As Pandemic Spreads, Assemblymember Levine Announces Legislative Package to Address Impacts of COVID-19

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – With COVID-19 disrupting the lives of all Californians, Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – Marin County) today announced a package of COVID-19 related bills to address impacts of the pandemic on families and businesses across the state.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a debilitating impact on California’s economy, especially the construction industry. Due to the closure of various governmental offices from COVID-19 this past March, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order (N-54-20) to allow project applicants to electronically file various documents and for project noticing requirements to be made online, rather than physically posted at a governmental office. AB 609 (Levine) codifies this action and modernizes the CEQA filing process by expanding online filing and website posting requirements for CEQA documents. This modernization will make it easier for project applicants to comply with CEQA filing requirements and increase public transparency by making these documents easily viewable on a governmental website.

 

One of the tools being utilized to limit the spread of COVID-19 is the use of contact tracing technology. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contact tracing involves identifying people who have COVID-19, people who they came in contact with and working with them to interrupt disease spread. This includes asking people with COVID-19 to isolate and for their contacts to quarantine at home voluntarily. Contact tracing technology captures and shares a significant amount of personal information including names and physical locations. As the state enters into contracts with technology providers to deploy contact tracing, appropriate steps must be taken to protect this personal information from inappropriate private and governmental use.

 

AB 660 (Levine) would prohibit personal information generated through a contact tracing contract with the state from being used for law enforcement or federal immigration purposes. Limiting the spread of COVID-19 will require adherence to CDC guidelines and large-scale participation in contact tracing, which has been used successfully around the world. With COVID-19 infections proportionally higher in minority and immigrant communities, California cannot allow the fear of contact tracing data being used for law enforcement or federal immigration purposes to limit contact tracing participation, which will save lives.

 

Another vulnerable population impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are those housed at skilled nursing or long-term care facilities. Patients at these facilities generally have a number of underlying health issues, which makes them more likely to suffer severe symptoms or death resulting from COVID-19. According to the California Department of Public Health, as of June 30, 2020, 13,538 nursing home residents tested positive for COVID-19 and 2,480 nursing home residents died from the virus, representing over 41% of all COVID-19 related deaths in California.

 

As skilled nursing and long term-care facilities across the state began to respond to the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, it became clear that there were no standards of care or best practices to provide post-acute care during a pandemic, public health crisis, or other emergency. AB 1324 (Levine) will require the Department of Public Health and the Department of Social Services to create health and safety guidelines and best practices for use by skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, and congregate living health facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed significant deficiencies in various safety net services, including skilled nursing and other long-term care facilities. AB 1324 will provide these facilities with critical information and guidelines to help keep patients, staff and the public safe in the event of a future pandemic or public health crisis.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on California’s economy, with one in four California workers filing for unemployment insurance (UI) since March of this year. In April of 2020, California’s unemployment rate exceeded 16.3% with 2.4 million Californians out of work - the biggest month-over job loss in state history. The pandemic caused recession will negatively impact businesses for years to come. As businesses reopen and rehire employees, these businesses will be assessed a significant UI tax. This tax will make the cost of reopening a business even more difficult that it already is, especially for small businesses.

 

AB 1441 (Levine) would freeze employer UI tax rates until 2023 to the rate assessed before the pandemic caused recession began. This UI rate freeze will provide employers with significant financial relief and help businesses across California recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

 

County shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19 have impacted all aspects of life, but have been particularly difficult for victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence shelters have been limited in the services they can provide and victims often have been forced to be confined with their abuser. For victims, the process to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) has been complicated by the closure of or limited access to the courts. Even during a pandemic, timely access to the courts is necessary to protect vulnerable individuals and prevent harm to victims of domestic violence.

 

AB 1796 (Levine) would require all court facilities that process TROs, DVROs or other protective orders to provide a secure physical drop box location to file a protective order. A physical drop box will allow for adherence to physical distancing guidelines during the pandemic and provide victims with a more discrete and convenient option to submit a court filing. As victims of domestic violence face increased incidents of abuse during the pandemic, it is essential that victims be provided safe, discrete and timely access to the courts. AB 1796 will provide victims with an important option to ensure safe, timely court access and prevent future harm to these victims.

 

“The COVID-19 pandemic forces us to rethink how government helps people and has exposed a number of vulnerabilities to safety net programs and services that keep California open for business and Californians safe,” said Assemblymember Levine. “My COVID-19 legislative package addresses a range of issues that have arisen since Governor Newsom’s State of Emergency in March. Even during a pandemic, the Legislature must continue its essential role of protecting vulnerable residents and supporting our state’s economic recovery. We must act now while COVID-19 shows potential long-term harm to our social safety net and economy. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and Governor Newsom to address these critical issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic before the legislature adjourns at the end of August.”

 

Levine’s legislation will be considered by the State Senate when the Legislature reconvenes later this month.

 

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