Bay Area Headlines: Monday, 5/25/20, AM
The Future Of Education / Church Congregations May Gather Again Soon / Economic Recovery Uncertainty / Unemployment Benefit Frustration
The Future Of Education
It’s not yet known when California’s K-12 schools will reopen. But there will be a lot of changes once they do.
Educators and health experts are reimagining how schools might safely operate this fall in the new world of COVID-19. For grade schoolers, that playground will probably still be off limits. All students and staff will likely have their temperatures checked upon arrival. And there could be just be less moving around. Dr. Dean Blumberg is an infectious disease specialist at the UC Davis Children’s Hospital in Sacramento:
“So for example, the children might all be in the same classroom and instead of going from classroom to classroom, the teachers might go from classroom to classroom. So that there would be more limited exposure.”
Schools might also need to add isolation rooms, says Jeff Freitas, head of the California Federation of Teachers:
“Not as punishment, but to protect other kids and adults on campus.”
Freitas says smaller class sizes would also help with social distancing. But with the state projecting big cuts to education, that might not be possible. Governor Gavin Newsom has said schools could reopen as early as July or August, depending on conditions in each community. The final decision is up to individual school districts.
Church Congregations May Gather Again Soon
Governor Newsom says he plans to loosen restrictions on churches and religious gatherings in the coming days. He says he recognizes the importance of religion during the pandemic.
“At a time of so much anxiety and uncertainty, faith and that devotion to something higher and better and bigger than yourself becomes even more pronounced and more profound and more important.”
The move comes after President Trump deemed houses of worship essential and ordered states to let them reopen this weekend.
At a press conference Friday, Newsom declined to comment on pressures from the federal government to loosen the state’s order regarding churches.
Meanwhile, over a thousand pastors in California have said they plan to defy the state’s order if restrictions on churches are not lifted by the end of the month.
Economic Recovery Uncertainty
California lost two point three million jobs in April. That’s more than in any month since the state started tracking employment figures. But some economists are predicting a strong and swift recovery.
California lost more jobs last month than during the entire two and a half year span of the Great Recession. And it saw it’s unemployment rate nearly triple to 15 and a half percent.
But because many of the jobs counted as lost are furloughs, economist Jeff Michael at the University of the Pacific in Stockton says employment could bounce back soon:
“The speed of these layoffs and the scale of them is unprecedented. It’s also true that a much larger share of them than usual has been classified as temporary.”
Economist Lynn Reaser of Point Loma Nazarene University agrees:
“The pace of the recovery could be fairly dramatic as we see parts of the economy improve.”
Reaser says there are some unknowns: Will consumers feel safe going out to shop? Will they have enough money to spend? And will businesses be able to quickly return to full capacity? All of these will determine how many and how fast the jobs come back.
Unemployment Benefit Frustration
While the economy may bounce back quickly, many Californians are currently having issues filing for unemployment benefits. State lawmakers expressed their frustration during a legislative hearing on Thursday.
Some Assembly members had the chance to grill the director of EDD about technological issues and slow-arriving unemployment benefits. Those included Todd Gloria:
“What my constituents are telling me is they call this number, they go through a series of phone tree [transfers], and then they get hung up on.”
“I understand the challenges that you’re being faced with. No one anticipated this, so I have a certain level of sympathy there. But I have more sympathy for the folks in my district.”
And David Chiu:
“There’s not a sense of urgency. There’s a sense of tremendous bureaucracy.”
Another lawmaker said some of his constituents reported waiting six to seven weeks to receive their benefits.
EDD Director Sharon Hilliard said at the beginning of this crisis, her staff was like California’s unemployment rate — it was at a record low.
“It is sheer capacity for us, and we are doing everything under our power to improve our capacity.”
The state has paid out more than 12 billion dollars since mid-March.
But lawmakers say even with the massive demand, the agency isn’t focusing enough resources on helping people file claims or providing basic information.