Business / Economy

Saturday, December 7, 2019

With Covered California Deadline Approaching, Officials Say New Subsidies and Eligibility Requirements Are Available

Posted By on Sat, Dec 7, 2019 at 3:32 PM

  • Thinkstock
If you want to sign up for health insurance through Covered California and enter 2020 insured, you’re running out of time.

The Dec. 15 deadline to sign up in time to start the New Year with coverage is approaching and state officials are reminding California residents without health insurance that they will face a penalty next year. While Congress reduced the penalty for failing to get insured under the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, the California Legislature enacted its own version this year, meaning residents who don’t have health insurance next year could face penalties of up to $695 per person.

But the looming penalties promise to bring more people into the insurance pool, which will reduce costs, said Covered California spokesperson James Scullary. Rates for next year are only going up 0.8 percent statewide, Scullary said, the lowest rate change in the program’s history. And in Humboldt County, he said, the average rate change is a 1.7-percent reduction.

There are also more subsidies available than in previous years, Scullary said, and they are available to a wider swath of customers.

Customers who make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level — which equates to about $49,960 for an individual or $103,000 for a family of four — on average receive subsidies that cover 80 percent of their insurance costs, Scullary said. Further, he said individuals making up to $75,000 and families of four with incomes up to $154,000 are now eligible.

Scullary said he’s heard from lots of people in Humboldt County who assumed they were ineligible for Covered California and/or subsidies because that was the case a couple of years ago.

“We’re really encouraging them to check again because things have changed substantially,” he said. “That could make a big difference in people’s lives.”

To find out if you’re eligible, visit or call (800) 300-1506. Scullary said the website also has a tool that allows people to anonymously enter their zip code, household income and ages of household residents in order to see the assortment of plans available and what federal and state subsidies may be available.

Open enrollment for Covered California extends through Jan. 31, though, again, customers must sign up by Dec. 15 to be insured by Jan. 1. As of March, Scullary said about 5,900 Humboldt County residents were enrolled in the program.
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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Planning Commission Denies Wind Farm Project

Posted By and on Thu, Nov 21, 2019 at 9:58 PM

The Humboldt County Planning Commission voted 4-2, with commissioners Mike Newman and Alan Bongio dissenting and commissioner Brian Mitchell absent, to deny a proposal to build a wind farm on Monument and Bear River ridges south of Rio Dell.

An initial vote on a motion to accept the project stalled with a 3-3 vote, which prompted commission Chair Robert Morris to ask Terra-Gen's representative if he would be OK delaying the vote a couple of weeks until after the Thanksgiving holiday when the full commission would be available. The representative — Terra-Gen Senior Director for Wind Development Nathan Vajdos — replied that he wanted a clear answer then and there, prompting the vote on whether to deny the project. (Bongio, who had voted for the motion to accept the project, was the swing vote in denying it, but offered no explanation for the change.)

The proposal brought forward by Terra-Gen, a subsidiary of Energy Capital Partners, would see 47 600-foot wind turbines erected on the ridge lines, each placed on a large concrete platform. Proponents of the project conceded it would bring unavoidable environmental consequences but argued it would be an expedient local response to the global climate crisis, powering more than 40,000 homes with clean, renewable energy. In addition to the potential environmental benefits and impacts of the project, it promised to create hundreds of jobs during construction, as well as 15 permanent ones, while putting more than $2 million in tax revenue into county coffers.
A satelite image of the proposed project site and an approxiation of where the turbines will be located. - THE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT. PHOTOILLUSTRATION BY JONATHAN WEBSTER
  • The Draft Environmental Impact Report. Photoillustration by Jonathan Webster
  • A satelite image of the proposed project site and an approxiation of where the turbines will be located.
But opponents — including some environmental groups and the Wiyot Tribe — argued the environmental cost of the project was too much, clearing carbon-sequestering forests and prairies, harming vulnerable bird populations and forever altering a sacred Wiyot prayer site. At the Nov. 14 planning commission meeting, about a dozen members of the public spoke in support of the project while 54 opposed it.

After hearing more than five hours of public comment spread over three meetings, the planning commission voted the project down tonight, denying a conditional use permit application that would have paved the way for Terra-Gen to begin the process of securing the dozens of other permits needed to begin construction.

The commission's decision is appealable to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. Check back for full coverage of the planning commission's decision in the coming days.
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Vocality Gives Big to SoHum Nonprofits

Posted By on Thu, Nov 21, 2019 at 9:31 AM

Southern Humboldt Community Hospital received $100,000 also. - PHOTO BY JENNY EARLY
  • Photo by Jenny Early
  • Southern Humboldt Community Hospital received $100,000 also.
Last night may have been chilly but hearts were warmed at the Southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce’s Mixer in Garberville when Vocality Community Credit Union unexpectedly donated a total of $200,000 to Southern Humboldt’s two main medical organizations.

Both Redwoods Rural Health Care and Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District received $100,000 checks.

“People were totally surprised,” said the chamber’s board President Michelle Bushnell. “They are very much being good to our community with community earned money. … It’s keeping the money local.”

Vocality also revealed the NOMAD mobile banking vehicle at the mixer with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The completely self-contained vehicle has an ATM and will be able to process loan applications, open new accounts and provide credit counseling, according to an earlier interview with Pat Neighbors, president and CEO of Vocality.

Bushnell said she is excited about the possibilities of the Freightliner van.
“It’s going to the Cove [today],” she told us. “There are a lot of elderly out there who don’t come into town a lot. … If a disaster happens, it can be used for emergency response. … It can be taken to festivals … and go to places that are remote.”

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Crab Quality Delays Commercial Season Opening

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2019 at 12:46 PM

Another crab season, another delay. - C. JUHASZ/CDFW WEBSITE
  • C. Juhasz/CDFW website
  • Another crab season, another delay.
The commercial crab season for Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties is being delayed due to “poor crab meat quality tests,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

But there’s still hope for crab by New Year's,  if not Christmas.

In a Nov. 15 memo, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham wrote that “quality tests conducted on Nov. 3, 2019, indicate the crabs will not be ready for harvest on Dec. 1, 2019.”

For now, the season is pushed back to Dec. 16. Another round of testing will take to place around Dec. 1 to determine if the crabs have fattened up enough, otherwise the start date could be delayed again until Dec. 31.

“The season can be delayed no later than Jan. 15, which is what happened in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons,” the CDFW release notes.

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Friday, November 8, 2019

Pasta Luego Says Ciao

Posted By on Fri, Nov 8, 2019 at 9:02 AM

At the end of this month, sandwich and fresh pasta purveyor Pasta Luego is shutting its doors in Arcata's Jacoby Storehouse. Owner Nicole Maki started working at the shop in 2013, a few months after it opened, and bought it from restaurateur Bill Chino in 2016. Three years later, after struggling with the combination of an economic downturn and plaza panhandlers, she says, the financial hits of successive PG&E shutdowns were the last straw. She's closing down her packaged pasta business, too, though she says, "I can always pick it back up.”
Nicole "Coco" Maki making sandwiches at Pasta Luego. - PHOTO BY JILLIAN BUTOLPH
  • Photo by Jillian Butolph
  • Nicole "Coco" Maki making sandwiches at Pasta Luego.

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Eureka City Manager Contract, Emergency Declaration Approved

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 3:46 PM

  • Dean Lotter
With little fanfare, the Eureka City Council this week approved a $170,000 contract for incoming City Manager Dean Lotter, who is scheduled to take over the job from a retiring Greg Sparks by Dec. 20.

Other than a question about the extent of his background check from Councilmember Kim Bergel, who commented that she was “really looking forward to working with Mr. Lotter” but added that “parts of the process really bothered” her, the item passed with unanimously with little discussion 4-0.

Councilmember Heidi Messner and Mayor Susan Seaman were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

In a Thursday interview, Bergel tells the Journal that she was referring to “a couple of things” about the hiring process, including what felt liked a “rushed” council discussion on the final decision because fellow Councilmember Natalie Arroyo was on a tight timeline due to being on active U.S. Coast Guard duty.

But, she noted, that was no one’s fault and she felt Lotter’s selection was an “easy decision.”

Bergel says she believes the recruiting firm should also have instituted a more rigorous background check given the importance of the city manager position.

When Bergel asked about the process during Tuesday’s meeting, Sparks said he didn’t bring his notes but that the background check included credit, federal criminal registries, sex registries, reference checks and a “Google-type check.”

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Monday, November 4, 2019

New City Manager, Emergency Declaration on Eureka Agenda

Posted By on Mon, Nov 4, 2019 at 1:38 PM

The Eureka City Council will consider Tuesday formally appointing Dean Lotter as city manager, with a $170,000 annual salary and other benefits.

Currently the city manager of New Brighton, Minnesota, the council selected Lotter to replace Greg Sparks, who is set to retire next month, from a pool 40 and five finalists who came to Eureka for the last stage of the process. Lotter is slated to start Dec. 20.

According to an interview with the Journal soon after landing the job, Lotter and his wife Wendy are already in the process of buying a home they found online and serendipitously ended up in front of while driving around the city trying to get lost. (Read more in the story “Eureka, Meet Your City Manager” from the Oct. 24 edition.)

According to Lotter’s contract (see the employment agreement below), he will also receive five weeks of vacation, a $350 a month car allowance, moving expenses and other benefits.

In other business, the council will consider confirming Sparks’ Oct. 11 declaration of a local emergency due to the Public Safety Power Shutoff on Oct. 8, which left the city dark for 26 hours only to be followed soon after by a longer outage.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

Finding Groceries When the Lights go Out

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2019 at 9:05 PM

UPDATE: Costco will be up and running on generators, as will Walmart and Target.

Ferndale's Valley Grocery plans to stay open with the generator running.

Just like during the last blackout, Iłwai kiliwh market in Hoopa will be open and running on a generator.

CC Market in Rio Dell will not only be open during the outage but still has ice.

PREVIOUSLY: Once again, a planned PG&E power outage has local markets hooking up generators, hunting for diesel, shuttling their inventory into locked freezers and unloading perishables. Here's a working list of which ones will be open when the lights go out on Saturday. (Not sure what you need? Check your pantry against this list of recommended supplies.)

While the Eureka WinCo Foods shut down for the last blackout, Director of Corporate Communications Noah Fleisher said over the phone, “Winco will be open and able to serve the community during the blackout.” An extra generator will keep the stock cold and the lights and registers on.
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Friday, October 18, 2019

Moonstone Grill Changes Hands

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2019 at 4:33 PM

The iconic beachside restaurant Moonstone Grill, formerly owned by the same group that operates Plaza Grill and the Basement (formerly Abruzzi), is now a part of another cluster of establishments owned by the Tanski family, along with Gabriel's Italian Restaurant and the Wine Cellar.

According to Likhi Tanski, general manager at Gabriel's, “It’s kind of been in the works for a few months but the actual deal got done a couple of weeks ago.” The sale, in escrow now, was “set up through a mutual friend," he says, adding that it was mainly handled by his brother Ariel Tanski, who will take over as owner and chef. 
Window-side dining at Moonstone Grill. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Window-side dining at Moonstone Grill.

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Large Power Outage in SoHum

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 10:44 AM


Power was restored around 10:50 a.m.


A widespread outage in Southern Humboldt has left 4,200 PG&E customers without power and forced Southern Humboldt Unified School District to shutter its campuses for the day, with power expected to be out until this afternoon.

Power went out last night at 11:09 p.m. to almost all of the Southern Humboldt region. While PG&E had planned maintenance in the area today, a company spokesperson says the outage is unrelated — noting it is also not a part of any of the company's planned Public Safety Power Shutoffs — and the company has helicopters, which took off as soon as the fog lifted this morning, out checking lines from Bridgeville to Garberville.
  • Screenshot of PG&E's outage map
“Multiple personnel are in the area working on the issue,” the spokesperson said, adding that the outage appears to stem from a pocket of outages in the Leggett area.

According to the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services, “The Humboldt Alert test scheduled for 10:17 this morning has been canceled due to the unscheduled power outage in southern Humboldt. Drills and notification tests are always subject to cancellation if the message or activity may be confusing during a real event.”

PG&E representative Deanna Contreras sent the following press release:

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