SCV lawmakers help secure $1B in emergency funds to fight COVID-19

Sacramento, State Capitol Building

Santa Clarita Valley lawmakers helped secure $1 billion in emergency funds for California’s fight against the novel coronavirus that has spread across the state, including in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The bills, which were rapidly drafted in response to the ever-changing developments of  COVID-19, set aside $500 million from the state’s general fund to activate two hospitals and help medical staff, nursing homes and child care facilities access vital equipment as they ramp up deep cleaning. Should it be necessary, an additional $500 million will also be available. 

The state also plans to spend funds on hotel beds to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus among those experiencing homelessness. 

On Monday, state legislators approved the emergency funds with the Assembly voting 68-0 and the Senate on a 32-0 vote. 

The swift response came after Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote to the state Legislature that “we must rise to the challenge facing our state with every tool at our disposal and without a second of delay.” 

He added: “Our state, our nation, and our world are facing a challenge unprecedented in modern times. The COVID-19 pandemic compels us all to find new ways of coming together, even as we must also seek out new ways of staying apart.”

In addition to the main spending bills, lawmakers also approved an education measure, Assembly Bill 117, which will appropriate $100 million to local school districts so they can purchase materials and protective equipment. Districts and other school programs will also continue to receive state financial support even if they have closed due to COVID-19 “up until the school reopens and the regular school session reconvenes,” the bill reads. 

SCV legislators said they will work with local partners and the state to help assure that the emergency funds will be used as directed. 

State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said Tuesday he was happy to support the measure but with some reservations. 

“In terms of the money that we appropriated yesterday, it was something that was obviously necessary,” he said. “Unfortunately, Gov. Newsom is not working in a bipartisan way. For example, in the resolution we passed, it talked about spending money to help small businesses, which I think is great, but we asked what that looks like and they had no idea.” 

In response, Wilk said he has been actively listening to local small businesses’ concerns and plans on bringing new ideas to the governor’s administration to support them. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced it is accepting up to $2 million in disaster assistance loans to help businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak. Loans are available for debt payments, inventory, payroll and other bills.  

State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, said Monday night in a statement after the passage of the $1-billion emergency investment that “things are about to get worse but we are throwing everything we can at this crisis.” 

He advised his constituents in a video on social media to “comply with all public health guidelines. This is not a moment to be selfish. You may feel like you’re alone in your house but we are all in this together.” 

In a statement, Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, said: “In the coming weeks, I will work closely with our local partners to make sure these funds are properly targeted and disbursed, in addition to providing whatever service or resource assistance needed for the community.” 

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, said in a statement that COVID-19 is presenting “a unique historic set of challenges” for all but that he was “confident that even though circumstances are hard to process at this moment in time, collectively, we will successfully adapt.” 

The California Legislature agreed Monday to recess until April 13, though chambers can still decide to meet. All SCV lawmakers’ offices are welcoming phone calls rather than walk-in meetings for those needing help finding information or connecting with resources. 

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