Government

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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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Fish and Wildlife: Don't Take the Fawns (with Video)

Posted By on Wed, Apr 14, 2021 at 12:50 PM

Don't take the fawns. - CDFW
  • CDFW
  • Don't take the fawns.
Fawn season is here and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is reminding the public that mother deer after hide their young in tall grass or brush, at times for hours, while out foraging.

“It is a very common mistake to believe a fawn has been abandoned when it’s found alone, even if the mother has not been seen in the area for a long period of time,” CDFW’s environmental program manager Northern Region Joe Croteau said in a news release. “It’s actually a survival strategy for the doe to separate from her fawns so as not to attract predators to the whereabouts of her young.”

Late spring to early summer is the peak time for the fawns to be born and CDFW often fields calls during these months from people who have taken the young deer, thinking they were abandoned, the release states.

Many times, the fawn are euthanized because long-term placements in zoos or wildlife facilities are limited and they can’t be returned to the wild.

Feeding or keeping deer is illegal and anyone who removes a young animal from the wild is required to contact the CDFW or bring the animal to a licensed wildlife center within 48 hours, the release states.

"To report an injured, sick or suspected orphaned fawn, contact your local CDFW regional office directly," the release states.

Read the full CDFW release below:

Late spring and early summer is the peak time for California’s deer herds to give birth to fawns, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is issuing a reminder to well-intentioned people to not interact with the baby deer – even if they find one that appears to be abandoned.

Adult female deer often stash their fawns in tall grass or brush for many hours while they are out foraging for food.

“It is a very common mistake to believe a fawn has been abandoned when it’s found alone, even if the mother has not been seen in the area for a long period of time,” said Joe Croteau, environmental program manager with CDFW’s Northern Region. “It’s actually a survival strategy for the doe to separate from her fawns so as not to attract predators to the whereabouts of her young.”

Each year, CDFW and wildlife rehabilitation facilities are called to assist with fawns that have been removed from the wild by concerned members of the public recreating outdoors. With limited long-term placement options in zoos or other wildlife sanctuaries, the animals often have to be euthanized since they lack the survival skills to be released back into the wild and can become dangerous and difficult to keep as they become bigger.

To report an injured, sick or suspected orphaned fawn, contact your local CDFW regional office directly.

Anyone who removes a young animal from the wild is required to notify CDFW or take the animal to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator within 48 hours. Only a limited number of wildlife rehabilitation facilities are licensed to accept fawns.

It is both illegal to feed deer and keep deer in your personal possession. Both crimes are misdemeanors, each subject to penalties of up to $1,000 and/or six months in jail. Learn more about the dangers and consequences of feeding deer in this CDFW video.

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Monday, April 12, 2021

Hoopa and Karuk Tribes Get Millions in Affordable Housing Grants

Posted By on Mon, Apr 12, 2021 at 11:29 AM

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has granted more than $90 million to 24 Native American Tribes and Tribally Designated Housing Entities (TDHEs) across the nation, including the North Coast's Hoopa and Karuk tribes, to support new housing construction, housing rehabilitation and critical infrastructure projects.

The Hoopa Valley Tribe received $5 million, while the Karuk Tribe was awarded $2 million.

“This past year was a stark reminder of just how important access to safe, stable housing is — especially in Tribal communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “The funding HUD is awarding today will support much needed affordable housing investments in Indian Country.”

According to the release,  it is projected that this funding will support the construction of approximately 350 new housing units, which will help spur economic opportunities in these communities.

Read the full press release below:


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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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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

DA Names New Chief Investigator

Posted By on Thu, Apr 1, 2021 at 3:45 PM

Kyla Baxley is sworn in as the chief investigator by District Attorney Maggie Fleming. - COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT
  • County of Humboldt
  • Kyla Baxley is sworn in as the chief investigator by District Attorney Maggie Fleming.
The Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced today that Kyla Baxley has taken on the role of chief investigator, having previous served as the senior district attorney investigator, replacing Wayne Cox, who retired on Tuesday.

Baxley, who joined the office in 2013 after five years with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, grew up in Eureka and received a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida after also attending Humboldt State University.

“I recognize the vital role the District Attorney Investigations Division can have on the cases our office receives for prosecution,” Baxley said in a news release. “I have always valued the opportunity to interact and build professional relationships with the allied agencies and our community. I feel fortunate I am in a position to continue to do this and look forward to leading the Investigations Division with honesty and integrity.”

Cox — who served as chief investigator for eight years —is widely known for his work in solving the murder of 14-year-old Curtis Huntzinger, a Blue Lake boy who was missing for 18 years before his body was found in a shallow grave in December of 2008, and bringing his killer to justice.

The next year, he was named the California District Attorneys Association’s first-ever “Investigator of the Year” as well as received the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s annual Law Enforcement Excellence Award.

“Among many other valuable qualities, I appreciated Wayne Cox’s willingness and ability to handle an incredible variety of tasks (at all hours) and the value to our Office of his amazing network of connections to people throughout the county and state,” District Attorney Maggie Fleming said in a release. “I also look forward to Kyla Baxley’s service as chief investigator, because her track record gives many reasons to anticipate that she will be excellent in her new role.  Humboldt County has greatly benefitted from the service of Wayne Cox; we are fortunate to continue benefitting from the service of Kyla Baxley.”

Read the full release from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office below:

The Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced Kyla Baxley has been promoted from Senior District Attorney Investigator to Chief Investigator.  Chief Baxley grew up in Eureka and attended both Eureka High School and Humboldt State University before graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida.  She joined the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in 2007, where she worked as a patrol deputy and later as a detective before joining the District Attorney’s Office as an Investigator in 2013.  Chief Baxley has served as a member of the Child Abuse Services Team throughout her tenure as a DA Investigator.  Her selection as California Sexual Assault Investigator of the Year in 2017 indicates the excellence of her work and level of commitment.  Following her selection as Chief Investigator, Kyla stated: “I recognize the vital role the District Attorney Investigations Division can have on the cases our Office receives for prosecution. I have always valued the opportunity to interact and build professional relationships with the allied agencies and our community. I feel fortunate I am in a position to continue to do this and look forward to leading the Investigations Division with honesty and integrity.”

Chief Baxley replaces Wayne Cox, who retired on March 30 after serving as District Attorney Chief Investigator for the past 8 years.  Former Chief Cox worked in law enforcement for over 30 years, including service with the Eureka Police Department and the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement before he joined the District Attorney’s Office in 2007.  The California District Attorneys Association recognized Chief Cox’s outstanding work by selecting him as Investigator of the Year in 2009.  His many contributions to law enforcement include recognizing the need for, and leading the establishment of, a Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF) for Humboldt County.  Established in 2018, the MCTF has already made key contributions to several investigations.

District Attorney Maggie Fleming shared her perspective on the change in Chief Investigators: “Chief Investigator for the DA’s Office is an exceptionally challenging job.  Among many other valuable qualities, I appreciated Wayne Cox’s willingness and ability to handle an incredible variety of tasks (at all hours) and the value to our Office of his amazing network of connections to people throughout the County and State.  I also look forward to Kyla Baxley’s service as Chief Investigator, because her track record gives many reasons to anticipate that she will be excellent in her new role.  Humboldt County has greatly benefitted from the service of Wayne Cox; we are fortunate to continue benefitting from the service of Kyla Baxley.”
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J & J Vaccine Encounters Glitch as State Expands Eligibility

Posted By on Thu, Apr 1, 2021 at 1:41 PM

Gov. Gavin Newsom said today that California will still receive safe shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after a nationwide batch was discarded because of a manufacturing problem.

The news couldn’t have come at a worse time as California dramatically expands vaccine eligibility to people 50 and older starting today. All Californians 16 and older become qualified on April 15.

All current doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are considered safe as they were produced in a Netherlands facility approved by federal regulators, the New York Times reported.

Newsom said at a press briefing today that the state will still receive slightly more than one million Johnson & Johnson doses from the Netherlands in the next three weeks. 

“Beyond that,” he said, “it’s an open-ended question.” A batch of up to 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also called the Janssen vaccine, reportedly was ruined in recent weeks because of quality-control problems at a Baltimore manufacturing plant, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Johnson & Johnson said in a press release that “one batch of drug substance” used in manufacturing the vaccine “did not meet quality standards.”

Some future production may be delayed while U.S. regulators complete an investigation.

The single-dose vaccine, which requires only refrigeration, has been viewed as critical to speeding vaccinations in California and across the nation in a race against emerging COVID-19 variants.

“We are working with the federal government to learn more about potential impacts,” California Department of Public Health spokesman Darrel Ng told CalMatters Wednesday. “Maintaining the highest standards during vaccine production to ensure safe and effective vaccines is a paramount concern.”

Although Johnson & Johnson doses currently comprise a smaller part of California’s vaccination program than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, state officials expected supplies to increase significantly.

The company projected that 100 million doses would become available nationwide by mid-year. Earlier in March, Johnson & Johnson vaccines were not distributed nationwide as planned because manufacturing was slower than expected, Reuters reported.

Public health officials also are trying to overcome the skepticism of some Americans about the vaccine, which the FDA says is safe and effective in preventing death and serious disease.

Studies show it does not provide as much protection as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. 

Last month, five of California’s top government doctors received the Johnson & Johnson shot to boost public confidence.

Public health officers from nine Bay Area counties also jointly expressed their confidence in the single-dose vaccine, noting — ironically, in retrospect — that “the best vaccine is the one you can get the soonest.”

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.
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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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Is California Blowing it on Unemployment Reform?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2021 at 12:33 PM

Lance Hastings, president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, in Sacramento on March 26. CMTA has received 16 fraudulent EDD claims using their former address, each with different Social Security numbers, since September. - ANNE WERNIKOFF/CALMATTERS
  • Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters
  • Lance Hastings, president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, in Sacramento on March 26. CMTA has received 16 fraudulent EDD claims using their former address, each with different Social Security numbers, since September.
If not for a persistent mail carrier, Lance Hastings might not have discovered all of the fake unemployment claims.

Last September, the head of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association got the first jobless claim from a worker he’d never employed. Mistakes happen, he thought, and reported the letter sent to the group’s boarded-up former Sacramento office as suspected fraud.

“They even used our old CEO’s name and address,” said Hastings, the association’s current CEO. “When we got that one, our spidey sense really got activated.”

But in recent months, as the mail carrier delivered more than a dozen other bogus letters with unfamiliar names and Social Security numbers, Hastings’ skepticism has given way to frustration — especially now that taxpayers like his organization will likely have to help pick up the tab for California’s $21 billion and counting in unemployment debt.

Now, he worries that higher unemployment taxes could make it harder for businesses in California’s already expensive manufacturing sector to recover from the shock of the year-long pandemic. “I think it’s unprincipled,” Hastings said. “These are just nails in the coffin that concern me greatly.”


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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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