On Wednesday, September 2nd, at noon PDT, Governor Gavin Newsom provided an update on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Governor opened by discussing rental protections and evictions. He noted California has the strongest eviction protections in the nation. However, COVID-19 has impacted everyone and job losses have led to missed rent payments. He said that up to 5.4 million renters are at risk and these individuals are disproportionately Black and Latino. Newsom also cited research that shows that renters have seen a 50-66 percent drop in their income during the pandemic.
Newsom then went over new eviction protections provided for in the recently signed AB 3088 (Chiu). Under the legislation, no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship accrued between March 4 – August 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines. For a COVID-19 related hardship that accrues between September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction. Newsom also highlighted protections for small property owners and homeowners including expanded Homeowner Bill of Rights and expanded borrower rights.
Today, Newsom announced a new website (housingiskey.com) which provides guidance resources for landlords, tenants, and homeowners. Specifically, he said the website will contain information regarding the new eviction framework and protections, as well as toolkits, legal aid resources, and FAQs.
Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Lourdes Castro Ramírez was present at the briefing and offered remarks in both Spanish and English regarding the newly launched website. Newsom also clarified that California's eviction protections are not affected by the federal eviction moratorium announced yesterday because California’s rules go further. The Governor thanked the Legislature for their efforts on the newly enacted legislation.
Newsom then spoke about California’s commitment to ending homelessness. “Housing and homelessness are connected. Homelessness remains our top priority and we have not taken our eye off the ball. We came into the year with this being our top priority and we will continue to focus on it,” Newsom said. The Governor also noted in the 2019-20 budget there was $1 billion to address homelessness. In the 2020-21 budget, there was $1.25 billion including $628 million in emergency aid for homelessness and $600 million for Project HomeKey.
On Project Homekey (which comes from Project Roomkey) – Newsom said since April, the state has served over 22,000 people, placed them in 16,400 rooms in 344 hotels in 55 counties, including 3 tribes. “I've long believed that homelessness is solved by permanent supportive housing,” he said. The Governor is trying to make these hotel rooms, where homeless people were placed for emergency shelter during the pandemic, into permanent housing. Newsom reiterated that he and the Legislature have approved $600 million to buy those hotels so they can be made into permanent housing. Local governments (138 applications received from 67 jurisdictions) have applied for the money and the Newsom Administration is reviewing them. The goal is to buy the hotels by the end of the calendar year and, thus far, the cost is tracking below original estimates.
In closing, Newsom addressed the latest COVID-19 numbers, including the hospitalization and intensive care unit (ICU) patient figures. There are 3,773 (2.0 percent decrease) positive COVID-19 hospital patients. Of those patients, 1,197 patients (0.3 percent increase) are in the ICU. Hospitalizations have decreased 23 percent in the two weeks. Yesterday, there were 4,255 new COVID-19 cases, with a 4,708 case average for past week. Additionally, California's 2-week positive test rate is 5.1 percent, Newsom reported. The state’s 7-day average is lower at 4.4 percent. With the three-day weekend approaching, Newsom said avoiding gatherings with friends or family outside your household is "foundational," to the state's ability to keep coronavirus numbers trending down.
During the Q&A portion of the briefing, Newsom was asked about whether he intends to call a special session to address critical issues surrounding the pandemic. The reporter specifically mentioned broadband and connectivity issues as items left unaddressed by the Legislature. Newsom said he's still "open" to a special session if necessary. But that's based upon specific criteria and necessity. He also acknowledged that lawmakers ran out of time Monday and didn't get to some bills, including SB 1120 (Atkins) related to housing.
On unemployment and the Employment Development Department (EDD), Newsom was asked about potential fraud. In response, he said, “We are concerned about fraud with unemployment benefits…I am working with state, local, federal authorities to weed that out.” He also said his new team at EDD is working to address the issue.
Additionally, Newsom was asked about how COVID-19 is going to shape the health care discourse going into the November election. He said, “When it comes to the two candidates running for president, it's like Door A and Door Z when it comes to health care. One wants to eliminate progress, and one helped design the Affordable Care Act. One candidate fits the needs of this state, so we can accelerate health care reform. But whatever happens in November, California will continue to lead and be creative to work through or around whatever obstacles come in our way.”
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has announced the most recent statistics on COVID-19. There are now a total of 707,797 (+0.5 percent increase) confirmed positive cases and 13,018 (+0.7 percent) deaths in California. As of September 1st, there have been 11,470,696 tests conducted in California and reported to the California Department of Public Health. This represents an increase of 97,391 tests over the prior 24-hour reporting period. More information regarding the most recent COVID-19 statistics can be found here.
The https://www.covid19.ca.gov/ website is being updated continuously. A complete list of the state’s ongoing COVID-19 response efforts can be found here.
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