The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating, and California must continue to act decisively to help mitigate the damage.
As a California state senator representing the 8th Senate District, I have learned heartbreaking stories from employees and business owners who are seeing their dreams and investments dismantled. If lucky enough to have employment, many working parents are forced to juggle work with the new demands of homeschooling, often while vulnerable elderly fend for themselves in solitude. As a father of two school-aged children with elderly parents this hits close to home.
There can be no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has thrust us into economic and social uncertainty, but as Californians, as Americans, we can and will get through these hardships. But we must find ways to responsibly restart our economy.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s early precautions enabled California to be better situated than many states and countries. We need to replicate this decisive direction to restart California’s economy while still protecting the health and welfare of our residents, as they are not mutually exclusive priorities. Newsom and his economic recovery team must devise a clear structure for local authorities to reopen businesses in measured phases.
Local leaders are appealing to the governor for the opportunity to address the economic status of their communities. The six indicators the governor has laid out provide framework metrics for gradually reopening our economy, but they require clarity and specificity to support true economic traction. To aid in this effort, I offer five precise steps, among many others being considered, the state can include in its economic recovery efforts.
Help small businesses survive: Senate Bill 1457 will provide regulatory relief for small businesses impacted by the economic fallout. Now more than ever, California should provide regulatory relief and allow state agencies to waive or reduce civil penalties for those operating reasonably and in good faith.
Empower local authorities to implement phased reopening: As a former county supervisor, I believe in giving local authorities the jurisdiction to make decisions based on their circumstances so long as they are done in coordination and compliance with state health priorities. California should give counties the ability to develop phased reopening strategies for business venues while still ensuring public health concerns are of primary importance.
Suspend Assembly Bill 5: Workplace flexibility is more important than ever. AB 5 prohibits freelancers and independent contractors from providing important services. If we are to ensure California’s economy gets back on track we must provide Californians with every opportunity to support their families. Senate Bill 990 will effectively suspend this legislation and allow independent contractors to provide the services we need, whether it be respiratory therapists, academic tutors or food delivery services among other specialties.
Increase water allocations for food producers: Agriculture is not only vital to the residents of California but also a matter of national security. Newsom must raise water allocations by at least 20 percent or more so farmers have sufficient resources to continue feeding our nation. I strongly oppose the Incidental Take Permit issued by the administration in the midst of a pandemic, when food production is among our greatest concerns.
Provide businesses with a timeline: The governor should issue an executive order that offers a timeline on when businesses can initiate a phased reopening in accordance with health guidance protocols. Such an executive order would allow sufficient time for businesses to stock inventories, rehire workers and comply with health guidelines. Failure to offer specificity will continue to dismantle our economic infrastructure and prolong the need for unsustainable public support.
Recently, I was appointed to the Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response, a bipartisan committee tasked with reviewing the successes and failures of California’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. We will make determinations and recommendations for future preparedness efforts in the likely event a coronavirus outbreak resurfaces or if the state faces a subsequent pandemic event.
These measured steps will help California forge a path forward in addressing our economic challenges during this unprecedented pandemic. California will emerge stronger in the face of this adversity.
State Sen. Andreas Borgeas, a Republican, represents the 8th Senate District, which encompasses all or portions of Amador, Calaveras, Fresno, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Sacramento, Stanislaus, Tulare, and Tuolumne counties. Borgeas wrote this commentary for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.