Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders in Sacramento on Wednesday announced they have come to an agreement on a proposal Newsom rolled out last month as part of his budget proposal for this year: Giving $600 in aid to low-income Californians who have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The state estimates it will make 5.7 million payments, for a total of roughly $3.4 billion.
“People are hungry and hurting, and businesses our communities have loved for decades are at risk of closing their doors,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins. “We are at a critical moment, and I’m proud we were able to come together to get Californians some needed relief.”
Simply put, Democratic leaders in Sacramento expanded what Newsom originally proposed. Now under the plan, called the “Golden State Stimulus,” the following groups will be eligible to receive funding, on these timetables:
– California residents who qualify for the state Earned Income Tax Credit on their 2020 tax returns. Generally, California tax filers who earn less than $30,000 a year are eligible for that credit. Last year, 3.9 million California returns applied for it. They will receive the $600 “shortly after” they file their state taxes this year, according to the announcement from Newsom’s office.
– California households enrolled in the CalWORKS program. CalWORKS is a state welfare program that provides temporary cash assistance for food, housing and other needs to low-income families with children under 18, where the parents are unemployed, deceased or disabled. The $600 grant payments for CalWORKS households are expected by mid-April.
– Recipients of SSI/SSP and the state’s Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI). The former stands for Supplemental Social Security Income /State Supplementary Payment. It is a federal program designed to help aged, blind and disabled people who have little or no income. It provides cash for food, clothing and shelter. But since 1996, it has been mostly limited to U.S. citizens. CAPI is a state program that provides similar benefits for California residents who are not U.S. citizens. Timing for the delivery of SSI/SSP and CAPI grants is currently “under discussion with federal officials” according to Wednesday’s release.
– Immigrants in the country illegally who live in households that earn less than $75,000 a year. The state Earned Income Tax Credit is only eligible to people with Social Security numbers. That excludes undocumented immigrants. Under Wednesdays’ deal, California taxpayers who use Individual Tax Identification Numbers — a tax processing number available for residents, their spouses and dependents who cannot get a Social Security number — are eligible for the $600 payments if their household income is below $75,000. Those taxpayers who also qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit would receive a total of $1,200.
The deal also waives state fees for two years for restaurants, bars, barbers and hair stylists. And it sets up a program to provide grants of up to $25,000 for small businesses harmed by the pandemic, and also allocates $50 million for cultural institutions.
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association, said his organization supports the $600 stimulus payments to Californians, but not to undocumented immigrants, and it supports the grants to small businesses.
“Many citizens of California who are taxpayers object to taxpayer dollars given to individuals who are not here under any legal authority,” Coupal said.
But others praised all parts of the plan, noting that some of the hardest hit residents of the state in the pandemic have included farmworkers and others in the lowest-paying jobs.
“Workers who are paid low wages have been hit extremely hard by this crisis,” said Alissa Anderson, a senior policy analyst with the California Budget & Policy Center, a Sacramento non-profit group that researches how state policies impact low-income people. “They’ve borne the brunt of job losses, and federal economic relief hasn’t been nearly enough.”