Bay Area Headlines: Friday, 5/22/20, AM | KALW

Bay Area Headlines: Friday, 5/22/20, AM

May 22, 2020

 

Workers Comp Bills Considered / Bay Area Budget Cuts / Churches Planning To Resume In-Person Services / Park Inequities

Workers Comp Bills Considered 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced state lawmakers to re-evaluate their priorities for this year. So far, there are about a half-dozen bills to expand workers’ comp for employees who test positive for the virus while on the job. But they differ on who would be covered.

Some would protect grocery and other employees deemed “essential” during the crisis. Democratic Assemblyman and former Sacramento Sheriff’s Captain Jim Cooper is running one of the more narrow proposals, which would only cover first responders and nurses:

 

“The bill’s pretty straightforward. It will rarely be used. But we want to make sure that we cover these folks, because they take care of us day in and day out.”

The California Chamber of Commerce argues that these proposals would raise costs for already struggling businesses and hospitals, since workers’ comp is funded by employer-paid insurance.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that extends benefits for food, farm and health care workers who catch the virus — but it expires in early July.

Bay Area Budget Cuts

The financial fallout from the pandemic has hit the state government hard. Local governments, too. Some are already making major cuts. 

San Francisco’s Deputy Budget Director Ashley Groffenberger said Wednesday that all city departments must cut their budgets by 10 percent in the next fiscal year and 15 the year after. The cuts don’t apply to the MTA or the Public Utilities Commission.

Groffenberger told the board of supervisors that the Mayor’s goal is to pare down services while keeping equity top of mind.

“The big take away from from this presentation is that the upcoming budget is going to require really tough and painful choices.”

The city has frozen hiring and asked all departments to reexamine their contracts. Public hearings on the budget will be held in August.

Meanwhile, Palo Alto’s city manager proposed cutting his own salary by 20 percent and other top management’s by 15 after facing a backlash from residents over earlier proposed cuts to services. 

Churches Planning To Resume In-Person Services

A group of California religious leaders say they’ll reopen their places of worship by May 31st. As many as 3,000 sites could be involved.

Governor Newsom said, Monday, that religious institutions may be allowed to reopen within weeks. But attorney Robert Tyler, who represents the churches, says that plan is unfair because other businesses are already open.

 

“There’s something really wrong when a church is not deemed essential by the government.”

This week, the federal Justice Department told Newsom that his plan violates civil rights protections, by placing an unfair burden on churches.

Several churches have also sued California over their closures. A federal judge ruled in one case that the state can ban religious services for public health reasons.

Meanwhile, a Butte County resident tested positive for COVID-19 after attending an in-person service on Mother’s Day with nearly 200 people.

Park Inequities

Parks are beginning to open across California at different paces. But not all cities offer the same access to residents.

One out of three Californians don’t live within 10 minutes of a quality park. That’s according to new data from the Trust for Public Land. The group ranks the top 100 cities yearly on access, acreage, investment, and park amenities like basketball hoops and senior centers.

In California Irvine ranks the highest at seven and Fresno the lowest at 92. Guillermo Rodriguez with the groups says it’s crucial to see parks and equity as tied together. He says to think of Irvine in the top 10 and Santa Ana at 85.

 

“These two cities are right next to each other separated by a highway. For us in California it's about thinking about disadvantaged communities, and how to create access and opportunity.”

The difference between Sacramento and Stockton is similar. He says the results are important because people are turning to parks during the pandemic to restore a sense of calm.