May 2020 Newsletter
This past month has seen some changes in the way we do things in the Senate, as all of us in California—and around the world—continue trying to get through this crisis together.
In April, I created the Special Senate Budget Subcommittee on COVID-19 Response to oversee how California has been funding our vital containment and response efforts. Governor Gavin Newsom has broad emergency spending authority, and when the Senate and the Assembly approved up to an additional $1 billion in emergency funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we assured Californians there would be this appropriate legislative oversight over all of this spending.
At its first hearing on April 16, the Budget Subcommittee looked at areas where the emergency funding has gone thus far, including obtaining hospital beds and equipment, child care for essential workers along with protective equipment and cleaning supplies for child care providers, lowering the risk to our communities by getting more homeless people into motel rooms, and filling gaps in the federal loan program to help small business.
The hearing made a couple things extremely clear—dealing with COVID-19 continues to be extremely fluid and fast-moving with major decisions having to be made in the moment, and the pandemic will have major repercussions on the state budget. The hearing showed there is still information we need to ensure California’s efforts are having the desired effects, and much preparation we need to do in a very short time to pass a budget.
Thankfully, we are more prepared than ever to enter a downturn. But the magnitude of the shutdown of the economy will reach beyond even our historic preparation. It will take major additional federal support for local governments and states throughout this country. It is imperative that California maximizes our efforts to gain the federal support our state needs to get through this crisis in as strong of shape as possible.
This hearing was also the Senate’s first opportunity during this crisis to include remote participation as part of the proceedings. Ten thousand more people than is usual for a hearing tried to watch online, and while that caused some technical glitches at the outset, we ultimately were able to successfully connect and stream the hearing. Most of the committee participated electronically, and for the Senators, staff and others who took part in person, we adhered to strict social distancing protocols.
The decision to try something new with remote participation was easy, given that protecting the public health takes precedence right now. Parents, students, and teachers all across California are already utilizing remote strategies. We know we can do the same and provide transparent, accessible, and participatory opportunities to conduct the people’s business.
In addition to the work being done by the Budget subcommittee, I also recently created a Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response to look at California’s overall actions regarding the current crisis and to make findings and recommendations for steps we can take now to prepare for future pandemics.
Despite these changing times, one thing remains constant – my team and I always remain available to assist you in any way we can.
Here in Senate District 39, we are stepping up in new and creative ways to help our community stay safe and slow the spread of COVID-19. We are seeing encouraging results, but our continued commitment to mitigating this rapidly changing public health crisis is essential. Our cities, counties and state are working together to provide resources and guidance to businesses, nonprofits and community members to help navigate these uncertain times.
For many of us, the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has dramatically changed daily life. Following public health guidelines, including practicing social and physical distancing and staying home, have helped successfully slow the spread of the virus, but they have also created new challenges.
The state has partnered with the federal government, cities, and counties to provide resources to those experiencing hardship due to the virus. My District Office team can connect constituents and local businesses with the federal, state or community services that may assist with challenges created by this outbreak. We also can provide important information on new protections that have recently gone into effect, such as the statewide moratorium on evictions.
Workers impacted by COVID-19 may qualify for disability insurance, paid family leave, unemployment insurance, paid sick leave or workers compensation. My team and I are working closely with the California Employment Development Department to help unemployed constituents access their unemployment benefits, and can assist business owners, independent contractors and self-employed constituents determine if they are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Local small businesses struggling to make ends meet may be eligible for financial assistance through various state and federal resources. We can help businesses access federal assistance, as well as new programs from the State Treasurer and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (Go-Biz).
There are many ways to help your community while staying safe and healthy. My staff has been working closely with community-based organization and nonprofits on projects big and small. From providing guidance to affordable housing landlords and tenants to organizing grocery deliveries for seniors, we are engaging with constituents to help wherever we can.
If you need assistance or if you have questions about how you can help your community, please visit our new, easy-to-use website for more information at https://sd39.senate.ca.gov/covid-19 or call my District Office at (619) 645-3133.
It is increasingly important that people know there are resources for those at risk or experiencing domestic violence, especially as we continue to abide by the stay-at-home order.
The San Diego District Attorney’s Office, which is concerned that the stay-at-home order may result in an increase of domestic violence, has resources available to help victims and survivors in the county during the pandemic. A new website offers information in English and Spanish on free local services, along with an anonymous quiz that determines one’s risk for domestic violence.
Another helpful resource is the Family Justice Center, which opened in 2002 and is run by the San Diego City Attorney. While the physical office is currently closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, Family Justice Center staff are working and continue to assist with planning, advocacy, and connecting individuals to community resources. Family Justice Center staff can be reached at (619) 533-6000.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline online chat: https://www.thehotline.org (or text LOVEIS to 22522). Or call the hotline at 1-800-799-7233
- San Diego County DA’s list of domestic violence resources
- San Diego Family Justice Center’s website
Please stay safe, and call 9-1-1 if you are in immediate danger.
On April 7, I joined San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, and other state leaders to announce $7.1 million in state funds allocated to the County and the City of San Diego, as well as the Regional Task Force on the Homeless to fund “Operation Shelter to Home.”
The purpose of the funding is to temporarily convert the San Diego Convention Center into a homeless shelter that can house as many as 1,500 San Diegans without permanent shelter to protect them from COVID-19.
This is an incredible partnership between so many organizations and elected officials that worked tirelessly to put this all together. This is more than a shelter, it’s a path to resources to solve our homelessness problem in the long-term. For now, individuals will be able to live in dignity in this space as we continue to fight this pandemic and protect everyone’s public health.
Operation Shelter to Home along with Project Roomkey – a FEMA-approved, first-in-the-nation effort to provide safe isolation capacity for tens of thousands of people experiencing homelessness in California – will help shelter homeless individuals most vulnerable to COVID-19 in hotel and motel rooms. I am proud to say San Diego county has secured 2,000 rooms for this purpose.
These are challenging times and it’s a massive undertaking, but we will continue to rise to the challenge.
Helpful news for prospective University of California and California State University students – admissions requirements have been temporarily relaxed due to the pandemic.
Both the UC and CSU systems announced that they are suspending letter grade requirements for high school courses completed during winter, spring, and/or summer of 2020. Non-letter grades will not be included in GPA calculations.
The UC also is suspending standardized test requirements (SAT/ACT) for students applying for Fall 2021 freshman admission. The CSU, which is considering admissions exceptions on a case-by-case basis, is looking into modifying its testing requirement.
Advanced Placement exam credits will be counted.
New resources are being announced and updated on a continuous basis as all levels of government prioritize supporting you through this pandemic.
While it’s great to have so much assistance available, it can be challenging to keep track of all of the information. That’s why I created a page within my website that compiles many of the state and local resources available as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
I hope you’ll consider this page as a valuable tool for keeping information you need in one place. Visit https://sd39.senate.ca.gov/covid-19 regularly or bookmark it in your web browser, as we will be updating the page as information changes and new resources are rolled out.
If you are yearning for the outdoors while abiding by the stay-at-home order, the California State Parks has online resources and tours to help brighten your day.
While the COVID-19 health crisis and need to slow the virus’ spread has required the closure of some of our state parks, and closed parking and modified usage at all of our parks, there are several ways to bring the beauty and history of our state parks indoors thanks to the California State Parks’ website.
California State Parks is broadcasting its Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) from locations throughout the state, helping students learning from home to access our natural resources and cultural heritage from their home computers.
Families and teachers can register for free K-12 programs online here. Lessons are sorted by grade level and time/day.
California State Parks also has an array of virtual tours available. For example, you can take a virtual tour of Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park, which has one of the best preserved rock art sites in California and of the Chumash people. The tours, along with other resources, are available on the PORTS website.
And for real-time views from our state parks, check out the Parks’ Live Video Gallery.
Piedras Blancas Seal Cam, which streams from Hearst San Simeon State Park, is particularly fun, and comes complete with sounds of the surf and sunbathing elephant seals.
Pledge to Stay Home
By staying home during the COVID-19 crisis, we are protecting ourselves and our communities. Take the pledge to stay home today: http://coronavirus-sd.com/pledge
You can send us a message online or call us at (619) 645-3133.