Business / Economy

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

5 Things to Know About Federal Drought Aid in California

Posted By on Tue, Apr 20, 2021 at 6:44 AM

drought_monitor.jpeg
Stop if you’ve heard this before: California is in the grip of a severe drought. Again. 

Now the federal government is stepping in to help. 

To assist California, which is the nation’s largest food supplier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently declared a drought disaster for 50 counties. That makes growers throughout the state who have been struggling with parched conditions eligible to seek federal loans.

“This declaration emphasizes the devastating and far-reaching impact of climate change on the agricultural producers that feed and power America,” Under Secretary of Agriculture Gloria Montaño Greene said in an emailed statement. 

Here’s what you need to know about the disaster declaration and its effect on California: 

There’s a big difference between a drought emergency and a USDA disaster

In March, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack wrote to California Gov. Gavin Newsom designating 50 California counties as “primary natural disaster areas” due to drought.

A drought disaster sounds alarming, but officials say the reality is more mundane: It simply opens up emergency federal loans to California farmers who are struggling with back-to-back dry years. Growers in the 50 counties but also in all the counties next door (including 16 in Oregon, Arizona and Nevada) are eligible for loans. 

“The bar is set very low to qualify, because the purpose of the disaster designation is to quickly make financial assistance available to (agricultural) producers,” said Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager with the California Department of Water Resources. 

This federal designation is very different from declaring a drought emergency under California’s Emergency Services Act, which would allow the governor to take more sweeping actions affecting all Californians, such as mandating conservation, waiving some state regulations and reallocating funds. Under state law, declaring a drought emergency would require “conditions of disaster or of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within the state” that local governments can’t cope with on their own. 

Comparing Vilsack’s designation of drought disaster areas to a state drought emergency is “like (comparing) apples to pineapples, because it’s a really large difference,” Jones said.

The decision was ‘as close to automatic as it can get’

So what is the federal decision based on? The USDA looks at how dehydrated California has been. 

Rain and snow in much of the state are roughly half of average. The state deemed the snowpack on California’s mountains “well below normal.” The two major reservoirs are at about half of their capacity. And streamflow rivals levels during the peak of the last drought, which started in 2012 and continued through 2016. 

“Much of the state has had two pretty darn dry years,” Jones said, adding that the most recent wet season — last October through March — ranks as the fourth driest on record in California.

A nationwide wetness watchdog, called the US Drought Monitor, has colored California in shades of yellow, orange, red and brown, which denote conditions ranging from abnormally dry to exceptional drought. 

The USDA’s designations hinge on that map. Counties can be considered drought disaster areas if any part enters the driest red and brown “extreme” and “exceptional” categories during the growing season, or if they move into the orange “severe drought” category and stay there for eight consecutive weeks. 

These categories are based on various measurements, not just precipitation and snowpack. They include vegetation health, soil moisture, surface water and other criteria. The map authors also work with local experts to gauge on-the-ground conditions. 

“The disaster declaration process is almost as close to automatic as it can get” because it’s based on the drought map, said Jacque Johnson, acting state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency’s state office. “What happened in California on March 5 was 50 of our 58 counties were disasters.” 

Farms in all counties are eligible for loans

Vilsack’s letter designated 50 California counties as primary disaster areas. The other eight are listed as “contiguous” counties. What gives?

Contiguous counties are exactly what they sound like: the counties that didn’t quite hit the drought threshold at the time but are adjacent to primary disaster areas. The eight counties are Orange, San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito. None of them, at the time of the declaration in March, had entered the more severe dry conditions of the other 50.

Growers throughout the state are eligible to apply for emergency federal loans until early November. Some also may qualify for other federal assistance programs. 

“The assumption is that collateral damage falls into the next door neighbor county,” Johnson said. “The county line is not a barrier.”

Legislators are pressuring Newsom to declare emergency

Newsom has so far resisted calls to declare a drought emergency. He said on Tuesday that his staff had been “talking for months internally” and drought plans were in place, but he was opaque when it came to providing specifics.

“We are prepared to move very quickly when we are prepared to move,” Newsom said.

Officials have said that they believe the state has enough administrative tools to respond to the drought without declaring an emergency.

The governor, under the threat of a recall, may be in triage mode, taking his pick of emergencies to respond to: drought, predictions of another monster wildfire season and the ever-present global pandemic.

Lawmakers have been quick to pounce on what they see as Newsom’s inattention or indifference to a pressing problem that hits rural communities hard. A bipartisan group of legislators, led by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Andreas Borgeas, a Republican from Fresno, and Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Robert Rivas, a Democrat from Hollister,  requested a statewide drought emergency declaration.

“From the Oregon border to the Mexican border, California farmers will see sharp cuts in water supplies this year.”

Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau

The legislators noted that allocations from the State Water Project, which draws water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta and sends it to cities and farms, have been reduced to 5 percent of normal. They urged the governor to forestall a catastrophic loss in farm revenue.

In a reference sure to get under Newsom’s skin, the letter referred to actions taken by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014 when similar drought conditions prevailed. That emergency declaration, the letter said, provided “flexibility and commonsense streamlining to utilize our limited water in the most efficient way.”

At that time, Brown issued conservation mandates for all state agencies and told local water agencies to immediately implement their water shortage contingency plans, which restricted residential water use. The declaration also modified reservoir releases, accelerated funding for water projects ready to break ground and lifted requirements that water projects comply with California’s environmental quality law.

The loans can make or break farms and ranches

The State Water Resources Control Board in March put California’s 69,000 farms on notice that they should start planning now for severe impacts this summer.

This comes after climate change and inadequate water supply are already battering California’s growers, who produce more than 400 commodities, worth nearly $50 billion a year, including about half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables and nearly a fifth of its milk.

Legislators estimate that about 1 million acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland will be fallowed over the next two to three decades because of reduced groundwater and surface water supplies. They project the loss of 85,000 jobs as a direct result of reduced water access.  

Against that backdrop of dire news, the federal disaster declaration opens up aid for the state’s beleaguered growers and ranchers. The loans assist them for loss of crops, trees, land and livestock. 

Each farm operation could receive a loan of up to $500,000, based on its loss. The USDA’s emergency loans were budgeted at $1.21 billion nationwide for this year.

The federal agency “considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment ability of the operator,” Vilsack told Newsom in his letter.

Cows graze dry grass outside of Bieber, a small town in Lassen County, in July 2019. In response to increased drought risk, farmers and ranchers in all 58 California counties will become eligible for loans to assist with loss of crops, trees, land and livestock. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Cattle graze outside of Bieber, a small town in Lassen County, in July 2019. In response to the drought, farmers and ranchers in all 58 California counties are eligible for loans to assist with loss of crops, trees, land and livestock. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

For farmers, the loans can make or break their operations, which are already on tight water allocation budgets.

“From the Oregon border to the Mexican border, California farmers will see sharp cuts in water supplies this year,” said Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau. “That means hundreds of thousands of acres of land will lie idle. It means thousands of people will lose jobs, in both rural and urban areas. It means Californians will have less locally grown food available.”

The expenses can pile up. Because of the drought, ranchers may have to lease additional pasture, buy extra feed and pay to haul and store water to replace the natural water sources that have dried up, Johnson said.

The USDA has already received inquiries from California cattle ranchers interested in applying for the loans. 

The state has about 13,000 cattle operations, with more than 5 million cattle and calves. The San Joaquin Valley, particularly Tulare, Merced and Kings counties, has the most.

Katie Roberti, a spokeswoman for the California Cattlemen’s Association, said ranchers are facing the most severe conditions in decades, worse than the last drought. 

“While the federal designation is welcomed assistance, without precipitation many California cattle producers are going to be forced to make the difficult decision to reduce the size of their herds, some more drastically than others,” she said. “Feed on rangelands will be limited and we are hearing hay prices will be high. These herd reductions will have a lasting impact on the number of cattle in the West for years to come.”

This article first appeared on CalMatters Network and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Friday, April 16, 2021

Denver Flights are Coming Back

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2021 at 6:03 PM

The California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport. - FILE
  • File
  • The California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport.
Nonstop flights to the Denver International Airport out of Humboldt County are scheduled to resume June 3, adding to some new travel options announced in recent months.

The United Airlines service, which started two years ago, was put on hold in April of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are really excited for the return of direct air service to Denver International Airport,” 4th District Humboldt County Supervisor and Chair Virginia Bass said in a news release. “All of this additional service is coming at the right time for summer, and as more vaccine is getting rolled out. These are all big pluses for the community and will provide a much-needed boost for the local economy allowing tourism to take off this year.”

Currently, the upcoming option will start with one scheduled flight a day, joining a new American Airlines route to Phoenix, which is slated to begin the day, and Avelo Airlines' service to Hollywood Burbank Airport beginning May 19.

“This is great news for Humboldt County and the Redwood Coast,” Cody Roggatz, director of the Humboldt County Department of Aviation, said in the release. “This flight performed very well for us in the past. We know that resuming this service will play an important role in our community’s economic recovery and improve connectivity for our passengers looking to reach the Midwest, East Coast, and beyond in United’s Global Network.”

Gregg Foster, executive director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, which joined with community members, businesses, and organizations to create “Fly Humboldt” to recruit and retain local air service, also heralded the announcement.

“It’s been a tough year and we look forward to working with United and the community to resume this popular service," he said.

Read the full news release on the announcement below:
United Airlines, the Humboldt County Department of Aviation, and Fly Humboldt announced today that United Airlines will resume its nonstop service from Humboldt County (ACV) to Denver International Airport (DEN) starting June 3, 2021.

The service, started in June 2019, was suspended on April 1, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are really excited for the return of direct air service to Denver International Airport,” said 4th District Humboldt County Supervisor and Chairwoman Virginia Bass. “All of this additional service is coming at the right time for summer, and as more vaccine is getting rolled out. These are all big pluses for the community and will provide a much-needed boost for the local economy allowing tourism to take off this year.”

United will provide the service with a 70-seat regional jet and will start with one flight per day as follows: Depart ACV - 12:41 p.m. Arrive DEN - 4:46 p.m. Depart DEN - 11:21 a.m. Arrive ACV - 1:28 p.m.

“This is great news for Humboldt County and the Redwood Coast,” said Cody Roggatz, Director of the Humboldt County Department of Aviation. “This flight performed very well for us in the past. We know that resuming this service will play an important role in our community’s economic recovery and improve connectivity for our passengers looking to reach the Midwest, East Coast, and beyond in United’s Global Network.”

“I want to thank United Airlines for their continued confidence and investment in our community,” said Gregg Foster, Executive Director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission. “It’s been a tough year and we look forward to working with United and the community to resume this popular service.”

Recruiting and retaining air service has been a top focus of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission (RREDC) since 2003. It was that year that RREDC joined with the City of Redding and the County of Humboldt to secure a direct flight to LAX. Since that time, it has been actively working to add more flights to more destinations out of the ACV Airport in McKinleyville, CA.

“We are pleased to be reconnected nonstop with Humboldt County,” said DEN CEO Kim Day. “Not only does this service offer another unique option for leisure travel, but these flights support the continued rebuilding of DEN’s domestic network.”

About United United's shared purpose is "Connecting People. Uniting the World." For more information, visit united.com, follow @United on Twitter and Instagram or connect on Facebook. The common stock of UAL is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol "UAL"

About Fly Humboldt In 2011, the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission joined with community members, businesses, and organizations to create “Fly Humboldt,” a collaborative effort to increase air service and support our local airport. Since that time, Fly Humboldt has played a critical role in recruiting air service to a variety of destinations. For more information, visit flyhumboldt.org, follow @flyhumboldt on Twitter and Instagram or connect on Facebook.

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Flights to Hollywood Burbank Airport Coming this May

Posted By on Thu, Apr 8, 2021 at 11:32 AM

The California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport. - FILE
  • File
  • The California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport.
Humboldt County's regional airport, the California Redwood Coast Humboldt County Airport (ACV), in McKinleyville will now be offering flights to the Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) through Avelo Airlines beginning May 19.

"Avelo’s announcement is further evidence of the recovery of the airline industry and, more importantly, the desirability of the Redwood Coast as a destination,"  the press release from the county's aviation department and Fly Humboldt states.

Initial flight offering start at $19 one-way for a limited time, according to an announcement from the airline.

Flights to Phoenix, Arizona, from ACV were also announced earlier this year that non-stop flights to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX).

Read the full press release below.

The County of Humboldt Aviation Department and Fly Humboldt are pleased to announce that Avelo Airlines will begin service from Humboldt County to the Hollywood Burbank Airport starting May 19, 2021. 

Avelo’s announcement is further evidence of the recovery of the airline industry and, more importantly, the desirability of the Redwood Coast as a destination.  We look forward to welcoming Avelo to ACV and look forward to a long and productive working relationship with them. We know that this service will be a huge success and will benefit our community and the tourism industry.

Tickets are on sale now at https://www.aveloair.com/

Read the release from Avelo Airlines below:
BURBANK, Calif., April 8, 2021 — America’s first new mainline airline in nearly 15 years — Avelo Airlines — premiered today at Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) with travel-inspiring routes and bag-packing low fares. Introductory one-way fares start at $19 on all routes. Avelo will offer everyday low fares coupled with a smooth and convenient travel experience, flying non-stop unserved routes between BUR and 11 destinations across the Western U.S.

Flights are open for booking at aveloair.com starting today at 8 a.m. PDT / 11 a.m. EDT, taking flight starting April 28, 2021 with current availability through Sept. 15, 2021. “Avelo has a simple purpose — to Inspire Travel,” said Avelo Founder, Chairman and CEO Andrew Levy. “People are ready to reconnect with family and friends and explore new places. Avelo is a different and better kind of airline, built from scratch to offer an affordable, convenient and caring travel experience.”

The Avelo leadership team represents more than 200 years of collective aviation experience. Previously co-founder and president of Allegiant Air and CFO of United Airlines, Levy brings more than two decades of airline leadership experience. In addition to Allegiant and United, Avelo’s leadership team includes former senior executives from Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Northwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

“After more than 20 years of steadily shrinking consumer choice, the American flying public wants and deserves more options and lower fares,” said Levy. “Avelo offers both — along with a refreshingly smooth and convenient experience.” LA’s Best Airport Avelo has selected Hollywood Burbank Airport as its first base. BUR’s convenience to Greater Los Angeles, Customer-friendly compact size and lower costs were all important considerations. In fact, Fodor’s Travel named BUR the “Best U.S. Airport” in 2019.

“Locals know that BUR is LA’s best airport,” said Levy. “No airport is closer to downtown LA, Hollywood, Pasadena and Southern California’s many other attractions than BUR. As the San Fernando Valley’s hometown airport, BUR will give you easy access to an abundance of beautiful and relaxing new non-stop destinations across California and the Western U.S. And for those considering LA for their next vacation or long weekend getaway, BUR is the ultra-convenient, stress-free gateway to Greater LA and the world-famous fun-in-the-sun activities Southern California is known for.”

Whether Customers are departing or arriving, BUR promises a refreshingly hassle-free experience. BUR offers seamless curbside pickup and drop-off, smaller crowds, shorter walking distances from curb to gate, unrivaled speed for plane-to-carousel bag delivery, and shorter TSA security lines. Customers will be at their gate in a flash while also saving on parking and ground transportation traveling to and from the airport.

“Hollywood Burbank Airport exemplifies the convenient, caring and smooth experience that distinguishes Avelo,” said Levy. “We’re grateful for the enthusiastic partnership that BUR Executive Director Frank Miller, the airport’s commissioners and staff have welcomed us with. It’s not surprising why BUR is LA’s favorite airport.”

Recreational Destinations Avelo will initially serve a collection of beautiful and relaxing destinations that are currently unserved from BUR. Avelo’s inaugural routes focus on outdoor recreation, national parks, and coastal and mountain terrain – as well as providing air service for an increasing population of remote workers: Arcata / Eureka, CA (ACV), Victorian charm in the heart of California’s Redwood Coast Bend / Redmond, OR (RDM), where the snow-capped Cascades surround the high desert Bozeman, MT (BZN), the onramp to Big Sky Country and Yellowstone National Park Eugene, OR (EUG), where the Willamette Valley begins Grand Junction, CO (GJT), where the Colorado River meets dramatic red rock landscapes Medford, OR (MFR), a launchpad to the Rogue Valley and Oregon’s wine country Pasco, WA (PSC), 300 days of sun in the heart of Washington’s wine country Phoenix / Mesa, AZ (AZA), a stress-free airport alternative to a year-round desert oasis Odgen, UT (OGD), a convenient Salt Lake City alternative to Utah’s famed mountains Redding, CA (RDD), 600 square miles of state and national parks beckon the adventure seeker Santa Rosa, CA (STS), the gateway to California’s wine country

Pay Less. Travel More The airline will initially operate single-class, fuel-efficient 189-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft – offering a more comfortable experience than the regional aircraft often utilized by the airports Avelo serves. Avelo’s surprisingly low everyday fares include no change fees or call center fees for Customers who choose to make reservations by phone. Avelo also offers several unbundled travel-enhancing options at industry-low prices that give Customers the flexibility to pay for what they value: First Checked Bag: $10 Carry-On Overhead Bag: $35 Priority Boarding: $10 Pet in the Cabin: $95 Seating Options: Customers may choose from several seating options. Avelo’s 189-seat 737-800 aircraft will offer 129 standard slimline 29-inch pitch seats. Pre-reserved window and aisle seating starts at $5. Avelo aircraft will also feature 60 seats with 31 to 38 inches of pitch. These seats start at $18.

Fly with Confidence Avelo takes every precaution to protect Customer health at the airport and during their flight. Avelo airplanes are regularly cleaned and disinfected. Tray tables, galleys, lavatories and all other touch surfaces are sanitized every evening with Calla 1452 (hospital-grade) disinfectant. In addition to disinfecting and cleaning daily, Avelo treats the entire airplane regularly with an advanced antimicrobial protectant that kills viruses, germs and bacteria on all surfaces. This Zoono treatment forms a colorless, odorless protective shield and is safe to human contact. Additionally, the cabin air is refreshed every two to three minutes by the Boeing 737’s top-down air filtration and ventilation system. The system directs air flow from the ceiling to the bottom of the seat — not front to back — and greatly reduces particle movement throughout the cabin. All Avelo airplanes operate with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters that remove 99.9% of air particles, including viruses like the coronavirus, in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. All Customers will receive a convenience package containing a hand sanitizer, as well as a bottled water and small snack. Federal law requires everyone — including Avelo Customers and Crewmembers — to wear a face mask at the airport and on the aircraft (unless eating or drinking). Avelo also encourages social distancing best practices whenever possible.

$19 fares may be unavailable or less available over Memorial Day weekend, May 28-31, 2021. $19 is a one-way fare only – additional fees for carry-on and checked bags, assigned seats and other modestly-priced optional services apply. See aveloair.com. High-res media assets, including aircraft photos, launch photos and video, and b-roll, are available for download via Getty Images.

About Avelo Airlines Avelo Airlines was founded with a simple purpose — to Inspire Travel. Operating a fleet of next-generation Boeing 737 aircraft, Avelo offers Customers a refreshingly smooth experience, time- and money-saving convenience, and surprisingly low everyday fares. Avelo will provide non-stop service between 11 destinations across the Western U.S. and its initial base at Hollywood Burbank Airport. For more information visit aveloair.com.   
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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Orange Tier Means Some Restrictions Lifted, Modifications

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 2021 at 10:30 AM

Blueprint for a Safer Economy - CALIFORNIA DEPT. OF PUBLIC HEALTH
  • California Dept. of Public Health
  • Blueprint for a Safer Economy

Humboldt County's move to the state's "moderate" or orange COVID-19 risk tier yesterday — coupled with new state guidelines on events and performances — means things will be opening up here on the North Coast.

Crabs fans may be excited to learn that outdoor sporting and other seated spectator events are now allowed. In the orange their, venues must limit attendance to 33 percent of capacity, though they can increase that to 67 percent if they require guests to show proof of a vaccine or negative test results within 72 hours of attendance.

Those some attendance limitations will apply to school graduation ceremonies held this spring.

Indoor events like concerts and theatrical performances, meanwhile, will be allowed beginning April 15, with capacity capped in the orange tier at 15 percent or 200 people, whichever is fewer. That would increase to 35 percent with vaccination and testing requirements in place.

With Humboldt's move into the orange tier, movie theaters and restaurants can now increase indoor capacity to 50 percent or 200 people, whichever is fewer, while retail shops are now able to open without capacity restrictions so long as they have other modifications in place.

Outdoor playgrounds and recreation facilities, hair salons and barber shops, personal care services can all be open with modifications.

Places of worship can all be opened at 50 percent capacity, as can museums, zoos and aquariums.

Family entertainment centers can open indoor operations with modifications, like masking except for when eating, restricting food and beverage consumption to designated areas. Capacity will be capped at 25 percent capacity, though that can increase to 50 percent if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination prior to entry.

Bars, meanwhile, can open outdoors with modifications.

According to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy (which can be found here), private indoor gatherings are still highly discouraged but allowed with modifications, like social distancing, masks and limiting the maximum number of households gathering to three.

Beginning April 1, private outdoor events — like meetings, receptions and conferences — will be capped at 100 people unless all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination, which would increase capacity to 300 people. For indoor events, if all guests are tested and show proof of full vaccination, a maximum of 150 people will be allowed to gather.

The state moved Humboldt County into it's orange risk tier yesterday after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state had met a goal of administering 4 million vaccines in socio-economically disadvantaged zip codes in the state, which triggered higher thresholds for the state's risk tiers and gave Humboldt the chance to move into the less restrictive tier.

The state data released yesterday showed that Humboldt County has a test positivity rate of 2.0 percent (compared to 2.2 percent last week) and a daily case rate of 3.5 per 100,000 compared to California overall, which has a 1.8 positivity rate and 5.1 cases per 100,000. Last week, Humboldt's daily case rate was 4.6 per 100,000.

Newsom also announced yesterday that the state's tier system is slated to end June 15, with businesses and other activities across the state allowed to reopen to pre-pandemic levels, depending on two main factors: hospitalizations and vaccination supply numbers. Mask mandates will remain in effect for the foreseeable future, he said.
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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Eureka City Council to Talk Animals, Premium Pay for Grocery Workers

Posted By on Tue, Apr 6, 2021 at 3:34 PM

A proposed animal ordinance in Eureka would require cat owners with more than four to get a fancier's license while dog owners would need to do the same with four or more dogs and reptile owners with more than 10. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • A proposed animal ordinance in Eureka would require cat owners with more than four to get a fancier's license while dog owners would need to do the same with four or more dogs and reptile owners with more than 10.
Tonight, the Eureka City Council is set to discuss an update to the city’s animal ordinance which includes some major changes to the number and type of animals — big and small — people can keep in city limits.

The council will also consider requiring certain grocery stores to pay workers a premium wage, something the Arcata City Council considered last month before deciding to spend more time researching the issue.

The animal ordinance before the Eureka council has been a “work in progress for the better part of five  years,” Eureka Police Department Capt. Brian Stephen said during a March 9 workshop on the proposed changes.

Most of the ordinance now on the books dates back to 1959, with some minor adjustments in the 1990s, and it was in need of an overhaul to “address outdated issues,” according to Eureka Animal Control Officer Celeste Villarreal, who went through an overview of the updates.

The new version, she said at the workshop, is aimed at promoting responsible animal ownership rather than the previous focus on animal containment.

Villarreal noted the language has been revised several times in response to public input, including expanding the poultry section to allow for a wider range of birds and tweaks to the exotic pet section that removed length restrictions on snakes and caps on the number of reptiles that could be owned.

But, having more than 10 means an owner needs to obtain a “fanciers” license, with similar requirements applied to cat (more than four) and dog (four or more) owners.

Any license fees would be waived for foster and service animals, Villarreal said.

Other changes include new licensing for mini pigs and goats, which are limited to two over the age of 4 weeks, as well as allowances for certain livestock, if a property can “reasonably accommodate the animals.”

For larger animals, such as a cow or horse, a property would need to be at least 21,000 square feet instead of the 30,000 square feet now on the books.

Read the full proposed ordinance at the end of the story.

In other business, the city council will consider enacting an emergency ordinance on a pay requirement for grocery workers, who were among those still on the frontlines during the last year as much of the rest of Humboldt County went on shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The draft ordinance included in the agenda would require a premium pay of an additional $4 at grocery stores that employ more than 500 workers nationally and more than 15 per store in the city of Eureka or an additional $3 per hour at stores with more than 25 employees but fewer than 500 workers in the city.

Under the draft, a grocery store is defined as “a retail store that is located within the geographic limits of the city, and that sells primarily household foodstuffs for offsite consumption, including the sale of fresh produce, meats, poultry, fish, deli products, dairy products, canned foods, dry foods, beverages, baked foods, or prepared foods.

Also include would be a “retail store of any kind located within the geographic limits of the city that devotes 15 percent or more of its interior space to the sale of household foodstuffs for offsite consumption, including the sale of fresh produce, meats, poultry, fish, deli products, dairy products, canned foods, dry foods, beverages, baked foods, or prepared foods.”

The city council will be discussing premium pay just hours after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state aims to reopen to pre-pandemic levels in mid-June, as long as hospitalizations and vaccine supplies remain stable. (Read more here.)

To view the full agenda and for more information on how to view the 6 p.m. meeting, click here.

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State Slated to Reopen in Mid-June, Humboldt Moves to Orange Tier

Posted By on Tue, Apr 6, 2021 at 11:55 AM

Humboldt County has been moved into the state's "orange," or moderate COVID-19 risk ranking, after long stays in the more restrictive "red" and "purple" tiers.

The new status will allow more business sectors open and expand indoor operations capacity for restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, places of worship and other organizations. (Find more information here.)

The news comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced today that the tier system is slated to end June 15, with businesses and other activities across the state allowed to reopen to pre-pandemic levels, depending on two main factors: hospitalizations and vaccination supply numbers. Mask mandates will remain in effect for the foreseeable future, he said.

"This disease is as deadly as it's even been, the thing we've done is suppress the spread," Newsom said at a press conference, noting health officials are mindful of variants and masks are an important part of controlling the disease's spread.

“California has made incredible progress controlling the spread of COVID-19 by staying home, masking, and getting vaccines out quickly to Californians in every corner of the state, including in those communities hardest hit by this pandemic,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghalys said in a news release. “In order to take the next step, we must continue to do our part to keep this momentum moving in the right direction, and that means continuing to wear a mask and ensuring everyone who is eligible gets the vaccine.”

By the end of the month, Newsom said he anticipates the state will have distributed 30 million doses.
California opened up the vaccine line to those 50 years and older on April 1, with residents 16 years and older able to receive a shot starting April. 15.

Humboldt County residents looking to receive a COVID-19 vaccine need to register through the state's My Turn site as part of a transition to Blue Shield taking over vaccine distribution and registration.

Those who filled out the county's vaccine interest form will have to do so again on the state's My Turn website (which can be found here) as county information will not be rolled over to the state's database.

County residents who have already received one dose do not need to use My Turn for scheduling and should receive an email from Public Health or contact from the original provider about second dose information, according to a news release.

The state data released today shows Humboldt County with a test positive rate of 2.0 percent (compared to 2.2 percent last week) and a daily case rate of 3.5 per 100,000 compared to California overall, which has a1.8 positivity rate and 5.1 cases per 100,000. Last week, Humboldt daily cases rate was 4.6 per 100,000.

The move to orange brings Humboldt into the least restrictive zone since late November, when a surge in cases catapulted the county from the “minimal” risk tier, over the “moderate” and straight to the red zone before quickly moving into the "purple," or widespread COVID-19 risk rank.

Except for a brief stint in January, Humboldt stayed in the most restrictive tier before moving back to the red zone in late February.

Over the last few months, the county’s test positivity rate has gone from 3.6 percent in November, to 7.3 percent in December and 9.9 percent in January, before dropping to 6.5 percent in February. In March, it dropped to 4.5 percent.

Humboldt's new ranking officially goes into effect at midnight.

Read the release from the governor's office below:
SACRAMENTO – As California surpasses a major milestone in the fight against COVID — administering more than 20 million vaccine doses, including 4 million in the state’s hardest-hit communities, and with hospitalizations continuing to steadily decline — Governor Gavin Newsom today outlined the state’s next step in the COVID-19 pandemic recovery, moving beyond the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. On June 15, California will fully open its economy if two criteria are met:

If vaccine supply is sufficient for Californians 16 years and older who wish to be inoculated; and If hospitalization rates are stable and low

Everyday activities will be allowed and businesses can open with common-sense risk reduction measures, including encouraging all Californians to get vaccinated and mandating masking, to prevent illness and promote health.

The state will continue contact tracing and testing to detect cases early and contain spread of the virus. The entire state will move into this new phase as a whole. The state will monitor hospitalization rates, vaccine access and vaccine efficacy against variants, with the option to revisit the June 15 date if needed.

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” said Governor Newsom. “We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here – wearing masks and getting vaccinated – but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.”

“California has made incredible progress controlling the spread of COVID-19 by staying home, masking, and getting vaccines out quickly to Californians in every corner of the state, including in those communities hardest hit by this pandemic,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “In order to take the next step, we must continue to do our part to keep this momentum moving in the right direction, and that means continuing to wear a mask and ensuring everyone who is eligible gets the vaccine.”

When California fully reopens the economy, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy will end. However, common-sense health measures such as masking will remain across the state. Testing or vaccination verification requirements will remain in relevant settings. For more information on the state’s move beyond the Blueprint, click here.

All sectors listed in the current Blueprint for a Safer Economy grid may return to usual operations in compliance with Cal/OSHA requirements and with common-sense public health policies in place, such as required masking, testing and with vaccinations encouraged. Large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed to occur with testing or vaccination verification requirements. California is able to reopen fully and safely because of our commitment to the equitable distribution of vaccines.

Today, the state reached a total of 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered to Californians in some of the state’s hardest-hit communities, less than a month after delivering 2 million doses to these communities. The state, in partnership with local government, health care providers and community-based organizations, will continue its extensive efforts to get eligible Californians vaccinated, including its support of expanded hours and access through community clinics and providers, public education campaign, and support for community-based strategies such as canvassing. Equity continues to be the focus of our vaccine efforts, especially as we prepare to fully reopen.

On March 4, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state had set aside 40 percent of vaccine doses for the hardest-hit communities and established an equity metric to increase vaccinations in those communities. Doing so recognizes that the pandemic did not affect California communities equally.

Forty percent of COVID cases and deaths have occurred in the lowest quartile of the Healthy Places Index (HPI), which provides overall scores and data that predict life expectancy and compares community conditions that shape health across the state. California continues to plan for the vaccination of Californians under 16 years of age, protection against new variants and continued tracking and containment of spread. The state stands ready to mobilize additional resources if there is an increase in cases.
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Monday, April 5, 2021

McGuire Looks to Create Statewide TOT Tax Collection System for Short-term Rentals

Posted By on Mon, Apr 5, 2021 at 4:23 PM

North Coast state Sen. Mike McGure has introduced a bill that looks to create a statewide system for collecting taxes from short-term rentals to aid cities and counties in accessing "untapped revenue," according to a release from his office.

Senate Bill 555 would require short-term rental services like Airbnb and VRBO to collect the taxes from customers as they signed up the online platform, with those monies given over to the state Department of Tax and Fee Administration for distribution to the corresponding city or county.

“Hundreds of cities and counties don’t collect bed taxes from short-term vacation rentals and this is a simple statewide solution that will collect and invest in vital services that will help California cities and counties thrive,” McGuire said. “SB 555 will provide cities and counties the ability to opt-in to a statewide program to collect bed tax revenue from tourists, which will in turn be reinvested into fire and police services, local parks and libraries, and economic development projects. It also ensures that all short-term vacation rental platforms do their part and even the playing field.”

The release states the program would be opt-in. SB 555 past the Senate Governance and Finance Committee in a 5-0 vote and is headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Read the release from state Sen. Mike McGuire's office below:

Sacramento, CA – Senator Mike McGuire’s bill that would create a new, innovative system for collecting and dispensing revenue from Transit Occupancy Taxes (TOT) for short-term vacation rentals has passed its first committee in the Senate.

The bill is a critical step in supporting local governments as they try to collect tens, and very likely, hundreds of millions in revenue statewide to support vital city and county services like fire and police, public health, good roads, and for parks and libraries.

In California, nearly every city and county levies TOT, and the revenue collected is typically used to support essential government services. Unlike with hotels and motels, local jurisdictions often have an incredibly difficult time collecting TOT on short-term vacation rentals because hosts are not always aware of the requirement to collect and remit these taxes, and local governments do not always know what properties are being used for short-term vacation rentals.

SB 555 will help cities and counties collect this untapped revenue by creating a statewide TOT collection program administered by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) for local jurisdictions who choose to participate.

This program would require short-term vacation rental platforms, such as Airbnb or VRBO, to collect the appropriate TOT from customers when a short-term rental is booked through the platform. The platform would then remit the funds collected to CDTFA, who would then distribute the revenue to the city or county.

“Hundreds of cities and counties don’t collect bed taxes from short-term vacation rentals and this is a simple statewide solution that will collect and invest in vital services that will help California cities and counties thrive,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “SB 555 will provide cities and counties the ability to opt-in to a statewide program to collect bed tax revenue from tourists, which will in turn be reinvested into fire and police services, local parks and libraries, and economic development projects. It also ensures that all short-term vacation rental platforms do their part and even the playing field.”

This program would be an opt-in for local municipalities, and those municipalities would be required to enact an ordinance to participate. This bill does not prohibit local agencies who want to continue with their own Voluntary Collection Agreements with platforms from doing so. Rather, SB 555 gives jurisdictions who have not found success in entering Voluntary Collection Agreements, which are the majority of cities and counties across California, with hosting platforms the ability to collect this vital and untapped revenue.

SB 555 passed unanimously, 5-0, last week in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. It will head to the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.
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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Journal Changes Ownership

Posted By on Thu, Apr 1, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Clockwise from top, former Journal owners Carolyn Fernandez and Judy Hodgson, new owner Melissa Sanderson and her husband Chris. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Clockwise from top, former Journal owners Carolyn Fernandez and Judy Hodgson, new owner Melissa Sanderson and her husband Chris.

The North Coast Journal Inc. — a media company that includes the 15,000-circulation weekly newspaper and website, plus nearly a dozen publications serving Humboldt County, California — has been sold.

The buyer, Melissa Sanderson, 37, took over as president and publisher March 31. She has worked for the company since 2014, first as sales manager and the past three years as general manager.

The sellers are two long-time friends and business partners, Judy Hodgson and Carolyn Fernandez, who purchased the newly established monthly newspaper in June of 1990, converted it to a weekly in 1998 and launched a string of successful, hyper-local publications. Those include the Insider, a quarterly tourism magazine; the annual Menu of Menus and Wedding Guide; and more recently, the bi-monthly North Coast Trader, a classified paper that reaches six coastal counties in California and Oregon. One Journal publication launched in 2017, the Humboldt Cannabis Magazine, is distributed twice a year to dispensaries throughout California.

Over the past three decades, the Journal has won dozens of major awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia for writing and reporting, design and photography, as well as numerous freedom-of-information awards. The newspaper has been recognized numerous times by the Society of Professional Journalists and the League of Women Voters.

While preparing this press release, Hodgson and Fernandez realized they actually had been working together for 45 years. Hodgson wrote a column, "Fieldbrook Footnotes," for the Union weekly newspaper in Arcata beginning in 1976 while attending Humboldt State University (HSU). She graduated in 1978, joined the staff as a reporter and from 1983 to 1988, served as editor. Fernandez joined the Union in 1976 as a graphic artist, later becoming head of the production department. Both left in 1988 after a change in ownership and, in 1989, worked together again at an advertising agency before purchasing the Journal. The paper was immediately rebranded and redesigned from a quarter-fold into the magazine tabloid format that exists today.

The two now-septuagenarians had been searching to find just the right "next owner" of the Journal for more than two decades. "We are super happy to sell to one of our great employees and a fourth-generation Humboldt County woman half our age," Hodgson said. (Fortunans may recognize Sanderson's maiden name of Huber and the Senestraro branch of the family.)

Sanderson has been in publishing since grade school. She made copies and distributed the Fortuna Spartan to all the classrooms in fifth grade. At Fortuna Union High School, where she "majored in at least four sports" as well as FFA, she was ad manager for the Husky Howler and wrote a sports column for Fortuna's weekly newspaper, the Humboldt Beacon. After graduation, she attended both College of the Redwoods and HSU at the same time. She married her husband, Chris Sanderson, and landed her first professional job in the marketing department of the new Bear River Casino in 2005. She was an account rep for the Times-Standard and then managed a radio station until joining the Journal in 2014.

Most new owners of a news media company hope to reassure readers and say they will not change a thing, and then things do, which is what happened at the Union in 1988, according to Hodgson and Fernandez. But Sanderson said she really means it.

"We have strength throughout the company — in sales, design and production, and support staff," she said, but particularly in the award-winning editorial department.

"It's a great publication. We have a strong mission statement. We do really good journalism for this community and I want to keep that going."

Sanderson said her strengths are on the business side of publishing, with a focus on marketing and digital, and she is confident in the Journal's future.

While there were some layoffs and furloughs last year due to the pandemic, the Journal is back up to 21 employees. Circulation, which dipped from 21,000 to 12,000 when many businesses closed and tourism shut down, is back to 15,000.

Sanderson said she is grateful for the federal Paycheck Protection Program loan that helped the company retain employees during the pandemic.

Her plans for 2021 are "to concentrate on growing the Journal, for sure, and help other local businesses" recover and grow.

The Journal's glossy publications, including the Insider magazine, were suspended during the pandemic. They are expected to return to newsstands this year.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Two-Hour Delays at Last Chance Grade

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2021 at 1:33 PM

CALTRANS FACEBOOK
  • Caltrans Facebook
Caltrans is reporting that drivers should expect two-hour delays on U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade south of Crescent City on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., beginning today.

Motorists can expect shorter delays of 30 minutes outside of the 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. window.

According to the Facebook post, Caltrans anticipates "these 2-hour delays on weekdays to continue until further notice. These plans are subject to change."

Check out the Facebook announcement below.

Beginning Tuesday, March 30, motorists should anticipate 2-hour delays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays on U.S. 101 at...

Posted by Caltrans District 1 on Monday, March 29, 2021
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Monday, March 29, 2021

County COVID Response Costs Exceeds $11 Million

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2021 at 10:46 AM

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began a little more than a year ago, Humboldt County's response, from ramping up testing capacity to the now expanding vaccination efforts, has reached $11.7 million.

According to a county's press release, "the state and federal governments have already allocated or committed to future allocations totaling just over $14 million for Humboldt County’s COVID-19 response. Of those funds, the county has received or claimed nearly $6.6 million. The remaining $7.5 million in allocations will be used to fund ongoing response and recovery operations in order to preserve local funds for specific needs."

The county's response, expenses and efforts related to the pandemic include initial efforts to expand testing resources, build an alternate care site and establish contact tracing investigation teams, and current efforts to offer technical support to re-opening businesses, administ direct financial relief to families facing evictions and, most recently, build and scale up mass vaccination clinics.

The COVID-19 response also includes a total of 265 part- or full-time staff that had been working at the Humboldt County Public Health and Emergency Operations Center last April. There are now 90 employees assigned to the response.

The Humboldt County Office of Economic Development has also provided direct support to local businesses and families impacted by the pandemic through $3.5 million in grant requests for nearly 700 businesses. The Department of Health and Human Services' Eviction Protection Program, meanwhile, funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, administered rental and mortgage assistance totaling $553,393 to 163 local families. And DHHS's HOME program used CARES Act funding and state funding to provide 20,533 nights of housing in local motels for 328 residents experiencing homelessness.

According to the EOC Finance Unit, the total cost of the Emergency Operations Center and Public Health Response has cost $7.4 million, the total cost of a medical surge response, testing, contact tracing and vaccination operations has totaled $1.6 million and the cost of non-congregate sheltering has reached $2.6 million, all totaling $11.7 million.

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