will identify gaps in services and resources for those sectors who employ and support government functions and people. We are assessing how the government can be helpful in filling those gaps to create a California where all children thrive,” said Mitchell.
“We must ensure the state is doing everything within the realm of possibility to support our incredible frontline workers and ensure the health and safety of Californians. The Legislature remains responsible for ensuring we are legislating effectively and providing transparency and accountability for California taxpayers. I am grateful for the bipartisan effort taking place to ensure we are assisting citizens of the Golden state with immediate relief efforts,” said Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield).
The hearing, scheduled for Thursday, April 16 at 2 p.m. in Room 4203, will include review of the state’s COVID-19 spending, including spending authorized by the Legislature in March. The Department of Finance and Legislative Analyst’s Office also will participate in the hearing.
In light of the statewide and county stay-at-home orders, some members of the subcommittee are expected to participate remotely under the terms of Senate Resolution 86, which was adopted by the Senate to allow its work to continue during the COVID-19 crisis. Those interested in attending the hearing, including media, are asked to watch online in order to ensure the social distancing mandated by state and county order. Details on where to watch the hearing and how to submit public testimony will be provided in the file notice for the hearing.
On March 16, the Senate and Assembly passed a plan appropriating $500 million – up to $1 billion – from the state’s General Fund for emergency medical response related to COVID-19. The budget bills passed the Senate and Assembly on a bipartisan vote, and have enabled the state to lease and activate hospitals, provide hotel beds for people experiencing homelessness to reduce the spread of COVID-19, clean child care facilities, acquire hospital and public health surge equipment, assist hospitals and nursing homes, and fund In-Home Supportive Services/Adult Protective Services strike teams to support seniors in isolation.
On March 25, the Governor transferred $1.3 billion to the Disaster Response Emergency Operations Account (DREOA), bringing its balance to $1.4 billion. The DREOA is the source of funds that the Administration uses to quickly respond to emergencies. Through an Executive Order, the Governor stipulated that he would use these funds and any other legally available state funds to help address the COVID-19 emergency.
Lawmakers also are currently assessing the funds California will receive from the first three federal stimulus packages, as well as assisting communities in ensuring that this funding is promptly distributed.
Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.senate.ca.gov/Atkins