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Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris to join state senators to ‘Keep California Working’

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, bottom right, answers a question.
Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, bottom right, answers a question from reporters during a news conference on Wednesday.
(Screenshot by Lilly Nguyen)

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) and state Sens. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) and Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) say they want to keep Californians and Californian businesses working.

That’s the thought behind Senate Bill 74, which is also known as the “Keep California Working Act.” The bill aims to appropriate $2.6 billion from the state’s general fund to be allocated to the Office of Small Business Advocate, where it would then be distributed in the form of grants of unspecified amounts to small businesses and nonprofits economically affected by the ongoing pandemic.

The bill was introduced on Dec. 10. It is not yet approved.

“The fact of the matter is this: Our small businesses and their employees need help and they need help now,” Borgeas said in a news conference on the bill Wednesday.

The Orange County Health Care Agency on Wednesday reported that there are currently 2,249 cases in hospitalization.

“I know intimately that our small businesses are not just the heart and soul of California’s economy. They are the heart and soul of our communities,” added Petrie-Norris.

“As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has been absolutely devastating for small businesses, nonprofits and workers all across our state,” Petrie-Norris said. “Thousands of our local small businesses have already closed their doors and hundreds of thousands more are teetering on the brink right now.”

California State Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) speaks.
State Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) speaks during a press conference on the ‘Keep California Working Act’ on Wednesday.
(Screenshot by Lilly Nguyen)

To qualify for a grant, applicants must be considered a small business — defined by legislators as a business that is independently owned and operated and has fewer than 100 employees in its staff — or nonprofit and must have experienced economic hardship resultant of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grants would be distributed upon a first-come, first-serve basis.

Legislators clarified that amendments are being drafted to best serve small businesses and nonprofits and that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant program, which was announced in November, will serve as a model. Applications for the first round of grants opened in late December and will end Friday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes extending eviction protections and expediting $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance for low-income tenants.

Newsom’s grant program provides grants ranging between $5,000 to $25,000 and prioritizes recipients based on geographic distribution in relation to COVID-19 health and safety restrictions outlined by the state blueprint, industry sectors most impacted by the pandemic and underserved small business groups.

Comparatively, legislators said that the Keep California Working Act will have six award tiers with eligible businesses not exceeding $5 million in gross revenue. Grant rewards will not exceed $75,000.

“The simple and scary truth is our small businesses are dying and we simply can’t let that happen because when a small business dies, it’s not just one person’s dream that dies. It’s not just one person’s livelihood that hangs in the balance,” Petrie-Norris said. “It’s their employees, their paychecks and the ability to support their families. It’s local tax revenue and community services.”

“It’s an entire ecosystem that is hanging by a thread,” Petrie-Norris said.

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