(Courtesy photo)

Last week, Gov.Newsom presentedhis May Revisionbudgetfor the 2020-21 fiscal year.  

 Thespending plan includesnew priorities that reflect a projected$54.3 billion budget deficitbrought on bytheCOVID-19 pandemic.Ithas $14 billion in spending cuts, including a 10% salary reduction for state workers,that would be triggeredonlyif the federal government does not provide fundingto Californiato cover some of itscoronavirus lossesbefore the fiscal year begins July 1.  

 There are alsobillionsincuts toeducation and Medi-Cal servicesin the proposal.  

 “The federal government has a moral and ethical and economic obligation to help support the states,”the governorsaid. “This is an opportunity to make real our purpose and advance our values. Federal government, we need you.These cuts can be negated. They can be dismissed with your support.” 

 Gov.Newsomalso expressed support for theU.S. Congress’Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions(HEROES)Act,whichthe U.S.House of RepresentativespassedonMay 16. The $3 trillionlegislationincludes another round of $1,200 stimuluspaymentsto individuals, an extension of the extra $600 per month in unemployment benefits, and nearly $1 trillion in assistance for state and local governments. 

 The new forms of aidtheHEROES Act passed in Congress Fridayinclude$200 billion in “hazard pay” for essential workers, $75 billion for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and a $75 billion fund to help homeowners with mortgage payments and property taxes. It would also extend student loan relief to borrowers with private loans, who were left outof the CARES Act relief. 

AssemblymemberShirley Weber(D-San Diego),who serves aschair ofboththeCalifornia Legislative Black Caucusandthe Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety,joined the governor andother state leaders calling on the federal government to lend California a helping hand.  

 “As the Governor said, what we are facing is unprecedented,” said Weber.“Fortunately, the Legislature has worked to reduce the impact through investing in reserves and a rainy-day fund. We will, however, need the help of the Federal government and the passage of the HEROES Act to ensure that we get back on a more secure footing to recover from the economic impacts of COVID.” 

 The aid efforts for essential workers and testing included in the HEROES Act would proportionally affect more Black Americans, as studies have shown that Black people are more likely to be essential workers, and more likely to live in urban areas hit hard by the virus. 

TheCongressional Black Caucuschampioned the concerns of Black households andbusinesses, sending out a press releasethatoutlined a proposal submitted to House and Senate leadership on April29. 

 “The proposal includes policies to safeguard social safety net benefits;keep Black businesses afloat;support students and educational institutions;address health care inequities;strengthen infrastructure in the Black community;protect Black farmers;keep people in their homes;ensure incarcerated individuals areprotected;and much more,” the Congressional Black Caucus press releasereads. 

 The Western States Pactaregional coalition that includesCalifornia, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Nevadasent a letter to Congress asking for $1 trillioninstate and local government aid on May 11.TheCalifornia Labor Federation, California State Association of Counties, League of Cities and California Travel and Tourism Coalition have also endorsed the HEROES Act for its inclusion of state and local government aid. 

 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters May 12 that Republicans will insist on “narrowly targeted legislations” and that there’s no urgency to pass any COVID-19 relief bill any time soon. President Donald Trumpcommented that there’s “no rush” to pass another bill. 

 Republicans in the California legislature have also expressed skepticism about the governor’s budget plan. 

“While additional federal assistance can help cover some of the deficit, expecting Uncle Sam to come to the rescue is wishful thinking,”saidSen.Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel). 

“Raising taxes makes no sense when many families and businesses have significantly less income to live with. That is why a final 2020-21 budget must help support a safe reopening of the state’s entire economy. Workers and businesses cannot earn income and pay taxes if our economy continues to be in an induced coma,” she said.  

AssemblymemberWeber said even though California is asking for federal aid, the state’s legislatorsstill have the responsibility to find solutions that work for Californians,especially those hit hardest by the pandemic.  

 “Let’sbe clear; we are not absolved of having a vision for the state. We must strive for a recovery, but we have to ask what that recovery will mean,” she said. “Before this crisis hit, we had communities underserved by the healthcare system, ignored by the education system, and robbed of economic opportunity. All of this is underscored by the disproportionate impact of COVID on these communities.”