By Sheri Williams
As people throughout the country face increasing costs due to inflation, Labor leaders applauded an $18.1 billion relief package crafted by Governor Gavin Newsom to help working Californians.
“A budget is a statement of values. With his inflation relief package, Governor Newsom made a strong declaration that California is squarely behind working people being squeezed by rising costs and low wages,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “This package includes a constellation of beneficial proposals to ease the burden on workers and their families. We’re pleased the Governor is proposing to bump up the minimum wage and provide direct cash assistance given how hard inflation is hitting low-wage workers, in particular. The proposal also provides much-needed relief to working people on health care, child care, rent, housing and gas prices.”
California nurses also weighed in on the governor’s proposal.
“While the fight for justice in the workplace continues, at this moment we are glad to see that the governor is paying tribute to the contributions of healthcare workers in this way,” said Sandy Reding, a Bakersfield RN and CNA president.
Newsom’s inflation relief package includes:
- $11.5 Billion for Tax Refunds to Help Address Inflation. As the entire country faces increasing costs due to inflation, Newsom proposed getting $400 checks to every eligible registered vehicle owner, capped at two checks per individual.
- $2.7 Billion for Emergency Rental Assistance. Newsom is proposing significant state funds for qualified low-income tenants who requested rental assistance before March 31, helping these Californians get the support they need.
- $1.4 Billion to Help Californians Pay Past-Due Utility Bills. As Californians continue to face difficulties in paying for utility bills, this investment expands upon last year’s utility relief program to continue this vital support ($1.2 billion for electricity bills and $200 million for water bills).
- $933 Million for Hospital and Nursing Home Staff. Providing up to $1,500 to hospital and skilled nursing facility workers who have been delivering care to the most acute patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and saved thousands of lives.
- $750 Million for Free Public Transit. Newsom is proposing incentive grants to provide three months of free public transportation for communities throughout the state.
- $304 Million to Make Health Coverage More Affordable for Middle-Class Families. This extends health insurance premium assistance under Covered California for families of four earning up to $166,500 annually, upwards of 700,000 Californians.
- $439 Million to Pause the Diesel Sales Tax. Bringing relief to the commercial sector and drivers, Governor Newsom is proposing a 12-month pause in the sales tax rate for diesel fuel that would provide upwards of $439 million in relief.
- $157 Million to Waive Child Care Fees for Low-Income Families. Making state-subsidized preschool and child care more affordable, benefitting 40,000 low-income California families with savings of up to $595 per month.
Additionally, California’s minimum wage is projected to increase to $15.50 per hour for all workers on January 1, 2023. The accelerated increase is required by a provision in the state’s existing minimum wage law when inflation exceeds 7 percent. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in persistent supply chain disruptions and labor market frictions have driven inflation to its highest rate in 40 years. These conditions have further been exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, the governor’s office explained in a press release.
“We enacted the most comprehensive economic stimulus program in the nation last year, getting billions in immediate relief to millions of Californians. But many folks are still struggling, especially with high costs due to inflation, so we’re leveraging this historic surplus to get money back into the pockets of Californians,” Newsom said in a press release. “This inflation relief package will help offset the higher costs that Californians are facing right now and provide support to those still recovering from the pandemic.”