|Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Jan. 29, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.
Rent is due in three days and many Californians are struggling to pay.
According to an estimate last week by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office, about 90,000 California households are behind on their rent. Other estimates have been much higher. As my colleague Liam Dillon recently reported, the pandemic’s financial toll has particularly battered low-income tenants across the state who already needed to dedicate significant portions of their income to cover California’s high housing costs.
With the state’s existing eviction moratorium set to expire days from now, fears of a coming “eviction cliff” have loomed large. But the worst has been staved off, at least for now.
On Thursday, the Legislature approved an emergency bill to extend the state’s partial eviction moratorium through June.
[Read the story: “California lawmakers vote to extend COVID-19 eviction protections through June” in the Los Angeles Times]
As my colleague Patrick McGreevy reports, the bill provides eviction protection for tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent through June. It also provides $2.6 billion in federal funds for rent subsidies that will help pay most past-due rent by low-income tenants dating back to April. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that he plans to sign the bill.
Some Democratic lawmakers, such as newly elected Assemblyman Alex Lee (D-San Jose), said they voted for the bill even though they thought it didn’t go far enough to protect tenants. Lee gave his support but noted that, if landlords decide not to accept the relief, tenants get less help and are at risk of eviction, as Patrick reports.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
Canceled appointments and growing confusion over second COVID-19 vaccine doses in L.A. County: As more Los Angeles County residents than ever receive their first doses, tightening vaccine supplies and online scheduling problems are hampering the ability of some to complete the two-dose vaccination process.
On Thursday, potentially thousands of people had their vaccine appointments canceled after the supermarket chain Ralphs — a large vaccine distributor — said the county’s Department of Public Health, at the request of state officials, had “recovered” 10,000 doses previously intended for scheduled appointments, according to emails obtained by The Times. A Ralphs spokesperson said only first-dose customers were affected, but it only added to the confusion. Many other residents are facing problems navigating the county’s online scheduling system, a confusing and frustrating process that can result in hours of wasted time. Los Angeles Times
A quick explanatory note for L.A. County readers struggling with their own second dose appointments: The guidance from the city and county has been pretty fluid, but as of Thursday night individuals vaccinated at city-run sites (such as Dodger Stadium) and county-run sites (such as the Forum or Magic Mountain) were being told that their second appointments would be auto-scheduled for them and they would be notified about it by email. If you received your first dose at a retail pharmacy, or at a clinic or health center not being operated by the city or county, reach out to the location where you were vaccinated for more information on getting your second dose.
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L.A. has avoided a New York-level COVID-19 hospital meltdown as conditions improve: With the region now in its fourth week of declining hospitalizations, it’s clear that the county is decisively on its way out of its third and deadliest coronavirus surge. Los Angeles Times
L.A. poet Amanda Gorman and L.A.-raised second daughter Ella Emhoff both signed major modeling contracts after their star-making turns at the inauguration. Los Angeles Times
There’s a special level of ire Dr. Jerry Abraham reserves for the racial inequities he sees in vaccine distribution — as illustrated by the demographic discrepancy between the population his South L.A. clinic serves and the people who wait in long standby lines outside the clinic. But Abraham isn’t waiting for top-down fixes from politicians. In a matter of weeks, he and his team have pioneered a number of workarounds to ensure that the people in South L.A. who need the vaccine most — healthcare workers and those 65 and older — can get it. Los Angeles Times
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
A conspiracy-friendly GOP lawmaker falsely suggested that PG&E started the deadly Camp fire with a space laser. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has since deleted the Facebook post where she spread a conspiracy that PG&E started the 2018 fire with space lasers in a clean-energy experiment gone awry. (The utility was responsible for sparking California’s deadliest fire, but the cause was aged electrical equipment, not space lasers.) San Francisco Chronicle
In other California-related Marjorie Taylor Greene news, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) announced that he plans to introduce a resolution to oust her from Congress after recent news reports that she had previously called for violence against Democrats on social media. Per the story, a “two-thirds majority is required to expel a member from the House, meaning Gomez’s resolution is almost certain to fail in a chamber where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority.” Politico
CRIME AND COURTS
A state audit says that California failed to heed warnings of unemployment benefit fraud for months, resulting in billions of dollars paid out on fraudulent claims. Los Angeles Times
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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Heavy rains along the Central Coast triggered mudslides and debris flows, damaging at least 25 structures. Los Angeles Times
A man navigates mud while recovering belongings from a neighbor’s home that was damaged in a mudslide on Jan. 27, 2021, in Salinas. The area, located beneath the River fire burn scar, is susceptible to mudslides after last year’s wildfires. (Noah Berger / Associated Press)
Cicely Tyson, an actress who captured the power and grace of Black women in America, has died. Tyson’s memoir “Just as I Am” was released earlier this week. Los Angeles Times
President Biden’s “Buy American” order could be a boon for Modesto-area peaches: Much of the nation’s canned peach supply comes from plants in Modesto and Lodi, but a large portion of the canned peaches served in school lunches are imported from China. Modesto Bee
A poem to to start your Friday: From “Perspective Is Supposed to Yield Clarity” by Dawn Lundy Martin. Poets.org
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Los Angeles: Rain, 55. San Diego: Rain, 57. San Francisco: Partly sunny, 52. San Jose: Partly sunny, 55. Fresno: Some rain, 54. Sacramento: Possible rain, 54. More weather is here.
Today’s California memory comes from Frank L. Tobe:
When the San Diego Freeway was being built, I would take dates up Sepulveda to Sunset and then to the Beverly Hills Hotel for “drinks.” Since we were underage, it was really to romantically stroll the grounds and enjoy the free appetizers they provided in the Polo Lounge. A shiny steel bowl of avocado dip (avocado mixed with hard-boiled eggs and Worcester sauce) with Ritz crackers came with every “drink” order. Four years later, when I returned from the Army, the I-405 was completed, Sepulveda was no longer the main way through the mountains, and the hotel started to charge for the appetizers.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.