Governor Gavin Newsom signed several budget bills February 23 after the Legislature fast-tracked measures that Newsom said are needed immediately to help Californians affected by the pandemic.

“This critical assistance – including child care, relief for small business owners, direct cash support to individuals and households, financial aid for community college students and more – will help keep our communities afloat as the state continues to confront the immense challenges of this moment,” Newsom said in a press release announcing his action.

The “immediate action agreement” was unveiled February 17 after being negotiated behind closed doors between Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders. The package was approved by both houses of the Legislature on February 22, and was signed into law the next day.

The stimulus package includes $9.6 billion in budget changes – spending increases and relief measures – including $4.7 billion directed to small businesses.

The “budget bill junior” (which precedes the main budget bill that must be approved before the 2021-22 fiscal year begins July 1) was AB 85 (Assembly Budget Committee). The trailer bills to implement specific budget provisions were:

  • AB 81 (Ting) – Conforms state law with federal provisions to allow the state to assist individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • AB 82 (Ting) – Adds more than $400 million in new federal funds to provide stipends of $525 per enrolled child for all state-subsidized child care and preschool providers serving approximately 400,000 children in subsidized care statewide.
  • SB 87 (Caballero) – Provides $2.1 billion for grants up to $25,000 for small businesses impacted by the pandemic, and allocates $50 million of the total for nonprofit cultural institutions.
  • SB 88 (Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee) – Provides a one-time stimulus payment of $600 to low-income Californians who are legal residents, and $1,200 to those who are not.
  • SB 94 (Skinner) – Waives various license fees for two years for approximately 59,000 restaurants and bars, saving the establishments $455 to $1,235 per year, and waiving fees for approximately 600,000 barbers and cosmetologists licensed through the Department of Consumer Affairs.

In other budget-related news:

Lawmakers Question Effectiveness of Spending on Homelessness. Democratic and Republican lawmakers complained February 24 that the state’s spending on programs to address homelessness has not been effective, and called for more focus on getting results.

“We’ve spent close to $3 billion over the past number of years, and I look around and I don’t see any change, quite frankly,” Democratic Senator Anna Caballero said during a joint hearing of four Senate committees. “It seems to be getting worse.”

The no-vote hearing was held to take more than three hours of testimony from the directors of several state and local agencies that operate programs intended to reduce homelessness and help those who are living in the streets.

After hearing descriptions of Project Homekey, Project Roomkey and other efforts, Democratic Senate Robert Hertzberg gave an impassioned plea to shake up the status quo.

“It is not time to be reasonable, it’s time to fix – no excuses,” Hertzberg said, adding: “Programs, schmograms … fix it or get out of the way.”

“Throwing money at the problem … without understanding the problem isn’t going to solve anything,” Democratic Senator Melissa Hurtado added.

Republican Senator Jim Nielsen said past state efforts have not solved homelessness because the state “dumped its problems on counties, without providing resources.”

Lawmakers repeatedly referenced this month’s state audit that said government spending on homelessness is “disjointed,” and some counties continue to fund ongoing programs without scrutinizing them to determine if the programs are effective.