LA County Moving Forward with COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Program

To help small businesses throughout Los Angeles County weather the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the County, in concert with private sector partners and foundations, is moving forward to launch a small business assistance program to provide deferred loans to cover operating expenses and prepare for their re-opening once the crisis abates. This program, a unique solution during an unprecedented crisis, will amplify the assistance being offered by the state and federal agencies.  The focus will be on small businesses with twenty or less employees, making it possible for them to keep their doors open. Additionally, the County will be providing small grants to small businesses with a focus on social enterprises demonstrating their ability to serve vulnerable populations.

Advocates for small business on the steps of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.

“We must do everything that can be done to make sure that places of employment, especially small businesses which make up more than 90% of employers in Los Angeles County, survive this crisis and reopen for business,” said LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the author of the motion to provide resources to small businesses.

Since COVID-19 first emerged, it has spread at an extraordinary rate. As a result, recent executive actions on the state and local levels to counteract its spread have had a significant impact on small businesses across all industries. Most are struggling as customers and employees practice the necessary social-distancing and isolation. Recent data has shown that small businesses that employ fewer than nine employees will be especially vulnerable, such as food service; retail and trade; and arts and entertainment. Combined, these businesses provide close to one million jobs in LA County.

File photo: DCBA Director Joseph Nicchitta. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

“This is truly a countywide effort. All hands are on deck to support business owners and workers that have been deeply impacted by this crisis,” said LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs Director Joseph M. Nicchitta. “This assistance program is critical for our small businesses who need help now, and it will help put them on the path to recovery.”

The County has already begun to provide technical assistance to help small businesses access state and federal funds that are being made available to abate the impact of the crisis. Several efforts at the County and State level have been implemented to assist businesses and workers at this time. On April 2, 2020, Governor Newsom outlined three funding programs for businesses. The Governor announced a one-year reprieve of sales taxes up to $50,000 for businesses with less than $5 million in taxable sales. The State Economic Disaster Injury program will offer advanced loans up to $10,000 for businesses. In addition, State funds will be allocated from the federal government for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), program created with the intent of keeping workers employed. For more information please visit covid19.ca.gov.

As resources become available to assist businesses, both the County and State recognize that this pandemic not only impacts small businesses but the employees of those businesses. Therefore, Governor Newsom in partnership with Bitwise Industries created an online platform called OnwardCa.org, to match individuals seeking employment to open job opportunities that align with their skill sets. The State has also allocated funding to the County’s Department of Workforce Development, Aging, and Community Services (WDACS) for qualifying businesses to receive a grant up to $10,000. During these uncertain times, workers and businesses are encouraged to visit the California Employment Development Department (EDD) for more information on applying for unemployment insurance at https://www.edd.ca.gov/.

The County recognizes that information and resources are ever-changing and this may cause confusion for our constituents. That is why the County  launched the CEO’s COVID-19 Business Assistance website and the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA) created a Disaster Help Center to assist workers and small businesses during this time  Please contact our Disaster Help Center at (833) 238-4450 or Disasterhelpcenter@lacounty.gov.

“We are working tirelessly to create a streamlined financial assistance process that will get funds into the hands of small business owners as soon as possible,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

 

Los Angeles Times: Outreach to the Homeless Amid Coronavirus

In Coronavirus Fight, Workers in Ski Masks are Holding L.A.’s Social Safety Net Together

They were looking for a man named Wayne who was old and frail and probably hadn’t eaten in a while, putting him in the most vulnerable category for contracting the novel coronavirus.

Homeless outreach workers Christian Riehl and John Cudal had last seen Wayne in his dilapidated RV, which was parked at 135th Street and Broadway in unincorporated Willowbrook.

Riehl had a motel voucher for Wayne and hoped he could persuade him to surrender his RV and go indoors. But when they got to the corner, his RV wasn’t there.

Across the street, there was another RV and a disheveled man named Louie answered the door.

“We’ve been sent by L.A. County to make sure that everybody over 65 has a place to stay,” Cudal told him.

With the number of coronavirus cases expected to surge in the coming weeks, Riehl and Cudal were doing some things differently. They wore masks — a ski mask for Riehl and neck gaiter for Cudal. They spritzed their clothes and shoes with alcohol after each conversation with a homeless person, and intentionally searched out seniors and others who are medically fragile.

But their mission had not really changed. As outreach workers for St. Joseph Center, Cudal and Riehl exclusively work with homeless people who live in vehicles, and so they continued to introduce themselves to the hundreds of RV dwellers in South Los Angeles, and help them get services and housing.

Click here to read the rest of the story on the Los Angeles Times website.

 

COVID-19 and the April 10 Property Tax Deadline

Many property tax payers within Los Angeles County have suffered directly or indirectly as a result of COVID-19.    Los Angeles County property owners affected by the COVID-19 virus may have late penalties cancelled if they are unable to pay their property taxes by the April 10 deadline.

While state law does not provide the authority to extend the April 10 deadline, beginning on April 11, the day after property taxes are due, people unable to pay on time for reasons related to COVID-19 may submit a request for penalty cancellation online. The LA County Treasurer and Tax Collector has set up a special team to process these requests for those who demonstrate they were affected by the outbreak.

“We encourage all property owners who can pay their taxes on time to do so. This revenue helps keep the government running and providing vital services that the public relies on, especially in times like these,” said LA County Treasurer and Tax Collector Keith Knox.

Since County buildings are currently closed to the public during this emergency, there will be no in-person payments. Instead, taxpayers can pay online, via telephone or by mail. There is no cost for e-Check payments online. For online credit/debit card transactions, our card payment processor charges a 2.25 percent service fee.

Below are additional answers from the Treasurer and Tax Collector to the most frequently asked questions:

1.      Can you extend the April 10, 2020 deadline?

Answer: No. The County does not have the authority under State law to extend or postpone the second installment property tax deadline of April 10, 2020.

2.      County buildings are no longer open to the public, what are my payment options?

Answer: Although we are not accepting in-person payments currently at our offices, taxpayers can pay online, via telephone or by mail. There is no cost for e-Check payments online. For online credit/debit card transactions, our card payment processor charges a 2.25 percent service fee. Please visit https://ttc.lacounty.gov/ to review all payment methods, and several other online self-service options.

3.      What if I am unable to make a full property tax payment by April 10, 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19?

Answer: We encourage all property owners who can pay their taxes on time to do so. This revenue helps keep the government running and providing vital services that the public relies on, especially in times like these. However, if you are unable to do so, we accept partial payments which reduces the amount of penalties imposed.

4.      Can I request a penalty cancellation if I am unable to make a timely payment due to COVID-19?

Answer: Yes, go to ttc.lacounty.gov and click on “Request a Penalty Cancellation.”  However, a penalty cancellation is not something that taxpayers request in advance. Beginning on April 11, the day after property taxes become delinquent, taxpayers unable to pay on time for reasons related to COVID-19 may submit a request for penalty cancellation. The department has set up a special team to process these requests for those who demonstrate they were affected by the outbreak.

5.      How can I obtain my Personal Identification Number (PIN) to pay online if I don’t have the bill?

Answer: The PIN is located on any secured property tax bill and does not change annually. If you do not have this year’s property tax bill, please refer to a previous year’s bill. Please also note that a PIN is only required for online e-Check payments.

6.      Can the County waive the associated service fees of 2.25 percent for Credit/Debit card payments online and over the telephone?

Answer: No. The County cannot waive the associated service fees of 2.25 percent for credit/debit card transactions. The fees are charged by our card payment processor to facilitate the transaction. As a reminder, there is no cost for e-Check payments online.

7.      Will property tax amounts be reduced due to economic impact of COVID-19?

Answer: No. Property tax amounts are established on the lien date of January 1 of each year. The property tax amounts currently due for the 2019-2020 Annual Secured Property Taxes have a lien date of January 1, 2019, and therefore, no reduction will be made to the current bill. Should you have questions related to decline-in-value or business personal property valuations, please contact the Office of the Assessor at

(213) 974-3211 or visit their website at https://assessor.lacounty.gov/.

8.      I mailed in my property tax payment, however your system is not showing my taxes as paid. What should I do?

Answer: Processing times for mailed payments may be delayed due to the current public health concerns. We will process all mailed payments as soon as possible. Should your payment not be processed by April 10, 2020, you can request penalty cancellation as outlined above.

9.      If using the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) or courier services (FedEx, UPS, etc.) to deliver my property tax payment, and County Buildings are closed, how will my payment be received?

Answer: As of this date, we are receiving mail from the USPS and courier services. If circumstances change, we have the ability to cancel penalties for payments that would have been mailed timely. For more information regarding mailed payments, please  click here: https://ttc.lacounty.gov/avoid-penalties-by-understanding-postmarks/

10.  I am expecting a property tax refund. Will this refund be delayed by COVID-19?

Answer: State Law requires that the Tax Collector to issue refunds within 60 days of the date of initial payment. However, due to the current state of emergency, we may experience unusual delays meeting this timeframe.

As a reminder, you can use the TTC website to look up taxes due, request a duplicate bill, and look up payment history. Please CLICK HERE for more information on all payment options. The TTC also created a TOP 5 DOs AND DON’Ts with helpful information on property tax payments, including How To Avoid Penalties.

You may also call the TTC at 213-974-2111, or visit our website, ttc.lacounty.gov, for additional information. Please note that our call volumes can be heavy and our website has many self-service options.

 

Many LA County Tenants Protected from Rent Hikes during Pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening people’s health and livelihood, the Board of Supervisors have taken significant and timely steps to protect renters.

During their March 31st meeting, the Board unanimously ratified an Executive Order that Chair Kathryn Barger issued on March 19th to impose a temporary moratorium on evictions during the emergency caused by COVID-19.

Building on this effort, the Board also unanimously banned rent increases for thousands of tenants in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County under a motion introduced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Both the eviction moratorium and rent freeze are retroactive from March 4th and apply at least through May 31st. On March 27th, the Governor also issued an Executive Order that authorized a moratorium on evictions statewide.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with renters, file photo.

“People have enough to worry about right now, with COVID-19. They shouldn’t also have to fear ending up on the streets because they can’t pay rent,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With this motion, the County is taking urgent and necessary steps to help people stay housed and prevent the coronavirus from exacerbating our affordable housing shortage and the crisis of homelessness.”

The rent freeze currently protects tenants who live in multi-family housing built before February 1995 in the unincorporated areas. At Supervisor Hilda Solis and Chair Barger’s request, the County’s lawyers are evaluating whether the protections approved by the Board can be expanded to protect tenants countywide. Rents can go up as much as 8 percent over a 12-month period in some jurisdictions.

“A rent freeze will be an invaluable relief for so many in our community who worry non-stop about how to make ends meet,” said Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director of HOPE for All, an economic justice and opportunity advocacy organization. “Thanks to the Supervisor and Los Angeles County for taking the initiative to keep individuals and families in their homes during these precarious, frightening times.”

“A rent freeze will go a long way toward helping people whose lives have been drastically upended by this pandemic,” said Rev. Zachary Hoover, executive director of LA Voice, a multi-racial federation of 70 churches, synagogues and mosques across the County. “It’s commendable that the Supervisor and Los Angeles County are doing whatever they can to ease the burden that COVID-19 has placed on our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers. This is not only smart, it’s morally the right thing to do. When we care for one of us, we care for all of us.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with renters, file photo.

Alberto Retana, president & CEO of the nonprofit Community Coalition, hailed the rent freeze. “Community Coalition applauds Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for introducing the amendment to deepen tenant protections by implementing a rent freeze,” he said. “The Board’s unanimous approval further demonstrates that the Supervisors are doing everything in their power to keep residents in their homes during the COVID-19 crisis. It will take members of the community, especially low-income renters, months to recover economically. This rent freeze goes a long way in making sure they are not burdened by the added stress of unrealistic repayment obligations.”

Meanwhile, the County’s eviction moratorium, reinforced by Governor Newsom’s March 27th Executive Order, applies to people unable to pay rent due to the following circumstances:

  • Being diagnosed with COVID-19, or caring for a household or family member diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • A layoff, loss of hours, or other income reduction resulting from a business closure or other economic or employer impacts of COVID-19;
  • Compliance with a recommendation from the County’s Health Officer to stay home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregating with others during the state of emergency;
  • Extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses related to diagnosis and testing for and/or treatment of COVID-19; or
  • Childcare needs arising from school closures related to COVID-19.

Tenants must provide notice to the landlord within seven days after the date the rent was due, unless extenuating circumstances exist, and tenants shall have six months following the termination of the executive order to pay back any rent due.

The County is also looking at ways to support property owners. The County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and the State of California, for example, are reaching out to financial institutions to seek relief for them.

On March 25th, Governor Newsom announced that four major banks, including JP Morgan, Chase, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Citibank have so far committed to a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments in California. Bank of America also announced a commitment to a 30-day forbearance period for mortgage payments.

For more information, visit www.ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/index.php/eviction-moratorium or https://dcba.lacounty.gov/noevictions/

 

 

Protecting Retail Grocery, Drug Store and Food Delivery Workers During COVID-19 Crisis

 

Photo by: Getty Images/ Cavan Images

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion to protect retail grocery, drug store and food delivery platform workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The motion authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn aims to provide workers with the supplies, tools and equipment necessary to protect them and the public they are serving.

“As the necessary precautions to protect our most first responders and health care workers are being put in place across the country, we must not forget or workers in the delivery service industry,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “In these difficult times, a visit to the grocery store makes extraordinarily clear that food and grocery delivery drivers are essential worker and we must do all that we can to protect them. This motion will provide these vital individuals with the fundamental items that will protect their health and well-being.”

Photo by: Getty Images/People Images

Since the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared a Local Emergency on March 4th and the Los Angeles County Health Officer issued a revised Safer at Home Order on March 21st, retail grocery and drug stores have remained open to provide essential services while many other brick and mortar stores have temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many people who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, including those aged 65 and older or with underlying health conditions, have turned to food delivery platforms to survive.

“We’re now two weeks into this crisis and we still do not have uniform standards across all grocery stores and pharmacies to protect workers and customers. Grocery workers are essential and they need basic protections no matter where they are working. As the largest county in California, we can lead the way and set the standard for the entire state. We need this level of immediate action to stop the spread of COVID-19,” UFCW Local 770 President John Grant said.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion calls for employers to be required to sanitize and stock all bathrooms with necessary supplies, clean stores and shopping carts between uses, require employees to wash their hands every 30 minutes, provide sanitizing stations at the entrance of all stores, provide adequate security to enforce social distancing, establish operating hours to restock, provide access to COVID-19 testing, support employees so that they may address childcare and family needs, and prohibit retaliation for exercising their rights.

“In the middle of this global health emergency our grocery store, delivery, and drug store workers are now front-line responders. Their work is essential to keeping our County running and we need to make sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs safely.  Today’s motion ensures employers in these sectors are sufficiently staffed and are able to provide the protective and sanitary equipment employees need to keep themselves and the public healthy,” stated Supervisor Janice Hahn.

For more information regarding education and training on proper food handling, please visit the County’s Department of Public Health at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/