January 25, 2021

Regional Stay at Home Order Lifted


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — The California health department has ended the stay-at-home orders for all regions in the state as of Monday morning.

Now, individual counties are going back to the tier system the state had been using under its Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly in a statement sent just before 8 a.m.

The order had shuttered several businesses, prompting lawsuits against the state. Regions could only exit the stay-at-home restrictions once four-week ICU capacity projections showed at least 15% availability

Late Sunday night, California Department of Public Health said the state was seeing “promising signs.” However, in the department’s confirmation announcement, they said:

“It is still critical that Californians continue to wear masks when they leave their homes, maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet, wash their hands frequently, avoid gatherings and mixing with other households, follow all state and local health department guidance and get the vaccine when it’s their turn.”

As of Saturday, ICU capacity in the Bay Area jumped to 23.4% — a major increase from it’s 0.7% ICU capacity reported less than two weeks prior.

In other regions across the golden state, ICU capacity is at:

  • Bay Area: 23.4%
  • Northern California: 41.2%
  • Greater Sacramento: 11.9%
  • San Joqauin Valley: 1.3%
  • Southern California: 0%

California’s regional order requires a three week minimum shutdown when an area’s total ICU capacity falls below 15%.

So when the Bay Area and Northern California surpassed the needed 15% to ditch the order, many desperately waited for word from state officials — which never came.

The California Department of Public Health and Governor Newsom stopped providing daily regional ICU capacity percentages to the public.

Before Friday, it had been a week since California health leaders last provided specific ICU capacity percentages, the key data point Newsom’s administration has said would help determine which regions remain under his mandated stay at home order.

All week, the state would not provide the numbers, only writing in email updates vaguely saying three regions: the Bay Area, Southern California and San Joaquin Valley remain under the order, their four week ICU capacity projections do not meet criteria to exit.

Update: Governor Gavin Newsom made the announcement today at noon, effective immediately we are moving back into the tiered system. For the latest updates, please visit covid19.ca.gov


Love Local This February!

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, Visit Gilroy and the Gilroy Downtown Business Association are leading a social media campaign to encourage our residents to think, shop, and support local this Valentine’s Day. We will be giving away raffle prizes weekly to participating residents. If you would like to donate a raffle item, please contact vwright@gilroy.org

Please consider joining our efforts and encouraging your customers to #lovelocalGilroy this February.

Here is a sample social media post:

Ready to #lovelocalGilroy? Support our local businesses all month long to win raffle prizes from local businesses. Raffles will take place each Sunday of February, and there are no limits to the number of entries!

Here’s how you can be entered to win (make sure to tag #lovelocalgilroy on Facebook and Instagram so we don’t miss you!)

 +1: Shop at any business with a 95020-zip code and share a picture of either the item you purchased or a picture of your receipt.

 +1: Take a picture of a place you love here in Gilroy.

+5: Write a loving review for a Gilroy business (screenshot/share it with us).

 +5: Participate in @downtowngilroy95020’s Downtown is for Lovers essay contest (deadline is February 8).

Bonus entries:

+1 Follow @gilroychamber

+1 Follow @visitgilroy

+1 Follow @downtowngilroy95020

Man of the Year, Roland Velasco

The 2021 Man of the Year award recipient, Roland Velasco, has committed most of his adult life to public service in one form or another.  Roland believes in a “servant’s heart” and it shows in his passion and willingness to give back to the community that he cares so much about.  Roland has provided our city with a steady hand and quiet leadership that Gilroy needed during a very turbulent time in our history.

Roland has been involved with local and regional organizations throughout the years.  He served as a board member for Leadership Gilroy, a Fire Commissioner for South County Fire District and as a K-9 handler with the Santa Clara County Search and Rescue.  It was due to his knowledge of South County cities that Roland was appointed by former Santa Clara Valley Water District Director Sig Sanchez to represent South County during the formal 2010 redistricting process for the District.

Roland served two successful terms on the Gilroy City Council, elected by voters first in 1997 and then re-elected in 2003.  Roland ran for City Council in 2014 and was rewarded as the top vote-getter.   After consulting with family and friends, Roland made the decision to run for Mayor.  He was honored to have 2 out of every 3 voters cast their ballots for him as the new Mayor in the November 2016 election.

Roland’s accomplishments as Mayor are many, and through his accomplishments you can see not only his love for the city and community, but also teaching and encouraging the community to be engaged.  His most notable accomplishment was lobbying our state legislators for the repair of Highway 152-our First Street. Roland was able to get the State to secure the funding and the project was fast-tracked.  He advocated for restoring transparency at the dais of City Hall, addressing the public safety needs of the community, and increasing public participation during his monthly coffee events. These events were extremely popular and allowed the community to ask questions about the City in a relaxed setting that a council meeting does not allow for.

Roland is most proud of his role as “Comforter and Chief” during the Garlic Festival shooting.  Many times, residents would come up to him to thank him for representing the city so well during a time when the community was in shock over the assault on our beloved annual event.  It was his understanding and empathy of the shock and anger many were experiencing that was appreciated by the community.

During Roland’s term, Gilroy also celebrated it’s sesquicentennial, 150th anniversary of it’s incorporation.  He created a committee of community members to organize events as well as to engage with the community about this historic date.  Unfortunately, many of the things planned were cancelled due to COVID-19, however an El Camino Bell and plaque will be installed in the Paseo as a lasting tribute to the community.

As a proud veteran, Roland was actively involved with the events held by the Veteran’s Hall.  Roland was recognized as the Veteran of the Year by the American Legion Post #217.  Every year Roland participated in the Wreaths Across America event held at Gavilan Hills Memorial Park/Saint Mary’s Cemetery and could be seen passing out coffee and donuts to participants before giving a heartfelt speech.

During Roland’s time as Mayor he demonstrated how important it is to give back to the community not only through his words, but with his actions.  He made local government approachable and encouraged people to participate and to speak-up.

Prior to his time on the City Council, Roland served in the United States Army as an Intelligence Analyst.  Upon returning home to Gilroy, Roland attended Gavilan College and then San Jose State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.  Later, he received a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco. In addition, Roland is a graduate of the Santa Clara University Markkula Center Ethics and Leadership Camp and the Santa Clara County Leadership Seminar Series.

Currently, Roland is working as an adjunct instructor of Political Science for Gavilan College.  He enjoys weaving theory with the practical application of local politics into his lesson plan.

Woman of the Year, Dr. Deborah A. Flores

Dr. Deborah Flores/Debbie began her career in the mid 70’s as an elementary special education teacher and then became a special education administrator for about 10 years.  During those years, she shared leadership responsibilities with another administrator for a combined middle/ high school.  She then moved to the District Office level as a program administrator, assistant superintendent, and deputy superintendent. For the past 21 years, she has been superintendent of schools with almost 14 years of those years here in the Gilroy Unified School District.  Debbie earned her B.A. and Masters of Education at the University of Massachusetts and her doctorate at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Flores has received a number of awards during her long career including Teacher of the Year (in Massachusetts), Santa Barbara Central Office Administrator of the Year, and in 2016, she was selected as the Santa Clara County Superintendent of the Year and the California Superintendent of the Year by the Association of Ca. School Administrators.

Gilroy reminds Debbie of the small towns and cities where she grew up in the Southwest.  There is a strong sense of community, a laser focus on the needs of the residents and many activities for the youth.  The district, Gilroy Unified, has a very special place in her heart.  She loves it and is very committed to doing everything she can to make it the best district it can be.  There are so many reasons that she loves GUSD – it’s diverse school population, the dedication and commitment of staff, the Board’s strong leadership, the commitment of her administrative team, district-wide team effort during tough times and so much more.  Her own son thrived in three schools in the district – Rucker, Solorsano and Gilroy High School.

The past year has been the most challenging in Debbie’ career due to COVID19 pandemic.  Overnight, on March 13, 2020, the school district went from teaching 11,000+ students in brick and mortar classrooms to providing instruction virtually through distance learning. This required a complete shift in every aspect of the operation which included distributing over 7,000 computers and almost 1,700 hotspots; training students, staff and parents on how to teach and learn from home; providing thousands of meals to our families from seven school sites; providing ongoing professional development for teachers on how to use technology to teach through the distance learning format; and holding all meetings virtually.  Although it has been an incredible challenge, Debbie is very proud of how staff have come together as a team to provide the best educational environment possible.

During Debbie’s tenure in GUSD, two general obligation bonds have passed thanks to the voters of Gilroy which has resulted in renovations, construction, and/or technological improvements at all schools in the district.  The biggest projects were – the construction of Christopher High school, the renovation of Gilroy High School, the new Brownell campus will be completed by this summer and the new So. Valley Middle School campus rebuild has been designed and is underway.  She is very proud of the facilities in the district and the improvements that have been made.

Additionally, Debbie is proud of the strong financial status of the district, the positive relationships with district union leaders, the strong partnerships with community based organizations ,the collaboration with the Santa Clara County Office of Education to address the digital divide in Gilroy, and the longstanding partnership with the Chamber through the Business Education Partnership.  She has been very involved in several special events that occur each year – the Run for Fitness, Read Across America and Rock the Mock.  She is also very proud of the district’s role in the aftermath of the tragic Garlic Festival shooting.

When asked what advice she would give others aspiring to be a superintendent, she recommends that they gain leadership experience first, at the school site level and then, at the district office before moving to the superintendency.  She also advised that individuals who aspire to be a superintendent must fully commit to the mission and goals of the district, put students and staff needs first, model what s/he expects of others, foster a shared leadership model with other administrators, develop and support a shared governance model with the school board and get involved in the community.

Finding the Common Ground of Respect

By Jennifer Barrera, Executive Vice-President, CalChamber

One of the most memorable and impactful bills I have observed in the California legislative process is actually a bill that I didn’t even work on or lobby.   I just happened to be watching a committee hearing for another bill on the agenda and observed the debate.  The bill was an issue that the legislator was very passionate about as were the opponents.  While some of the testimony in opposition was respectful, other comments were filled with anger and the witnesses made verbally aggressive, personal attacks on the legislator.   Naturally, any person subject to those comments would be offended, upset, and tempted to reciprocate with similar attacks in response.  And in today’s political discourse, such a response is likely the norm.  However, the legislator took a different approach.  The legislator did not respond in anger or “cancel” the opinions of the opponents simply because they disagreed with the proposal.  Rather, the legislator stood there for over an hour, facing the opponents out of respect, listening to each of their comments and concerns.  The bill did not pass out of the legislature that year, not because it didn’t have support by the majority party, but because the author pulled the bill from further consideration.

The following year, the legislator reintroduced an amended version of the bill.  And, while there were still opponents to the proposal, former opponents of the bill expressed gratitude towards the legislator instead of anger and aggression  As the witnesses explained, after the bill failed passage the prior year, the legislator spent several months traveling throughout the state to meet with opponents directly to understand their concerns and find common ground.  Some of these individuals had made terrible comments to the author the year before, personally attacking the member.  But because of the legislator’s efforts to understand the reason for their anger instead of just ignoring their dissenting opinions, many of them found a common ground of respect.  The amended proposal passed the Legislature.

The horrific events at our country’s Capitol over a week ago were shocking and tragic. And while I believe the extremists who attacked our democracy reflect a minority rather than a majority in our country, there is no question we are politically divided. Every inauguration represents a new beginning and this week we have the chance to turn a new page and embrace the idea of respecting one another.  Our country needs healing and we can all play a part in that by learning from the example of the legislator I mentioned above.

There's No Denying the Exodus Anymore

Article by Douglas Fruehling, Editor-in-Chief, San Francisco Business Times,

A year ago on our front page, we ran a photo of a moving truck under the headline “California exit: Your company might be next.” Our subhead said the situation was bad — and could get worse.

In this very space in that same issue, I wrote a column explaining why we were spending so many resources — time, paper, ink — to cover the story of the exodus, as we had taken to calling it. We had faced criticism from some readers that we were blowing it out of proportion.

My, what a difference a year makes.

Just consider the facts.

The global pandemic created an environment in which everyone was suddenly working remotely, meaning most employees could pick up and move elsewhere, laptop in hand. Many companies later made remote work permanent.

The state experienced its worst year ever for wildfires. The sky turned orange.

Investor Ron Suber got out of Dodge, put his house for sale and moved to Colorado.

Pinterest canceled a major SoMa lease, a harbinger of remote work’s impact on real estate.

Voters approved three new taxes in the city of San Francisco, including the so-called CEO tax.

State lawmakers considered raising the top personal income tax rate — already the highest in the nation — to 16.8% with a surcharge for incomes above $1 million. They also considered a wealth tax on anyone with a net worth over $30 million. (Neither advanced last year. The question is: Are you willing to bet they won’t this year?)

Elon Musk threatened to move Tesla. Then he moved himself.

HPE moved.

Oracle moved, putting up a San Jose building for sale and subleasing its San Francisco space. Larry Ellison moved.

Digital Realty moved.

Who’s next? Wells Fargo? Uber? Stalwarts Chevron, Clorox or any company with a fiduciary duty to their shareholders? What is their breaking point?

Texas, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Tennessee are jumping for joy. They’re not even hiding it: They are wantonly and brazenly going after our companies, almost as a badge of honor.

“The California dream is in deep trouble,” Leon Panetta, the longtime public servant who now serves on the board of Oracle, told us after the company announced its relocation to Texas.

“It’s critical that the governor presents to the legislature a recovery plan for California,” said Panetta, who co-founded The Panetta Institute for Public Policy.

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many signs yet that the governor or a majority of lawmakers get it.

But there is good news: More people believe the exodus is real — and harmful. Business groups are starting to pay attention. The Bay Area Council, the influential group chaired by Business Times Publisher Mary Huss, has started beating the exodus drum, warning that it is bound to hurt our recovery.

“Beyond the hard data and growing anecdotal evidence of departing companies, declining investment, lost jobs and shrinking population, California’s badly neglected business climate is also taking a troubling psychological toll on the state’s ability to recover,” the Council wrote in an email in December. “And it could have deep and lasting effects.”

So as the state’s legislative session begins, there’s no better time than the present to remind our leaders that the exodus is real — and it’s time to start doing something about it.

I will return to the subject in this very same space at this time next year.

Here’s hoping that by then that I’ll have a different story to tell.

Still Awaiting Results from Billions in New Taxes for Homelessness, Lawmakers Want Businesses to Pay More

By Loren Kaye, President, California Foundation for Commerce and Education

It was only a year ago that Governor Gavin Newsom devoted his entire State-of-the-State address to the dual challenges of housing and homelessness, calling the latter “the most pernicious crisis in our midst, the ultimate manifestation of poverty.”

What a difference a year makes. The COVID-19 pandemic scrambled the policy agenda and created urgency to stop the spread of the disease among unhoused Californians. But even this massive public health and economic crisis has left unchanged the underlying concern that homelessness in the state is disgraceful.

Even in the teeth of the pandemic, homelessness remains an issue of great concern to voters, according to the 2020 CalChamber poll. Fully two-thirds of voters believe homelessness in California has gotten worse since the start of COVID-19, with voters in Los Angeles and inland California reporting severe worsening in their regions.

Not surprisingly, the Governor recently restated his ambition to tackle homelessness. Since 2018, $1.45 billion has been provided to local governments for the Homeless Emergency Aid Program and the Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Program to support regional coordination and immediate homelessness challenges.

In addition to the $1.45 billion of state funding provided to local governments since 2018, the Governor has proposed in his new Budget a one-time allocation of $1.75 billion for continued acquisition and creation of new housing units for homeless individuals, in addition to several hundred million dollars for ongoing support of state and local homelessness mitigation programs.

The state of California’s financial commitment to reducing homelessness is substantial, but pales compared with how local residents throughout California have voted to tax themselves to address this issue.

Over the past five years, four of largest and most impacted counties in the state – Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Alameda and San Francisco – have approved billions in new taxes to address homelessness. In addition, the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Richmond and Sonoma County have each passed billions in tax increases for homelessness and housing programs.

In addition, California voters approved a $2 billion bond issue in 2018 to provide housing for mentally ill homeless.

If there’s one thing that California’s state and local political leaders and voters have accomplished on homelessness, it’s raising taxes and creating spending programs to address this confounding problem.

So naturally at the top of the Assembly agenda in the second year of the pandemic crisis is a proposed multi-billion dollar tax increase “to make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurrent.”

The legislation would accomplish this by creating sixty-four pages of prescriptive rules for spending more than $2 billion a year on a hodgepodge of local programs to serve, house and treat homeless individuals.

The measure would increase the corporate tax rate by almost 9%, making it at 9.6% the 5th highest corporate tax rate in the land. It would also subject corporations to an additional tax penalty depending on their level of exposure in countries with certain low tax rates.

The bulk of the funds raised by these new taxes would be allocated to the very jurisdictions that only a couple years ago asked their own taxpayers to reach into their wallets to address homelessness. But more troubling is that the latest entry in the tax sweepstakes evinces no learning from the experience of earlier tax increases. How have Los Angeles/San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland and the others used the billions in new spending authority to make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurrent?

California lawmakers should recognize this massive disconnect between their zeal to increase taxes and the hard work necessary to demonstrate results. The sponsors of the so-called Bring California Home Act should honor taxpayers with some evidence of on-the-ground success before subjecting them to more taxes and providing residents more reasons to make another state their home.

January 19, 2021

Governor’s Budget Proposes Economic Relief, No New Taxes

By  Loren Kaye, California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Nobody would have been surprised if Governor Gavin Newsom had presented his new state budget wearing a neck brace. The whiplash from budget boom to bust to recovery must have been intense.

One year ago while the country, and especially California, were flying high economically, the Governor presented a $222 billion budget with an $18 billion surplus. Three months later, the pandemic-fueled recession caused unemployment in California to quadruple, and retail sales cratered. The Governor and Legislature predicted a $54 billion budget deficit and raised taxes, cut spending and borrowed from the future to cover the fiscal hole.

But the Pandemic Recession has been unlike any other economic downturn experienced in the modern era. The economic pain has been real, but it has hit hardest workers in hospitality, tourism and other public-facing businesses. Low-wage and often low-skilled workers in these industries, along with small business owners statewide, have been devastated. The social and community devastation has ravaged these communities, and continues to this day. But not the state budget.

Much of the California economy has been spared because it was able to accommodate to the pandemic’s cruel dichotomy: if your business or job is not dependent on bringing people together, you were likely to remain in business or employed. Millions of Californians changed their place of work to their kitchen table, or continued on the job masked, separated and vigilant.

The California investment economy thrived. A buoyant stock market and surprisingly strong real estate market created capital gains revenues double the amount forecast in 2020.

As a consequence, rather than managing a $54 billion deficit, the Governor is proposing a $227 billion balanced budget with no new tax increases and a $34 billion in reserves and surpluses, which provides record levels of public school funds, increases spending on higher education without any tuition increases, and expands the social safety net.

Indeed, the uncredited engine of the budget recovery are California’s employers and taxpayers, who emptied their pockets of more than $70 billion in taxes (over three years) above what state policy makers anticipated just six months ago.

Governor’s Proposals

Top of the Governor’s to-do list is addressing the pandemic and its economic consequences.

He will ask the Legislature to urgently approve this month spending authority to provide immediate relief for struggling individuals, businesses and students, including:

  • A $600 stimulus payment to two million low income workers ($2.4 billion).
  • Another $575 million in grants to small businesses and nonprofits, on top of an earlier-approved $500 million small business grant program.
  • Relief from state fees for businesses affected by shutdowns, such as restaurants and public-facing services ($70 million).
  • Safe reopening of elementary schools, beginning in February ($2 billion).

Earlier, the Governor announced his intention to provide additional support and incentives for business retention and relief to accelerate economic recovery and job creation, including:

  • Adding $180 million over two years to the California Competes economic development tax credit, plus another one-time $250 million for special economic development grants under this program.
  • Extending Main Street Small Business Tax Credit ($100 million).
  • Mitigating the state and local tax (SALT) deduction limitation for S-corporation shareholders.
  • The California Dream Fund to seed entrepreneurship and small business creation in underserved communities ($35 million).
  • Additional funds to provide small business and disaster loan guarantees ($50 million to be leveraged to provide $250 million in loans), the Small Business Finance Center of the Infrastructure Bank ($50 million) and for the California Rebuilding Fund ($12.5 million).

Expanded sales tax exclusions to promote innovation and meet the state’s climate goals ($100 million).

CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg welcomed the Governor’s announcement on help for small businesses. “CalChamber looks forward to working with the Governor, the administration and the Legislature to get much-needed relief to California’s beleaguered small businesses, as soon as possible,” he said.

The application for the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant can be found here.

The budget proposal also includes money to improve vaccine distribution, and expand testing and tracing, among other activities.

The Governor proposes record spending for public schools, more than $89 billion, which is includes $4.6 billion for summer school and extra learning time, $500 million for teacher career development and $700 million to support student mental health.

California’s four-year colleges and universities also received increases in the proposed budget, totaling nearly $800 million. The Governor anticipates no tuition increases at the University of California or California State University this year.

The Governor’s emphasis on housing policy this year will primarily focus on continuing his initiatives on homelessness and continuing to support below-market rate housing. The budget proposes an additional $500 million for low-income housing tax credits to support low-income housing development. The budget also proposes $500 million for “infill infrastructure,” which are subsidies for site remediation or other infrastructure to enable housing construction in urban areas.

Further fleshing out his commitment to ban the sale of internal combustion automobiles in the state by 2035, the Governor proposed $1.5 billion to achieve the state’s zero-emission vehicle goals, including securitizing up to $1 billion to accelerate the pace and scale of the infrastructure needed to support zero-emission vehicles. These funds will be generated from future cap-and-trade revenues.

The budget also includes $1 billion for forest management and fire prevention strategies, to further address California’s notorious vulnerability to catastrophic wildfires. Elements of this plan will include better forest management to improve forest health, more fire breaks and home hardening, and increasing the number of fire suppression crews and aircraft.

County Warns Public About Misinformation Being Shared About Availability of COVID-19 Vaccine

Accurate and Updated Information Regarding Vaccination Eligibility and Appointments Available on County’s Website
Santa Clara County, CA  County officials announced January 12 that they have learned about misinformation on the availability of COVID-19 vaccine being shared within the community.  Some community members have reported to the County that they received text messages wrongly informing them of “extra” vaccine supply availability and providing them with registration links for appointments at vaccination sites in Santa Clara County. To the County’s knowledge, these messages originated from unofficial sources. The County is investigating the source of this misinformation and reminds the public that vaccination appointments are currently being scheduled for healthcare workers who qualify for vaccination under Phase 1A.

The County expects that many healthcare providers in our region will soon expand access to the next group of County residents eligible for vaccination under the State’s guidance for Phase 1B Tier 1 – persons age 75 and older, and certain frontline essential workers.

The County’s website at sccfreevax.org is the official source for vaccine-related information in Santa Clara County, and is regularly updated to reflect which community members are currently eligible to receive the vaccine, as well as how those individuals can schedule appointments.  To ensure that they meet eligibility criteria for vaccination, every person will be asked to provide verification of their status upon arrival to a vaccination site for their appointment.

Gilroy Chamber Partners With County Assessor Office – Potential Tax Relief to Commercial Property Owners

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the County Assessor’s Office to provide an important property tax workshop with County Assessor, Larry Stone. The workshop is scheduled for Thursday, January 21 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

This workshop will be of particular interest to owners of commercial property (land and buildings). To register for the workshop, property owners can go to the following link: https://sccgov-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ma_-2aXURS-1M86HImkYew

The Assessor’s Office is planning to proactively provide relief based upon market evidence of value declines below assessed values. Assessor Larry Stone will discuss what the law allows and the data his office requires from commercial property owners to efficiently process appraisals to enroll proactive reductions for the 2021-22 tax bill and avoid costly appeals.

To register click on the following link: https://sccgov-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ma_-2aXURS-1M86HImkYew.

Only 27% of Doses Used

Article by CalMatters

Apart from school reopenings, no issue looms larger for Newsom’s third year in office — and his ability to fend off a growing recall movement — than the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, which has so far been plagued with logistical and technical problems. Only eight states have administered fewer doses per capita than California, which as of January 10, had administered only 27% of its nearly 3 million doses – a decline from the 35% rate the state notched the prior week.

In his press conference last Monday, the Governor said, “We recognize that the current strategy is not going to get us to where we need to go as quickly as we all need to go.”

To help pick up the pace, Disneyland Resort in AnaheimDodgers Stadium in Los AngelesPetco Park in San Diego and Cal Expo in Sacramento are being converted into vaccination sites for frontline workers and, eventually, the general public. The state also recently loosened its vaccination guidelines to ensure that doses don’t go to waste if refused by high-priority groups. The guidelines — developed by numerous working groups — were intended to prevent well-connected Californians from accessing the vaccine before those in need.

But former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown argued in a recent San Francisco Chronicle column that the state should be administering the vaccine to as many people as possible.

Brown“It would be for everyone — no Phase 1A, Phase 1B and other confusing classification categories. And Gov. Gavin Newsom: Such a program would end the recall talk overnight.”

For the latest COVID-19 vaccine inform, please visit covid19.ca.gov/vaccines/

January 11, 2021

PPP Round 2: What you need to know

Tuesday, January 12, 2021
9:00am PT / 11:00am CT / 12:00pm ET

After months of waiting for much-needed relief, small businesses are finally getting revived support from the federal government. Last week, the Small Business Administration announced that starting this week, small business owners will have renewed access to new funds in the Paycheck Protection Program through certain financial institutions.

Join the Small Business Majority for a free webinar to learn more about the rollout of PPP and when your small business may be eligible to apply.

Topics include:

  • PPP reauthorization and important changes
  • Advance grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program
  • SBA Debt Relief Program
  • Additional policies and resources for small businesses

For loan details and how to apply, click here.

Chamber Announces Spice of Life Award Recipients

2020 was a difficult and challenging year for businesses, individuals, and the community as well. One could spend a lot of time dwelling on all that “could have been.” It is in times of difficulty and crisis, that others find a way of stepping up, identifying opportunities, and assisting others in need. This year’s Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Spice of Life award recipients are indeed, these types of people and organizations.

Man of the Year – Roland Velasco, former Mayor

Woman of the Year – Dr. Debbie Flores, GUSD Superintendent

Large Business of the Year – Alpine Landscapes

Small Business of the Year – Bracco’s Towing

Non-Profit of the Year – Operation Freedom Paws

Volunteer of the Year – (2 recipients)

  • Maria Cid
  • Jorge Mendoza

Educator of the Year – (2 recipients)

  • Terri Mikkelsen
  • Leadership Gilroy

Young Professional of the Year – Carlos Pineda

Susan Valenta Youth Leadership Award – Danielle Russell

Congratulations to each of these individuals and organizations for their tireless effort in leading and serving others. Over the next several weeks, you will be learning more about each of these award recipients.


Now Is Not The Time For Tax Increases

Article by Preston Young, CalChamber

When Governor Newsom endorsed Prop 15 in September – which voters soundly rejected in November – he specifically said “In a global, mobile economy, now is not the time for the kind of state tax increases on income we saw proposed at the end of this legislative session and I will not sign such proposals into law.”

It seems legislators have already forgotten Governor Newsom’s sentiment on new taxes. On December 7th the 2021-22 legislative session began and new tax bills were immediately unveiled. AB 71 (Rivas and Chiu) was introduced and aims to create a $2.4 billion homeless fund. The spot bill leaves a breadcrumb trail to potential funding sources which includes increasing personal income tax rates on incomes over $1 million, increasing the corporate income tax “to historical rates,” imposing a more progressive corporate income tax, eliminating or limiting corporate tax loopholes including the water’s-edge election, and “marking to market unrealized capital gains and the repeal of stepped-up in basis of inherited assets.”

AB 65 (Low) was introduced and seeks to provide Californians with a Universal Basic Income. The spot bill doesn’t identify how a UBI would be funded, however, Assemblymember Low’s AB 2712 from the last legislative session sought to fund a UBI by potentially raising corporate taxes, creating a value-added tax on goods and services, or implementing a services tax.

ACA 1’s (Aguiar-Curry) reintroduction also induces a sense of déjà vu since its 2019 unveiling. The bill seeks to reduce the voter threshold needed to pass local sales and parcel taxes if the revenue will be used for public infrastructure or affordable housing. Constitutionally, such measures currently require a 2/3 vote to pass and ACA 1 aims to reduce the threshold to 55%.

Recent news reporting California’s corporate exodus seems to give credence to Governor Newsom’s September statements. HP Enterprise, Oracle, and Charles Schwab have defected for Texas. Palantir is moving to Colorado while Tesla and Space X are establishing production facilities in Texas. This is on the heels of companies like McKesson, Toyota North America, Jamba Juice and Kubota Tractor Corporation leaving the state, among many others.

Thus, it seems the advice bears repeating; now is not the time for state tax increases on employers.


SBA announced that the deadline to apply for a COVID-19 pandemic Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) has been extended. All eligible small businesses and nonprofits are encouraged to apply for these affordable loans. Learn more and apply by clicking here.

Governor Proposes $1.5 Billion to Eliminate New Gas-Powered Cars by 2035

Clean Vehicles Top Priority

Article by CalMatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday unveiled a $4.5 billion plan for business and job recovery, dedicating one-third of the funding to eliminating new gas-powered cars by 2035.

The plan offers a glimpse into Newsom’s priorities for the 2021-22 budget, which will be released in full on Friday, kicking off months of negotiations with the Legislature. However, Newsom wants lawmakers to immediately approve nearly $1 billion — mainly for small businesses and housing — when they return to Sacramento on today. Legislative leaders seemed amenable to this request, even as they emphasized that they had proposals of their own — signaling they don’t want a repeat of last session, when many felt their role was reduced to “simply giving a yes or no answer to the governor’s priorities,” in the words of then-state Sen. Holly Mitchell, a San Diego Democrat.

Here’s a closer look at Newsom’s recovery package:

  • $1.5 billion for constructing electric charging and hydrogen fueling stations, and subsidizing purchases of zero-emissions cars
  • $777.5 million for job creation and retention
  • $575 million in small-business grants (on top of $500 million allocated last year)
  • $500 million to build more than 7,500 permanently affordable homes
  • $353 million for workforce development
  • $300 million for deferred maintenance of state properties
  • $70.6 million for fee waivers for businesses and individuals impacted by the pandemic

Whether the package will satisfy financially ravaged businesses — and frustrated Californians — remains to be seen. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who recently launched a gubernatorial exploratory committee, excoriated Newsom’s proposal Tuesday.

  • Faulconer“In the middle of a pandemic and deep recession, California’s highest priority should not be zero-emission vehicles. We need K-12 education at the top of the list.”

Also expected in Newsom’s budget proposal: $2 billion to accelerate school reopenings and $300 million for vaccine distribution.


How California Restaurants Have Weathered the Pandemic

Nearly 40,000 restaurants in the state have been shuttered since last year, with California leading in the number of restaurant closures in the nation, according to the latest figures released by Yelp.

In every corner of the state, loan payouts have been exhausted and state unemployment programs are stymied by bureaucratic delays.

A survey by the California Restaurant Association, the group that challenged Los Angeles’s outdoor dining ban in court, found that 60 percent of restaurants that received federal loans said they would most likely run out of money by the summer. It also estimated that since March, between 900,000 and one million restaurant workers have either been laid off or furloughed.

The $900 billion stimulus package Congress passed in December would give struggling small businesses another chance to apply for loans.

But the relief may be too late for many. California is buckling under the latest Covid-19 surge, with intensive care units everywhere nearly filled to capacity. Much of the state is under stay-at-home orders, which bans all manners of dining at restaurants.

Immigrant- and Black-owned restaurants are especially at risk of closing. A survey by the C.R.A. found that 60 percent of restaurants in California are owned by people of color. However, after the $2.2 trillion CARES Act was implemented in March, the largest benefits failed to reach many minority-owned businesses.

One family-owned restaurant in the Inland Empire went from being a popular buffet spot to only serving takeout food overnight.

The restaurant, Punjab Palace, located in a nondescript strip mall in Riverside, has been a part of the community since it opened 17 years ago, providing affordable Tandoori Indian food and rooms for banquets and events.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom implemented the first stay-at-home order, the restaurant’s owner, Ashok Kumar, immediately closed the buffet, which, along with private events, was the largest source of income.

The change to a takeout-only model has significantly lowered its bottom line. The lack of interaction with customers has also blocked a valve it once had into the community.

Yashmeen Sharma, Mr. Kumar’s youngest daughter, said that much of her childhood was spent in and around the restaurant. She has seen children of customers grow up and start families of their own. Ordinarily, she would be able to recognize regulars.

“The other day I was helping this lady who I’ve known for years now and I could not recognize her with her mask on,” Ms. Sharma said.

With the loss of the buffet, Ms. Sharma, her parents and two sisters run the restaurant together, working 11 hours a day then going home to sleep. She said their daily income averaged around $800 per day, not nearly enough to make ends meet. Their monthly rent for the restaurant space is $12,000, and the landlord said they could defer to payments of $2,000 during the pandemic. However, the unpaid balance will have to be paid off eventually.

The looming debt and loss of income is an ever-present worry for Ms. Sharma and her family. They have seen other longstanding immigrant-owned restaurants in their community close and the owners returning to their home countries.

“To see that some of us aren’t going to make it through this is devastating,” she said.

Mr. Kumar built the restaurant into a popular neighborhood spot over the years. After immigrating to the U.S. from India in 1988, he began washing dishes in Los Angeles, then working his way up through the industry’s rungs, according to his daughter.

The family eschewed outdoor dining because of health risks. Both Mr. Kumar and his wife, Mamta Kumari, have pre-existing health conditions, making them particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. Their landlord would also require them to pay full rent if they opened any type of dining on the premises.

Last year, they received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the Small Business Administration in addition to a smaller grant from the City of Riverside, which helped reduce — but did not wipe out — any accumulating debt.

Ms. Sharma said she was optimistic that things would return to normal this year, but what normal looks like is unclear.

After many buffets permanently closed their doors, the verdict on if the restaurant will ever be able to come back is still out.

And yet, Yelp’s economic report found that while scores of restaurants have closed, over 6,000 have opened in California during the pandemic. The resilience of some businesses can be explained by how well they adapt to pandemic-era restrictions.

At Punjab Palace, the family’s willingness to work together allows them to avoid hiring outside employees, thus saving critical funds. It also fosters a sense of safety and togetherness, not a small thing these days.

“At least we’re alive, you know, we made it through the day not infected and we get to go home together,” Ms. Sharma said. “We make it home safe every day, even if that costs us.”

What's New with Business

Values in World Thought is a unique Mount Madonna School (MMS) course that spans 11th and 12th grades and engages students in meaningful conversations. True dialogue is a collaborative process of active listening and discussion helping students to develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter, and respect and curiosity about the ideas of others.

On January 12, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, MMS will host “Conversations of Meaning,” via Zoom, facilitated by course founder SN Ward Mailliard and teacher Shannon Kelly.

Learn how Values class fosters literacy, self-confidence, thinking skills, collaboration, creativity, and supports the development of thoughtful and empathetic individuals who are capable of taking responsibility for their actions and engaging in collaborative work. RSVP to school@mountmadonnaschool.org for the Zoom link.

Office Space Available:

Are you looking to establish your business in a highly visible social network in your Community? Perhaps upgrade into a private office setting with full on-site amenities including but not limited to front desk attendance, wellness room access, on-site conference rooms, full kitchen in addition to coffee & tea kitchenette as well as deeply discounted event space room rentals.

Or maybe you are looking to re-design your business footprint and scale down in square footage leased? Either way, the Neon Exchange is your premiere professional workspace in a historical setting equipped with modern-day amenities.

Working at The Neon Exchange is like working in an inspiration lab surrounded by innovative, community-driven people. If you are interested in #WorkingBrightly, please call The Neon Exchange front desk to arrange for a tour at 669-239-0007 or them at theneonexchange@gmail.com.

What’s new with your business? Let us know! Email vwright@gilroy.org to be featured in our weekly newsletter.

January 4, 2021

California’s New Workplace Laws


Sweeping new laws ramping up in 2021 will force California businesses to offer employees more help to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, including measures on disclosure of workplace infections, on healthcare and wage replacement, and on job-protected leave to care for sick family members.

For state lawmakers, 2020 “was a year that started out with lots of aspirational plans,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center. “But it became a year about saving lives.”

What with legislators’ personal COVID-19 scares and Capitol shutdowns, “leadership basically asked us to kill any bill that wasn’t COVID-related,” said Heath Flora (R-Ripon) vice chair of the Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee.

Worker advocates and businesses clashed over safety measures to protect against the virus, which has so far infected more than 2.2 million Californians and killed more than 25,000. Neither side got the bulk of what it wanted, and the truncated session forced last-minute compromises.

Legislators managed to pass several nonpandemic workplace laws as well, including one allowing more businesses to hire gig workers. And amid a reckoning on social justice, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a first-in-the-nation measure requiring publicly traded companies to diversify their boards with Latino, Black, Asian and non-heterosexual directors.

The state’s minimum wage is also climbing, thanks to a preexisting law that has been taking effect in stages. As of Jan. 1, employers with more than 25 employees must pay at least $14 an hour. Those with 25 or fewer must pay at least $13. A host of jurisdictions have higher floors, however, including the city and county of Los Angeles, where the minimum rises to $15 for all employers July 1.

Of the new state laws, these are among the most significant:

Family leave
The divide over who can take time off from jobs to care for new babies or sick family members has long been a conspicuous example of workplace inequality, governed by byzantine rules.

Until now, only employees at companies with 50 workers or more were guaranteed that they could take 12 weeks of leave to care for sick family members — and that their jobs would be waiting for them afterward.

The limits hit low-income workers hardest, as they are more likely to work for smaller companies and less likely to take leave for fear of losing their jobs. Of California’s 15 million payroll employees, 6.8 million work for companies with fewer than 50 workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and have thus been ineligible for job-protected leave.

Senate Bill 1383, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires companies with five or more employees to allow them 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted child or sick family member — the same number now available to employees of businesses with 50 or more workers. It expands the definition of “family member” beyond spouses and children to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and in-laws.

Progressives, led by retiring state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), have long fought to expand protected leave, over fierce business opposition. The California Chamber of Commerce labeled SB 1383 a “job killer” and successfully lobbied to narrow the measure: The original proposal would have covered all workers, including those at companies with fewer than five employees.

With the pandemic driving business closures and restrictions, the law “will force our already fragile mom-and-pop owners to lay people off and shut their doors forever,” argued John Kabateck, California director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Proponents of the law cited the coronavirus in arguing that Californians should be able to care for sick family members without fear of losing their jobs. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only further revealed the need for a family leave policy that truly serves families and workers, especially those who keep our economy running,” Newsom said in a bill-signing statement.

COVID-19 safety
(Rose Wong for The Times)
As workplace outbreaks of the coronavirus multiplied, so did reports that companies were concealing infections. California’s Division of Occupational Health and Safety, known as Cal/OSHA, adopted an emergency set of COVID-19 standards in November. Assembly Bill 685, which takes effect Jan. 1, toughens rules requiring employers to report cases and imposes penalties governing outbreaks.

Under the new law, a business must notify employees within one business day of learning of any potential COVID-19 exposure. It must also offer them information on benefits such as workers’ compensation and sick leave; on protection against retaliation; and on the company’s virus safety measures.

Employers must alert local public health agencies within 48 hours of a coronavirus outbreak, defined in most instances as three lab-confirmed cases at a single workplace within a two-week period. And the state’s Department of Public Health must publish that information, detailing the number and frequency of cases and outbreaks by industry on its website.

The law also gives Cal/OSHA authority to immediately shut down a worksite where employees are deemed to be at risk of “imminent hazard” from the virus, without going through a 30-day administrative process.

In a letter requesting a veto, the state Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of trade associations said the law subjects employers to “vague standards and liability” and “fails to distinguish between employers who take appropriate steps to keep their workplaces safe, and those who fail to do so.”

Given that employees could catch the virus in their communities rather than from co-workers, the group wrote, publication of outbreak information is “a ‘name and shame’ provision … akin to a scarlet letter for customer-facing businesses, who have already been hit hard by the COVID-19-mandated shutdowns and are struggling to survive.”

But Newsom said the law would “help California workers stay safe at work and get the support they need if they are exposed to COVID-19.”

Labor unions applauded the measure. “We hear daily about workplace COVID-19 infections and the lack of notice our workers receive,” said Kathy Finn, secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, which represents 20,000 grocery employees. “Without a requirement to report COVID-19 exposures, no workplace in California is safe.”

Workers’ compensation
As COVID-19 surged across California, businesses suggested that infected employees could have caught the virus anywhere, making them ineligible for workers’ compensation, under which employers pay for healthcare, partly replace wages and provide death benefits. But in May, Newsom issued an executive order creating a “disputable presumption” that front-line workers who contracted COVID-19 from mid-March to early July caught it on the job unless businesses offer proof to the contrary.

With Senate Bill 1159, which took effect in September, the Legislature extended Newsom’s order beyond July for first responders and healthcare workers. And it applied the presumption to all other employees at businesses with more than five workers, but only if they were on the job during an outbreak. (This law defines an outbreak as four employees testing positive within two weeks for employers with 100 or fewer workers or 4% testing positive at larger employers.)

A broader bill covering workers no matter the size of their employer or whether an outbreak occurred was shelved. “We had hoped for a more expansive bill,” said Steve Smith, a California Labor Federation spokesman. “But the majority of those who get COVID are essential workers who interact with people all day every day. Now they’ll get healthcare and wage replacement.”

The state Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of trade associations opposed the law, arguing that employers should not be “financially responsible for the actions of employees outside the workplace.” Expanding workers’ compensation, the group wrote to legislators, could cost employers billions of dollars for virus-related claims.

Independent contractors
A 2018 California Supreme Court decision known as Dynamex limited the ability of businesses to classify workers as independent contractors rather than as employees. The difference: For employees, businesses must provide such workplace protections as minimum wage, overtime, paid sick leave, workers’ compensation, and unemployment and disability insurance.

The following year, the Legislature codified the decision in Assembly Bill 5, the nation’s strongest law governing gig workers. It granted exceptions for certain occupations, including physicians, dentists, accountants, lawyers, graphic designers and real estate agents. Its author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), declined to exempt app-based ride-hail or delivery drivers.

In 2020, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates spent $224 million campaigning for Proposition 22, the most expensive ballot initiative in California history, to exempt their drivers from AB 5. The measure, approved by voters, guarantees their gig workers 120% of the state minimum wage for “engaged time” driving passengers or on the way to a pickup, but no pay for time spent waiting between rides. It bars the drivers from unionizing. It makes some eligible for a health insurance stipend.

Even as the battle over Proposition 22 raged, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2257, which revises some provisions of AB 5, including those governing business-to-business and referral agency transactions. Changes also affect a number of occupations, including writers, photographers, home inspectors, real estate appraisers, landscape architects, several kinds of consulting services and various music and performing arts jobs.

Industries whose workers are considered to be at “high risk” of misclassification — including janitorial, trucking, retail, in-home care and construction services — are still covered by AB 5’s restrictions on independent contracting.

Corporate diversity
(Rose Wong for The Times)
In 2018, California enacted the first U.S. law requiring gender diversity on corporate boards. Under that law — Senate Bill 826 — publicly traded companies headquartered in the state had to add at least one woman to their boards by December 2019. By the end of 2021, boards with five directors must include two women, and boards with six or more directors must include three women.

Companies that fail to comply face fines of $100,000 for a first violation and $300,000 for any subsequent violations.

Before the gender diversity law passed, 29% of public companies headquartered in California had no female board directors. That number plummeted to 2.35% in 2020, according to an October report by the nonprofit California Partners Project. The group estimates that 468 companies will still have to add a combined 1,940 new female directors to meet the 2021 target.

In September, in another first, a new law was enacted requiring California-based publicly traded companies to include at least one board member “from an underrepresented community” by the end of 2021, and as many as three by the end of 2022, depending on the size of the board. Assembly Bill 979 defines such a board member as “an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.”

With 60% of the state’s population identifying as Latino, Asian or Black, “we can no longer wait for corporations to figure it out on their own,” Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), a coauthor of the bill, said at its signing. “By ensuring diversity on their boards, we know the corporations are more likely to create opportunities for people of color.”

Conservative legal groups are challenging the laws as unconstitutional, but in the meantime many corporations nationwide are moving forward to add women and people from diverse backgrounds to their boards.

Coming soon?
As the pandemic hammered businesses, Newsom vetoed several of labor’s top initiatives, including a bill written by Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) known as “right to recall.” Kalra’s bill would have required that if large hotels, airport hospitality groups and janitorial companies laid off workers because of a “state of emergency,” then when the businesses return to hiring, they offer former workers their jobs back based on seniority.

Similar measures have been adopted by localities — including the city and county of Los Angeles, as well as Long Beach, Pasadena, San Francisco and Oakland — at the behest of unions arguing that companies should not replace longtime employees with cheaper hires. But Newsom said a statewide law would impose “too onerous a burden on employers navigating these tough challenges.”

Labor-friendly legislators expect to bring the bill back this year.

Rotary Club of Gilroy Seeks Coat Donations

Rotary Club of Gilroy and One Warm Coat®,
ensuring no one goes cold this winter

The Rotary Club of Gilroy is hosting a coat drive to collect clean, gently worn, or new, warm coats during the month of January. Coats can be dropped off at either Alpine Landscapes, 8595 Murray Ave. between 7:00AM – 4:00PM, M-F; the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, 7471 Monterey St., between 9:00AM – 5:00PM, M-F, or Fortino Winery, 4525 Hecker Pass Hwy, 12:00 – 4:00 T-S. Gilroy residents are invited to make a difference in our local community by donating to the coat drive and helping the Rotary Club of Gilroy reach their goal of collecting 500 coats and $250 dollars.

“We are so excited about our upcoming One Warm Coat drive and hope the community will support us. Nearly 40 million Americans were living in poverty and struggling to pay their bills before the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for coats this fall and winter will be greater than ever before. One Warm Coat’s program gets coats to those in need, for free. Everything we collect in our community will be distributed in Gilroy and help our neighbors stay safe and warm this winter,” said Rotary Club of Gilroy President, Dr. Kathleen Rose.

Last year, more than 500,000 coats were distributed across North America to children and adults in need through One Warm Coat’s Coat Drive program. “We are so grateful for our Coat Drive Ambassadors, like Rotary Club of Gilroy! It is because of our incredible volunteers that so many people receive the gift of warmth each year. The health effects of extreme cold are life threatening. Thanks to Rotary Club of Gilroy’s efforts, many people in this community will be safe and protected this winter”, said Beth W. Amodio, President and CEO of One Warm Coat.

About One Warm Coat
One Warm Coat is a national nonprofit organization that provides free coats to anyone in need, without discrimination, and works to create awareness of the vital need for warm coats across the country. Through the Coat Drive Program, One Warm Coat provides tools and resources to empower volunteer-led and sponsored coat drives to collect coats, and partners with nonprofit agencies and schools across all 50 states to distribute those coats to children and adults in need. One Warm Coat also encourages sustainability by working with manufacturers and retailers to match overstock and irregular coats with agencies and schools across the country, where they are most needed. Since 1992, One Warm Coat has facilitated the collection and distribution of more than 6.6 million coats. One Warm Coat believes in the basic right to protection from the cold, for everyone.


Newsom Announces $450-Per-Student Incentive to Reopen Schools

Article by Ana B. Ibarra and Mikhail Zinshteyn, CalMatters

After painting a dark forecast for the pandemic last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom, on December 30, offered parents and students some hope: He has a $2-billion plan for schools to start in-person learning by spring.

Newsom’s January budget will call for providing a one-time payment of $450 per student to school districts that offer in-person instruction to help cover their extra costs related to the virus.

The phased-in approach would prioritize the state’s youngest learners, kindergarten to sixth grade, beginning in February, Newsom said. Distance learning will remain an option for families, he said. Schools serving low-income families, English learners and foster youth could qualify for more than $450 per student, according to the plan posted by the California Department of Public Health.

The proposal would need the approval of the Legislature, since it’s a major increase in spending for the state’s budget.

“It’s a good start, and we look forward to partnering with him on the details,” said Sen. John Laird, a Democrat from Santa Cruz who is chairman of the budget education subcommittee.

The announcement comes as California faces the toughest time in the pandemic, with hospitals strained and transmission rampant. A strain of the virus that has a greater rate of transmitting infections has been found in Southern California, Newsom said today.

Newsom’s plan isn’t a guarantee that schools will reopen soon. Schools will only qualify to reopen in counties with a seven-day average coronavirus case rate of 28 per 100,000 residents, and they must publish a safety plan.

That means students in the most highly populated and hard-hit counties, such as Los Angeles, Fresno and Riverside, probably will have to wait longer to return to in-person learning than students in other areas with lower infection rates. Los Angeles County, for example, currently has 7,209 infections per 100,000 residents, a rate that is 257 times higher than the state’s guideline, according to the county’s surveillance dashboard.

For months, school leaders have been pushing Newsom to enact a plan for reopening. In a November letter, superintendents from across the state asked Newsom for additional funding and a “common standard” for reopening.

“As we plan for a new semester…there is a pressing need for a clear and consistent set of guidelines which would set forth the health, education and employee practices and standards needed to reopen our schools, and keep them open,” the letter said.

The extra state money could help deflect concerns of school districts about the cost of reopening with social distancing procedures and other steps needed to reduce the risk of infection.

Newsom said the state will support schools with frequent coronavirus testing of students and staff, contact tracing and personal protective equipment. Staff and students will have to wear face coverings — surgical masks are recommended for staff, according to the plan.

Reflecting on his own experience as a parent with four young children, Newsom said, he is aware younger children have a harder time learning online.
“Kids are learning. They’re just not learning equally,” he said.

In California, elementary schools are allowed to seek waivers to reopen even if they are in the purple, most restrictive tier of the state’s colored-tier system.

But the majority of the state’s students are in schools that have not reopened and continue to learn via Zoom, a system that has notably hurt students without reliable broadband connection.

Some officials noted that risk at schools is minimal. Among California’s 24,738 COVID-19 deaths, six have been among children under 17. “Many of our school districts are open, and they are open safely with little or no transmission, even in this time,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, the president of the California State Board of Education.

The state’s department of public health points to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that shows transmission among students is uncommon, and that children are more likely to become infected in social gatherings and other less-controlled environments.

Dr. Anthony Facui, who spoke to Newsom in a live-streamed event, said reopening schools is important for children and their mental well-being, but also for working families. “If you really want to get society back to some form of normality, one of the first things you have to do is get the children back in school,” said Fauci, who is the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.

Newsom has been pressured by parents and legislators to reopen schools as many children fall further behind in their studies. But California’s largest teachers union has sought to slow down back-to-school plans. The California Teachers Association sent lawmakers a letter this month saying schools in purple tier area should not re-open.

Newsom said his plan got buy-in from the CTA. “The vast majority of what you’re hearing today has come from their input,” Newsom said today.

But E. Toby Boyd, president of the CTA, said that the union will continue to support distance learning while California remains a COVID-19 hotspot.

“We have been calling for tougher safety standards, rigorous and consistent testing, data collection and transparency. While these tenets are addressed in the proposal released Wednesday, there are many unanswered questions and the devil is always in the details, particularly as it relates to implementation and execution,” Boyd said

Despite the restrictions in Newsom’s plan, Raquel Laguna, a teacher at a Los Angeles charter school and vice president of the teachers union that represents the 19 Green Dot Charter Schools, said she still worries that the financial incentive in Newsom’s plan may prompt school administrators to vie for the funds even if COVID-19 cases in their communities are high.

Troy Flint, spokesperson for the California School Board Association, which represents the state’s school boards, called Newsom’s plan promising, but agreed that a lot rides on the details.

“If staff are able to get vaccinated prior to return, I think that’s the ideal, but there will certainly be some school districts that will want to move more rapidly,” Flint said in an interview with CalMatters. “A lot will depend on community input and the relationship between district governance teams and their labor unions.”

A coalition of superintendents from school districts that enroll more than a million students expressed support for bringing students back to the classroom, but fell short of endorsing Newsom’s plan. The group promised to “look carefully” at the plan and provide feedback before lawmakers reconvene Jan. 11.

Earlier this month, a group of legislators introduced legislation, AB 10, that starting March 1, would require public schools to reopen soon after they get permission from public health authorities.

Under the proposal led by Assemblymember Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat, public schools would need a plan for their transition to in-person instruction within two weeks of their county coming off the most-restrictive tier.

Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, a Democrat from Long Beach and chair of the K-12 education committee, said he needs to determine whether Newsom’s plan aligns with the bill, which he co-authored. “We’ll see how the two plans comport or don’t,” he said. “AB 10 is very much alive and it has not gone away.”

Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, a San Luis Obispo Republican, earlier this month sent a letter to Dr. Mark Ghaly’s office, Newsom’s secretary of health and human services, asking that teachers be next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.

California’s school situation has been a “colossal public policy failure,” Cunningham told CalMatters.

“Get teachers vaccinations, get them masks, get them socially-distanced classrooms, do what it takes,” Cunningham said.

The state is scheduled to finalize plans today for who will come next in the vaccine line. Teachers are expected to be prioritized in the next group.

Gilroy Rotary Announces 2021 Scholarship Awards Program Will Award $52,500

The Rotary Club of Gilroy is now accepting applications for the 2021 scholarship awards.

This year, the Rotary Club of Gilroy will be awarding a total of $52,500 in college scholarships for qualified high school seniors graduating in 2021 and beginning college in the fall of 2021 and Gavilan College or other students transferring to a 4-year college in the fall of 2021.

The scholarships will be awarded from three different categories: General Scholarship (total of $15,000); Goldsmith/Gilroy Rotary Horticulture/Biological Sciences (total of $7,500) and the Susan J. Seledon Scholarships (total of $30,000).

To determine eligibility and download an application, visit www.gilroyrotary.org.

Gilroy Rotary is a volunteer organization, comprised of individuals from our community who are dedicated to the concept of “service above self.” Through fundraising and individual contributions, the members of Gilroy Rotary provide critical financial support to a wide range of local community needs, with a special focus on education, youth, seniors and local impact.

Scholarship applications are now available on the Gilroy Rotary website (http://www.gilroyrotary.org) or by contacting the Club at: Gilroy Rotary Scholarship Awards, PO Box 1912, Gilroy, CA 95021. Completed application packet must be received by February 26, 2021.

Downtown Improvement Incentive Program