Daily Headlines

Daily Headlines for February 26, 2021

We scan major news sources* and compile selected articles to keep you up-to-date on current issues affecting California business – the economy, health care, environment, transportation and more.

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Today’s Top Story

California Employers Should Not Be the New Social Safety Net
California’s employers should not become the new social safety net; that is the responsibility of government. Indeed, since the State is enjoying record budget surpluses, any new, emergency pandemic-related leave should be paid for by the state treasury, either as a tax credit or direct benefit.

COVID-19


Court Upholds California’s COVID-19 Workplace Rules Requiring Testing, Sick Pay
Saying the state has wide authority to create rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a San Francisco Superior Court judge on Thursday upheld California’s COVID-19 emergency workplace regulations in place. The Sacramento Bee

California Pushing Teachers to Front of Vaccine Line as Supply Increases
California will release about 75,000 vaccine doses every week for counties to administer to teachers and other education workers, under a plan announced by the governor’s office Thursday that further prioritizes educators to quickly get schools reopened. San Francisco Chronicle

I’m Fully Vaccinated. Can I Hug a Friend? Eat Indoors? See a Movie? Here Are Answers
With about 5% of Americans having received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, many are wondering: What activities are safe? Some experts weigh in. Los Angeles Times

Public Affairs/ Politics


House to Vote on Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Covid Relief Bill with $1,400 Checks
The House is set to vote Friday evening on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, just days after the U.S. crossed 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus. NBC News

Human Resources / Health & Safety


Employee Quitting Due to COVID May Still Collect Unemployment
I have several employees who have quit for COVID-19 related reasons, including lack of child care and fear of being in the workplace. Why are they able to collect unemployment insurance when they were the ones who chose to quit? CalChamber Alert

CFRA Expansion Complicates Leave Administration for Furloughed Employees
The recent California Family Rights Act (CFRA) expansion has added a new and more complicated layer for small businesses. As previously reported, starting January 1, 2021, employers with five or more employees must provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave each year. HRWatchdog

Judge Refuses to Block ‘Hero Pay’ Wage Hike for Long Beach Grocery Workers
A federal judge today denied a bid by the California Grocers Association to temporarily overturn a Long Beach ordinance mandating an additional $4 per hour “hero pay” for supermarket workers who face greater risk performing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Long Beach Post News

Economy


Fiscal Stimulus Fires Up U.S. Consumer Spending; Inflation Benign
U.S. consumer spending increased by the most in seven months in January as the government doled out more pandemic relief money to low-income households and new COVID-19 infections dropped, positioning the economy for faster growth in the first quarter. Reuters

Boost to Household Income Primes U.S. Economy for Stronger Growth
Pandemic aid to households is pouring money into the U.S. economy, priming it for rapid growth this year. Government-relief programs have infused U.S. households with historically high levels of cash, priming the economy for rapid growth this year. The Wall Street Journal

California Lost 175,000 ‘Creative Economy’ Jobs, Study Finds
…During that period, the state lost 175,000 jobs in that economy, which was said to include architecture and related services, creative goods and products, entertainment and digital media, fashion and fine arts, the report said. The New York Times

Environmental/Agriculture


Air Board Tells San Joaquin Valley Growers to Phase Out Burns by 2025
California’s air quality board voted today to call for a near-complete ban of agricultural burning by 2025 in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the most polluted regions in the country. CalMatters

Burning California to Save It: Why One Solution to Raging Wildfires Can’t Gain Traction
…Western states conduct just a fraction of the burns performed in the Southeast — and are failing to keep up with a dangerous backlog of dead trees, dry grasses and overgrown shrubs on millions of acres. The Sacramento Bee

International


U.S. Drops Digital Tax Demand, Opening Door to Global Deal (1)
The U.S. has dropped a key demand in negotiations over digital taxation of technology companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc., lifting a barrier that had raised transatlantic trade tensions and prevented an international deal. Bloomberg

G20 to Show United Front on Support for Global Economic Recovery, Cash for IMF
The world’s financial leaders are expected on Friday to agree to continue supportive measures for the global economy and look to boost the International Monetary Fund’s resources so it can help poorer countries fight off the effects of the pandemic. Reuters

Infrastructure / Education


BART, Muni, Caltrain Would Be Big Winners in Democrats’ COVID Stimulus Bill
Congressional Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill includes money for transit agencies reeling from lost revenue, and that could mean a major boost for BART, Muni and Caltrain. But the set-asides have also drawn fire from Republicans who oppose the bill and are trying to cast it as stuffed with pork, portraying the Bay Area funds — particularly for BART’s long-planned extension into downtown San Jose and Santa Clara — as a Democratic giveaway. San Francisco Chronicle

Wildfires Leave Forestry Companies Struggling for Insurance
…“Most insurance companies are currently writing ‘wildfire exclusions’ into any liability coverage, so this insurance has become very difficult to get,” said Rich Gordon, Calforests’ president. “When such insurance is available, the coverage has gone down and the price has gone up.” The Wall Street Journal

Opinion/Editorial


Increasing California’s Housing Supply Will Require Three Major Steps
If achieving measurable progress on housing affordability is a priority, homebuilders must be allowed to operate in a regulatory and political environment where housing construction can occur. Just as local and state leaders have contributed to the housing crisis, they both play a role in solving it. Jeff Montejano in The Orange County Register

Public Universities and Colleges Can Serve as Economic Engines to Drive Economy Out of Pandemic Slump
Until our public colleges and universities can get off the roller coaster ride of uncertain state and federal funding, they will continue to struggle to fulfill their mission of providing the ladders to success for people from all walks of life – and that is a loss for all of us. Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine in CalMatters

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