September 18, 2020 Edition

Newsom Signs Legislation Providing Worker Protections Against COVID-19

On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills to provide protections to specified workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures signed by Newsom include SB 1159 by Senator Jerry Hill and AB 685 by Assembly Member Eloise Gómez Reyes.

SB 1159 expands access to workers’ compensation by creating a rebuttable presumption for specified employees, including health care workers, firefighters, and peace officers. This presumption removes certain barriers to access to workers’ compensation for individuals likely infected by COVID-19 through their work.

AB 685 requires all public and private employers to report COVID-19 outbreaks to local public health officials and notify within one business day known COVID-19 cases to employees who may have been exposed.

The full announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here.

Oregon, Washington Join COVID-19 Exposure App Pilot Project

This week, the Office of California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that Oregon and Washington will participate with California in piloting a project that notifies individuals if they have been exposed to COVID-19 via a mobile application. Late last week, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Technology (CDT) announced the Exposure Notification Express app developed by Google and Apple. The app, which requires users to opt-in, confidentially notifies individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. As indicated by the Governor’s Office, privacy and security are central to the design of the app which does not collect location data from any device and never shares user identities.

The announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here.

Newsom Administration Announces First Round of Homekey Awards

This week, the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom announced the first round of awards for Homekey, California’s $600 million program to purchase and rehabilitate housing for conversion to permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The first round of awards from the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) totaled nearly $76.5 million for 10 projects in seven California communities. The 10 projects are expected to provide 579 housing units.

Recall, Homekey is part of the state’s response in protecting residents experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds approved by the Legislature as part of the 2020-21 state budget include $50 million in state funds and $550 million in federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds that must be spent by December 31, 2020.

The full announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here.

CMS Formally Withdraws Proposed Federal Rule on Medicaid Supplemental Payments

This week, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) formally withdrew its proposed federal regulation, “Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule” (MFAR). Recall, CMS proposed the rule last fall which would have broadly expanded federal oversight of Medicaid supplemental payments. MFAR would have additionally recast current rules and regulations governing how supplement payments are structured, financed and distributed.

According to CMS, the proposed rule would have strengthened “the fiscal integrity of the Medicaid program and help ensure that state supplemental payments and financing arrangements are transparent and value-driven.” Experts in the field, including California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), anticipated that if the rule were to be implemented, billions of dollars of Medicaid payments nationwide would have been impacted, creating significant uncertainty for state budgets and Medicaid providers.

In announcing the withdrawal of the proposed rule, CMS Administrator Seema Verma indicated in a statement, “We’ve listened closely to concerns that have been raised by our state and provider partners about potential unintended consequences of the proposed rule, which require further study. Therefore, CMS is withdrawing the rule from the regulatory agenda.”

Initiative Paperwork Filed to Limit Government Authority During Public Health Crises

This week, paperwork was filed with the California Attorney General’s Office for an initiative statute to limit the government’s role to an advisory capacity during any health crisis. According to the initiative, government would be allowed to issue public service announcements and/or health advisories. However, governments would be prohibited from issuing any executive orders that impact any private businesses, public beaches, state parks, places of worship, or personal freedoms.

The proposed initiative undergoes a public comment period before moving to a signature collection period. Additional information on the proposed initiative is available here.

TFAH Finds Obesity Rates Are Highest Ever Recorded

The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) this week released its 17th annual State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America which reports on obesity rates for every state and by racial and ethnic groups, age, and gender. TFAH’s latest report utilizes data from the most recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine that the U.S. adult obesity rate passed the 40 percent mark for the first time, standing at 42.4 percent. Additionally, racial, ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities in obesity rates continue to persist.

TFAH also determines obesity is a risk factor for serious COVID-19 consequences and that the pandemic could increase future levels of obesity due to increased food insecurity. Included in the report is a special section on food insecurity and its relationship to obesity. The report additionally details recommendations for policy action by federal, state, and local government, and across many sectors, on how to best address the obesity crisis. Recommendations from the report focus on the need for a multisector, multidisciplinary approach, as well as a focus on population groups that are disproportionately impacted by the obesity crisis.

The full TFAH report is available here.