What to Know About California’s Covid-19 Relief

Good morning.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $7.6 billion stimulus package last week that will send $600 payments to about 5.7 million low-income Californians. The relief package was “desperately needed to millions and millions of Californians,” Mr. Newsom said at a news conference last week. “Those that have been left behind in the federal stimulus, California is not going to leave you behind.”

The move came as Mr. Newsom has been under fire from critics who blame his mismanagement of pandemic restrictions for the fate of struggling businesses. Small-business owners around the state are part of efforts to recall the governor. How exactly the most recent relief package might help or hurt recall efforts remains to be seen — nearly all the signatures needed to move the process forward have been collected, but still need to be verified.

[Read more about how the recall works and what’s ahead.]

Last week, the state crossed the bleak milestone of 50,000 deaths — more than any other state, but far behind other states in deaths per capita. There have been an average of 5,761 cases per day over the past week, a decrease of 46 percent from the average two weeks earlier. And while the decline from historic peaks is a good sign, experts warn recent case declines are not a reason to lift restrictions.

Nonetheless, several counties in California have resumed outdoor activities, including dining and contact sports, while schools in many areas remain closed. Last week, a report also outlined the impact of the pandemic on California’s “creative economy,” showing that from February through December of last year, the state lost 175,000 jobs in industries that included entertainment, media, architecture, fashion and more.

The state’s relief package aims to help both small businesses and low-income residents affected by the pandemic.

“This plan represents a way of softening the human and economic blows of Covid. More than that, it builds an economic foundation for recovery,” State Speaker Anthony Rendon said. Here’s what you can expect from the bill.

People who claimed the California earned-income tax credit — which applies to those who earn less than $30,000 a year — on their 2020 tax return will be eligible.

Separately, taxpayers who use Individual Tax Identification Numbers and earned less than $75,000 after deductions will also be eligible for $600. (Those who use the identification numbers are usually undocumented immigrants, who were not eligible for federal stimulus payments.) In total, households that use the individual identifiers and claim the state’s earned income credit will receive $1,200.

Additional lower-income Californians enrolled in the CalWORKS program are also eligible for a $600 one-time grant.

[Read more about the federal coronavirus aid bill, which passed the House over the weekend and is headed to the Senate.]

Those who are eligible through the state’s EIC or as filers using individual tax identification numbers can expect to get their payment about four to five weeks after filing their taxes. (Those who were eligible for the credit but didn’t apply it to their taxes can amend their returns.)

For those in the CalWORKS program, the state said grant payments were expected by mid-April.

This relief package also provides $2.1 billion in funding for grants to small businesses. It includes fee waivers for bars, restaurants, barbershops and other hard-hit businesses.

Additionally, other parts of the package includes resources for critical child care and financial aid for community college students. Federal funds will help provide stipends of $525 per enrolled child for all state-subsidized child care and preschool providers. For low-income community college students, the package includes $100 million in emergency financial aid as well as an additional $20 million to support efforts to re-engage students who may have left the colleges because of pandemic hardships.

(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)

  • President Biden has vowed to create a more humane approach to immigration. But thousands of children who crossed the southwestern border alone are being confined in government shelters, rather than sent to family. [The New York Times]

  • Weary of being cooped inside during the pandemic, Vicha Ratanapakdee, a Thai immigrant who lived in San Francisco, was impatient for his regular morning walk. Then a brutal assault ended his life and sparked an outcry over anti-Asian racism. [The New York Times]

Read more about the complicated, deeply emotional outpouring of pain in response to attacks on Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. [The New York Times]

  • See an illustration of how opening windows could help schools reopen. [The New York Times]

  • Almost 1.2 million teachers and other essential workers will be eligible for vaccines in Los Angeles County starting today. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • High school seniors are facing a range of challenges, like isolation and pandemic exhaustion, and they’re applying for college financial aid at lower rates. [LAist]

  • Advocates say that counties like Kern lack the infrastructure to reach out to vulnerable farm workers to be vaccinated. [The Bakersfield Californian]

  • Californians speak more than 200 languages, so distributing good information that all state residents can understand is difficult. [The Sacramento Bee]

  • He’s a 13-year-old recreation guerrilla, building swings around Oakland — and he’s not afraid of breaking the rules. [Oaklandside]

  • “We knew this day was coming.” Fans bid farewell to a beloved Ruby’s outpost, in Huntington Beach. [The Orange County Register]

  • A pair of skiers became the first to complete a daring trek down Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. [The San Francisco Chronicle]