Newsletter: More relief efforts — and cuts — loom

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti
“There is no question that cuts will be needed,” says L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, April 16. I’m Christopher Goffard, filling in for Julia Wick, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Massive numbers of Californians have seen their livelihoods wither, with 2.7 million filing for unemployment benefits in the last month. As part of the accelerating relief efforts, California will be the first state to give relief checks to immigrants without legal status who are affected by the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.

It’s a group comprising an estimated 10% of the state’s workforce and heavily represented in industries from agriculture to construction. But such workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits, or for the stimulus package approved by Congress last month. “We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians,” Newsom said.

Newsom pledged $125 million — $75 million of it from the state and the rest from philanthropic donors — with cash grants of $500 for individuals and up to $1,000 for families.


The Democratic governor also promised help for independent contractors and the self-employed. On that front, says Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), California has been sluggish in comparison to other states. “I have never seen anything like this or heard the stories of fear and desperation,” Patterson says.

[Read the story “California to provide more help for the unemployed, independent contractors and immigrants amid coronavirus” in the Los Angeles Times]

Loosening the stay-at-home order is premature, the governor has said, a sentiment echoed by Contra Costa County Health Services Director Anna Roth: “Now is not the time for us to take a victory lap.”

But there is some reason for hope. After dire predictions, a more optimistic outlook surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in California is emerging, with several epidemiological studies suggesting the state is probably at the peak number of daily new cases, as long as social distancing restrictions remain in place.

Meanwhile, the city of Los Angeles, which was facing a $200-million to $400-million annual budget deficit even before the pandemic, is expecting massive revenue shortfalls. “There is no question that cuts will be needed,” says Mayor Eric Garcetti. The city controller warns that revenues for the coming budget year could be up to $600 million below previous projections. But it’s impossible to make precise projections amid such uncertainty.

[Read the story “L.A. was already facing financial troubles. Then came the coronavirus outbreak” in the Los Angeles Times]


Also uncertain: how long big gatherings such as concerts and sporting events will remain closed in Los Angeles. We may have to wait till next year, according to an L.A. fire official’s summary of remarks by Garcetti.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


When will salsa return? With live bands and close dancing, L.A.’s vibrant salsa scene — the antithesis of social distancing — faces an uncertain future. Los Angeles Times

Mask converts. In the Latino community, some mask skeptics have become mask evangelists. Los Angeles Times

Celebrating a World War II veteran. Ken Mallory, 95, was supposed to be the Dodgers’ Military Hero of the Game last Saturday. The pandemic scuttled those plans. So his family decided to create the experience for him on Zoom. Los Angeles Times

World War II veteran Ken Mallory gives a WWII presentation at his Bradbury retirement home.
(Judie Miller)


COVID-19 and obesity. Extra weight may increase the deadly effects of the coronavirus, according to new research. It’s a possible reason the pandemic has hit the U.S. so hard. Los Angeles Times


Relief checks. President Trump wants his signature on government assistance checks. In 1972, when President Nixon wanted to do something similar with Social Security payments, a government official threatened to resign — and stopped him. Los Angeles Times


Outbreaks in California’s lockups. Officials have reported coronavirus outbreaks at prisons in Los Angeles County and Chino. San Francisco Chronicle

Targeting shutdown scofflaws. L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer has filed criminal charges against 10 more businesses, including a smoke shop and a massage parlor, accused of flouting the mayor’s shutdown order. Los Angeles Times

Violations mount. From beaches to parks to smoke shops in San Diego County, citations for breaking the stay-at-home order have climbed to 125. San Diego Union-Tribune

Hotline. In Palm Springs, the police department has dedicated a hotline for coronavirus violations. Desert Sun


The battle over the Equal Rights Amendment. On Hulu, “Mrs. America” examines the women’s movement and its antagonists. Los Angeles Times


This could be your break. B-movie king Roger Corman is inviting filmmakers to compete for a spot in the first Corman Quarantine Film Festival. Entries must be under two minutes and filmed with a cellphone. Los Angeles Times

Automatic A’s? Other school districts have opted to abandon grades during the pandemic in favor of a pass/fail system, but in San Francisco, school officials are proposing to give everyone an A. San Francisco Chronicle

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Los Angeles: sunny, 75. San Diego: sunny, 71. San Francisco: partly cloudy, 60. San Jose: partly cloudy, 71. Fresno: mostly sunny, 83. Sacramento: mostly sunny, 80. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Gina Vasquez:

The Santa Ana Public Library was a refuge for me in my teen years since home got a bit noisy with five kids. There I could lose myself among its tall bookshelves if that meant studying for high school exams or writing a university term paper. Upstairs I could use the typewriter for 25 cents an hour. My mom was a mystery and crime fan, and she read just about all the books in that section. Will always be one of my favorite memories of growing up.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.