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Fast Moving Brush Fire Devastates Small Southern California Town

(Screenshot from Google Maps)

Niland, a small community near the Salton Sea, was devastated overnight as strong winds pushed a brushfire into neighborhoods.

It prompted widespread evacuations, and eventually leaving one person dead and destroying an estimated 40 homes.


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Garcetti: Recovery Is 'Debatable,' Next 2 Weeks Are Critical


On the same day the county announced its most new coronavirus cases in a single day, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti urged residents to redouble their efforts to get the region's recovery back on track.

The city, county and state have been gradually relaxing stay-at-home restrictions to relieve some of the pressure on the local economy, even while the number of new cases has continued to rise.

In justifying the reopening of business and recreation, the mayor and public health officials have cited a steady decrease in daily deaths and hospitalization rates, balancing those numbers against the need to resuscitate an economy that has seen unemployment numbers above Great Depression levels, as the mayor noted.

But today, Garcetti warned that the pandemic was beginning to gain the upper hand again. He pointed to a 27% increase in daily hospitalizations, and he reiterated what the county's public health director, Barbara Ferrer, had reported earlier in the day: that one in every 140 people in L.A. County are now estimated to be infectious with COVID-19:

"Whether we continue on this recovery journey is debatable. COVID-19 is taking control, and we need to take control back."

Garcetti called on everyone to stay at home and adhere to social distancing guidelines with renewed diligence for the next two weeks. He urged residents to reclaim a mindset that he said was more common in the beginning of the pandemic, when officials urged residents to behave as though everyone were sick. He said residents have begun to do the opposite, ignoring distancing rules at work and at play, and generally acting as though no one is ill.

To help prepare for the Independence Day weekend and discourage gatherings, the county announced today that beaches, piers, and beach bike paths will be closed from July 3-6, and fireworks displays have been prohibited, Garcetti said.


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LA County COVID-19 Cases Top 100K And Set Record For Most Cases In A Single Day

A healthcare worker hands a patient a COVID-19 testing kit through a car window at a drive-thru testing site at The Forum. (Courtesy of the County of Los Angeles)

Los Angeles County's coronavirus task force delivered an update on the COVID-19 pandemic. Read highlights below or watch the full video above.

Los Angeles County officials reported 2,903 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus today — the most in a single day so far in the region.

That brings the total to at least 100,772 cases countywide. In total, 3,643 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 1,276 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

This comes as community spread of the coronavirus and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has risen sharply since last week — and more quickly than health officials expected. Now, those officials project the death rate from the virus will also rise.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer characterized the current situation as a train, warning it "can be a runaway train if we don't put the brakes on it."

She had this advice for county residents: "This is the time to hunker down, back in your home, whenever you can."

Even though the 4th of July holiday is just around the corner, Ferrer advised county residents against celebrating in person with family and friends outside their households.

"This is going to be a different summer," she said.

Ferrer presented a new chart, showing "definitively" that community spread has risen sharply in recent weeks.

(Courtesy Los Angeles County)

More people are being hospitalized, too. In the last two weeks, daily hospitalizations are up 27%, Ferrer said, "from 1,319 at the beginning of the month to 1,669 on June 27."

The dramatic shifts have health officials very concerned that hospitals could reach capacity and ICU beds could fill up in the coming weeks.

Last week, officials estimated that one in 400 county residents was infected and not isolated. This week, that estimate is now one in 140, according to Christina Ghaly, who oversees the county's Department of Health Services.

"It means we all need to do a better job and take our individual responsibility to do the things we know will work in combating the spread and continued transmission of this virus," she said. "The more individuals ignore the guidance on wearing masks and cloth face coverings, physically distancing when possible, exercising discretion on how often, and when and where you go outside of your house, the longer this virus will continue to spread across the county and the more lives will ultimately be put at risk."


The simple answer: many businesses and individuals are not following the health rules put in place to protect us all. Ferrer explained:

"... there are a number of businesses and individuals who have not followed the directives, and they've gone back to living as if COVID-19 is not in our community. So I need to say to all of us — businesses and individuals across the county — that at this point, if you're not part of the solution to slowing the spread, you're ending up being part of the problem."

Ferrer said too many restaurant and bar operators are not following the health protocols required to stay open. Public complaints have been streaming in, and the most common issues include businesses not posting their health and sanitation procedures for patrons, employees not wearing face coverings and face shields, and businesses not enforcing physical distancing.

"Immediate action is needed," she said," and all of us, businesses and individuals need to figure out how we personally are going to help to turn things around, otherwise we're quickly moving towards overwhelming our health care system, and seeing even more devastating illness and death."


The number of confirmed cases among people ages 18 to 40 is up 42% over the past two weeks, Ferrer said, reminding younger county residents that while they may not suffer serious health issues from COVID-19, they can spread the virus to people who will.

Ferrer also reported 22 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 3,326 people.

So far, 93% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said.

Ferrer also provided a racial breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information confirmed for 3,093 of the victims. According to the latest available information:

  • 11% African American [9% of county residents]
  • 17% Asian [15.4% of county residents]
  • 43% Latino / Latina [48.6% of county residents]
  • 27% White [26.1% of county residents]
  • “Less than” 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander [0.4% of county residents]
  • 1% identified as belonging to another race or ethnicity

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LAPD, FBI Seek Public's Help In Identifying Those Involved In Assault, Arson And Looting

California National Guard troops were deployed to L.A. in response to looting and arson. (Kyle Grillot/AFP via Getty Images)

The LAPD and the FBI asked today for the public’s help in identifying people who were involved in alleged assaults, arson and looting during the recent protests over the death of George Floyd.

The request from the Safe LA Task Force comes as the LAPD separately investigates dozens of allegations of police brutality against protesters. At least seven officers have been taken off field duty while those allegations are investigated.

LAPD Lt. Ben Fernandes, who manages the Safe LA Task Force, said they've been working to identify "who are victims of crime, what businesses, what officers, what civilians."

At least 2,700 demonstrators have been arrested in Los Angeles since the start of protests, although the bulk of those arrests came early in protests over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. According to booking records, the majority of the charges were for looting, vandalism, burglary, and violating curfew.

L.A. County District Atty. Jackie Lacey, speaking earlier this month to our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk, attempted to draw a line on how when they would prosecute anyone arrested during the protests.

"There could be a scenario where someone comes in to steal food because they're hungry or diapers. That's different," Lacey said. "But some of the cases that we expect will be organized theft rings or stealing things that can easily be sold."

The LAPD says there were more than 150 assaults against officers and civilians, including five instances of alleged attempted murder of a police officer. Department officials say suspects in four of those cases have been arrested.

Lacey has been sharply criticized by Black Lives Matter organizers for her track record when it comes to prosecuting law enforcement officers who use excessive force.


8:20 p.m.: This article was updated with additional context about the protests and debate over police response.


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LA County Hospital Beds Could Fill In Coming Weeks As COVID-19 Cases Surge

Predictions of daily mortality rate in L.A. County if current trend of coronavirus spread continues. (Source: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health)

Los Angeles county health officials warned Monday that local hospitals could reach capacity in the next two weeks as the coronavirus infects more Angelenos through newly reopened businesses and public and private spaces.

The news comes just a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars closed in Los Angeles and six other California counties because of the virus's rapid spread.

L.A. public health officials estimate that one in every 140 people in the county is infected with COVID-19 and is infectious to others, not including people who are hospitalized with the disease or those who are quarantined or isolated at home, said Dr. Robert Lewis, director of COVID-19 modeling for the department of health services. The revised infection rate is a big jump from just last week, when the county's modeling estimated one in 400 people were likely infected.

Lewis said the new estimate reflects the likely spread among people who are asymptomatic.

“A large typical store is likely to have multiple infectious persons enter the shop every day. I'd like to emphasize that those people who are infectious to others often will have no or minimal symptoms,” Lewis said.

Officials also said nearly half of bars and 33% of the restaurants visited this past weekend by inspectors were not adhering to social distancing rules. Inspectors also found employees not wearing masks or face shields at 54% of the bars and 44% of the restaurants they visited.

Inspectors have found a large number of businesses failing to comply with guidelines set for minimizing the virus's spread as the county reopens. (Source: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health)
L.A. County public health officials said the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, in part because people aren't complying with safety guidelines. (Source: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health)

L.A. County health officials also said:

  • The positivity rate has jumped to 9%, meaning about 9 out of every 100 people tested for the virus has a positive result. Transmission rates are also on the rise.
  • If steps aren’t taken to increase capacity, hospitals in L.A. County will likely run out of beds in the next two weeks and intensive care unit or ICU beds in the first week of July.
  • Hospitals are already implementing surge plans, including limiting elective procedures and preparing to turn areas like emergency rooms into COVID-19 treatment areas.
  • More younger people are getting the virus. There has been a 40% increase in cases in adults 40 and under.
  • The county has enough ventilators to meet the projected need for the next four weeks.

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Newsom Talks Pulling Back On Reopening; Orange County Added To Watchlist

Gov. Gavin Newsom warned of the possible need to scale back re-opening if coronavirus hospitalizations continue to rise, along with other worrisome metrics.

Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California's response to the coronavirus, following the order to close bars in multiple counties over the weekend, including Los Angeles County. You can read highlights below or watch the full press conference above.


The governor walked through a history of the state's approach to the coronavirus, including details on local counties being able to reopen beyond other parts of the state by filing attestations showing that their health care systems were prepared for a potential rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Newsom reiterated that counties can move through the first three phases at their own speeds if they've filed a health attestation, but that they can't go into Phase 4 even with attestations. That phase includes large-scale events such as concerts and sports with live audiences. He said that, currently, different counties are in phases 2 and 3.

The governor talked about the decision to call for Imperial County to pull back on its reopening, given the high rate of coronavirus positives in the county — 23% of people tested. That county's board of supervisors is meeting Monday and Tuesday about moving back into a stay-at-home order. Newsom said if they don't move forward with that, the state will step in.

Newsom said the state will be working with local officials to help encourage and inspire better behavior, as well as increased enforcement. Regulatory and code enforcement will be used to make sure local businesses are following safety rules, Newsom said.


Newsom discussed the idea he's talked about throughout the reopening process of reopening as a "dimmer switch," which may need to be toggled back and forth based on the data — and by different amounts in different counties. He said that's what happened this weekend in seven counties, including L.A. County, where bars were required to close to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The state also recommended that another eight counties close their bars.

The governor said that some people have not been as responsible as they need to be, including not wearing face masks and not social distancing. Family gatherings are also an area of concern, especially ahead of Fourth of July weekend, Newsom said — he added that this will be discussed further in the days to come.

The criteria set by the county include spending 14 days on the state's watchlist, with an increase in spread and transmission of the disease. The eight counties where the state recommended closing bars, rather than requiring it, were on the watchlist for between three and 14 days.

The closure order only applies to bars that don't serve food as their primary purpose (though they may serve some food along with drinks), California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said.


The state recorded 5,972 new coronavirus cases Friday, 4,810 Saturday, and 5,307 Sunday. Over the last seven days, there has been a 45% increase in the number of positive cases in California.

The state is at a 5.5% positivity rate over the past two weeks, 5.9% in the past seven days, marking a significant increase in positive cases. Just under 106,000 people were tested yesterday, Newsom said, a record for testing so far. While that does lead to an expected rise in the number of positives since more people are being tested, Newsom pointed to the positivity rate as a reason for concern.

Two weeks ago, the state was at 4.4% positivity rate. Before the state started reopening, the positivity rate and hospitalization numbers were stable, Newsom said.

Now, hospitalizations are up 43% in the past two weeks, Newsom said, although he added that the state's hospitals have been able to absorb the rise. Currently COVID-19 patients are using 7% of the available beds, while a total of 58% of hospital beds across the state are in use from all admitted patients.

The governor said that California is still in the first wave of the disease, with a second wave still expected by many experts later in the fall.

ICU admissions are also up, a 37% increase over the last two weeks. That's 13% of the state's total ICU capacity. Of the available ICU beds, 39% have been absorbed due to COVID-19 patients, Newsom said. There are 11,577 ventilators available.


Four new counties have been added to the state's watchlist, including Orange County. That brings the total to 19 counties that are receiving targeted "technical assistance," as the state describes it. That covers 72% of the state's population, Newsom said.

Counties that remain on the watchlist are asked to reinstitute anti-coronavirus community measures, the "dimming" that the governor spoke about. So far, seven counties have been asked to do that.

In all 58 counties, the state is watching for elevated disease transmission, increasing hospitalizations, and limited hospital capacity, Ghaly said.

For counties to remain off the watchlist, they must maintain the following metrics:

  • Less that 25 cases per 100,000 residents over last 14 days
  • Maximum 8% of total testing is positive over last 14 days
  • Average 150 tests per day, per 100,000 residents over the last 7 days
  • Less than a 10% change in 3-day average of COVID+ hospitalized patients
  • More than 20% of total Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds available
  • More than 25% of total ventilators available

Ghaly noted these reasons for increased cases in different counties:

  • Family gatherings in Sacramento County
  • An outbreak at a local jail in San Bernardino County
  • Increased movement into the county in Imperial County

Ghaly laid out the measures the state plans to take in counties with different levels of concern.

Stabilizing counties

  • Emphasize education and public awareness
  • No new sector openings

Concerning counties

  • Provide technical assistance and support
  • Enforcement of sector-specific guidance and state mandates at the institution, sector, or community level
  • Establish state strike team on regulatory enforcement

Alarming counties

  • Continue to provide technical assistance and support
  • Identify additional sector closures
  • Require return to Stay-at-Home Order in county


Newsom noted that the number of inmates and staff with the coronavirus in a number of prisons, but added that San Quentin is of particular concern. There were 1,011 positive inmates as of Monday morning, Newsom said. There are about 2,600 in the system as a whole.

The governor said that some prisoners with less than 180 days left in their sentences and with post-prison plans in place have been granted early release. About 3,500 people were released who met other qualifications, such as being non-sex offenders.

Another 3,500 prisoners have been identified for release, including reasons such as medical conditions. However, there are also issues with many prisoners having nowhere to go if they were released, Newsom said.

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LAUSD Sees Child Care Opportunity In Empty Buildings, But There’s A Big Price Tag


If LAUSD resumes in-person classes in the fall, it’s likely to cycle students and staff on and off campus in a “hybrid” schedule.

“Who will take care of the children when they are not at school?”

Superintendent Austin Beutner asked that question in his weekly video update on Monday. The answer, like anything right now, is not entirely clear.

One option is to create child care in unused buildings such as public libraries and Cal State campuses.

“There are a lot of pieces to work out and this can only work as a collaborative effort with the cities and other partners in communities we serve,” Beutner said.

He estimated the cost at $100 to $150 per child per day. The higher estimate includes “any meaningful amount of instructional program or enrichment classes and activities.”

The district has about 250,000 students in elementary school. Beutner said if one-quarter of their families need child care, it would cost the district $3 million a day.

The district also enrolled almost 22,000 kids in early education programs last school year. Here's Beutner again:

“State and federal government ought to be outlining a way to support this if they expect any meaningful recovery in the economy and in the job outlook for working families."


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Survey: Black, Latino Students In LA Got Fewer Live Video Classes During COVID-19 Campus Closures


Fewer Black and Latino students in Los Angeles are receiving live, online lessons during the coronavirus pandemic than white students, according to a survey from the advocacy group Speak Up.

The survey also shows that Latino children in particular are more likely to have had no face-time at all with their teachers over video platforms like Zoom or Google Meet during distance learning.


  • About half of white students received live, online instruction every day. Compare that to roughly 40% of Black students and less than 30% of Latino students who received live lessons daily, according to the Speak Up survey.
  • Among students with disabilities, 17% “never” interacted with their teacher during the COVID-19 lockdown — compared to 7% of non-special education students. (This tracks with some of our early reporting on the subject.)
  • English learners were also less likely to receive minimal online instruction.


In the L.A. Unified School District, teachers cannot be required to provide live video lessons under an agreement with the teachers union inked in early April.

Most of the survey’s roughly 400 respondents were members of Speak Up, which stands opposed to United Teachers Los Angeles on a number of policy issues and has been a leading voice in favor of more live video lessons.

But this fall, the rules will be different. In Sacramento, California lawmakers recently passed language requiring schools to document that they’re providing a minimum number of instructional minutes each day — regardless of whether students are in classrooms or accessing lessons from home. (The L.A. Times has a good write-up on this.)


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Project Roomkey Providing Jobs, Housing And Hope To L.A.’s Unhoused

Homeless encampments on Skid Row, photographed on June 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (James Bernal for KPCC)

Project Roomkey is providing shelter for the most medically vulnerable of California’s homeless population, and some sites are also providing jobs for unhoused state residents.

One such employee is Mureithi Davis, who works full-time as a guest service attendant at a Project Roomkey site. He runs errands for people staying at the facility, and even helps out when he’s off the clock.

“I can definitely have all kinds of empathy because I’ve experienced the housing issue,” said Davis. “I know the uncertainty, and even the stress.”

Davis got the job through Chrysalis, a nonprofit organization that helps homeless people find work. Mark Loranger, the president of Chrysalis, says the company has employed more than 120 homeless clients at Project Roomkey sites through a contract with the city of L.A.

“Not only do programs like ours help folks get out of bad situations, but [they] also prevent folks from becoming homeless in the first place,” Loranger said.

For Davis, the job is offering not just income, but economic empowerment.

“Excuse me for getting a little choked up,” he said. “But it's really been a life-changing experience, to get things back on track.”

LA County Braces For Painful Budget Cuts Due To Pandemic Shortfall

The Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, which houses several L.A. County offices. (Susanica Tam for KPCC)

The L.A. County CEO will present a COVID-era spending plan to the Board of Supervisors today that carves out hundreds of millions of dollars from county departments and programs and leaves a big question mark about the future of funding for homeless services, among other things.

In her new budget revision released Thursday, CEO Sachi Hamai calls the pandemic an “unprecedented crisis” and recommends scaling back the budget by $453.5 million -- including slicing over $145 million from the Sheriff’s Department, which could translate to over 340 department layoffs. It’s not clear if uniformed personnel will be affected.

Nearly every part of the county government is set to feel the pain. Under the plan, all departments would see spending cut by 8%, thousands of vacancies would go unfilled, and hundreds of workers would face layoffs.

Outside of the Sheriff’s Department, some of the largest cuts include:

  • $14.6 million from Child Support Services, possibly resulting in 137 layoffs
  • $49.1 million from the Probation Department
  • Over $22 million from the District Attorney’s office, and a combined $26 million from the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender’s offices
  • $20.6 million from Children and Family Services (DCFS)
  • $11 million from Public Social Services
  • $29 million from Integrated Correctional Health Services

Also affected: Funding from Measure H, the landmark sales tax measure that voters passed in 2017 to address the homelessness crisis, has nosedived during the pandemic. The county CEO projects a nearly $71 million loss for the fiscal year starting July 1. That shortfall would have a devastating impact on rental subsidies and supportive services aimed at keeping people off the streets.


Why Police Are First Responders To The Homelessness Crisis

An LAPD car on Wall Street in Skid Row. (Matt Tinoco/LAist)

Talk to any police officer for more than a few minutes about homelessness, and you'll eventually hear the adage, "Well, cops aren't social workers."

It's true. Cops are not social workers, but they represent a sizable portion of the day-to-day response to Los Angeles' homelessness crisis, all on the taxpayer's dime. The result is a disproportionately high number of contacts between police and unhoused residents of Los Angeles.

Police are called out in a myriad of circumstances relating to homelessness. In many cases, it doesn't end well. Approximately one-in-three times that an LAPD officer uses force, it's against an unhoused person.

Now, as calls to "defund the police" make their way into the political mainstream, the long-simmering calls to decriminalize homelessness and create alternative first responders, such as social workers and mental health experts, are becoming a clamor.

How did it happen that police became first responders to the homelessness crisis?


Morning Briefing: It's Wine O'Clock... At Home

People rally in Little Tokyo to oppose a Trump administration plan to use Fort Sill Army base in Oklahoma as a detention center for immigrant children and other Customs Enforcement detainees (Photo by DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images)

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A few months ago, the battle over coronavirus closures was being waged on beaches. Now, it appears, it’s moved to bars; after 500,000 people packed L.A.’s watering holes following their reopening on June 20, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday promptly shut them down again.

"Californians must remain vigilant against this virus," Newsom said in a statement after ordering the closures. "COVID-19 is still circulating in California.”

Of course, it probably didn’t help that over 80% of bars and restaurants were violating coronavirus regulations, like requiring servers to wear masks or enforcing social distancing among patrons.

This is why we can’t have nice things, L.A.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, June 29

When there's an incident with a homeless person acting erratically, armed police are often the first to respond. Too frequently, that doesn't end well: one-in-three times that the LAPD used force in 2019, it was against a homeless person. Matt Tinoco reports that as calls to defund the police go mainstream, there's a new push for alternative first responders, such as social workers or mental health experts.

Libby Denkmann follows today’s presentation by the L.A. County CEO of a revised budget proposal. This comes on the heels of a dire outlook released last week, which envisioned deep, across-the-board cuts.

The state fund that provides financial relief for unauthorized workers has faced delays since the start. The application deadline is this week, and Josie Huang reports that getting money to applicants continues to be a slow process.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A. Protests: Protests against systemic racism and police brutality continued on Saturday and Sunday in L.A., but some organizers are disappointed that turnout has been dwindling.

Coronavirus Updates: Coronavirus cases are on the rise in L.A. County. Nurses are striking at Riverside Community Hospital, citing staffing shortages and concern that 60 employees have been infected with COVID-19. L.A. County has tasked Inspector General Max Huntsman with overseeing nursing homes and holding them accountable for the staggering number of coronavirus-related deaths.

Reopening (And Drinking In) L.A.: After bars reopened in L.A. and 500,000 people in L.A. county went out for drinks, Gov. Newsom on Sunday ordered that the establishments close down again. Of 3,700 bars and restaurants recently surveyed by L.A. County, 83% were not following coronavirus safety precautions.

Family Separation: Children being held in ICE custody must be released by July 17, per an order issued by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee of California.

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Photo Of The Day

Tommy Mofid, owner and bartender of the Wrigley Tavern in Long Beach, takes a patron's temperature.

(Gab Chabran for LAist)

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Relief Program For Immigrants Struggling In Pandemic Is Ending

A street vendor sells inflatable toys and cotton candy outside the California Science Center at Exposition Park. (Agustin Paullier/AFP via Getty Images)

Tomorrow — June 30 — is the last day for immigrants without legal status to apply for pandemic relief funds from the state.

The $75 million allocation is expected to help roughly 150,000 individuals and households. The 12 nonprofits around the state that are handling applications for the program have been inundated with calls — indication to some lawmakers that the program needs to be extended.

The California Department of Social Services said that as of Monday morning, more than 147,000 applications had been submitted and more than 95,000 applications approved, with over $38 million disbursed and some 77,000 prepaid cards sent out.

Immigrants without status do not qualify for unemployment benefits, making it hard for some to pay rent or put food on the table, said State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles.

“The undocumented are the only ones who contribute who do not have a reliable safety net and that's just wrong,” said Durazo, who co-signed a letter from the Latino Legislative Caucus to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“They work in the field,” Durazo continued. “They work in restaurants. They work in health care. They work in hospitality. I mean, what else can they do to show their loyalty to California?”

There’s also a nonprofit campaign to raise philanthropic funds for immigrants without status. That effort is nearing its $50 million goal.