Government

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Universities Can’t Yank Financial Aid from Students Who Get Private Scholarships, New Law Says

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2022 at 10:11 AM

ILLUSTRATION BY MIGUEL GUTIERREZ JR., CALMATTERS; ISTOCK
  • Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
As Dixie Samaniego prepared for her first semester at California State University Fullerton, she had one focus: finding a way to pay.  

“I knew that my family wasn’t going to be able to pay, or help in any way financially,” said Samaniego, now a senior, “so I started applying to scholarships everywhere.” 

As a low-income student, she qualified for a federal Pell Grant and a state Cal Grant, but still had a substantial balance to cover. After hours of applying, writing essays, and interviewing, she received a $5,000 award for her first year from a private foundation that aimed to help students who faced barriers to college.  

But then, Samaniego said, she got some unwelcome news from Cal State Fullerton’s financial aid office: Adding the scholarship to her financial aid package would reduce the amount of aid she was getting from the university.

Confused and disappointed, Samaniego decided not to accept the scholarship she’d worked hard to earn.

“I didn’t know a single thing about higher education. I didn’t know a single thing about financial aid,” said Samaniego, who is the first in her family to attend college. “I got all this money, and then I had to make some really difficult decisions.” 

What Samaniego says she experienced has a name: scholarship displacement. The practice occurs when a student receives a scholarship after their initial financial aid award and their college or university reorganizes their institutional aid package, often leading to a net zero gain for the student. And starting next fall, it will be banned in California for low-income students who qualify for a Pell Grant or for state financial aid under the California Dream Act.

California is one of five states in the U.S. with such laws, and only the second in the nation to bar scholarship displacement at both public and private colleges and universities.



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Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Supes Decide Not to Censure Bushnell

Posted By on Tue, Nov 1, 2022 at 2:12 PM

Michelle Bushnell
  • Michelle Bushnell
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided not to censure Supervisor Michelle Bushnell after an outside investigation found she mistreated an employee during a meeting last December, with several of her fellow board members citing the Second District representative’s efforts to address the situation, including attending trainings.

In a 4-0 vote, with Bushnell abstaining, the board instead moved to receive and file the investigation’s findings. The censure — a largely symbolic gesture that basically amounts to a public reprimand — would have required a two-thirds vote.

“It has already been adjudicated in my mind,” Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson said, echoing similar sentiments expressed by supervisors Rex Bohn and Steve Madrone, who said he “applauded” Bushnell for “recognizing (her) part in this.”

Before the discussion started, Bushnell offered to answer any of the other supervisors’ questions. She also noted she went to mediation in this case and there were “a lot of allegations,” with this being the “one finding” sustained by the investigator.

The item was based on a grievance filed by a county planner late last year, alleging Bushnell interfered with the issuance of a cannabis permit on behalf of a constituent and then acted unprofessionally — berating staff — in a meeting with the applicant, the planner and Planning Director John Ford.

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Monday, October 31, 2022

Supes to Consider Bushnell Censure

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2022 at 2:29 PM

Michelle Bushnell
  • Michelle Bushnell
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is set Tuesday to consider the public censure of Supervisor Michelle Bushnell after an investigation sustained an allegation that the Second District representative mistreated a Planning Department staff member during a December of 2021 meeting.

The staff report states the “board action is limited to public censure,” which would require a two-thirds vote, in a situation when a violation of the board’s code of conduct is sustained following an investigation, in this case by Watsonville-based attorney Richard E. Nosky, who is described as a neutral third party investigator.

The findings relate to a grievance filed by a county planner late last year, which alleged the supervisor interfered with the issuance of a cannabis permit on behalf of a constituent and then acted unprofessionally — berating staff — in a meeting with the applicant, the planner and Planning Director John Ford.

According to Nosky’s summary, Bushnell violated two of the board's codes:  the first being the requirement to practice civility and decorum in discussions and debates and the other a requirement that supervisors support a constructive and positive workplace for county employees.

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Friday, October 28, 2022

CDC’s Move Paves Way for California to Require School COVID Vaccines — But Lawmakers Have Given Up for Now

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2022 at 12:01 PM

Amaya Palestino, 6, receives a COVID-9 vaccine from assistant Domonic Flowers at one of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center mobile health clinics outside of Helen Keller Elementary School in Los Angeles on March 16, 2022. - PHOTO BY ALISHA JUCEVIC FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Alisha Jucevic for CalMatters
  • Amaya Palestino, 6, receives a COVID-9 vaccine from assistant Domonic Flowers at one of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center mobile health clinics outside of Helen Keller Elementary School in Los Angeles on March 16, 2022.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination advisors voted last week to recommend all children get the COVID-19 vaccine, a move that does not change California’s list of vaccines required for children to attend school. 

The addition of the COVID-19 vaccine to the CDC’s recommended vaccines for kids is not a mandate for states’ school attendance requirements. Any additions to California’s list must be made by the state Legislature or the state Department of Public Health. In the last 12 months, the Newsom administration and the Legislature separately tried to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for kids to attend school, and both failed.

People involved in those efforts said they do not expect the Legislature to consider a mandate for children again next year, barring a big spike in hospitalizations or deaths.

“Our goal should be getting the immunization rate up,” said Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician Sacramento Democrat, whose bill last session would have mandated the vaccine for children to attend school, with only a medical exemption. “We have work to do on outreach, making sure people have access and educating people about the vaccine.” 

Since the federal government approved vaccines for children on an emergency use basis, children have received the COVID-19 vaccine at much lower rates than adults. So far, 67 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds have received the first series of the vaccine, 38 percent of children 5 to 11 have received the first series and of those under 5 years of age, 5 percent have received the shots, according to state data.



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Monday, October 24, 2022

What You Need to Know About the California Governor Debate

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2022 at 1:47 PM




After months of an extraordinarily quiet race, in which Gov. Gavin Newsom has barely even acknowledged his own campaign for re-election, the Democrat came out blazing Sunday in the only gubernatorial debate, relentlessly attacking his Republican challenger as a stooge of oil companies who has obstructed his every effort to solve the biggest problems facing California.

The barrage — at times remarkably personal, as when Newsom warned that his “extreme” anti-abortion opponent would force 10-year-old incest victims to carry a pregancy to term — seemed to stun Brian Dahle, a state senator and farmer from rural Northern California, who struggled to respond to some of the criticism.

But Dahle was clear in his message to voters, who will decide this fall  whether to give Newsom a second term in the governor’s office: Despite billions of dollars in new funding for everything from schools to homeless services, California is worse off than it’s ever been because Newsom’s solutions are the wrong ones.

He accused the governor of focusing more on national issues than those plaguing the state, a claim that Dahle has repeated with increasing frequency in recent months as Newsom launched broadsides against the leaders of GOP states and speculation mounted that he is laying the groundwork to seek higher office.

“I want to start out by thanking the governor for taking time out of going forward on his dream of being president of the United States and actually coming to California and having a debate,” Dahle said. “Californians are suffering. They’re fleeing California and they’re going to other states where he’s campaigning nationally.”

The exchange prompted the debate moderators to ask Newsom whether he would commit to serving out the full four years should he win another term.

“Yes,” Newsom said. “And I’ve barely been out of state. I was out of state for a few hours to take on his party and [the] leader of his party, Donald Trump, who he is a passionate supporter of.”

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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Agency Battling Wage Theft is Too Short-staffed to Do Its Job

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2022 at 4:03 PM

ILLUSTRATION BY MIGUEL GUTIERREZ JR., CALMATTERS; ISTOCK
  • Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
For decades California’s lawmakers and regulators have taken aim at employers who rob their workers of pay, overtime premiums, tips and other forms of compensation.

Just last year, legislators made certain instances of wage theft a felony. They also fixed their sights on wage theft in the garment industry, eliminating some longstanding pay practices that often resulted in workers being paid below the minimum wage.

Earlier this month, California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower recovered $282,000 in stolen wages and penalties for 22 workers of a Long Beach car wash using a law enacted in January that empowers her office to place liens on the property of problematic worksites.

California’s laws targeting wage theft — which is the failure by bosses to pay workers what they are owed — make it a leader among states, national labor experts say. But in practice, enforcing those laws has not been easy.

State officials and lawmakers say the Labor Commissioner’s office, the California agency overseeing wage and hour violations, has been too short-staffed to do its job, a problem that worsened during the pandemic and subsequent labor shortage.



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Monday, October 17, 2022

California to End COVID State of Emergency

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2022 at 5:17 PM

California's COVID-19 state of emergency will end on Feb. 28, 2023, nearly three years after it began, officials in Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced today.

The announcement came as the new variants raise concerns of another deadly winter spike across the country and as test positivity rates stabilize in California after a nearly three-month decline. More than 95,000 Californians have died as a result of COVID-19, according to state data.

The state of emergency gave Newsom sweeping, often controversial powers to issue mask-wearing mandates and temporary stay-at-home orders in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. It also allowed the governor to enter into billions of dollars in no-bid emergency response contracts with testing facilities, personal protective equipment providers and temporary employment agencies. Some of those contracts were with previously unproven providers who did not deliver services.

Today, 27 provisions of the 74 executive orders issued under the state of emergency remain in effect, officials said. More than 500 provisions have already been finalized . The Newsom administration did not allow the press to name the top officials who participated in an embargoed news conference on the end of the state of emergency.


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Friday, October 14, 2022

This is How Much Money You’ll Get from the California Gas Rebate

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2022 at 11:49 AM

A gas nozzle in a van at a central Fresno gas station on Sept. 29, 2022. - PHOTO BY LARRY VALENZUELA, CALMATTERS/CATCHLIGHT LOCAL
  • Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
  • A gas nozzle in a van at a central Fresno gas station on Sept. 29, 2022.
California is sending money directly to millions of residents to help with rising costs and high gas prices. 

The payments, which started going out Oct. 7, range from $200 to $1,050, depending on income and other factors. About 18 million payments will be distributed over the next few months, benefiting up to 23 million Californians. The cash payouts are part of a June budget deal

CalMatters talked to the state’s Franchise Tax Board to parse what all this means for you. Check out our tool at the bottom of this article to find out how much you’ll get.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Local Developer Started Controversial Home Construction Without Permit

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2022 at 1:57 PM

Travis Schneider's family home has sat partially built under a stop work order since early this year. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Travis Schneider's family home has sat partially built under a stop work order since early this year.
When then Humboldt County Planning Commission Chair Alan Bongio did some undisclosed concrete work at local developer Travis Schneider's home, it may have been during a more than eight-month period in which Schneider was building without a permit, the Journal has learned.

According to Schneider, Bongio did the concrete work on the project one day in 2019, though he said he didn't know the exact date. Humboldt County Planning Director John Ford, meanwhile, confirmed to the Journal Tuesday morning that much of the work done on Schneider's property that year happened before the developer had received a building permit for the project, which was finally issued Nov. 27.

Responding to a Journal inquiry about seeming inconsistencies in the permitting and construction timelines, Ford said a building inspector confirmed unpermitted work was underway on the home in March of 2019 and Schneider was informed he did “not have a building permit and needed to obtain one.”

Construction on the home continued, nonetheless, Ford said, despite the director describing it as “not allowed.” Ford said he does not know whether the county considered issuing a stop work order.


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Monday, October 10, 2022

Congenital Syphilis Rates Soar Across California as Public Health Funding Dwindles

Posted By on Mon, Oct 10, 2022 at 2:42 PM

STD Investigator Hou Vang (left) works in his office as Jena Adams (right), Communicable Disease Program Manager, checks in on him on June 8, 2022. - PHOTO BY LARRY VALENZUELA, CALMATTERS/CATCHLIGHT LOCAL
  • Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
  • STD Investigator Hou Vang (left) works in his office as Jena Adams (right), Communicable Disease Program Manager, checks in on him on June 8, 2022.
In the Central Valley, where two-thirds of the nation’s fruit and nuts are grown, the pastoral landscape masks entrenched racial and economic disparities. Life expectancy in Fresno County drops by 20 years depending on where you live, and it’s those who live in historically poor, redlined or rural neighborhoods who are most impacted by a resurgence of maternal and congenital syphilis.

“Are you familiar with syphilis?” Hou Vang, a county communicable disease specialist, asks a pregnant woman standing in the shade of a tree outside her home.

She lives with her parents in Reedley, California, a small town 30 minutes southeast of the city of Fresno, surrounded by neat rows of grapevines, orange groves and almond trees.

“I mean, you hear things,” she says, distractedly eyeing a family member’s car pulling into the driveway. The woman allowed CalMatters to report on her diagnosis on the condition of anonymity.

“It’s an STD (sexually transmitted disease). We like to disclose in-person in case there are any questions,” Vang says. “You did test positive.”

“Oh my god,” she breathes, tearing up. “I have a lot of questions for my kid’s dad.”

Vang works for the county health department, where he’s on the frontlines of California’s fight against maternal and congenital syphilis. Rates of infection have ballooned to numbers not seen in two decades. Congenital syphilis occurs when the infection is passed from mother to baby during pregnancy. If untreated, the infection has devastating consequences, causing severe neurological disorders, organ damage, and even infant death. In few places is it worse than California’s Central Valley. Fresno was the first county to sound the alarm, alerting the state health department in 2015 when the number of cases more than doubled in one year.

It has only gotten worse since then. Today, California has the sixth-highest rate of congenital syphilis in the country, with rates increasing every year. In 2020, 107 cases per 100,000 live births were reported, a staggering 11-fold increase from a decade prior. That rate far exceeds the California Department of Public Health’s 2020 target to keep congenital syphilis numbers below 9.6 cases per 100,000 live births — a goal it outstripped almost as soon as it was set.

Even more shockingly, the syphilis rate among women of childbearing age was 53 times higher than the 2020 goal.

In October of 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a health alert warning about an "alarming increase in congenital syphilis (CS) and syphilis among females of childbearing age" in 18 Northern California counties, including Humboldt. Around the same time, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Service put out an alert stating that CS had "resurfaced in Humboldt after more than a decade."

DHHS urged sexually active individuals to be test for sexually transmitted diseases at least once a year.

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