Lawmakers Approve Economic Relief Package With $600 Stimulus Payments To Low-Income Californians

Feb 23, 2021

Credit Andrew Nixon / CapRadio

Millions of low-income and undocumented Californians will get $600 relief payments after state lawmakers approved a sweeping stimulus package to aid those hit hardest by the pandemic, including small businesses.  

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the $7.6 billion package on Tuesday.

When he does, an estimated 5.7 million Californians who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and other aid programs like CalWORKs will get a $600 rebate when they file their 2020 taxes.

Those eligible include: 

  • Households that earn less than $30,000 annually and qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Undocumented tax filers who earn up to $75,000
  • CalWORKS recipients
  • Individuals enrolled in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) 

“This is such an important bill, because it gets millions of hardworking Californians instant money that they so desperately need during this tough time,” said Assembly Budget Chairman Phil Ting (D–San Francisco).

Low-income taxpayers who are also undocumented will receive a total of $1,200.

In addition to the stimulus payments, the aid package includes more than $2 billion in grants and fee waivers for small businesses, $35 million for food and diaper banks and $400 million in subsidies for childcare providers.

It also reverses cuts made last summer to public universities and state courts when the state experienced a record-breaking budget deficit.  

One piece of the package, a $2 billion proposal to allow businesses to deduct purchases made with federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, was held back for changes and lawmakers hinted it may include more relief than originally planned. 

“Our goal is really to get as much out there as we can to support businesses,” Atkins said when asked about the bill that did not come up for a vote. “It’s going to be done.”

Lawmakers expect a significant tax windfall this year and are not ruling out passing another stimulus package in the future. Sen. Nancy Skinner (D–Berkeley) said the relief package approved Monday was tailored to help individuals and businesses that were left out of federal aid.

“If we find that the next federal action leaves some key components out, then we may consider doing that with additional funds,” Skinner said. “But there may be other parts of California’s economic activity that need some boost, which we’ll also look carefully at.”

Deadlock Over School Reopenings

Educators, state lawmakers and Gov. Newsom remain locked in a stalemate over how to bring California’s youngest students back in classrooms. 

After negotiations with the governor fell apart, legislative Democrats last week unveiled their own plan for reopening schools. Newsom panned the measure, saying it would not get students back to in-person learning soon enough.

A large coalition of county education offices, school districts and superintendents sent a letter to lawmakers outlining their own issues with the measure, including the timeline and a required testing regimen for students and staff.

Assembly Budget Chairman Ting wants to put more pressure on districts. He says many schools didn’t push hard enough to get kids back into classrooms last fall and left the vast majority of a $5 billion appropriation for safe school reopenings unspent. 

“They want us to give them money with no accountability, no guarantees of in-person learning this year,” Ting said. “I am normally a huge proponent of local control, but this year, local control has been a complete failure.”

Skinner, who is involved in negotiations on school reopenings, painted an optimistic picture as case rates across the state plummet following a winter surge and educators learned 10% of future vaccines will be set aside for them. 

“We are getting in a position where everyone is going to feel much more comfortable,” she said. “You will see many, many, many more schools open very soon.”