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What to Know About California’s COVID-19 Relief

Last week, the state crossed the bleak milestone of 50,000 deaths — more than any other state but far behind other states in deaths per capita. There have been an average of 5,761 cases per day over the past week, a decrease of 46% from the average two weeks earlier.

March 01, 2021 / 10:19 PM IST
The State restaurant in downtown Redlands, California, December. 19, 2020, hosted both indoor and outdoor dining in December despite shutdown orders due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state’s relief package aims to help both small businesses and low-income residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic. (PC-Alex Welsh/The New York Times)

The State restaurant in downtown Redlands, California, December. 19, 2020, hosted both indoor and outdoor dining in December despite shutdown orders due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state’s relief package aims to help both small businesses and low-income residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic. (PC-Alex Welsh/The New York Times)

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $7.6 billion stimulus package last week that will send $600 payments to about 5.7 million low-income Californians. The relief package was “desperately needed to millions and millions of Californians,” Newsom said at a news conference last week. “Those that have been left behind in the federal stimulus, California is not going to leave you behind.”

The move came as Newsom has been under fire from critics who blame his mismanagement of pandemic restrictions for the fate of struggling businesses. Small-business owners around the state are part of efforts to recall the governor. How exactly the most recent relief package might help or hurt recall efforts remains to be seen — nearly all the signatures needed to move the process forward have been collected but still need to be verified.

Mapping Los Angeles’ Unequal COVID-19 Surge

Last week, the state crossed the bleak milestone of 50,000 deaths — more than any other state but far behind other states in deaths per capita. There have been an average of 5,761 cases per day over the past week, a decrease of 46% from the average two weeks earlier. And while the decline from historic peaks is a good sign, experts warn that recent case declines are not a reason to lift restrictions.

Nonetheless, several counties in California have resumed outdoor activities, including dining and contact sports, while schools in many areas remain closed. Last week, a report also outlined the impact of the pandemic on California’s “creative economy,” showing that from February through December, the state lost 175,000 jobs in industries that included entertainment, media, architecture, fashion and more.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The state’s relief package aims to help both small businesses and low-income residents affected by the pandemic.

“This plan represents a way of softening the human and economic blows of COVID. More than that, it builds an economic foundation for recovery,” state Speaker Anthony Rendon said.

Here’s what you can expect from the bill.

Q: Who will be eligible for the payments?

A: People who claimed the California earned-income tax credit — which applies to those who earn less than $30,000 a year — on their 2020 tax return will be eligible.

Separately, taxpayers who use Individual Tax Identification Numbers and earned less than $75,000 after deductions will also be eligible for $600. (Those who use the identification numbers are usually immigrants in the country without permission, who were not eligible for federal stimulus payments.) In total, households that use the individual identifiers and claim the state’s earned-income credit will receive $1,200.

Additional lower-income Californians enrolled in the CalWORKS program are also eligible for a $600 one-time grant.

Q: When will the money arrive?

A: Those who are eligible through the state’s EIC or as filers using individual tax identification numbers can expect to get their payment about four to five weeks after filing their taxes. (Those who were eligible for the credit but didn’t apply it to their taxes can amend their returns.)

For those in the CalWORKS program, the state said grant payments were expected by mid-April.

Q: What else is included in the relief package?

A: This relief package also provides $2.1 billion in funding for grants to small businesses. It includes fee waivers for bars, restaurants, barbershops and other hard-hit businesses.

Additionally, other parts of the package include resources for critical child care and financial aid for community college students. Federal funds will help provide stipends of $525 per enrolled child for all state-subsidized child care and preschool providers. For low-income community college students, the package includes $100 million in emergency financial aid as well as an additional $20 million to support efforts to reengage students who may have left the colleges because of pandemic hardships.

(Authors: Priya Arora and Jill Cowan )/(c.2021 The New York Times Company)
New York Times

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