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Letters to the Editor: California is about to fall off a fiscal cliff unless it starts subsidizing income

Stanley Smith with South L.A. WorkSource Center helps Gregory Allen in the computer lab
Stanley Smith, left, with South L.A. WorkSource Center helps Gregory Allen in the computer lab with job finding services on March 26.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: More than 16% of Californians are unemployed, mostly because of the mandated COVID-19-related restrictions. I do not want to debate the necessity of the state’s actions but rather raise alarm that the Republicans in Congress and the president appear unwilling to extend the federal government’s “supercharged” $600 weekly unemployment insurance benefit to millions of Americans.

That is set to expire on July 25, meaning that millions of Californians will have to live off the state’s pre-existing weekly benefit of $450 before taxes. This won’t even cover rent for many people in a state with such a high cost of living.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, which has a smaller economy than California’s, the government is subsidizing 80% of workers’ wages during the COVID-19 shutdown. Other countries with much smaller economies are taking similar action. If they can commit to this kind of spending, why can’t California do so for just those unemployed because of COVID-19 and through no fault of their own?

If California does not take this action, the public health emergency will become a fiscal emergency — not just for the unemployed workers who will not be able to cover their rent or afford health insurance but also for the landlords who collect rent and the businesses that rely on consumer spending. Countless Californians will be evicted from their homes or have their mortgages foreclosed, and lives, families and communities will be destroyed.

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So to the elected leaders I ask: What are the obstacles to California providing a livable monthly grant to the unemployed or underemployed? What do we need to do to get over those obstacles? We’re the fifth-largest economy in the world — what exactly is that good for? We’re about to find out.

Joe Legaz, Echo Park


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