Essential California: Stimulus time, again

Light illuminates the U.S. Capitol dome
The city of Los Angeles is expected to receive $1.35 billion from the federal stimulus package. Above, the U.S. Capitol.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, March 11, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, the House passed a sweeping $1.9-trillion COVID-19 economic aid package that President Biden is expected to sign on Friday.

[Read the story: “House sends $1.9-trillion COVID-19 economic relief bill to Biden’s desk” in the Los Angeles Times]

As my D.C. colleague Sarah D. Wire reports, the bill includes pandemic-related $1,400 checks, expanded unemployment benefits, the biggest-ever expansion of Obamacare and hefty new tax credits to combat child poverty. It also includes money for vaccines and hospitals, to help schools reopen, expand broadband access and keep ailing industries such as airlines and music venues afloat.


Here’s a look at the COVID-19 stimulus relief bill and what it could mean for Californians.

Let’s start with the checks. Who gets one and how soon will it arrive?

Individuals whose annual income is less than $75,000, joint filers who make less than $150,000; and heads of household who earn less than $112,500 will receive the full $1,400. (Those filing jointly would receive $2,800.) Dependents, including adult child dependents, are eligible for $1,400 as well.

From there the amount quickly phases out, so individuals with annual incomes of $80,000 or more, joint filers with annual incomes of $160,000 or more and heads of households earning $120,000 or more would not receive anything.

[Read more: “Who gets a $1,400 check, and other ways the COVID-19 relief bill may affect your pocketbook” in the Los Angeles Times]

Within a few weeks of the bill being signed, the IRS is expected to issue the bulk of the money directly into Americans’ bank accounts, using direct-deposit account information on file.


Unemployment insurance is set to expire for millions of Americans on Sunday. Does this bill do anything for them?

Yes, the bill includes $300 a week in supplemental federal unemployment through Sept. 6.

There will also be some major tax relief for Americans who’ve received unemployment benefits during the pandemic. Unemployment compensation is usually taxable as income. But thanks to a last-minute revision in the Senate, workers will not be required to pay taxes on up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020, as long as their annual incomes are under $150,000. If you’ve already filed your 2020 return and paid taxes on the unemployment benefits, you can file an amended return to get the money back.

Was the bill passed with bipartisan support?

No, not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for the final package. The bill was heavily politicized and, as Sarah reports, both parties are primed to use it against each other in 2022 midterm elections.

[See also: “Biden’s early win on COVID-19 relief could be hard to repeat. Or he could be FDR” in the Los Angeles Times]

Here’s how Sarah explains the political ramifications, which we’ll probably see plenty of in the months (and years) to come: “Biden and Democrats are embracing what they say is delivering on their 2020 campaign promise to help struggling Americans. Republicans are betting that the currently soaring popularity of the bill will wane and that they’ll be able to hang its costs on Democrats.”


What does the bill mean for local and state government in California?

California is in line to receive $42.6 billion, with $26 billion going to the state government and differing amounts going to various localities.

The city of Los Angeles is expected to receive $1.35 billion — a figure that will help reverse the city’s pandemic-driven financial crisis. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was “ecstatic” about the coming funds when I asked him about the pending passage of the bill earlier this week.

While making clear that this was “not going to be excess money,” Garcetti predicted the funds would help the city cover coronavirus expenses, pay off key debts and possibly free up money to provide additional help for struggling workers, businesses and others.

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

Parents struggle with a new dilemma: Is it safe to send kids back to school? In a nuanced story, education reporter Paloma Esquivel examines the wide disparity of opinion among parents and caregivers on the issue. Los Angeles Times


[See also: “L.A. schools finally have a clear reopening plan. Here is what you need to know” in the Los Angeles Times]

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


Los Angeles County’s supply of COVID-19 vaccine will tighten in the coming weeks because of an expected shortage of shots manufactured by Johnson & Johnson — just as people with underlying health conditions become eligible for inoculations. Los Angeles Times

Filming in the Los Angeles region saw a huge boost in activity last month, as the threat of COVID-19 began to slightly recede and officials allowed productions to restart. Los Angeles Times

Using their networks, Mexican and Guatemalan Indigenous leaders take on vaccine inequity in L.A.: Central American Indigenous communities have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with many working low-wage and essential service sector jobs. Los Angeles Times

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The Senate confirmed Merrick Garland to be U.S. attorney general. The Senate also confirmed Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development and North Carolina regulator Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, picking up the pace for confirmations in Biden’s Cabinet. Los Angeles Times


COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens are coming: The nation’s top infectious diseases expert says that by fall, he expects to have data showing that children and teens age 12 to 17 can start rolling up their sleeves for COVID-19 shots. Younger children could follow in the first quarter of 2022. Los Angeles Times

About 41% of doses at Oakland Coliseum mass vaccination site have gone to white people. The site, which is run in a state-federal partnership, is meant to prioritize low-income residents and communities of color hit hardest by the pandemic. San Francisco Chronicle


UCLA forecasters predict California will recover from the pandemic faster than the U.S. “Following a euphoric resumption of social activity, our economy will stabilize to a different post-pandemic baseline than would have been the case had the pandemic never occurred,” the economists wrote. Los Angeles Times

A woman taking a selfie on a Disney street
Disney California Adventure plans to reopen this month at limited capacity for walks through the park and food and merchandise purchases.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

For centuries, Big Sur residents have seen “Dark Watchers” in the mountains. There are a few theories about the shadowy figures. SFGATE


Monte Rio restaurant was almost fined for COVID-19 violations after plastic skeletons were confused for people at the bar: “After the investigator left without issuing a fine, restaurant employees taped signs that read ‘NOT an actual patron’ to the back of the skeletons’ chairs.” Santa Rosa Press Democrat

A poem to start your Thursday: “The Cities Inside Us” by Alberto Ríos.

For the record: Yesterday’s poetry selection misspelled the last name of poet Audre Lorde as Lord.

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Los Angeles: cold and drizzly, 55. San Diego: morning showers, 57. San Francisco: a brief respite of sunshine, 57. San Jose: partly sunny, 57. Fresno: cloudy, 55. Sacramento: partly sunny, 57.


Today’s California memory comes from Tom LaFaille:

In 1968, after school at Claremont Junior High in Oakland, I’d take AC Transit bus #51 out College Avenue to Cal’s Harmon Gym. I was “ball boy” for the UC men’s basketball team, handing out towels, oranges and soap bars to players at practice and games. It was a welcome sanctuary amidst Berkeley campus protests and occasional tear-gassings. When John Wooden’s Bruins came to town, north-south rivalries were momentarily cast aside. Cal might briefly burst ahead but — always, inevitably — Lew Alcindor’s majestic sky hooks overwhelmed the home team. His breathtaking, graceful arcs were a thing of beauty. [Editor’s note: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar publicly changed his name from Lew Alcindor in 1971.]


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.