February may be the shortest month of the year, but it’s going to be a busy one. At the top of the list, of course, are the ongoing efforts to address COVID-19. Having passed the sad milestone of losing 400,000 Americans in this pandemic, we must redouble our efforts, even if we are all weary and frustrated from this fight. There is hope, and there is progress. One thing we should all applaud is the collaboration we’re seeing between UCSD, the County of San Diego, the San Diego Padres, and Petco Park. That work helped our region build the Petco Park Vaccination Super Station, one of the first of its kind, in just four days, with the ability to vaccinate 5,000 people a day. This model is being used throughout the region, including the South Bay. Because this is a constantly changing situation, vaccine information is being continually updated and the County COVID-19 vaccine website is a great place to make sure you get the most up-to-date information. If you don’t have computer access, you can make appointments or get information by calling 2-1-1. Volunteers are needed to administer vaccinations in our county and throughout the state, so if you or someone you know have a medical background your help would be greatly appreciated. You can find out more from the County of San Diego Medical Reserve Corps website.
COVID-19 response and relief will continue to be a key part of the budget activities keeping us busy in Sacramento this February. In January, the Governor officially announced his 2021-22 state budget, which provided a responsible framework for the Legislature to incorporate with our own proposals. While the budget deadline is in June, we are working toward taking early budget actions to address the most pressing needs caused by the pandemic, including getting school campuses reopened as safely as possible and boosting economic recovery through direct assistance for small businesses and workers. The Senate’s budget hearings in February will address both early actions and work on the final budget. One of our very first actions this year has been to extend the eviction moratorium we had put in place to help protect tenants and small landlords. That moratorium was slated to expire this month. Along with extending the eviction moratorium to June 30th, we are also moving to distribute new federal stimulus funds quickly and equitably across the state. Our work is nowhere near finished, but these steps are important parts of the Legislature’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
February is when we celebrate Black History Month. And it’s inspiring that the whole country has been able to see history in the making recently, with the elections of Vice President Kamala Harris and Senator Raphael Warnock, and our own Dr. Shirley Weber becoming California’s Secretary of State. This is also the month we acknowledge our Presidents and send love to our Valentines. Ten days into the term of our new President Biden and Vice President Harris, I am very excited about the leadership and stability they are bringing to our nation, and grateful for the effective partnership they will offer California on everything from broad policy goals to technical waivers and agreements that will help our state pursue our priorities when federal agencies are involved. It will be a nice change from a four-year relationship that was primarily “see you in court.”
Finally, I hope your February 14th is filled with love, happiness, and maybe some great take out from one of our amazing local restaurants. And I also hope that the work we do in this shortest month will mean long lasting benefit for us all.
Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.senate.ca.gov/Atkins