LOS ANGELES - From stimulus checks and in-person schooling, to equitable vaccine distribution and police reform, elected officials in California and Washington DC found themselves facing a rather consequential policy docket this week.
To explore these issues, and more, Elex Michaelson is joined on The Issue Is by California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (D).
THE ISSUE: CALIFORNIA’S NEW VACCINE STRATEGY
BACKGROUND: This week, California became the first state in the nation to administer ten million vaccine doses. Despite that milestone, the state’s vaccine rollout has been met with criticism over an alleged inequitable distribution. To address that, the state announced that 40% of doses would be set aside for the state’s poorest neighborhoods, a collection of some 400 zip codes that house roughly 8 million people. Those Californians account for some 40% of the state’s positive infections, but have thus far received only 17% of the allocated vaccines.
GHALY’S CENTRAL TAKE: "The communities that have burdened the greatest proportion of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are those in these zip codes that we’re targeting, so making sure that we more effectively get vaccine into the arms of those who live in these communities is a key strategy, and it’s not just to protect those communities… When we can control transmission in communities and areas like those, we know that the whole state is going to be better off. So focusing the vaccine effort very much in those communities is a key strategy to get through this altogether…"
THE ISSUE: REOPENING CALIFORNIA’S STADIUMS AND AMUSEMENT PARKS
BACKGROUND: Friday, California announced that certain outdoor stadiums, ballparks, and amusement parks can begin to gradually reopen starting April 1. Under the guidelines, amusement parks can reopen at 15% capacity in the state’s red tier, 25% in the orange tier, and 35% in the yellow tier, although guests must order tickets beforehand, and must be California residents. Outdoor stadiums will be less restrictive in their reopening efforts, being able to operate at 20% capacity in the red tier, 33% capacity in the orange tier, and 67% in the state’s yellow tier.
GHALY’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I see this as an opportunity for us to basically wrap a bubble around a group of fans from the same household that go and get an outdoor experience of something that so many people have missed… They’ll sit in seats pretty far away from others, they’ll be asked to keep their masks on, they’ll be helped in and out of the stadium, concessions will be very different than normal… There’ll be a lot of controls on how fans come in and out, and I think still, many people will get the joy of something they’ve missed for quite some time… So, this is part of the strategy, of course is continuing to focus on COVID health, and making sure we protect our communities, but being thoughtful about where people are mentally and emotionally, and things like activities, live events, ball games, are exciting…"
THE ISSUE: CONGRESSIONAL COVID RELIEF
BACKGROUND: Roughly two-and-a-half months since Congress passed their last coronavirus package, providing $900B in aid, the Senate is now debating the next round of relief, the American Rescue Plan. The package will provide stimulus checks to those who qualify, aid to state and local governments, and an extension of unemployment benefits, among other efforts. As the pandemic begins to wane, however, many Republicans claim the $1.9T relief effort is too large, a so-called "blue state bailout," but, given Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote in the Senate, the package could likely pass without any GOP support.
BASS’S CENTRAL TAKE: "For the average Californian making under $75,000 a year, you will be receiving a check for $1,400. For families under a certain income level, you can have a child tax credit, which will actually be checks that will be coming to you on a monthly basis… the unemployment insurance will be extended, and the checks will increase, there will be an increase to unemployment to $400 a week. In terms of our local communities, you know, state and local government will get additional money, our schools, that absolutely need money so they can reopen, so this piece of legislation, that I hope hits the President’s desk within a week, week-and-a-half, will actually be felt by everyone, and it’s what we need right now."
THE ISSUE: THE GEORGE FLOYD JUSTICE IN POLICING ACT
BACKGROUND: This week, the House of Representatives voted 220-212 to pass "The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act." Among other reforms, the bill, authored by Bass, would ban chokeholds, no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, and racial profiling. While a similar bill stalled in the Senate last summer, Bass remains hopeful of its passage into law this time around, as negotiations in the Senate are set to begin next week.
BASS’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I think one of the things that has frustrated people for years, is that we keep seeing the same thing over and over again, people being killed, unarmed, at the hands of police… There’s two provisions in the bill, qualified immunity, that allows for officers and departments to be sued, and then lowering the standard from which you can prosecute an officer from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless.’ ’Willful’ means that you have to prove that the officer intended to put his knee on George Floyd’s neck and kill him, versus what he did was completely ‘reckless’ and he should have known that it would result in death… We have to be able to hold officers accountable."
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.