March 19, 2021 Edition

Legislature Continues Policy and Informational Hearings

This week, the California State Senate and Assembly continued to convene policy committee hearings on legislative bills, as well as informational hearings on a number of subjects, including those related to COVID-19. The Legislature will convene again next week before taking a one-week spring recess during the week of March 29.

Numerous CHEAC-tracked measures continue to make their way through the legislative process. The CHEAC Legislative Committee convened again this week and selected a handful of additional bills for tracking, which are now detailed on this week’s CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart. Below, we highlight several bills of interest:

Communicable Disease Control

AB 714 (Maienschein) as amended March 11, 2021 – WATCH

Assembly Member Brian Maienschein’s AB 714 would require specified congregate living facilities, including intermediate care facilities and nursing facilities, to report communicable disease-related information to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and to inform patients or residents about communicable disease cases within their facilities.

AB 1064 (Fong) as amended March 15, 2021 – WATCH

AB 1064 by Assembly Member Vince Fong would authorize a pharmacist to independently initiate and administer any vaccine approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for persons three years of age or older.

COVID-19

AB 1388 (Low) as amended March 11, 2021 – WATCH WITH CONCERNS

AB 1388 by Assembly Member Evan Low would require the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to report COVID-19 death data by zip code on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. CDPH would also be required to create a uniform dashboard for use by local health departments in reporting COVID-19 data on their public websites. CHEAC took a ‘Watch with Concerns’ position on the measure due to privacy concerns with reporting data by zip codes, particularly in zip codes with small populations.

SB 102 (Melendez) as amended March 17, 2021 – OPPOSE

Senator Melissa Melendez’s SB 102 would prohibit the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) from revoking a licensing or imposing a fine or penalty for failure to comply with any COVID-19 emergency order unless DCA or ABC can prove that the lack of compliance resulted in transmission of COVID-19. SB 102 will be heard in the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee on Monday, March 22. This week, CHEAC took an oppose position on SB 102.  

Health Equity

SB 682 (Rubio) as amended March 10, 2021 – SUPPORT

Senator Susan Rubio’s SB 682 would require the California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Agency, in collaboration with specified state entities, to develop and implement a plan that establishes targets to reduce racial disparities in health outcomes by 50 percent by December 2030. CHHS must develop a plan to reach reduction targets in chronic health conditions affecting children, including, but not limited to, asthma, diabetes, dental caries, depression, and vaping-related diseases. SB 682 will be heard in the Senate Health Committee on April 7.


Below, a brief roundup of legislative hearings that occurred this week is provided:

Assembly Sub. 6 Assesses COVID-19 Expenditures, Vaccine Distribution Needs

On Thursday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 6 on Budget Process, Oversight, and Program Evaluation convened an informational hearing on the state’s continued COVID-19 response, including vaccine distribution and anticipated federal support from the 2021 American Rescue Plan. Thursday’s hearing featured Government Operations Agency Secretary Yolanda Richardson and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Chief Deputy Director Susan Fanelli to provide an overview of vaccine distribution and administration activities, governance under the state’s third-party administrator (TPA) vaccine network, and equity in vaccine allocations and administration.

The hearing additionally covered the Newsom Administration’s COVID-19 expenditures to date and anticipated federal funds to be received by California as part of the recently enacted American Rescue Plan. Representatives from the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) provided subcommittee members with presentations on the subjects and responded to numerous budget- and fiscal-related questions relative to the state’s continued COVID-19 response.

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

Assembly Continues Review of CalAIM Components

Following a similar hearing last week, the Assembly Health Committee and Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday convened a joint informational hearing to explore the Medi-Cal eligibility, benefits, and managed care components of the California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM) Initiative proposed by the Newsom Administration. Tuesday’s hearing focused on a series of policy questions relative to CalAIM “in lieu of services” (ILOS) and enhanced care management (ECM) services envisioned under the new proposal.

The hearing additionally covered CalAIM’s population health management (PHM) component, standardized Medi-Cal benefits, and standardized Medi-Cal eligibility. Representatives from the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), health plans, and consumer and stakeholder groups were witnesses to the multipart hearing on Tuesday and provided input on various elements of the sweeping CalAIM proposal.

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

Assembly Sub. 1 Examines Human Services Investments

The Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 additionally convened a hearing on Wednesday to examine human services-related investments under the jurisdiction of the California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Agency, the California Department of Aging (CDA), the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). The hearing covered various anti-poverty investments, racial equity initiatives, homelessness services, and the state’s Master Plan for Aging. Representatives from the Newsom Administration, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA), the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and the California Budget and Policy Center, among others, appeared before the subcommittee.

The agendas for Wednesday’s hearing are available here and available here.  A video recording of the hearing is available here.

Reopening of Sports Examined by Assembly Committee

The Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media on Wednesday convened an informational hearing to review the safe and equitable reopening of sports within the state. The hearing consisted of four panels that explored guidelines governing California sports, plans for safe reopening of sports in California, professional sports activities, and youth and adult recreational sports.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan presented to the committee on the state’s COVID-19 sports guidance, and numerous representatives from various sports entities and organizations appeared before the committee to share their pandemic experience and information on continued activities in ensuring the safe continuation of sporting activities in California.

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


California Can’t Wait Coalition Formed to Urge Public Health Infrastructure Investments

The California Can’t Wait (#CACantWait) Coalition, consisting of CHEAC, HOAC, CSAC, RCRC, UCC, SEIU California, and Public Health Advocates, has developed a two-pronged proposal that would begin to reverse the decades-long disinvestment in local public health departments.

The coalition’s budget proposal consists of $200 million General Fund ongoing to support local health departments in rebuilding workforce and infrastructure before the next public health crisis and making strides in health equity. An additional one-time investment of $3.5 million would fund an assessment of the current and future needs of public health departments as proposed by AB 240 by Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez.

California cannot wait until the next public health crisis to support local public health workforce and infrastructure. The coalition invites organizations to support #CACantWait by signing onto our letter by Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Our letter is available here.


County Leaders Recognize Racism as a Public Health Crisis

This week, CHEAC was joined by the County Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA), County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA), and the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (CAPH) in declaring racism a public health crisis. As a group, the organizations join local governments around California and throughout the country, including the boards of supervisors in at least nine California counties, in acknowledging the historic and ongoing harms of systemic racism.

The statement by CHEAC and fellow county organizations comes as black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities continuously bear the weight of coping with a confluence of individual personal, as well as broader cultural, traumatic events all rooted in systemic racism. The statement outlines actionable steps for counties to address racism and racial inequality throughout California.

The joint statement is available here.


DOF Issues March 2021 COVID-19 Fiscal Update

This week, the California Department of Finance (DOF) released its March 2021 fiscal update on COVID-19 direct response expenditures. The report provides expenditure assumptions and cost estimates as of this month compared to the Governor’s 2021-22 Budget estimate released in January. DOF estimates the state’s combined total costs for its COVID-19 response across fiscal years 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22 reach $15.1 billion with an estimated net General Fund impact of approximately $1.9 billion.

DOF outlines cost estimates by potential fund source and indicates significant expenditure increases in vaccine distribution and administration. DOF notes the expansion of infrastructure for state vaccine distribution and administration activities has resulted in an additional $1 billion in costs to the state, primarily through supporting state and local vaccine sites, administering the statewide provider network, and conducting media outreach to encourage vaccinations.

The full DOF March 2021 update is available here.


State to Deploy Up to Three Million COVID-19 Antigen Tests to Schools

Governor Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond on Thursday announced a new partnership between the California COVID-19 Testing Task Force and the California Department of Education (CDE) to deploy up to three million rapid COVID-19 antigen tests at no cost to support the safe return to in-person instruction for staff and students. The antigen tests are anticipated to be delivered to school districts in regions hardest hit by the pandemic and serve greater numbers of high-risk students and families.

Additional information from the Governor’s Office is available here.


Biden Administration Announces Expansions in COVID-19 Testing and Treatments

To support the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden-Harris Administration on Wednesday announced significant investments to expand access to available COVID-19 testing and treatments nationwide. Below, we highlight these announcements:

  • COVID-19 Testing Expansion: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will invest $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan to ramp up COVID-19 screening testing among schools and $2.25 billion to scale up testing in underserved populations.
    • Schools: The Administration’s $10 billion investment will be provided to states to support COVID-19 testing for teachers, staff, and students to assist states in safely reopening in-person instruction. California is anticipated to receive nearly $900 million of the $10 billion investment.
    • Underserved Areas: The CDC will invest $2.25 billion to address COVID-19-realted health disparities and advance health equity among high-risk and underserved populations. Grants to public health departments are anticipated to improve testing and contact tracing capabilities, develop innovative mitigation and prevention resources and services, and improve data collection and reporting to advance health equity and address social determinants of health related to COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 Treatments for Underserved Communities: HHS is also investing $150 million to increase access to COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapeutic treatments for patients in vulnerable communities throughout the country. This new effort is anticipated to speed assistance to hard-hit communities to increase administration of the treatments to prevent hospitalization and deaths. The funding will support additional staffing, infusion center capacity in traditional and non-traditional health care settings, and equipment to administer intravenous infusion treatments. The effort will additionally increase awareness among health providers and patients about available treatment options, including where and how to access them.

President Joseph R. Biden on Thursday additionally announced the U.S. has administered over 100 million COVID-19 vaccines. Recall, the President previously set a goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses by the 100th day of his Administration. According to the Administration, this goal was reached in 58 days.


Biden Administration Halts Public Charge Rule, State Leaders Release Statement

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), under the Biden-Harris Administration, recently announced it would stop applying the Public Charge Final Rule issued under the Trump Administration. Recall, the Trump Administration in 2019 finalized the rule which required individuals applying for or seeking adjustment to an immigration status of visa to establish that they were not likely at any time to rely on specified public benefits.

Following the announcement by the Biden-Harris Administration, California health and human services leaders, including CHHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, CDSS Director Kim Johnson, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón, and DHCS Director Will Lightbourne, released a joint statement reaffirming California’s commitment to providing services to immigrants. In the joint statement, the leaders reminded immigrant families of the availability of services in the state, including medical testing, treatment, and preventive services related to COVID-19.

The full joint statement on the public charge rule is available here. Additional information on the changes to the public charge rule is available here.


Becerra Confirmed HHS Secretary

On Thursday, the United States Senate confirmed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as the 25th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on a 50-49 vote. Becerra becomes the first Latino HHS Secretary in U.S. history. Following his confirmation, Becerra resigned his position as California Attorney General. Governor Gavin Newsom released a statement congratulating Secretary Becerra and is anticipated to name Becerra’s replacement in the coming days.

More information on HHS Secretary Becerra is available here.


Newsom Announces $50 Million in Grants to Mitigate PSPS Impacts

This week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the distribution of $50 million in Community Power Resiliency grants through the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). The funds released this week were allocated through the 2020-21 state budget and are designed to maintain the continuity of critical services that can be impacted by public safety power shutoffs (PSPS), including schools, county election offices, food storage reserves, and COVID-19 testing sites.

The grants awarded by Cal OES were distributed to a total of 225 recipients, including $13 million to all counties. This is the second round of PSPS resiliency grants to be awarded by the Administration.

Additional information is available here.