The Toni Times | April 2021
Happy April! This week many Californians are celebrating Easter and Passover. While the celebrations will look a little different again this year, I think we’re all starting to feel some sense of optimism. If we continue to do our part—get vaccinated, keep wearing masks, wash your hands, and remember physical distancing—then getting together with family and friends will move back to being a more ordinary event—events we know have such extraordinary benefits for our wellbeing! Later in this newsletter, we share how to find the latest word on vaccines, reopenings, and other key issues regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Please be sure to check that out. And remember, the statewide application for the tenant/landlord eviction relief enacted by the legislature and the governor is now available at the Housing is Key website.
This April, thanks to our efforts in Sacramento and the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan, there is increased funding for both the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and the California Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC programs put cash into people’s pockets and money into local economies. With the April 15 tax deadline being pushed back to May 17, we have extra time to spread the word, so please share this information with anyone you know who is eligible—and you don’t have to owe any taxes to qualify. CalEITC4me.org has more information about these important programs.
I’m very pleased to announce that as we move into April, several of the bills I have introduced are making significant progress. SB 1, which provides tools to help California and our communities push back against sea level rise, was approved by the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee, and after a couple more stops in the Senate we expect it to be taken up in the Assembly. I have to thank our own Dr. Margaret Leinen of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), California Coastal Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh, and Jennifer Savage of the Surfrider Foundation for joining me on World Water Day last month to promote SB1. I invite you to read the op-ed I wrote about this here.
SB 7, my bill to jumpstart and expand a successful CEQA streamlining program continues to advance, as does SB 9, which seeks to bridge the gap between producing the additional housing we need while including protections for communities and neighborhoods. In fact, along with SB 7 and SB 9, the Senate’s entire housing production package continues to gain support, and we are working hard to get those bills to the Governor’s desk and signed into law.
All in all, it looks to be a busy month in April. And, hopefully, an even brighter one.
Our coastline is a precious resource. But in communities throughout California, warming waters and rising sea levels threaten both the coast we love and the people and businesses that are located there. Predictions are that left unchecked, sea level rise will cause billions of dollars in damage in California and disrupt countless lives.
That is why I introduced Senate Bill 1, the Sea Level Rise Mitigation and Adaptation Act. Sea level rise stands to impact our region’s economy, which relies on tourism and coastal recreation, our military installations and their mission, and critical infrastructure like wastewater treatment facilities, airports, ports, and rail lines.
In Imperial Beach, the annual King Tide flooding events—which bring the highest tides of the year—flood low-lying streets, homes, and businesses. City leaders have turned to science, plus a network of local agencies and partners, to help them adapt and deal with the impact of these rising tides in the community.
According to the UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, even subtle changes in sea-level will worsen flooding, leave some coastal areas permanently submerged, foul our freshwater sources near the coast, and make it impossible to provide adequate drainage to some neighborhoods.
This legislation would:
- Direct the California Coastal Commission to take into account sea level rise in planning, development and mitigation efforts;
- Establish an inter-agency collaborative jointly overseen by the Secretaries of the California EPA and Natural Resources to provide local and regional planning and mitigation strategies for sea level rise;
- Make public funding available for planning efforts and community outreach to ensure equity in all communities along the coast, including public access;
- And expand existing grant programs to assist small disadvantaged communities and support greater public and community involvement in planning for the impacts of sea level rise.
Funding for implementation is included in SB 45, a bond act that would provide $970 million for coastal protection and restoration, and specifies that $100 million per year would be allocated to this effort. This bill creates no new positions nor does it inhibit development. San Diego County and coastal cities have already been awarded $1.2 million in grant funding from the California Coastal Commission to help modernize coastal programs to address sea level rise concerns. But that was a one-time payment. SB 1 would establish an ongoing funding stream.
Since my last update to you, millions of Californians have been vaccinated, and millions more are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. As of today, this includes individuals 50 and older. And those 16 and older will be eligible on April 15.
People with high-risk medical conditions and disabilities are now eligible including those with the following:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
- Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
- Obese (BMI > 30 kg/m2, but < 40 kg/m2)
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus
Also on the list are people with developmental disabilities and Down Syndrome.
The vaccine supply issue continues to be our greatest hurdle, but now there are three options in our battle: Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
- For information on scheduling an appointment, we recommend visiting MyTurn.gov or San Diego County’s website.
- New CDC guidance allows for folks who are already vaccinated can gather. Please refer to the CDC’s website for the latest guidance.
As a sign of continuing progress, San Diego County has moved up into the red tier, allowing for the gradual reopening of more businesses, gyms and restaurants.
While this journey may be far from over, I’m confident we are on the right path.
With April comes Earth Day, and many of us find ways to clean up our neighborhoods, beaches and watersheds, or plant gardens and trees. But it also affords us a time to consider ways to be more energy efficient!
This month, I want to acknowledge the efforts of Balboa Park, the City of San Diego’s largest urban park and our crown jewel of arts and culture. After years of commitments to sustainable and energy-efficient business practices, the park received a milestone environmental achievement recently. It became the first historic landmark to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification!
LEED was created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and is the world’s most widely used green building rating system. In February, our world-renowned park became the first cultural district and historic landmark to earn a LEED for Cities and Communities certification.
This has been a collaborative effort by the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, the San Diego Green Building Council, the park’s non-profit tenants, and SDG&E, with the goal of meeting the City of San Diego’s climate action goals through energy and water use, conservation and waste diversion efforts. That includes LED lights, solar panel arrays and updated heating and cooling systems. Learn more about the park’s efforts here.
Congratulations to everyone involved in making our beloved Balboa Park even more outstanding.
While we’re seeing progress when it comes to the pandemic, COVID-19 remains a reality and having access to quality, affordable health care is more important than ever before. That’s why, thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration’s American Rescue Plan, Covered California is rolling out a NEW special-enrollment period on April 12 to help more Californians get covered at a lower cost starting as early as May 1. The enrollment period will stay open through the end of 2021. You don’t need to have a qualifying life event – the enrollment requirements are similar to those for open enrollment. An estimated 1.2 million Californians without insurance will be eligible to sign up for coverage and nearly half a million who currently buy insurance directly through a health insurance company will qualify for new financial savings if they enroll in a new plan through Covered California. Additionally, most households currently enrolled through Covered California will save an average of $119 on their monthly premiums, which will be applied automatically in May. A new “Shop and Compare” tool will be available on CoveredCA.com on April 12 to help consumers understand their options and how they can benefit from the new law, or you can call (800) 300-1506 to talk to a representative directly. Don’t miss your opportunity to ensure you and your family are covered, and to take advantage of the new assistance coming from the American Rescue Plan.
Tax day has been extended to May 17, but filing earlier could mean more money sooner for those who qualify for additional tax credit. If you qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), California Young Child Tax Credit, federal EITC, and federal Child Tax Credit file their taxes, you will keep more of the money you earned last year. Plus, this year, Californians who qualify for the CalEITC also will receive a $600 one-time payment as part of the Golden State Stimulus package recently passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. To see if you qualify and to find free tax prep help near you, visit CalEITC4me.org. If you already filed and did not claim the CalEITC, you can still amend your tax return to get the credit and the stimulus. Find details on how to do that here.
Due to COVID-19, I haven’t been able to attend many events in person around the district. But during a recent press conference to announce the $6.6 billion dollar safe schools package, I took a socially-distanced tour of Hoover High School. Thank you Principal Jason Babineau and San Diego Unified School District Board President Richard Barrera for inviting me to participate. They were excited to open their doors again to students, and showcased the new safety plans in place as they prepare to bring teachers, students and staff back to the newly renovated school. Fun fact: Baseball great Ted Williams graduated from Hoover High School!
Congratulations to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance on a new name and new purpose! The parent company of San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park says the name is more reflective of its new strategy towards its global conservation efforts, and a recommitment to its mission to save species worldwide. As climate change and sea level rise continue to put species at risk around the world, I applaud this step forward to expanding these efforts globally.
Each year, I look forward to the annual Sacramento Summit with the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. We kept the tradition going, albiet virtually. I spoke to a group of dozens of business and civic leaders from the Capitol to provide an update on our legislative efforts this past year and looking ahead to the future. Thank you for the invitation – and congratulations on your 150th anniversary year!
(Pictured, Promises2Kids CEO Tonya Torosian)
I would like to extend a heartfelt, “Thank You,” to Promises2Kids, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Started by two La Jollans, Renee Comeau and Norma Hirsh, this organization’s outstanding dedication, spanning four decades, to foster child advocacy and child abuse prevention is truly remarkable. Read more about their journey here.
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