You’ve probably heard the old weather-related expression “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” I think we can all agree March 2020 came in like a stampede. One year later, while there are positive signs emerging, we are still facing the pandemic that has cost our nation more than half a million lives, including 50,000 of our family members, friends, and neighbors here in California. In addition to the lives we have lost, other lives have been put on hold, small businesses, families, and individuals are struggling, and many dreams and opportunities have been delayed and denied. But as tired and frustrated as we all are, we have to keep going. There is still more work for us to do, and more precautions for us to take, if we are to finally make it past the lion and put COVID-19 behind us.
It is still extremely important for us all to continue staying at home as much as possible, wearing masks, and practicing physical distancing. I know it’s tough, but we’ve gotten this far—a little more working together, a little more reliance on science, and we can get to where we need to be: safely opened schools and businesses and a state laser-focused on the economy, jobs, and housing. Of course, right now the best thing any of us can do is get vaccinated when shots are available.
Information on eligibility and availability for COVID-19 vaccinations is being updated constantly. Currently, vaccines are being distributed to folks 65+ and health care workers, as well as childcare givers, emergency services personnel, and food or agriculture workers. And 20 percent of vaccine supplies will be designated for education workers from now on. School employees will be contacted by their school district or the County Office of Education for their vaccine.
On March 15, individuals aged 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk to get very sick from COVID-19 due to severe health conditions, including those with developmental or high-risk disabilities, will become eligible for the shot. Full details are available at Covid19.ca.gov/vaccines/ and MyTurn.CA.Gov.
As I shared last month, one of our very first actions in the Legislature this year was to pass SB 91 to extend the eviction moratorium we had put in place to help protect tenants and small landlords. Between our share of SB 91 funds and new federal funding announced last month, San Diego County has received more than $100 million in assistance to make available. Applications should be available in mid-March.
- For more information from the State, you can access Housing is Key.
- For details within the City of San Diego, the San Diego Housing Commission has more information
- For cities within the County, you can visit this link.
SB 91 was one part of our early budget efforts to address the pandemic—these are actions the Legislature and Governor can take prior to the passage of the final state budget in June.
As part of our early budget actions on COVID-19 relief, we just passed the California State Stimulus, and I was proud to stand beside Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon as Governor Newsom signed the $7.6 billion in relief funding on Feb. 23. The legislation that has already been signed into law provides over $2 billion in grants and tax cuts for small business, including license fee waivers for bars, restaurants, barbers, and cosmetologists, as well as $600 in cash for recipients of the California Earned Income Tax Credit filers, $120 million in accelerated aid for Community College students, and $857 million in restored funding for the University of California, the California State University, and our courts. And that is not all! At press time, negotiations are continuing on additional tax cuts for businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic. When all is said and done, the total relief package will be over $10 billion.
In March we once again recognize Women’s History Month. My choice for the 39th Senate District’s outstanding Woman of the Year is Dr. Margaret Leinen of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Two recent appointments have increased the number of women serving the State of California. I was pleased to join my colleagues on the Senate Rules Committee to appoint San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer to the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, which administers programs to promote private investment in affordable rental housing for low-income Californians. As Senate President pro Tempore, I also had the opportunity to appoint San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe to the state’s Reparations Task Force, which was created by our new Secretary of State, Dr. Shirley Weber, when she was serving in the Assembly. I know these two local leaders will make many important contributions to our state, and I hope you’ll join me in congratulating them on their new posts.
Finally, while March may not go out like a lamb, it will definitely go out honoring a legend: March 31 is Cesar Chavez Day, and I hope all of us, especially those of us blessed to live here in one of the world’s most beautiful and bountiful agricultural areas, will take the time to acknowledge his leadership and to recommit ourselves to his struggle for justice and equity for all workers—especially those who put food on our table. This March, we should all remember the United Farm Workers’ rallying cry ‘Sí se puede’ — It Can be Done. Meaningful words for building a movement—or overcoming a pandemic.