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Long Beach Mayor Announces New Basic Income Program For LBCC Students, Fund For Struggling Renters

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Starting next week, the Long Beach Convention Center will become a vaccine distribution site, Mayor Robert Garcia announced Tuesday in his State of the City address.

The annual event was hosted remotely as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the city. Long Beach surpassed 40,000 positive cases Tuesday and 484 residents have died as a result of contracting the virus, with hundreds more remaining hospitalized.

Garcia, who lost his mother and stepfather to the virus, said there can be strength in loss.

“It’s painful but it can make you stronger,” Garcia said. “I’ve never felt more determined or more confident in leading this city through this crisis.”


This coverage was generously shared with LAist by our friends at the Long Beach Post.


Garcia said that help could soon be on the way as the city continues to ramp up its vaccine rollout. Starting Tuesday, the city will begin extending vaccinations to essential workers like police officers and grocery workers.

“If you are one of these workers, a hero, please contact your employers and sign up for an appointment,” Garcia urged.

NEW ECONOMIC PROGRAMS

Garcia also announced a number of new economic programs. The first was a new basic income program for low-income students at Long Beach City College, like the ones the city adopted last year to benefit artists and low-income residents. The other will come in the form of a mandated pay increase for grocery workers like the “Hero Pay” law enacted by Los Angeles last year.

The Long Beach version, which Garcia said he’d ask the City Council to adopt next week, would require Long Beach grocery chains to pay their employees an additional $4 per hour during the health crisis.

For tenants who have struggled to pay their rents over the past nine months due to job loss because of the pandemic, Garcia announced the city would be creating a $15 million fund to help them pay their back rents and hopefully stave off an eviction crisis that experts have warned was looming in 2021.

“This will be the single largest tenant assistance program we have ever launched in our city’s history, and it’s necessary,” Garcia said.

The city had previously approved a $5 million program over the summer that paid up to $1,000 in rent for three months but tenants who qualified had to enter a lottery system to gain access to the funds.

A DIFFICULT YEAR

The mayor’s remarks come in the wake of one of the city’s darkest years, in which civil unrest filled the streets throughout the summer and hundreds of residents died as a result of COVID-19. The global pandemic also thrust the city’s finances into the red.

In September, the City Council was forced to close a $30 million budget deficit attributed in large part to the COVID-19 economic shutdown. The city may still need to use reserve funds to reconcile its previous fiscal year’s budget, which saw a $41 million shortfall due to the virus. Budget problems are expected for several years to come.

Garcia addressed the civil unrest toward the end of his speech, calling it one of the largest political movements in history. Thousands of people filled the streets of Long Beach in late May calling for defunding of the police and fundamental changes to the city’s law enforcement tactics and structure.

The protests led to the city’s release of a “Framework for Reconciliation” plan that included overhauling the city’s police complaint commission, which has failed to live up to its founders’ vision. Next week, Garcia said he would ask the city’s public safety commission to begin the process of fixing the city’s Citizens Police Complaint Commission.

“Black lives matter,” Garcia said. “They matter to this city and they matter to me.”

Garcia closed by addressing the siege on the United States Capitol last week, calling it an attempted coup and a “direct attack on our country and our values.”

“We’re an imperfect country but we must strive toward truth and justice,” he said. “We must call out wrongs when we see them. I’m hopeful that a new America, together, healthy and focused on equity can become a reality in the years ahead.”

Disneyland To Become The Happiest Vaccination Site On Earth

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Courtesy Disneyland Resort

Is there anything more dystopian than Disneyland becoming a mass vaccination site?

We're sorry to report it's true. This is neither a "Black Mirror" episode, nor an Onion headline.

Orange County officials announced Monday that the closed Anaheim theme park will be one of five vaccination locations operating in the area. They're calling them "super pods" — that's P-O-D for "point of dispensing."

Currently, only people who are eligible under Phase 1A, which includes healthcare workers and long-term care residents, will be able to get inoculated at the happiest place on earth. And they'll need an appointment. (Gov. Gavin Newsom is considering making everyone over the age of 65 immediately eligible for an injection.)

The county says the Disneyland Resort site will be operational later this week.

Apparently vaccination efforts in the O.C. are already hitting some...hiccups.

If you live and work in Orange County and have questions about your vaccine eligibility, visit www.COVIDvaccinefacts.com.

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California Considers Expanding Vaccine Access To Everyone 65 And Older

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Healthcare workers get vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Martin Luther King Jr Community Hospital. Chava Sanchez/LAist

Right now in California, we're still in "Phase 1A" of vaccine distribution, which is reserved for health care workers and long-term care residents.

Phase 1B would include, in two successive tiers, those 65 and older, vulnerable populations like the incarcerated and the homeless, and certain essential workers, including those in education, child care, transportation and logistics, and more.

Phase 1C would encompass everyone between the ages of 50 and 64 and expand the included essential workers to sectors like defense, energy, communications, financial services, and others.

But the distribution plan could soon be accelerated for some.

Today, the CDC recommended that states now expand vaccine access to everyone over the age of 65, in an effort to speed up rollout.

Gov. Gavin Newsom called the recommendation "an important move" and said he is considering broadening California's priority groups to 65 and older "ASAP."

California health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said today that officials are reviewing the new guidance and should make a decision in the next 24 hours about whether to make the suggested expansion.

Meanwhile, Orange County's health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, has already decided to extend vaccinations to those 65 and older, noting they are eligible starting today.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at UCSF, told KPCC/LAist that he thinks the 65-plus idea is a good move:

"I think the vaccination effort has been way stalled -- if we kept up this rate we'll need like 10 to 20 years to vaccinate the country, so we need to change our paradigm."

Chin-Hong also pointed out the confusing guidelines between state and local vaccination efforts. He said he hopes the Biden administration will address the lack of national direction when they take office.

L.A. County has so far followed the state’s guidelines on vaccine distribution. County public health officials have not yet announced a change in plans.

WANT MORE DETAILS ON THE STATE'S VACCINE PLAN?

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LA County Reports 11,994 New COVID Cases, 288 Deaths

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(Courtesy LAC+USC Medical Center)

L.A. County health officials have confirmed 11,994 new cases of coronavirus and 288 new deaths. Currently, there are 7,926 people hospitalized with COVID-19, and 22% of those individuals are in the ICU.

Today’s update brings the total number of cases to 944,319, and total deaths to 12,674.

In a statement, officials said that the county is “experiencing horrific loss of life due to COVID-19.” They note that the region is now averaging 230 deaths per day.

Of the deaths reported today:

  • 100 people were over the age of 80
  • 106 people were between the ages of 65 and 79
  • 61 people were between the ages of 50 and 64
  • 17 people were between the ages of 30 and 49
  • two people who died were between the ages of 18 and 29

"Please do not underestimate this virus or let your drive to interact in person with friends outweigh following the safety measures,” said the county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, adding that if social gatherings and celebrations persist, “the outcome will be disastrous to our healthcare system.”

L.A. is currently under stay-at-home orders from the county, city and state. The state’s order overrides the local orders, and is more strict.

OVERALL LOOK AT LA COUNTY NUMBERS:

Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose L.A. or any other California county that interests you. These numbers are current as of Monday, Jan. 11.

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LA City Councilman Kevin De León Wants To Double Homeless Housing By 2025

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L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León talks with a woman on the street last fall. (Courtesy of Kevin de León)

Freshman L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León announced today a motion for Los Angeles to commit to doubling the housing inventory for homeless people to 50,000 units by 2025.

“We need an overarching, clear goal — an objective so that we can be accountable, so that we can have benchmarks that are measurable,” de León told our newsroom's local news and culture show, Take Two, which airs on 89.3 KPCC.

Some of his proposed steps include:

  • Determining whether the city can legally reclaim money promised to developers if their proposed projects run over-budget
  • Streamlining the permitting process
  • Creating an online portal for renters to get assistance if they are facing potential eviction once the county and state moratoriums end

De León’s district includes downtown’s Skid Row, which he describes as “ground zero” for the city’s and nation’s homelessness crisis.

He also believes his motion creates a “North Star” for lawmakers to follow — and for constituents to hold those lawmakers accountable.

LISTEN TO THE TAKE TWO INTERVIEW:

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City Reaches Tentative Labor Deal To Avoid Civilian Layoffs And Furloughs

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Los Angeles City Hall. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

A coalition of labor groups representing civilian City of Los Angeles workers has agreed to a tentative deal that would prevent layoffs and furloughs for the next six months, delaying planned raises to help lessen the pain of L.A.’s worsening COVID-19-era budget shortfall.

The agreement announced Tuesday “will achieve significant savings for the City, help protect vital public city services and ultimately eliminate layoffs and furloughs for our city workers this year,” said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU 721, which is part of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions that made the tentative deal with Mayor Eric Garcetti. It still has to be ratified in a vote by rank-and-file union members.

Details of the plan include:

  • Extending civilian labor contracts by 18 months
  • Deferring a pair of 2% raises that were due to take effect in January and June of 2021 to June 21, 2022
  • No more civilian furloughs this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Also no layoffs before then.
  • The city will meet and confer on any additional furloughs or other cost-saving measures that may be needed for the remainder of this contract.

Roughly 18,000 civilian workers are covered in the agreement. Police and fire unions are not involved in the deal.

In December, the city council approved a plan to bridge a $675 million budget gap that included cutting city department budgets by 3%, requiring layoffs in a few departments, including 355 uniformed LAPD officers and 273 civilian Police Department employees.

The city is still hoping to strike a similar deal with the union representing LAPD officers, but union leadership has rejected the prospect of a compromise.

A statement from the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s Board of Directors argues that the $150 million the city council chipped off the LAPD budget over the summer was enough sacrifice, and blasted councilmembers’ plans for that funding:

If the Council insists on further defunding the department by 355 more police officers while they [hoard] $110 million in funds for beautification pet projects and [street improvements] instead of cops, the results will be catastrophic for our resident’s safety.”

One possible solution on the horizon: While a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has thus far blocked a second round of assistance for local governments, the results of the elections in Georgia last week revived hopes that Democrats will push through federal help to replace tax revenues decimated by the coronavirus.

Also on Tuesday, L.A. City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield introduced a resolution asking the state for a one-time $2 billion cash injection to keep county and city governments afloat.

This is about making sure the public is kept safe, that critical services are delivered, and that local government doesn't get irreparably hollowed out during this historic fiscal crises," Blumenfield said.

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Really Bad For Business: A New Survey Shows The Pandemic's Ugly Toll

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Globe Cleaners, a dry cleaner in Venice, began making masks early on in the pandemic. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

During the first four months of the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses in California saw their revenue drop an average of 75%. That’s one of the detailed findings of a new survey of over 22,000 small business owners in the state done by California’s network of Small Business Development Centers.

By July 2020, nearly one-third of businesses that responded to the survey were either permanently or temporarily closed.

But the impact has been uneven. Half of businesses in arts, entertainment and recreation were still closed in July -- the highest of any industry. That’s likely because these businesses can’t easily comply with social distancing guidelines.

Black-owned businesses in California have struggled the most of any racial or ethnic group: nearly 45% were closed in July, compared with about 30% of white and Asian-owned businesses and 35% of Latino-owned businesses.

And businesses that were able -- or willing -- to pivot seem to be doing much better.

READ THE FULL STORY: Pivot Or Die: How LA's Small Business Owners Survived 2020

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Morning Brief: Vaccinations At Dodger Stadium

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A volunteer wearing facemask and face shield checks for Covid-19 test appointments from motorists arriving at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on October 8, 2020. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Good morning, L.A.

If you’re one of the thousands of people who’ve sat in hours-long lines for testing at Dodger Stadium, you might want to gear up for another round — the parking lot is going to be converted to a vaccination site.

The transition is slated to begin this week, reports my colleague Jackie Fortiér. For now, vaccines are only available to frontline healthcare workers, but officials plan to open five more large vaccination sites as the month goes on and more people become eligible.

The stadium’s conversion comes on the heels of the county’s announcement that, at some testing sites, they would discontinue the use of a COVID-19 test made by the company Curative, which the FDA alleged was likely to produce a false negative.

It’s not clear how, or where, other coronavirus testing facilities will be set up to offset the loss of the popular Dodger Stadium location.

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


What You Need To Know Today

L.A.’s Surge: With more than 12,000 new cases in a single day, county public health officials are now recommending that anyone who lives with someone who may be vulnerable to COVID-19 should wear a face covering at home.

The Digital Divide: The federal coronavirus relief package could help college students who are falling behind with online learning, via a stipulation that provides low-income families $50 per month for internet services.

California Numbers: COVID-19 hospitalizations are plateauing in California, but Newsom warns it’s not time for celebration yet.

Higher Education: Incarcerated people can now apply for federal Pell Grants for college, thanks to a provision tucked into the massive spending bill signed into law late last year. The University of California will return to in-person instruction on all 10 of its campuses for the Fall 2021 semester.

L.A. Kids: LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner continued his criticisms of Gov. Gavin Newsom's Safer Schools for All plan, including a proposal to use Prop 98 funds to pay for district-based COVID tests.

Here’s What To Do: Learn about Shirley Jackson's life and work, hear about art as an outlet during the Age of Mass Incarceration, find out how higher education can better serve students and society, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events.


Before You Go… Meet Our Engagement Reporter, Carla Javier!

That’s me, pre-pandemic. Don’t worry: I wear a mask now. (Photo by Bill Youngblood).

Carla Javier was in an LAUSD board meeting when she realized she could report the news in a different way.

It was March, and parents, students and educators were panicking about how to handle school during the pandemic. Carla began live-tweeting the meeting and was flooded with questions via social media and email. As she says, “From that moment, answering your questions became my focus. Now, instead of starting my stories exploring my own questions, I'm guided by what you want to know.”

Carla has since filed public records requests to find out which local schools received reopening waivers, created maps to show disparities in in-person education, explored whether public health officials were ensuring that reopenings were being done safely, and much more.

Do you have a question for Carla? Email her at cjavier@scpr.org, DM her on Twitter @carlamjavier, or fill out this form. Don’t be a stranger!


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