SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Monday designed to protect renters and homeowners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order authorizes local governments to halt evictions, slow foreclosures and protects against utility shutoffs. The move responds to concerns many are experiencing with wage loss and layoffs that make it hard to pay rent, mortgages and utility bills, as the virus spreads.
“People shouldn’t lose or be forced out of their home because of the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Newsom. “Over the next few weeks, everyone will have to make sacrifices – but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them."
However, tenants are not relieved of their obligation to pay rent. Landlords' ability to recover rent that is due still remains in place the order says.
The new tenant and homeowner protections remain in effect through May 31, unless they are extended. Bank foreclosures are requested to be halted for this same duration of time.
In addition, the governor has asked the California Public Utilities Commission to monitor customer service protections for critical utilities such as gas, electric, internet, water, landline telephone and cell phone service on a weekly basis. He has asked that customers not be fined for late payments of these services.
At a Monday evening news conference where he updated the novel coronavirus situation, Newsom said there are 392 positive cases in the state and six deaths, including the death of one homeless person. The number of cases has increased by 15% from the day before.
Aside from the plan to acquire hundreds of trailers and mobile homes to isolate the affected homeless population, Newsom said on Monday, that leases for two hotels near Oakland International Airport were procured for more secure shelter. There are 393 units between the two hotels, which will be turned over to the local jurisdiction.
The governor hopes to announce hundreds and possibly thousands of these types of units in the next days and weeks to come. The state is currently in the process of negotiating with an inventory of 901 hotels to be converted for interim use during the pandemic.
Newsom said the state of California's request for both nonprofit and for-profit low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration have been approved. The interest rates for the loans of up to $ 2 million are 3.75% for for-profit businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits.
The governor announced the Department of Motor Vehicles would waive enforcement of expired license and registration fees for 60 days in order to alleviate the number of people at the DMV and to promote social distancing.
The number of COVID-19 tests provided at the 19 public labs around the state has increased by a few hundred. “That clearly is not enough,” said Newsom. The governor said the state continues to work with Quest Diagnostics, which is running the San Juan Capistrano lab and has the capacity to process 1,200 tests a day. Quest will ramp up those testing efforts to 5,000 a day sometime this week.
Academic research facilities providing their labs, including UC Berkeley and Stanford, will increase from four to seven starting next week.
The Verily portal, launched Sunday afternoon, to help people get appointments to be tested in the most affected areas saw its first use. Newsom said 30 people showed up Monday to be swabbed at the two locations in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. 50 people in all made themselves available for appointments through the online portal. Verily is Alphabet Inc.’s research organization.
Newsom said hundreds of people would be tested on Tuesday at both of the Bay Area Verily sites. The mobile site is expected to move to other parts of the state.