California virus aid plan would pay $600 each to millions


Farmworkers, considered essential workers under the current COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, work a strawberry field Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Santa Paula, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Millions of low-income Californians would receive $600 checks under a $9.6 billion coronavirus aid package announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders.

The plan announced Wednesday would cut checks to about 5.7 million people who earn less than $30,000 per year, as well as some immigrants living in the country illegally who were excluded from federal COVID-19 relief payments made during the Trump administration.

The plan also provides a new round of small business grants and more housing assistance for farmworkers infected by the virus.

The plan “will help those who are hurting most,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a joint statement. “We are building an economic foundation for the recovery of jobs, small businesses and, indeed, our everyday lives.”

The Legislature plans to quickly take up the measure, with votes expected as early as Monday after budget committee hearings starting Thursday. Legislators are hoping that money for some of the largest segments of the plan can be distributed in April.

The plan calls for more money than Newsom proposed in his state budget last month, due in part to state revenues that came in more than $10 billion higher than expected.

About 5.7 million low-income residents would be eligible for one-time payments. Those getting $600 include households that received a California earned income tax credit in 2020. That carries the biggest price tag in the relief package, at $2.3 billion.

Immigrants and others who lack Social Security Numbers but have Individual Tax Identification Numbers, income below $75,000 and were ineligible for recent federal payments would get $600 — boosted to $1,200 if they also qualify for the California earned income tax credit.

The plan also widens Newsom’s original plan by providing payments to some people who receive supplemental income under various state and federal programs, including immigrants and people who are 65 or older, blind or disabled.

The timing of those payments is being worked out with federal officials.

For small businesses affected by the pandemic, the package quadruples to more than $2 billion in money available for grants of up to $25,000. Newsom last month had recommended adding $500 million to the program but state lawmakers thought that figure was too small.

More half the 120-member Legislature signed on to a proposal to put $2.6 billion of California’s unanticipated revenue into one-time grants for small businesses and nonprofits.

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