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Questions over any potential rent, mortgage and lost income assistance are mounting in Orange County as scores of workers find themselves losing paychecks from business closures to help stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order last week removed red tape to unemployment insurance as many employees are losing paychecks because bars, diners, nightclubs and other public venues have shut down across the state in efforts to help curb the novel Coronavirus from spreading.
The March 14 executive order removed the mandatory one-week waiting period for unemployment and disability benefits.
A spokesperson for the state Employment Development Department, which handles the claims and payouts, said the executive order doesn’t necessarily speed up the process, but it does put more cash in people’s hands because it moves up the effective date to when the claim is filed, instead of pushing it back a week.
The state doesn’t yet have figures on new claims since scores of businesses have closed.
“Our benefits processing branches are working hard to compile the most up-to-date application figures possible, but as the EDD is receiving a substantially large amount of claim applications on a daily basis, there will definitely be lag in the data. As soon as we have comparative claims figures available to share, we will likely distribute a news release linking to the data,” said spokesman Barry White in a Wednesday afternoon email.
The Orange County Social Services Agency, despite closing its lobby to the public, is still processing online filings for assistance programs. One program includes an emergency cash assistance of up to $200 for immediate needs like rent or medical bills.
The agency’s website encourages people to apply for benefits through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program.
The CalWORKS program is geared for low-income families.
Many residents’ concerns about financial woes began to rise after Orange County after Public Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick, on Tuesday, ordered all bars, night clubs and entertainment venues to shut down. Restaurants can now only do take out and delivery services.
Quick’s order came on the heels of Newsom’s Sunday plea to businesses owners to close bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
“We certainly are living in an unprecedented time and there are certainly people in our community who are hurting,” said Fullerton City Councilwoman Jan Flory during Tuesday’s meeting.
Fullerton, Santa Ana, Buena Park, Newport Beach and Anaheim have declared states of emergency in order to unlock state and federal emergency funds.
If a city calls a state of emergency, it could also halt evictions, according to another executive order issued by Newsom on Monday.
“People shouldn’t lose or be forced out of their home because of the spread of COVID-19,” said Newsom in a news release. “Over the next few weeks, everyone will have to make sacrifices – but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them. I strongly encourage cities and counties take up this authority to protect Californians.”
But, cities have to explicitly adopt their own local ordinances on any potential moratorium Fullerton staff is researching the proposal.
Anaheim Councilman Jose Moreno said he’s trying to get some gap relief initiatives before any state or federal relief packages come to residents. He’s looking at things like an eviction moratorium or rental assistance fund.
“But until that comes, we as a local city have to figure out how to provide some protections for residents,” Moreno said in a Wednesday interview.
“The important point is that government — for the right reasons. for public health interest — is intervening in the economy, resulting in a slow down of the economy,” Moreno said.
Anaheim city spokesman Mike Lyster said the city is currently watching potential relief policies unfold at the state and federal levels.
“For the benefit of our city and all of California, Anaheim’s first choice is to see a unified statewide policy as the best option for here and elsewhere. As with everything regarding coronavirus, it is a fluid, evolving situation. We have taken note of Wednesday’s federal action on evictions and foreclosures through Housing and Urban Development. Now we are watching in the very near term to see if there are additional developments from Sacramento,” Lyster said in a Wednesday afternoon email.
The housing department suspended evictions and foreclosures on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for 60 days, according to Politico. The two companies hold about half of the nation’s mortgages.