Deal reached: CA’s new COVID relief bill includes small business grants, stimulus checks

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON/AP) – California lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom reached an agreement for relief to Californians struggling due to the pandemic, Newsom said Wednesday.

Details in the new relief package include:

  • $600 stimulus checks for lower-income earners, immigrants who file taxes
  • $2 billion in grants for small businesses (4x initial amount)
  • $100 million in aid for qualifying community college students

A fresh $24 million for a program would put 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.

Newsom said he and lawmakers would release a joint statement with details on the other spending items later Wednesday.

It will include money for grants of $5,000 to $25,000 for small businesses, nonprofits and cultural centers.

The deal will also cover Newsom’s proposed stimulus plan to give a $600 one-time payment to low-income Californians.

The package also restores cuts for UC and CSU systems, the state judicial branch, child support services, and moderate-income housing programs.

Statewide school reopening plans were also discussed in the press release.

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.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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