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Newsom Expands Benefits For Sick Workers, Offers Some Property Tax Relief

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At today's coronavirus briefing (watch a replay above), Gov. Gavin Newsom made announcements about expanded workers compensation benefits for employees who have tested positive for coronavirus, new testing sites and tax relief for both personal property owners and businesses.

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He was also brutally honest about how long he expects the recovery from this pandemic to take — years, not months. Newsom cited Great Depression-era levels of unemployment — "These numbers are jaw-dropping," he said — and warned people not to exect a "sharp V" recovery.

NEW WORKER PROTECTIONS

Newsom announced he has signed an executive order to extend workers comp benefits to frontline workers and to broaden those benefits "beyond just the health care and first responder sector to all sectors of our economy."

What does that mean? In the most basic sense, Newsom said, "If you've tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19 by a physician, you are eligible for this worker's comp benefit."

The order goes into effect retroactively, starting March 19, and extends for 60 days from today, so until July 6.

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The federal government provided sick leave expansion for companies with less than 500 employees, and California augmented that with paid sick leave for workers in the food supply chain. This new order expands those protections to more people.

"The worst thing we can do is have a worker that has tested positive but doesn't want to tell anybody and can spread the disease because he or she can't afford not to work," Newsom said. These benefits are only available after other federal or state benefits have been exhausted.

Victoria Hassid, the director of California's Department of Industrial Relations, said her agency would be issuing additional guidance in the coming days about this executive order.

NEW TESTING SITES

Newsom also announced the state is launching a new site where people can enter their zip code to find testing locations and schedule a test. It includes mobile testing sites, although it doesn't include private hospitals.

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He highlighted the increase in the state's testing capacity over the last six or seven days. According to Newsom, California has tested more than 800,000 people, but he acknowledged, "We have a lot more work to do… I recognize there are still some testing deserts, but we are making real progress in this space."

Newsom says the state's COVID-19 taskforce, as part of its strategy, is beginning to focus on testing in rural areas and inner cities.

PROPERTY TAXES

Newsom also announced that earlier today, he had signed executive orders aimed at property tax relief for both residences and businesses.

Homeowners now have until next year to pay the taxes on their personal properties without incurring the 10% late fee. For businesses, the May 7 deadline has also been extended — but only until May 31.