Good morning and happy Wednesday! Let’s get into the news!
NEWSOM RESPONDS TO PRISON SCAM SCANDAL
Via Wes Venteicher, David Lightman and Dale Kasler…
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday defended his response to a surge in unemployment insurance fraud among state prison inmates, saying his administration took action when the scheme surfaced.
With the massive prison fraud case becoming his latest political headache, Newsom acknowledged that “bad actors” had exploited the unemployment crisis that erupted when the pandemic shut down much of the economy in March.
Last week, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert criticized Newsom’s administration for doing too little to address fraud that swept through California’s prisons and jails this year, resulting in up to $1 billion in improper payments. She urged Newsom to “turn off the spigot” of money flowing to criminals and said 35 other states had a system to prevent such fraud.
In a Tuesday letter addressed to Schubert, Newsom said most of the fraud has been in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which the federal government created early this year to help people who had been self-employed or working as independent contractors before the pandemic disrupted their income. Those people aren’t eligible for traditional unemployment insurance.
The federal program used a self-certification process to help people access benefits quickly and provide minimum benefit payments regardless of income, according to the letter.
“While this helped many individuals in need during this pandemic, bad actors took advantage of the crisis to abuse the system,” Newsom said in the letter.
He said the Employment Development Department noticed an uptick in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program claims in July and August and implemented new security procedures in early September.
The EDD and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are working with the U.S. Department of Labor to crosscheck unemployment claims against state prison rolls to stop fraudulent payments, according to the letter.
Read the full story here.
NEW LEADERS CHOSEN FOR LEGISLATIVE WOMEN’S CAUCUS
The California Legislative Women’s Caucus has a new chair and vice chair.
The caucus announced in a statement that Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, will chair the committee, while Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will serve as vice chair. They take over for Chairwoman Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, and Vice Chairwoman Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, who together have helmed the caucus since December 2018.
Garcia, who has chaired the caucus in the past, has been in office since 2012.
“My top priority as Chair of the Women’s Caucus is to work collectively to lift up and maximize opportunities for all women and to ensure the needs of our most vulnerable and disenfranchised women are at the forefront of the discussion. I also want to ensure our collective work increases the number of women in positions of power across all fields,” Garcia said in a statement.
Skinner was elected to the Senate in 2016, and served three terms in the Assembly prior to that.
“The COVID-19 crisis has been particularly challenging as job loss has hit women the hardest, and those fortunate to still have jobs are balancing work, caring for children and elders, and managing distance learning needs. I will bring my decade of experience in the Legislature to advance equity for all women and facilitate legislation and other measures that improve the well-being of women, children, and families,” Skinner said.
The Women’s Caucus, which has been around since 1985, now includes 38 lawmakers from both parties, comprising just under a third of the California State Legislature.
MAYORS CATCH FLACK FOR DINNER GAFFES
Another day, another high-profile California elected official apologizing for not following COVID-19 guidance. Or two, as the case may be.
This time, it’s San Francisco Mayor London Breed and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in the hot seat for dining out when they oughta shouldn’t.
The San Francisco Chronicle got the scoop on Breed’s attendance at a French Laundry (yes, THAT French Laundry) dinner the night after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s infamous attendance at a high-dollar dinner, for which the governor has apologized.
But also catching heat is Liccardo, whom NBC Bay Area originally reported attended a larger-than-suggested Thanksgiving dinner.
Liccardo tweeted a statement Tuesday morning.
According to the statement, on Thanksgiving afternoon, eight people from five different households gathered for dinner, while several other family members stayed home out of caution.
“I understand that the state regulations, issued on Nov. 13, limit the number of households at a private gathering to three. I apologize for my decision to gather contrary to state rules, by attending this Thanksgiving meal with my family. I understand my obligation as a public official to provide exemplary compliance with the public health orders, and certainly not to ignore them. I commit to do better,” he said in the statement.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“My Republican friends deserve better leaders. Not just tweeters.”
Sen. Henry Stern, D-Ventura, via Twitter.
Stern was tweeting in response to Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, who tweeted “Oh, I don’t think so” in response to a tweet from President-elect Joe Biden, who wrote, “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, and listen to each other again.To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”
Best of the Bee:
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order preventing indoor church services in much of California, a move aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19, may have hit a major legal obstacle. Last week, the Supreme Court struck down New York state’s rules that limited in-person attendance at houses of worship, declaring it was unconstitutional to severely restrict church and synagogue attendance while allowing merchants and other non-religious institutions to welcome big crowds, via Dale Kasler.
Newsom asked California doctors and nurses to join his Health Corps. Why the plan flopped, via Jason Pohl.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that California could receive as many as 327,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine as early as mid-December, with another round of supply anticipated three weeks later, via Hannah Wiley.