SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Along with added stress for struggling businesses and a failing unemployment agency, California Governor Gavin Newsom estimated Monday it would cost the state $700 million per week to implement President Donald Trump’s proposed unemployment boost.
Newsom said Trump’s offer, which would require states to pick up 25% of the cost, would cause further delays at the state’s beleaguered unemployment department and force harsh new cuts in a state saddled with a record $54 billion deficit.
“There is no money sitting in the piggy bank,” Newsom told reporters. “It would create a burden the likes which even a state as large as California can never absorb”
After negotiations for a new round of coronavirus relief broke down in Congress, Trump issued a host of executive actions over the weekend including one that would provide millions of unemployed workers with an extra $400 per week. Trump called the order “generous” and said the federal government’s share would be pulled from an $8 billion pool of unspent funds leftover from the last round of relief negotiations.
“This is the money they need, this is the money they want, this gives them a great incentive to go back to work,” Trump said.
But along with questions about the legality of Trump’s various orders, critics are warning it places an undue burden on states that have gone broke due to the pandemic.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the offer “laughable” and said it would be impossible for the Empire State to implement.
Newsom echoed Cuomo’s concerns on Monday during a press conference, saying Trump’s bridge deal falls short of governors’ requests for aid and bemoaned Congress’ failure to pass the $3 trillion Heroes Act. He claimed California has already spent its stake of the first federal relief and warned contributing $100 per week, per person would cost the state billions and trickle down in the form of budget cuts and potentially added responsibility for employers.
Hit with a record number of claims, California’s Employment Development Department has left scores of unemployed in the dark since March.
Residents have been unable to reach claims handlers on the phone due to understaffing and some have been without a source of income for months. Lawmakers have bashed the agency and called on Newsom to scrap its management team.
While he has deployed a “strike team” to address the department’s failures, Newsom acknowledged Monday executing Trump’s unemployment boost could cause California workers awaiting relief new delays.
“The reality is, reprogramming that system from $600 down to $400…would create time delays and more consternation for millions of those that would seek those benefits,” Newsom said.
The Democratic governor did issue a bit of good news Monday, claiming the state over the weekend was able to clear a 295,000-case backlog that has clouded the true scope of the coronavirus’ spread in the nation’s most populous state.
Caused by a server outage that prohibited a major commercial lab from reporting test results, the IT snafu ultimately caused the state’s top public health official to abruptly resign over the weekend. But Newsom said the glitch has been addressed and the cases have been sent back to individual counties for processing. He expects it will take counties 2-3 days to go through the results and that the state’s confirmed case numbers will then become accurate.
Newsom tried to place the majority of the blame for the backlog — which left counties in the dark for weeks as to just how many active Covid-19 cases they had — on the state’s infamous technological woes, and not potential mistakes made by his political appointee, Dr. Sonia Angell.
“At the end of the day, the buck stops with me,” said Newsom.
Over 5,500 Californians are currently hospitalized due to Covid-19, a 19% decrease from two weeks ago. Meanwhile patients in intensive care have similarly dropped 13% compared to July 27, trends Newsom called “encouraging” and “favorable.”
Nationwide, California leads with over 561,000 confirmed cases, ahead of Florida (536,000) and Texas (504,000.) According to Johns Hopkins University, California’s death toll is 10,382 and Newsom said the state’s 14-day average for daily deaths is 137.
Due to inaccurate information, California officials have been forced to freeze the coronavirus watch list that encompasses nearly 40 counties and over 95% of the state’s population.
Asked how the watch list might change once the state finally accounts for the backlogged test results later this week, Newsom said he didn’t expect “dramatic changes.”
Counties placed on the list are prohibited from allowing indoor dining and shopping and can’t open schools unless they apply and receive a waiver from the state.
Los Angeles County’s public health officer said Monday that schools there won’t reopen anytime soon due to the current rate of transmission, though the number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations have declined. State guidelines require the rate of infection per 100,000 people to be less than 200 cases, while LA County’s average is closer to 320.
School officials must work with public health officials when in-person classes resume to better track the spread of the virus, but there have been no concrete plans on students physically returning to their classrooms. The county will offer one-on-one tutoring to 500 students in the LA Unified School District. The pilot program by the nation’s second largest school district — with about 600,000 students — will target children struggling with virtual learning.
Hospitalizations and the death rate have fallen in the county, trends health officials said they were “cautiously optimistic” about.
“I want to emphasize the word ‘cautiously,’” said LA County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer at a briefing Monday.
LA County reported 19 new deaths Monday, bringing the death toll to 4,996. At the end of July, LA County averaged 41 deaths and that is now down to 31, according to Ferrer.
Officials reported 1,920 new infections Monday and said the figure represented a fairly accurate estimate of confirmed tests. Over 210,424 Angelenos have been infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 since the pandemic began.
A month ago, there were over 2,000 hospitalizations a day and that figure has dropped to around 1,600, which Ferrer called “significant progress” in slowing the spread of infections with people taking the necessary infection control precautions.
LA County has had less than stellar luck with contract tracing, with just 40% of people who have tested positive giving information of people they have had contact with to tracers.
Nearly 2 million tests have been administered in LA County, with 10% returning positive.
At the height of the pandemic, LA County accounted for more than half of all infections in California. In recent days that has dropped to 37%, but Ferrer said the giant asterisk hanging over LA County could be filled in later this week when the extent of the backlog is known.
In neighboring Orange County, health officials reported 886 new positive cases on Monday.