One-time payment of $600 to low-income Californians under new relief deal

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers have reached a spending deal on small business grants, stimulus checks for individuals and housing for farmworkers infected by the coronavirus, Newsom said Wednesday.

It includes a fresh $24 million for a program that puts farm and food processing workers up in hotels if they contract the virus and have no place to isolate, Newsom said as he spoke at a community vaccination clinic in the Coachella Valley, a region that’s home to many farmworkers.

"It’s candidly been underutilized, and we recognize that," Newsom said of the farmworker housing program. "And the purpose of this new appropriation is to maximize its effectiveness."

Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Los Angeles, and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, jointly announced the legislative package, which state legislators are expected to consider in the coming days. 

The package dubbed the "Golden State Stimulus" covers Newsom’s proposed plan to give a $600 one-time payment to low-income Californians. 

It would benefit households that received a state earned-income tax credit for 2020 and taxpayers that have Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers.

Also eligible for the $600 payments are households that are enrolled in several state programs including CalWORKS, Supplemental Security Income, State Supplementary Payment and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants.

Residents with an annual income of $30,000 or less are eligible for the tax credit, while ITIN taxpayers include people like undocumented residents who were not eligible for federal stimulus payments.

"As we continue to fight the pandemic and recover, I'm grateful for the legislature's partnership to provide urgent relief and support for California families and small businesses where it's needed most," Newsom said in a statement. 

The package will include money for grants of $5,000 to $25,000 for small businesses, nonprofits and cultural institutions affected by the pandemic and two-year fee waivers for more than 650,000 restaurants and barbering and cosmetology individuals and businesses.

State-subsidized child care and preschool providers would receive $525 stipends per enrolled child via the legislative package, which would also extend child care for essential workers through June of next year.

The legislation would provide $35 million for food banks and diapers for low-income families. 

Qualifying students taking at least six or more units would have access to an additional $100 million in emergency financial aid through the funding package, according to state officials. 

The state would also provide some $6 million for outreach efforts for state school and community college students that are newly eligible for the CalFresh food assistance program and $12 million for associated local administration. 

"From child care, relief for small business owners, direct cash support to individuals, financial aid for community college students and more, these actions are critical for millions of Californians who embody the resilience of the California spirit," Newsom said. 

The governor’s visit to the Coachella Valley was his latest stop in a tour around the state to highlight vaccination efforts as California’s virus numbers continue to improve. Local and county governments have teamed up with nonprofits and community groups in the valley to vaccinate farmworkers and at-risk populations.

"We’re helping to ensure that we not only talk about equity, but more so that we deliver a solid plan and act on that plan to make sure that the vaccine is equitably administered to the people of color, and that our communities have a chance to survive and prosper," Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez said.

California has now administered more than 6 million vaccines, but the rollout has been slow and rocky and demand continues to far exceed supply. The state is in the process of shifting to a new distribution system run by insurer Blue Shield, which will take some decision-making power away from counties.

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The state’s virus numbers continue to improve. The state’s test positivity rate, hospitalizations and deaths are all down. The rate of people spreading the virus to others is now at its lowest in months, Newsom said.

The positive news means more counties will soon be allowed to reopen businesses for indoor services like dining, Newsom said Monday.

California created a four-tiered reopening system last summer that controls how businesses and schools must operate and sets guidelines for gatherings. By next week, a "substantial" number of counties are likely to enter the "red" tier, which allows indoor dining at 25% capacity and other indoor spaces such as movie theaters, museums and gyms to open with limits, Newsom said.

A half dozen rural counties in Northern California and along the Sierra Nevada are already in the red or orange tier. State data indicates at least five small counties are moving toward the red tier.

The more populous counties will take longer.

Bay City News Foundation's Eli Walsh contributed to this report.