January 22, 2021 Edition

CHEAC Launches Public Health Heroes Campaign

This week, the County Health Executives Association of California (CHEAC) launched “Public Health Heroes for Recovery,” a campaign to honor local leaders across sectors who are partnering with public health officials to save lives and protect their communities from COVID-19. Californians from business and labor, local community, faith and non-profit organizations, and the arts are supporting local public health officials’ efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Public health heroes are being featured on CHEAC’s Twitter account (@CHEAC) with stories of local heroes’ contributions to the health of their communities. Recognizing that California’s communities of color have suffered illness and death from the virus in disproportionate numbers, CHEAC will recognize public health heroes whose deep connections in underserved communities are vital to public health.

View our featured public health heroes on CHEAC’s Twitter available here.

On First Days in Office, President Biden Issues Flurry of Executive Actions

Almost immediately following his inauguration on Wednesday, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. issued a flurry of executive orders and directives to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and economic challenges being experienced throughout the country. President Biden additionally unveiled his Administration’s 200-page National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness laying out a series of actions to bolster the nation’s response to COVID-19 and prepare for future high-consequence public health threats.

A brief summary of the COVID-19 executive actions and directives is provided below:

  • COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Public Health Workforce (Executive Order) – Establishes a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to coordinate federal COVID-19 testing activities; directs specified agencies to address the costs of COVID-19 testing; directs specified agencies to conduct public health workforce activities for COVID-19 and future public health threats, including five-year targets and budget requirements to achieve a sustainable public health workforce, and establishes the U.S. Public Health Job Corps to support COVID-19 response activities
    • COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel (Executive Order) – Requires masks in airports and commercial aircraft, public vessels, and intercity buses and trains; requires international U.S.-bound travelers to produce proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test prior to entry and comply with applicable CDC quarantine guidance
    • Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments (Executive Order) – Requires development of a plan for supporting a range of studies, including large scale clinical trials, for identifying clinical management strategies and treatments for COVID-19 and future public health threats; directs specified agencies to provide targeted surge assistance to critical care and long-term care facilities and expand access to programs and services to meet long-term health needs of patients recovering from COVID-19; directs specified agencies to set targets for the production, allocation, and distribution of COVID-19 treatments and identify barriers to use of existing COVID-19 treatments
    • Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to assess public health supply availability to respond to COVID-19 and, if a shortfall is identified, take appropriate action, including use of the Defense Production Act, to increase supply availability; directs specified agencies to take actions around pandemic response supply pricing; requires development of a strategy to design, build, and sustain long-term capability in the U.S. to manufacture supplies for future pandemics and biological threats
    • Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery (Executive Order) – Establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force; directs specified agencies to assess equity-related measures relative to the pandemic response; directs HHS to conduct a nationwide vaccine outreach campaign
    • Reopening Schools and Early Childhood Education (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to provide evidence-based guidance related to safe in-person school instruction; directs HHS to support the development of contact tracing programs, provide technical assistance around testing and other activities, and issue guidance
    • Protecting Worker Health and Safety (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to issue revised guidance on workplace COVID-19 safety, launch a national program to focus on federal workplace enforcement efforts, and assess occupational safety and health plans
    • International COVID-19 Response and Global Health Preparedness (National Security Directive) – Directs specified agencies to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other countries on international efforts to advance global health, health security, and the prevention of future biological catastrophes, including COVID-19; directs specified agencies to take specified international COVID-19 public health and humanitarian response efforts; directs specified agencies to conduct activities relative to COVID-19 response and global health security financing
    • Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing (Executive Order) – Requires federal workforce compliance with CDC guidelines on mask-wearing, physical distancing, and other public health measures; directs specified agencies to incentivize, support, and encourage widespread mask-wearing; establishes the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force to ensure COVID-19 workplace safety
    • U.S. Leadership on Global Health and Security (Executive Order) – Establishes Biden Administration COVID-19 response team and activities; directs specified agencies to undertake actions to strengthen public health emergency preparedness

A brief summary of the economic-related executive orders and directives is provided below:

  • COVID-19 Economic Relief (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to issue new guidance to increase Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits, increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allotments for lowest-income households, and update food assistance benefits; directs specified agencies to expedite delivery of Economic Impact Payments; directs specified agencies to clarify that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health
  • Protecting and Empowering Federal Workers and Contractors (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to conduct activities to pay more federal employees at least $15 per hour, restore collective bargaining power and worker protections, and strengthens civil service employment arrangements   

In addition to the above COVID-19- and economic-related actions, President Biden additionally issued orders on rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities, ending travel bans on primarily Muslim countries, and protecting public health and the environment.

As the Biden Administration continues to ramp up its activities, additional information on the nation’s COVID-19 response activities is expected. CHEAC will keep its members apprised of relevant federal activities over the coming weeks and months.

State Auditor Issues High-Risk Report on Federal COVID-19 Funding

This week, California State Auditor Elaine Howle issued a report detailing the state’s management and administration of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) appropriated to California by Congress in March 2020. Recall, Auditor Howle designated the state’s management of federal funds to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as a “high-risk statewide issue” given the significant amount of funding appropriated.

The audit report provides background on the allocation of $9.5 billion in CRF for five priority areas consisting of K-12 education and community colleges, Department of Housing and Community Development, Counties, Cities, and State General Fund. The report determined that the $1.3 billion allocated to counties disadvantaged smaller counties because they received significantly less funding per person than the state’s 16 largest counties. Allocations to the largest counties (more than 500,000 residents) resulted in at least $190 per person while allocations to the 42 smaller counties (less than 500,000 residents) resulted in $102 per person. Auditor Howle calls into question the CRF allocation methodology employed by the Department of Finance (DOF).

Further, the audit report concluded that the Newsom Administration did not consistently evaluate cities’ adherence to state public health orders in administering CRF funds. Recall, local governments were required to certify compliance with public health orders to receive their CRF allocations. According to Cal OES, DOF withheld funds from two cities, though Cal OES could not demonstrate that they evaluated all cities’ compliance with public health orders. The audit report goes on to detail recently implemented DOF procedures improve monitoring of CRF expenditures.

Auditor Howle concludes the report by providing recommendations in the event the federal government provides California with additional funding similar to CRF, encouraging DOF to propose a method to the Legislature to provide equitable per-capita funding to local governments and ensure a formal process to evaluate local government adherence to the Legislature’s requirements.

The full audit report is available here.

Senate Examines Governor’s Safe Schools for All Plan

The Senate Education Committee and the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 1 on Education convened a joint informational hearing on Thursday to examine the Newsom Administration’s Safe Schools for All Plan to safely reopen schools amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate hearing featured a panel of state representatives from the Department of Finance (DOF), State Board of Education, and the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). Each of the representatives discussed the Newsom Administration’s education actions, including investments provided through the 2020-21 Budget Act. The representatives further discussed previous guidance and school reopening efforts by the state, as well as updated guidance and proposed investments issued by the Newsom Administration.

The hearing’s second panel consisted of local education officials to provide an overview of the on-the-ground experience of school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The third panel featured association representatives of school employees and teachers.

Senators had the opportunity to raise questions of panelists, which largely focused on testing and contact tracing activities, the availability of state technical assistance to local educational agencies, learning loss mitigation efforts, public health guidance, COVID-19 vaccines, reporting, and engagement with organized labor unions regarding school reopening plans.

The hearing agenda and background paper is available here. A video recording is available here.

Assembly Convenes Joint Informational Hearing on State’s Role in Homelessness

On Thursday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration and the Assembly Housing and Community Development convened a joint hearing to explore the state’s role in homelessness in California. The hearing featured an overview of state homelessness activities from representatives from the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) and the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency (BCSHA).

Lawmakers additionally received presentations detailing promising local programs and services and ongoing needs from local representatives from Southern California, the Bay Area, and the Central Valley. The hearing finally featured a panel of experts, including from homeless service providers and local governments, on recommendations and reforms needed to address homelessness in the state.

The hearing agenda is available here. A video recording of the hearing is available here.

CDPH, CDSS Issue CA Child Wellbeing Coalition e-Guide

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Essentials for Childhood (EfC) Initiative recently published a newly developed resource entitled, “California Child Wellbeing Coalition e-Guide.” The e-Guide was developed for individuals and entities serving Californians and interested in collaborating or connecting with local coalitions, boards, and other organized bodies who are working to achieve child wellbeing through policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change.

The e-Guide is accessible here.