(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times/TNS)

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Newsom signs COVID-19 stimulus bills to send money to Californians, small businesses

Sophia Bollag

The Sacramento Bee

California will send money to low-income families and other assistance to struggling small businesses as part of nearly $7.6 billion in economic stimulus measures Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Tuesday.

Under the deal Newsom negotiated with lawmakers, millions of low-income Californians will receive $600 payments from the state, on top of the money many already received from the federal government.

Small businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic will be able to apply for a share of $2 billion in grants.

Newsom and lawmakers are relying on a surprise surplus to fund the aid programs.

At the start of the pandemic, state budget experts predicted a steep drop in tax revenue. But over the last seven months, California residents and businesses have sent more money to the state’s coffers than expected, in large part because the recession induced by the pandemic left the state’s highest earners relatively unscathed, even as it has devastated low-income families and small businesses.

“I cannot overstate how critical the immediate action we passed today is,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, told reporters Monday after the Legislature passed the bills. “Californians, as I’ve said before, are hungry and they’re hurting, wondering how they will make meager ends meet.”

The $600 state payments will go to people who receive the California Earned Income Tax Credit, a payment for families earning less than $30,000 that includes some undocumented and mixed-status families. California families will begin receiving those payments after they file their 2020 taxes.

“File your taxes early,” Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, advised Californians who believe they may qualify.

People with questions about whether they qualify or how to claim the credit can visit www.caleitc4me.org.

Some undocumented immigrant families who file for the tax credit using individual taxpayer identification numbers will receive a second $600 payment, bringing their total state aid to $1,200. Lawmakers set aside more money for those families because they were left out of the federal aid package.

The measures Newsom signed will also provide $600 payments to people on the state’s welfare program CalWORKS. People in that program can expect to see that money by mid-April, according to Newsom’s office. The state will also provide $600 payments to disabled and elderly people in the SSI/SSP program and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants, but the timing of those payments is still unclear.

As part of the stimulus package, small businesses hurt by the coronavirus can apply for grants up to $25,000. Licensed barbers and cosmetologists, as well as restaurants and bars licensed to serve alcohol, will be exempt from paying licensing fees to the state.

The aid package Newsom signed into law also includes $24 million to help agricultural workers isolate after possible COVID-19 exposure, $35 million for food banks and diapers and $100 million in financial aid for low-income community college students.

It also distributes $400 million in federal funds for child care and restores $857 million cut last year from the University of California, California State University, the state court system and other areas.

The bills Newsom signed Tuesday represent most of the $9.57 billion economic stimulus deal announced last week. Lawmakers passed most of the bills Monday, but held off on one bill that would have created $2 billion in tax breaks for businesses that got federal paycheck protection program loans. Atkins said that the bill is still being negotiated and will likely be changed in the next few days, potentially to add more aid money.

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