SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have authorized California to give low-income immigrants $600 to buy groceries.
The bill was aimed at helping people, including those living in the country illegally, who have been impacted by the coronavirus but are not eligible for other state and federal assistance programs.
It’s unclear how much the program would have cost, with estimates ranging from the tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars.
But while the bill would have authorized the program, it would not have paid for it. The bill said the program can only happen if the Legislature funds it or if the governor pays for it by using some of the emergency funding he has access to.
California lawmakers had to plug an estimated $54.3 billion shortfall in this year’s operating budget brought on by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But the budget lawmakers approved in June includes $2.6 billion in a special fund Newsom has access to for emergencies. It’s possible he could have used some of that money to pay for the program.
But in a veto message, Newsom said he could not sign the bill because of its “significant General Fund impact.
“It has been my firm commitment that my Administration would support all Californians during the COVID-19 crisis,” Newsom wrote. “To that end, my Administration has advanced efforts to provide relief that is both inclusive of and directed to undocumented Californians.”
Earlier this year, Newsom established the Disaster Relief for Immigrants Project. It gave up to $500 to low-income people living in the country illegally. Newsom put $75 million into the program, and all of it has been spent.
The program Newsom vetoed would have given low-income immigrants $600, one time, loaded onto a debit card. The card could have only been used at retailers that sell groceries.
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles, authored the bill because he said “kids and families are starving during this pandemic.”