The Road to Economic Recovery
By Assemblymember Phil Ting
Given the hope surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and new leadership in the White House, I am optimistic about 2021 and an eventual return to normalcy. But for the time being, California will continue to face pandemic-related challenges. Thankfully, the state is seeing better-than-expected revenues, with an estimated $15 billion one-time surplus. This allows us to address immediate needs and forge a path toward economic recovery.
As chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, in December I released the “Preserve, Respond, Protect, Recover” budget blueprint. It shares a similar goal with the proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom released last month: prioritizing help for struggling families and small businesses. There cannot be an economic recovery if our most vulnerable communities fall further behind.
Our one-time surplus allows us to reverse upcoming cuts to critical health and human services programs like In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), as well as restore cuts made last year to K-12 and higher education, courts, and other services when additional federal assistance did not materialize. Unlike the federal government, the state cannot deficit spend and must pass a balanced budget.
There is support in the Legislature for the governor’s proposed Golden State Stimulus, a one-time $600 payment to low-income people who qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). As a longtime champion of efforts to expand CalEITC, I believe now is the time to increase refund amounts and eligibility, as it puts money into the pockets of the people who need it the most. All taxpayers, regardless of immigration status, may qualify if they earn less than $30,000 a year.
We’ll continue to make the application process less burdensome for programs like CalWorks, CalFresh and Medi-Cal, so people can access the cash assistance, food and health care they need to survive. I’m also advocating for more ongoing money to address homelessness and expand housing assistance, especially for vulnerable populations such as low-income families with children and adults over 60.
Additional help is also coming for small businesses. We have already made state grants, loans and tax relief available, and the governor has proposed $575 million in grants to help businesses make adaptations to safely operate. Additionally, $71 million is proposed to waive fees for businesses forced to close or drastically scale back, such as bars, restaurants and salons.
When infection rates decrease, we must also prioritize reopening schools. Like many parents, I’ve been concerned about the effects distance learning and social isolation are having on our kids. My Assembly Bill (AB) 10 would restore in-person classes when public health officials deem it safe, with the state covering the added costs brought on by more testing, personal protective equipment and proper social distancing. The governor has also proposed additional per-student cash relief to districts to help them reopen. This is in addition to plans to invest in public health infrastructure (including vaccine distribution), protections for vulnerable populations and improved workplace safety enforcement.
Now is the time when Californians need their government the most. My office is here to answer questions about getting unemployment benefits or accessing small business assistance or other state programs; you can contact us through our website at a19.asmdc.org. As budget hearings are now underway, I welcome your feedback and ideas. In partnership with the new Biden administration, we will work toward an equitable economic recovery.
Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City. He lives in the Sunset District. He can be reached at (415) 557-2312 or at email@example.com. For more information and updates, visit https://a19.asmdc.org.