The Toni Times | May 2021
May is the month when we celebrate our mothers and when we honor the memories of those who gave their lives in service to our nation. This May is a little different, because it also includes the income tax deadline that we normally see on April 15th. The May 17th deadline means that is when we will have a final picture of what the state’s revenues are as we work to enact a state budget by the constitutional deadline in June.
I have to tell you how excited I am about the budget we are proposing in the Senate. The Senate’s Build Back Boldly proposal provides a once-in-a-generation chance to make transformational change in California, and it builds nicely on the responsible budgeting and investing that Democratic legislators and governors have done for more than a decade now.
From helping businesses and families bounce back from the pandemic, to expanding health care, opening new paths for early childhood education and debt-free college, to reducing homelessness increasing housing affordability, and boosting homeownership, there is a lot to like in this budget proposal. Some items that were still being negotiated weren’t able to be included in the Build Back Boldly proposal as released, such as the $5 billion in additional tax relief we just passed for businesses to allow them to deduct business expenses they paid with federal PPP funds against their state tax bill. And we are in the process of finalizing an agreement to provide additional resources to deal with drought conditions as we head toward another hot, dry summer. You can find the Senate’s Build Back Boldly proposal here. Grab a cup of coffee and dig in, because there is so much good to be found in this plan!
May is also when we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) History Month, and how we mark the occasion this year is especially important, as we stand with AAPI communities against the alarming rise in hate crimes against members of those communities. I am pleased that after confirmation by the Senate and Assembly, AAPI History Month will start with our new Attorney General Rob Bonta on the job fighting those attacks and working to build a more just and equitable system for us all.
Besides the budget, there is a lot on the Senate’s to-do list in May. We continue to meet with housing stakeholders to advance the Senate’s housing package—my own SB 9 has been approved by both of the Senate policy committees that heard the bill. I will also continue to work with my colleague from Los Angeles, Senator Steven Bradford, on SB 2, our legislation to increase accountability for law enforcement officers who commit serious misconduct and illegally violate a person’s civil rights. The recent addition of Daunte Wright’s name to the tragic roll call of Black Americans unjustly killed by police is the latest example of why this bill is so badly needed. As I said in a statement the day the guilty verdict was issued in the murder of George Floyd, “We, as a society – not just Black, Brown, Asian, or ethnically-diverse individuals – are beginning to confront the reality that systemic racism is the real root of the problem. We have to continue that change from within, accept the reality of what has been happening, and chart a course for change.”
So, yes, a lot to do in May, but that’s okay. I know I can rely on the energy and work ethic I inherited from a very good source—Betty Catherine Davis Atkins, who would have turned 90 on May 2nd. Thank you, Mom--and Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Last year’s fire season was the largest in California’s history, burning more than 4 million acres and devastating communities in diverse landscapes throughout the state. With another hot and dry fire season on the horizon, combined with a lack of rainfall and low snowpack, the state’s wildfire preparedness efforts are already underway. In partnership with the Assembly and the Governor, the Senate passed a groundbreaking $536 million wildfire package that enables the state to take urgent action to support wildfire suppression, improve forest health, and build resilience in communities to help protect Californians from catastrophic wildfires across the state. For every dollar we spend on wildfire prevention, our state saves $6 to $7 in damage.
This wildfire package will fund much needed programs and projects throughout the state, including here in the 39th Senate District. San Diego residents will benefit from increased funding for home and structural hardening, grants for small farmers and rural landowners in East County for vegetation management, and fire prevention and management at state parks. Your local cities and the county will have information as soon as it is available for specific fire reduction programs. The package also includes a $12 million grant for the San Diego River Conservancy for on-the-ground wildfire-related investments. The conservancy has several projects that these funds will help implement, including projects to reduce fires, smoke, and protect natural landscapes and property.
The state is pursuing sustainable approaches to thinning California’s vulnerable landscapes, half of which will be funded under this landmark legislation. Furthermore, the state’s iBank will work collaboratively with other state agencies to accelerate the application process for to the Climate Catalyst Fund. The fund will provide loans, loan guarantees and other credit support to encourage private-sector innovations in technology, business models, and infrastructure and supply chains in woody biomass markets.
Here in San Diego County, we are no strangers to the devastating impacts of wildfires. In addition to the loss of homes and property, wildfires pollute our air so severely that even walking down the street can be dangerous for vulnerable populations. The impending challenges of this year’s fire season are daunting but together we can take action in our communities to help limit the spread of fires. Organizations like the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County have numerous resources for folks interested in making their homes and businesses more wildfire resilient, and for updates on local fires. I encourage all my constituents to consider how they can make their home or business more fire safe. Make sure your evacuation plan is current and that each member of your household or staff at work knows how to get to a safe location.
It was my turn to get vaccinated and what an amazing moment. I was filled with so much hope and appreciation to the medical staff, researchers, and volunteers who have helped us get to where we are.
California continues to lead the way in vaccination efforts. As of this writing:
- More than 50 percent of residents age 16+ have been vaccinated in the state, receiving at least one dose, with a third fully vaccinated;
- The County of San Diego reports 53 percent of the eligible population – more than one million people - have had at least one dose, with 37 percent of eligible San Diego County residents fully immunized.
As of now, anyone age 16 and older is eligible to sign up for a vaccine anywhere in the nation. This is truly a monumental accomplishment in this battle against the pandemic. I urge you to schedule your appointment at the My Turn website or to check the County’s Vaccination site to learn more about new walk-up locations.
San Diego remains in the Orange Tier for now. Things are starting to open up again, which is good for our neighborhood businesses and the workers they employ. I’d remind you to take a look at what the guidelines are for the current tier.
There is one more resource I want to make you aware of. As part of the American Rescue Plan, FEMA is making up to $9,000 available to families who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 to cover funeral expenses. To apply, visit FEMA’s website.
The month of May is a time when we recognize both our Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and the leaders of our Small Businesses. Both of these communities are incredibly valuable in terms of our cultural awareness and our economic prosperity. The AAPI community in San Diego is 400,000 strong—that’s 12 percent of our population—and 95 percent of businesses in SD are small businesses. I invited Jason Paguio, President & CEO of the Asian Business Association San Diego, to write a guest article to discuss the impacts of the past year on both communities.
By Jason Paguio, President & CEO of the Asian Business Association San Diego
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for small businesses across the country, especially those in the Asian American Pacific Islander communities. A recent study conducted by the New York Federal Reserve revealed that 90 percent of Asian American owned businesses lost revenue in 2020, compared to 85 percent for African Americans, 81 percent for Hispanics, and 77 percent for whites.
At the end of 2019, the Asian Business Association San Diego joined forces with the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce and San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to form the Strategic Alliance of Ethnic Chambers of Commerce San Diego. The “Strategic Alliance” acknowledges and seeks to address the common lack of equitable resources affecting our respective communities, such as access to capital, representation, language and technology barriers, among many others.
Shortly after the COVID-19 lock down, the Asian Business Association San Diego’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) expanded and rebranded as the “Alliance SBDC” to incorporate the Strategic Alliance. As part of the San Diego Imperial Valley SBDC Network, the Center has contributed to helping over 4,400 businesses with COVID-19 related relief and recovery efforts, including raising over $103 million in disaster relief capital to help businesses pay their employees, rent, utilities, and ultimately keep their doors open and adapt.
Our small businesses have shown incredible resilience when it came to adapting to the COVID-19 lockdowns. Restaurants adapted their menus to take-out and delivery only, some getting creative with take-home dinner kits for the whole family, yielding higher profit margins. Those in the personal care industry, such as beauty and salons, moved their operations outside. Retail businesses shifted to online sales. Aspiring entrepreneurs who were furloughed from their corporate jobs took advantage of the opportunity to start their own businesses, from cottage food to eCommerce websites.
Despite the initial hardships, Asian Business Association and the Strategic Alliance are hopeful and optimistic for what’s to come. For any person looking for no-cost technical assistance and resources, please reach out to us directly at www.abasd.org or (858) 277-2822.
Tax Day this year has been extended to May 17, to give people experiencing hardship due to the pandemic extra time to file their forms. That means you have just over two weeks left to get your taxes in. Before you hit submit, take a moment to visit CalEITC4Me.org to see if you are eligible to claim the California Earned Income Tax Credit. If you made less than $30,000 in 2020 and are at least 18 years old or have a qualifying child, you could keep more of the money you earned last year.
This Mother’s Day, I want to give an extra special thank you to all of the moms and mother-figures who have taken on so much since the pandemic began. From the essential workers who continue to put themselves at risk to support our communities, to the women who have reinvented their careers due to pandemic job loss, to the moms who are juggling work while running a classroom in their kitchens—your enduring strength is an inspiration. You have kept your families, and all of our communities, going this year. Thank you, and Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you.
Want to learn about upcoming events and opportunities in Senate District 39? Check out the new events page on my website and bookmark it for later. And if you have something you want us to list, email it to us for consideration!
Team Toni continues to work remotely with 39th Senate District residents and constituents in need of help. We are aware of the challenges you have endured this past year, especially with unemployment insurance. Our district office has worked to close more than 1,800 cases – each case representing a fellow member of our community. My staff and I will continue to be here to assist you in your time of need. Please feel free to contact us online or call our office at (619) 645-3133.
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