California’s fire season went full-2020 and not only started early but is ravaging record amounts of land and structures throughout the state. Please, remember that fire season preparedness is absolutely necessary and we cannot be too careful.
We start the final months of 2020 with uplifting local news however, as the county’s positive COVID-19 case rates are at a 3.6% average and remain below the county’s 8% average over a 14-day rolling period. Reopening guidance from the state is expected tomorrow.
More exciting news, tomorrow, SeaWorld San Diego will reopen for the first time since the start of the pandemic with the launch of a new outdoor experience, Zoo Days: Bayside BBQ & Brews! Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy the park’s animal exhibits and a limited-time food and drink menu, featuring San Diego’s best craft beers. Details here.
Negotiations have restarted between Pelosi and Meadows. But Meadows says he is still “not hopeful.”
The CDC issued updated guidelines that almost immediately received push back from local public health experts. Specifically, the CDC guidance excludes testing of asymptomatic individuals even if they have been exposed. At his briefing on Wednesday the Governor said he disagreed with this “full stop.” Just kidding! CDC changed it back.
The U.S. Department of Education has extended relief on student loan payments through December 31, 2020 (originally set to expire September 30). All federal issued loans will be held at a 0% interest rate through the end of the year and required payments will be suspended until 2021 without penalty.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has implemented protocols at various ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexican border with the intent to discourage non-essential travel. Local ports affected are the San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, and Calexico West land ports of entry. The new protocols call for the closure of multiple vehicle and pedestrian lanes during “peak non-essential travel times” and non-essential travelers may be sent to secondary inspection for further inquiry. The Chamber is greatly concerned about these new protocols which increase border wait times. It is not only non-essential travelers that are impacted. Our essential workforce from those in healthcare, the food industry, and other service sectors are also subject to these extended wait times.
The Chamber has dedicated its work to advocating for reduced border wait times which cost our region an estimated $7.2 billion annually in lost economic output. The impacts of these wait times extend beyond the economy as they pose a risk to public health through increased air pollution and now during the pandemic, create a scenario of increased risk of exposure. If businesses can operate safely with strict health protocols, so too can the border. An effective way to mitigate the spread of this disease across our border is a coordinated binational effort around social distancing and mask wearing.
While wait times have fluctuated since these protocols were put in place, we anticipate extended border wait times again this weekend and advise those crossing for non-essential purposes to reconsider their plans.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the U.S. Department of State has temporarily extended the ability for consular offices to waive the in-person interview requirement for nonimmigrant visa renewals. This includes the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana. Applicants are now eligible for an interview waiver for an extended expiration period of 24 months, from a previous 12 month period. This policy remains in effect until December 31, 2020. For more information including eligibility requirements and instructions on applying for a visa without an interview, please visit the U.S. Consulate General’s website.
The state department responsible for processing unemployment and disability claims has been called to task for poor performance, with only 60% of the calls to the agency being answered. Amidst record-high unemployment, the challenges in getting through old automated phone systems to receive guidance on pending claims, the frustration has periodically bubbled up to the attention of state legislators.
The additional $300 unemployment benefits from the federal level will begin being processed in September, undoubtedly a welcome source of additional income for the millions not working.
Adding to the issue is rising workers comp claims at the state, potentially costing employers and the state significant sums of money as we grapple with how to move forward.
The state has decided to charge forward with a $1.4B contract with a major lab to guarantee test results within 48 hours–hoping to bypass some of the challenges with delays in results–and prevent delays in good data to help its overall response to the pandemic.
And while we are talking about money, the auditor has stepped in with a letter to the Governor highlighting that coronavirus dollars from the feds are at “high-risk.” As such, she’ll be stepping in to keep close watch on how that money is spent.
The state’s judicial council has weighed in on eviction relief. As the legislature tries to pass legislation to address the households vulnerable to eviction due to the pandemic. The council voted to stay eviction proceedings until September 1, assuming that legislation will have passed by that time, however a deal is yet to be reached on rent relief as of this writing.
Check out AB 685, which was gut-and-amended recently to re-emerge as a bill around employer responsibility with regard to covid-positive employees. More specifically, the bill states that if a workplace is doing what the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) deems to be an unacceptable job with regard to protecting employees from covid, that entry to the site may be denied. The bill also includes specific reporting processes required when an employee is positive or otherwise quarantined. The bill was amended on August 25 and is currently under review. If you’d like further info, review the floor analysis.
The legislative session is scheduled to wrap on Monday, August 31. While we expect the Senate and Assembly to pass dozens of bills related to pandemic relief over the next five days, the number of bills anticipated to pass will be significantly less than previous sessions. Over the next few weeks, we will do a deep dive on new laws passed this year.
The county’s Department of Education stopped accepting elementary school reopening waiver applications, citing the assumption that all schools will be able to reopen on September 1 due to the county’s decreased case rate. County allowance is only one step in the opening process, however. San Diego Unified has said it may not reopen for months as it sets higher standards for reopening.
On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors adopted a $6.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2020-2021. The budget added an additional $140 million from the initial proposal of $6.4 billion. The approved budget includes a 9.1% increase for Health and Human Services to aid the county’s response to COVID-19. This includes $100 million to support the county’s “T3 strategy”: testing, tracing and treatment, food distribution, and providing personal protective equipment (PPE). The board unanimously approved Mayor Faulconer and Supervisor Fletcher’s call for $5.4 million to provide on-site behavioral health services to homeless individuals who will be moved from the Convention Center to the city’s proposed permanent supportive housing. Some other significant amendments can be reviewed here.
On Wednesday, it was announced that the City of San Diego will receive $27.7 million for the purchase of motels to transition into housing for homeless individuals currently residing in the Convention Center. This is in addition to county funds being set aside for service delivery, marking a significant forward step toward additional permanent housing solutions.
Perhaps not policy-specific, but adjacent: huge shout out to Chamber board member, Bank of America for a $100,000 donation to the San Diego Housing Commission to help low income families pay their rent.
Capital Opportunities & Resources:
- The County of San Diego’s Childcare Provider Grant Program began accepting applications Monday, August 24. Applications are due by Friday, September 4 at 5:00pm PST. Apply here.
- City of San Diego Temporary Outdoor Business Operations Permit – Businesses (restaurants, retail stores, gyms, hair salons, nail salons) can now expand into the public right-of-way, parking lots, and public spaces. Information on how to apply for a Temporary Outdoor Business Operations Permit can be found here.
- San Diego County Small Business Stimulus Grant – Businesses must have fewer than 100 employees, be headquartered in San Diego County, have 1-year operating history, and have experienced financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to be eligible. Apply here.
- Applications are due on the following dates:
- Districts 3 & 4 – October 16
- Districts 1, 2, and 5 deadlines have passed
- Calling All Californians: #ShopSafeShopLocal – A new state-wide website with resources for small business owners and entrepreneurs, including a digital medial toolkit, quick links to industry guidance, direct access to PPE, and free business consulting through the Small Business Development Center network.
- The San Diego and Imperial SBDC has developed a webinar on PPP Loan Forgiveness. Watch it on-demand here.
- Businesses can also reach out to their nearest Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which has developed the Small Business Survival Resources Guide to help business owners navigate through the chaos COVID-19 is having on our communities. SBDC can help with applying for relief, guiding you through available resources and assisting with cash flow concerns, supply-chain interruptions, workforce capacity, insurance coverage, and more–all at no cost.
- The City of Escondido has partnered with the San Diego North Economic Development Council to administer the Small Business Grant Program to Escondido small businesses. Learn more here.
- The State Treasurer’s Office has published this list of Federal, State, Local, Private, and Non-profit resources available to small businesses.
- Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce Relief Fund – Black-owned businesses can apply for funding and technical assistance here. Email questions and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Applications are due on the following dates:
International Business Affairs:
The State of Baja issued a bid for a 30-year contract for the development of a photovoltaic power plant. The project seeks to provide the state its own supply of electricity and meet the state’s 3,040 megawatt demand which often causes energy and water deficits, especially during the periods of high temperature, forcing the state to rely on private companies and volatile prices. Deficits have further increased this summer due to a greater percentage of individuals working and studying from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The solar plant project is estimated to decrease the energy deficit by 20-30 percent and help reduce electricity bills across the state. A series of meetings will be held next month to address questions and hear presentations from interested companies, with a final meeting on October 8th where a contract will be awarded.
The Chamber is planning a virtual conference on our binational region’s energy sector. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.
For more information on the Chamber’s upcoming International Business Affairs Forum, or to register, please visit our website.