Newsom Inks Business Relief, $600 Payments for Low-Wage Workers

California’s stimulus package builds on aid already issued by the federal government and includes direct payments to families regardless of immigration status and billions for businesses, courts and universities.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) –– California will divvy out nearly $10 billion to millions of low-income workers and struggling small businesses under a state-sponsored pandemic relief plan signed Tuesday by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Coined the “Golden State Stimulus,” the package includes $600 direct payments for some taxpayers and up to $2 billion in grants and tax breaks for businesses. Tuesday’s signing ceremony comes less than a week after the package was introduced and one day after lawmakers rushed approval of the state’s version of the stimulus relief packages passed previously by Congress.

Acknowledging the swift rulemaking process, Newsom complimented lawmakers for approving the sweeping package six-bill package in bipartisan fashion.  

“We moved quickly, we moved effectively,” Newsom told reporters. “It shows what we can do working across every conceivable difference, not just geographic, but also political and ideological.”   

Under the plan, the state will rush nearly 6 million residents — including those undocumented — one-time stimulus checks of $600. The payments will be administered even if Congress approves more relief and will extend to taxpaying residents who earned less than $30,000 in 2019. Those enrolled in the state’s welfare program for blind and disabled undocumented residents will also qualify for the $600 grant.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Los Angeles, said the relief cements the state’s commitment to the low-wage workers who were ignored by Congress but nonetheless continued working to keep Americans fed over the last year. He said California is going to bat for all workers, regardless of immigration status.

“This legislation will aid some of the people who have kept us going through the hardest times of this pandemic,” said the grandson of Mexican immigrants. “There are so many immigrant workers doing the hard jobs, paying their taxes and suffering from Covid at higher rates than the rest of the population; they are Californians.”

Echoing Rendon, Newsom noted the reliability and meticulous work ethic of California’s agricultural and food-service workforce, which continued working despite the deadly pandemic.

“Farmworkers and foodworkers never took a day off, never complained and were there to make sure that everything was on your table and tables all across the country,” said the Democratic governor.

Along with relief for low-income families, the deal calls for new business grants, tax breaks and restores the 10% cut state courts and universities took during the last round of budget negotiations.

The package quadruples the amount of business relief available in a plan that launched in December, from $500 million to $2 billion. Businesses will be allowed to apply for grants up to $25,000 and deduct $150,000 in loans secured from the federal Paycheck Protection Plan in their upcoming taxes.

Relief is also being extended to 60,000 restaurants and countless hairstylists and barbers, as the state will suspend alcohol and cosmetology licensing fees for the next two years. Both industries were required to shut down for multiple stretches under the state’s myriad pandemic regulations and have seen hordes of businesses close for good.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins credited the stingy budgeting of former Gov. Jerry Brown with placing California in the position to dip into its coffers for the pandemic relief. She hopes other states will turn to California in advancing swift, progressive pandemic relief in bipartisan fashion.

“Make no mistake, California being in the position to put $10 billion into our economy where we need it the most is something big,” said Atkins, D-San Diego.

While California has eclipsed New York for most coronavirus deaths with nearly 50,000, other trends continue to dip.

On Tuesday, the state reported 3,500 new infections, down from 23,000 one month ago. And with hospitalizations down 41% over the last two weeks, the state will release five counties out of the most restrictive tier of pandemic regulations later Tuesday — with another eight expected next week.

“We’re going to work through these new few weeks and next few months until we get to that herd immunity, get that manufactured supply and get these businesses fully operational,” Newsom said optimistically.  

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