Newsom proposes $600 payment for low-income Californians


By KATHLEEN RONAYNE Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Millions of low-income Californians would get a $600 payment from the state under a budget proposal by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The proposed payment, announced Wednesday, would go to people with annual incomes of less than $30,000, including immigrants living in the country illegally who file taxes with the state. Roughly 4 million people would be eligible for the payment, for a total state cost of $2.4 billion. Newsom is also asking the Legislature to extend a moratorium on evictions.

Newsom called on lawmakers to join him with a sense of urgency to help Californians who are dealing with stress and anxiety over the prospect of putting food on the table, paying for child care or facing eviction.

“We recognize our responsibility to do more,” he said.

State lawmakers normally pass the budget in June, but Newsom is asking them to act early on several proposals to provide faster relief to people suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic. California’s unemployment rate was 8.2% in November, the most recent month with available state data. But that doesn’t reflect the true number of out-of-work Californians, as many people have stopped seeking work.

A handful of Democratic lawmakers joined Newsom for a virtual announcement, indicating he’ll find support in the Legislature.

“Millions of working families all across California, they’re on the ropes. They’re barely hanging on during this pandemic-induced recession,” said State Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat who represents the state’s north coast.

The $600 payment matches a federal stimulus payment approved by Congress, meaning some Californians could receive $1,200 in relief.

Newsom hopes payments of the state stimulus go out to Californians in February and March. If his plan is approved and signed into law, it will take three to four weeks to get payments out to people who filed their taxes electronically, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance.

Taxpayers who received the California Earned Income Tax Credit, available to people making less than $30,000 annually, last year would receive the $600 payment. That covered about 3.9 million filers in 2020, Palmer said.

The $600 payment would also go to people with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers who would be eligible to receive the tax credit this year. Those taxpayers are mostly immigrants living in the country illegally. The state estimates about 250,000 of those filers would be eligible for the payment, Palmer said.

Beyond the cash payments, Newsom’s proposal aims to help Californians struggling to pay rent or losing out on money that would normally come in from tenants. The Legislature passed an eviction moratorium last year, and it bars landlords from evicting people who suffered economic loss due to the pandemic. They must be able to pay at least 25% of their monthly rent.

Newsom wants to extend the moratorium, though his office did not give a proposed extension date.

The state received $2.6 billion to help small property owners and low-income renters through the federal coronavirus bill passed in December. Newsom wants to quickly deploy that money.

The governor will announce his full budget proposal on Friday, but he’s already revealed other pieces aimed at aiding people financially harmed by coronavirus. On Tuesday he proposed $4 billion in spending aimed at aiding businesses and creating jobs. He also proposed $2 billion to help schools reopen for in-person learning.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers introduced a proposal for $2.6 billion in small business support on Wednesday. It would include more money for small business grants than what Newsom has proposed.

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