Sep 21, 2020
California Governor Gavin Newsom September 21 Press Conference Transcript
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Gov. Gavin Newsom: (07:55)
Good afternoon, everybody. I wanted to update on the status of wildfires here in the state of California. We’ll update the total number of new transmitted cases of COVID-19 and walk you through a few things we’re doing with unemployment insurance here in the state of California, and a little bit of focus on homelessness today. Just briefly, let me go over where we are as it relates to this historic wildfire season. This is a slide many of you are very familiar with. 2019 year to date, we experienced about 5,300 fires here in the state of California, impacting 157,000 acres. You can see the year to date stats here in the state, we have increased the total number of fires from 5,300 to close to 8,000 fires that we have experienced year to date in the state, 3.6 million acres now burned. 157,000 acres this time last year, 3.6 million acres year to date.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (09:00)
Still struggling with 27 major fires and complexes and tragically, 23,000 people continued to be evacuated from their homes. 19,000 firefighters from all across the state and across this nation are working 24/7 to address these wildfires. So 2,400 engines as part of our mutual aid system that are deployed. 26 people tragically have lost their lives and 6,400 structures have been destroyed. Again, I caution everybody on these numbers, the 26 fatalities and the 6,400 structures are based upon what we have seen, what we have witnessed, but by no stretch of the imagination do we think this tells the entire story as we get back in and people are able to repopulate, go back into their communities, will determine more structure loss. By the way, that’s destroyed, not damaged structures. That number would be substantially higher if you included the number of structures that have actually been impacted directly by these wildfires. But sadly, 26 people have lost their lives to date.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (10:17)
I want to focus on of those 27 active fires, six fires, one that’s very familiar to many of you, the August Complex which is the largest fire in terms of total acres burned in California history. The last time I presented this to you, you saw some 817,000 acres that were destroyed in this complex, 30% containment. We’ve made some modest improvement and containment over the last number of days, 34% versus 30% contained. And you’ll see the acreage has grown, but modestly compared to seeing some of the growth we had seen over the course of the last few weeks. So 846,000 acres now burned in California’s largest wildfire complex in state history. The number five largest complex in history is the Northern Complex. This is the Plumas and Lassen counties. Last week, you saw 36% containment, 233, or rather 273,000 acres, that had been burned in this again, the fifth largest complex in California’s history.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (11:26)
We’ve made real progress in this last week. 64% containment from 36% and you could see the acres burned has grown modestly from 700… Or rather 273 to 294,000 acres. The Creek Fire, where I visited Senator Harris a week or so ago, now the seventh largest fire in California history. Primarily a federal fire, but impacting parts of the state and our responsibility area. This is an incident command shared with the U.S. Forest Service and Cal fire, primarily in the Fresno, Madera counties, 18% containment, 220,000 acres last week. You’ll see we’ve made some stubborn, very stubborn, wildfire complex, but we’ve made some progress. 27% containment from 18, 278,000 acres burned. I wanted to highlight just a few other fires that have gotten a lot of attention and deservingly.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (12:26)
So the Bobcat Fire in LA County was at 3% containment, 44, 000 acres burned when we last updated you. 15% today, but you could see more than doubling total number of acreage that have been lost in this fire, 105,000 acres now being impacted. So we’re putting as many resources as we possibly can on that fire. Again, our mutual aid system that exists within the state of California and outside the state of California, some 15 mutual aid states are helping either the National Guard or Cal fire directly. And we’re putting all the resources we possibly can on all of these complexes, but focusing as we should on that Bobcat Fire as well as the El Dorado Fire, which we made some progress last week. 60% containment on that fire, 18,000 acres. But this fire continues to be stubborn. As you can see, we’ve gone backwards just modestly in terms of total percentage contained. And you could see increase of about 5,000 acres over the last week.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (13:34)
So between the Bobcat and the El Dorado Fire, obviously stubborn fires impactful, and we continue to do our best to address those complexes and those wildfires. The Snow Fire as well. I just wanted offer, this is a fire that we didn’t update last week, but it’s one we’re monitoring, we wanted to share it with you last week. We’re about 5% containment, 4,000 acres. Looks relatively small compared to some of these other complexes, but it’s a fire of concern. And one, again, a focus today, we are making progress over the weekend. We were able to substantially increase the containment by multiples now close to 40% contained, 38% contained, but you’re still seeing some stubbornness and growth of the total acres involved in that fire now, some 6,000 acres have been burned. So those are the six that we have been focused on disproportionately. We of course continue our efforts throughout these other large complexes, but now five of the top 10 most impacted wildfires in our state’s history are continuing to burn though with real progress on some of those larger complexes.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (14:52)
Not just the August, but the LNU Complex, the SCU Complex, where we’re seeing real containment on that CZU Complex as well out there in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Mountains area. And again, that’s testament to the extraordinary men and women, the Cal fire and the mutual aid system of support. Wanted to update you now on where we are with our case numbers as it relates to COVID. You could see here on the seven day average, we’ve averaged to 3,400 cases. We’re down modestly with the latest report, 3,294 cases as part of this report. And by the way, those 3,294 cases are off total number of tests of roughly just shy of 150,000 tests that were conducted. And as a consequence of a substantial increase over the last few days of number of tests conducted close to 170,000 on Friday, 180,000 roughly on Saturday, roughly 150,000 on Sunday, you could see the seven day average of daily tests now moving back up to where we were…
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (16:03)
Really tests now, moving back up to where we were pre these wildfires. Again, that heat dome, the heat wave, the wildfires, air quality, were impacting our total testing availability in this state. We’re starting to see those numbers go back up now, just shy of 124,000 tests, average number of daily tests over the last seven days. What is very encouraging as you could see that positivity, right? Some 3.1% over a 14 day period, 2.8% over a seven day period.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (16:35)
So, testing now increasing, positivity rates continue to decrease in the state of California. I mentioned this the last time I updated you, that we’re making real progress on building out this a very large lab, where we will substantially increase our testing, well above the 124,000 average daily tests you see reflected in the last seven days. We are on schedule, in terms of those efforts. And again, it’s just a point of emphasis that we are committed to increasing testing in the state of California. We’re not retreating from our testing responsibilities, quite the contrary. We are of the firm opinion that the sooner we are able to move forward to increase the availability and the timeliness of tests here in the state of California, we will have more clarity and more assurance in our capacity to move more swiftly, to not only reopen different sectors of our economy more fully, but also reopen our schools in a more sustainable way as well.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (17:45)
And so one cannot let up on those efforts, and again, California prides itself on its commitment to advance our testing in a substantially more comprehensive manner, more of a framework of equity, a focus on reaching out to underserved communities and time frame to getting test results back within 24 hours.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (18:09)
And I should just note the backlog now, in terms of testing results, has substantially declined over the course of the last number of weeks. Just shy of 70% of the tests now are coming back within a 24 hour period and substantial number within 48 hours. We’ll monitor that, but we want to see those test results back within a 24 hour period as a benchmark, as a foundational principle. But again, [inaudible 00:18:39] to provide yeah access and to provide the kind of quality surveys that all of us deserve continues to be our goal.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (18:51)
A goal, as well is to see hospitalizations decline in this state. 23% decrease now over a two-week period. This slide is becoming very, very familiar and again, very, very encouraging slide. Hospitalization numbers declining at a relatively consistent rate over the course of not just the last two weeks, but even beyond three or four weeks. Tracking consistently with those declines and hospitalizations or the ICU admissions here in the state, tracking roughly similarly, 25% decrease in the total number of ICU admissions over a 14-day period.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (19:31)
So real progress as it relates to our case counts. Real progress as it relates to our positivity rate here in the state of California. Remind you, 2.8% seven day positivity here in the state of California. Testing starting to increase back up. A commitment over the course of the next number of weeks to substantially increase still our testing to provide points of access to our schools and more broadly, to target underserved communities in the state of California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (20:01)
So we have a real sense of the community spread, particularly as we move into the fall, we move into flu season and we move in to a challenging environment where we could potentially experience what some refer to as a twin-demic of flu and COVID overwhelming the ICUs and hospitals. We want to avoid that. I’ll be talking in the next few days about how you can help aid and advance that by getting a flu shot. But today, I just wanted to update you on some of these efforts that Dr. Ghaly and his team have been advancing as it relates to the mitigation, the spread and transmission rate of COVID-19.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (20:43)
By the way, Dr. Ghaly tomorrow, will update you on our tiered status. I know many counties are anticipating moving into orange status, some into red, and some that are right on the cusp. I’ll reserve further commentary on this except to say that data is being collected in real time. It would be premature for me at this moment well, to announce what Dr. Ghaly will announce tomorrow as it relates to the progress in these tiered status. But every Tuesday, I’ll remind you, every Tuesday, Dr. Ghaly will be making updates on our tiered colored status.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (21:27)
And we anticipate as we’re seeing progress and declining admissions in hospitals and ICUs positivity rates beginning to decline, that we’ll continue to see progress into those tiers, and a very thoughtful, judicious, modified strategy of reopening our economy will be advanced accordingly. So will the likelihood of more waivers being supported for our younger cohort of students and progress towards people back in in-person education, making sure that not only the kids are safe, but our paraprofessionals and our teachers are safe as a foundational principle of advancing that cause.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (22:08)
Speaking of causes, we have not let up on our commitment to the cause of doing everything in our power to address the issue of homelessness here in the state of California. Last week, I updated you and I previewed that I will continue to update you on our efforts on this remarkable initiative called Project Homekey. I say remarkable because there’s simply not a state in America that’s committed to this kind of capital infusion to purchase motels and provide for permanent supports of housing for homeless individuals.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (22:45)
Last week, we updated you on some $76.6 million that we’re providing for seven specific projects here in the state of California to advance that cause. Today, we’re announcing the second round of awards. And again, this is happening in historically short period of time. And it shows a resolve and a commitment, a sincerity of effort and a longterm strategy to address homelessness in this state, in a way the state of California has never done in the past.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (23:18)
I, again, I stipulate that we have a moral and ethical obligation to address this issue, head on. We need to see better results at the local level and the regional level, and we need to make sure your tax dollars are going for their intended purposes, and that’s to produce real permanent results. That’s foundational in the Homekey strategies. This second round of awards is testament the hard work of our team and our task force that is organized around the principle of a housing first model.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (23:50)
Again, shelters solve sleep. Housing and supportive services, we believe, begins to more substantively and permanently address homelessness. $ 236 million, some 1,810 units, 20 projects in 12 jurisdictions, including one Native American tribe that are getting this now second traunch of awards.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (24:15)
We have those reflected here on two slides. This being the first of the two slides, giving a sense of the totality of awards that we are providing. The Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, will be the first tribal award that we provided under this program. We want to thank them for their partnership. We hope it’s not the last in terms of availing resources to our tribal nations.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (24:40)
Accordingly, we are diversifying the Homekey efforts to focus on farm workers, focus on LGBTQ youth, our seniors. You can see here, the diversity of municipalities and localities getting the benefits of these awards, including the city of Mountain View, doubling the number of available beds through this award in that city. Oakland, two large projects, 163 units. In Fresno and their housing authority focusing on a motel conversion. Up in Shasta County, trust me, some of these counties have not been part of our efforts of support in the past to support homeless efforts. Shasta County, a new shared housing model, innovative model. The city of Ventura, they’re renovating apartments. Large projects in San Francisco, San Diego, you can see some 336 units are being advanced.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (25:34)
And talking to Mark Ridley-Thomas supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas, the co-chair, along with Darrell Steinberg of our homelessness task force, they have five motel acquisitions that they are poised to make, some 430 units made available like that.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (25:51)
And by the way, the costs of these programs, negligible compared to the cost of some other programs. So we believe these dollars will not only leverage other resources at the county and federal level, but also private sector support. And based upon our commitment to bring down the cost per unit, to an average of less than $130,000. Original goal, about 150,000, but we’re currently averaging $130,000 a unit. We think we can do more than even our original ambitious goals.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (26:25)
Santa Clara has some move-in-ready units they’ll be advancing and the city of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg, thank you for one of his projects that he’s been most enthusiastic about financing. And with this a second traunch of award money that 124 unit hotel conversion will soon be under way.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (26:45)
Speaking of things that are underway, the work we have to do is self evident as it relates to unemployment and PUA support, for those that are trying to navigate our unemployment and pandemic unemployment assistance system here in the state of California. This system is an old, well, 30 plus year old technological system. For those that understand a little bit about technology, these are the old cobalt systems, these legendary cobalt systems that need to be upgraded, frankly need to just simply be strewn to the waste bin of history.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (27:27)
But nonetheless, we inherited a little bit of that waste bin. And as a consequence, we’ve been trying to patch it together and we recognize that we can plot along in the short rung. We can plot along in the medium rung. We can have a long term strategy, or we can come up with new ideas from a different angle.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (27:47)
We put together a strike team led by Yolanda Richardson, who will be up here in a moment. And by one of well, I would argue, one of the most impactful technologists of sort and someone who started code for America and worked in the Obama administration, Jen Pahlka, to provide us input from a private sector perspective and looking, not just at technology, look at business process improvements and looking at new strategies. They co-chaired a taskforce and they came up with a series of recommendations that already we have put into place.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (28:24)
I mentioned last week that we anticipated the fruits of this report, which by the way, are not just a strike team report, they’re also a consultant that we hired, a report from a consultant and a response back from EDD. I made it clear that when that report was done, we would make it public and we worked through the weekend to do just that. Came out late on Saturday night, but we said we were going to move forward, provide that information in a transparent way. We’ve done that and as a consequence, the reset started this weekend. I didn’t want to wait another day to start this reset period, to get this system back on its feet and get us to a position where we can address the significant number of backlog cases.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (29:09)
By the way, in the report, it’s remarkable, showed an independent review that showed our system. As challenged as it’s been, it’s actually performing much better than the vast majority of states. Dare I say, that as a nation, we have a huge IT problem. As a nation, we must do what California and I would argue municipalities must do, and that is completely reimagine our approach to large scale IT procurement.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (29:40)
The fact that we have been consistently one of the top 10 states in terms of percentage of people that have filed and received checks, now 14th by one analysis, suggests how low the bar is in terms of our systems across this nation. And so I’m not here to compare and contrast, I’m here just to give you a sense of what governors and what state legislatures all across this country are facing, in terms of this historic number of cases that we have to adjudicate.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (30:12)
And I say adjudicate because we’re adjudicating fraud. We’ve had fraud schemes all across the United States of America, disproportionately hitting States that have no income taxes for various reasons that become very obvious on the verification side when you consider. We are not immune from those fraud efforts and we are making real progress to weed them out and hold individuals and organized groups accountable. But one of the most important things we can do and what we’re doing as part of this two-week reset, is implementing a new automatic ID verification software system.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (30:49)
We went through about 16 or so vendors, looking at what was available out there, and went down to about 12 where we really tested and kicked the proverbial tires. And we’ve come up with a system called ID Me. This will process by 90% automatically of all of the new applications. You’ll have requirements under this automated system, IT system, to do selfies, to provide additional verification in ways that we think could substantially, not exclusively, no one’s naive, but substantially mitigate fraud.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (31:24)
We are now aware of five states that are in the process of utilizing similar technology. We were comparing [inaudible 00:31:32] and I think Texas soon we’ll be doing the same, though I don’t want to speak for them, but we’ve been able to share best practices. We’ve been able to talk to our colleagues all across this country, not just governors, but our strike team looked at those best practices, in terms of verification software. And that’s the one we’ve landed on and we’re moving quickly in this two-week reset.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (31:53)
We also are looking at business process improvements, not just IT improvements. Taking some of our most senior staff members that have been working the phones and now using the more senior staff.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (32:03)
I’ve been working the phones, and now using the more senior staff members with their unique insight and expertise to go after the most complex and the oldest cases that are the most stubborn and I know frustrating for many of you trying to navigate this system.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (32:15)
We’re also focusing on our email backlogs and mail backlogs and aggressing more aggressive strategy on outbound call effort. Not just reacting, but being more proactive in adjudicating claims and moving claim processing forward. The goal is self-evident. It’s to reduce that backlog, reduce at the moment, the growth of that backlog. Again, we say short term, medium and long term. We believe this two week reset will do just that. We’re also making available more ability to download forms and information using your mobile devices, and having better and easier information available on your mobile devices as well. We want to meet people where they are, and that means meeting them on their smartphones and providing that information in a much more expedited manner, with more clarity and with more focus on what the real needs are.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (33:06)
So that was all part and parcel of the Strike Team report and this consultant report. And I should just say, and I’m going to ask Yolanda to come up here in a moment, that the reset does not mean that those of you that are now, for the first time, applying for benefits, will be impacted in terms of those benefits being provided. Quite the contrary. We believe this will fast track the likelihood that you would otherwise gone into a manual process that can take upwards of 60 days. Unacceptable.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (33:41)
And so we believe, and Yolanda will talk in a moment, that this reset will make not only this process better in the medium and longterm, but begin to substantially address the backlog over the next 90 to 100 days with the goal to substantially have addressed it, and not impact any people that are applying for the first time in terms of the timeliness to a check.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (34:08)
And so it’s in that spirit, with that consideration in terms of the ambiguity, perhaps, in some of the reporting, about what a reset actually means to new applicants, that I would love co-chair of our taskforce, Secretary Richardson, to come up and talk a little bit more about her team’s efforts, recommendations, and what our expectations are moving forward with the system.
Yolanda Richardson: (34:38)
Appreciate that, Governor. On behalf of the Strike Team, my wonderful co-leader, Jen Pahlka, we really want to thank the Governor for the opportunity to go into EDD and bring a fresh perspective on their operations, and to build on the efforts to design a faster and better experience for the hundreds of thousands of deserving UI claimants across the state. The Governor could not have said it better. Our charge was clear. We were to go in and look for how we can ensure that claimants can have the experience that they deserve.
Yolanda Richardson: (35:19)
And so our report, which we have provided to EDD is over 70 recommendations, specifically focused on doing a number of things. One, definitely reducing and preventing the growth backlog. And we just, at this time, want to really applaud EDD for embracing the idea of the reset, which will allow for those people that the Governor mentioned, 40% of UI claimants were going into a manual process. And by embracing this reset, we are giving them a 90% chance going forward, of having a much faster experience. This is about getting a check in their hand much faster, and we really appreciate that.
Yolanda Richardson: (35:59)
Our recommendations were across the board, definitely looking at their processes, looking at redesigning the experience. And so we believe that FEDD embraces our recommendations. They will be well on their path to creating a first-class user experience, minimizing processing delays, being able to open the mail, being able to answer calls. And so we really appreciate, again, their embracement of our recommendations. But most importantly, the Government Operations Agency in partnership with the California Department of Technology and the Office of Digital Information is looking forward to supporting them on their journey to creating that first-class user experience. Thank you, Governor.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (36:46)
Thank you, Madam Secretary. And of course, we’re here to answer any questions on this topic as well. But first, I know there may have been a little bit of focus last night on the Emmys. I was a little bit more focused on Oscar, and that is one of the characters of Sesame Street last night. And I wanted to share with you that focus and share with you a new PSA that we partnered with the Skoll Foundation on in the state of California, to announce. And no further ado, let’s tune in to America’s most grouchy, Oscar.
Oscar the Grouch: (37:27)
Oscar the Grouch here to tell you, yeah you, to wear a mask when you’re out in public around other people. It isn’t difficult. Even a three year old can do it.
Oscar the Grouch: (37:40)
Sure, it’ll keep you and others healthy. But more importantly, I won’t have to see your happy, smiling face. And I can make grouchy faces at you without you knowing, another benefit. So, if you don’t want to wear a mask, I’ve got just one thing to tell you; scram, go away. Yeah.
Speaker 1: (38:03)
Caring for each other because we are all in this together.
Oscar the Grouch: (38:06)
So wear a mask and have a rotten day, will ya.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (38:09)
[inaudible 00:38:09] Jeff Skoll and the Skoll Foundation advanced with Sesame Street. That’s now the third in a series of mask PSAs that are now being put out nationwide, but in partnership here in the state of California. And we couldn’t be more proud of Sesame Street and couldn’t be more proud of these partnerships that have taken place.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (38:41)
We are all on it together. And that’s why we encourage you to continue to wear a mask. If for no other reason, we believe could substantially mitigate flu season, not just the spread and transmission of COVID-19. Continue to do what we can to physically distance. We are still waiting to see, and Dr. Galli assures me we’ll have information in the next week or so, maybe two, to really get a sense of what Labor Day weekend has in store for us. Again, always caution after these three day weekends, because we’re not all wearing these masks as consistently as we otherwise, perhaps might be. And we’re not practicing that physical distancing that’s foundational in terms of mitigating the spread of this disease.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (39:24)
Encouraging you as always, to appropriate self by washing your hands and continuing in that spirit to minimize mixing. And that’s foundationally a message, I hope you’ve been seeing pretty consistently with the PSAs that we are putting out.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (39:39)
We made this point a number of weeks ago when we started putting out new tiered guidelines, that one of the most important and essential things we can do as we modify our stay-at-home orders, as we reopened parts and sectors of our economy, is continue to push our public-facing messages out and make sure that we’re forward-leaning in reminding people that this disease has not gone away. Quite the contrary. In fact, I hope you’ll take a look at some of the national headlines. 27-ish states are seeing actual increases in cases. There are some points of caution as we now are moving closer into the fall and into the peak of flu season. And so it’s a point of real and sober caution that this mantra we continue to take seriously, wearing a mask, physically distancing, and minimizing mixing to the extent possible.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (40:35)
With that, happy to answer any questions.
Speaker 2: (40:39)
Maricela De La Cruz, Univision [inaudible 00:40:42]. Maricela De La Cruz?
Maricela De La Cruz: (40:48)
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (40:49)
There you are.
Maricela De La Cruz: (40:51)
Hi Governor. So after this reset, how long before those people that are affected with unemployment or furloughs during those two weeks, can actually see any income coming in? You mentioned they wouldn’t have to wait as those 60 days, but there’s already a backlog. So what is the average time everyone on backlog and the newly unemployed Californians will have to wait?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (41:09)
Yeah. So let me ask Yolanda to come back up, that can mark more specificity in that response. But as it relates again, to the new applicants, there should be no time to delay. As it relates to the backlog, which is substantial, we have our work cut out, and that’s exactly the announcement we were making today in terms of how to substantively address it. But Yolanda, you want to take a shot at this?
Yolanda Richardson: (41:37)
Thank you, Governor. For the time for those in the backlog, our recommendations were targeted at looking how we could actually expedite it. So to get more into the technical aspects of how the time has been shortened by the recommendation that we made, I’m going to ask director Hilliard to come and give you that information.
Sharon Hilliard: (41:59)
Hi, good afternoon, and thank you for having me. I’m very excited about this recommendation. I want to thank Yolanda personally, because I really think this is what we needed.
Sharon Hilliard: (42:11)
So as far as the backlog, first of all, I think Governor Newsom said it very well. We’re trying to make sure we don’t add anyone to the backlog. And those people in the next two weeks will actually, really benefit from this implementation where we can make sure they go through an automated process versus having to kick out into a manual one. That will allow them to get paid even sooner, if they’re eligible, which is excellent.
Sharon Hilliard: (42:37)
In the meantime, we will be redirecting all of our high-skilled folks to really drill down on the more complex cases. So for the backlog that we’re experiencing right now, we predict between now and the end of January will be completed. But we’re making huge progress each and every day. It doesn’t mean that in January, that’s what people have to wait. We will be clearing backlog every single day between now and January. And it’s just allowed us the ability to really focus, as well as additional tools that the strike team brought will allow us to implement a very good way to manage our resources, to make sure we’re focused on the backlog, and we have the right people addressing everything at the right time.
Sharon Hilliard: (43:28)
So, I can’t be more thrilled. And again, I want to say thank you so much to the administration and Yolanda Richardson, Secretary Richardson, for her support and all their great work. They were truly tremendous.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (43:46)
Thank you. And thank you Director. And just as a reminder, there’s a three week timeline that’s traditionally been the case for new applications, and we believe as it relates to those that are applying, that can still fill out forms, and we will be proactively calling to engage them once this reset is concluded. By the way, the reset process ends on October 5th. We started that process this weekend. We didn’t want to delay it even a day. But that three week process within that three week is the goal, and we anticipate and expect with those new applicants, even within this reset period, that they will receive those checks within that period of time.
Speaker 2: (44:28)
Michael Finney, ABC7.
Michael Finney: (44:31)
Good afternoon, Governor. Are you really confident that six months of failure and years of mismanagement and neglect can be fixed with a two week reset?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (44:41)
Well, the issue of short term, medium and long term is part and parcel of what we are announcing here today. We conducted a very thorough and very objective process, hiring a consultant, putting together a strike team made up of not just experts within the state, but outside the state. We inherited an old, dilapidated system, not dissimilar to many other states in this country. It’s a wake up call, as I said, for this nation, not just the state of California to substantially make progress in terms of large scale IT procurement.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (45:14)
Just a brief update on that. Before I got here, when I was Lieutenant Governor, Governor Brown initiated a larger procurement process for unemployment insurance, as well as other benefits, including disability insurance and paid family leave. That process is an order of magnitude, a larger process than the one that we are announcing here today. That process, we continue to advance. But we’re taking advantage of all the contemporary information we have learned over the last six months to make sure that we’re not paving over the old cow path, that we’re not just moving forward with something that made a lot of sense a year ago, but makes no sense based upon the volume and the experience we’ve had over the last six months.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (46:06)
So the answer to your question is we’re making short term commitments and we have medium term strategies, but we’re here for the long haul. We’re going to get this right. It’s not just here with issues of disability insurance. It’s not just issues with unemployment insurance. It’s across the spectrum, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and in many other areas of government. That’s why I created an Office of Digital Innovation, brought to bear some real guidance and expertise by recruiting a new team of individuals running these agencies, and bringing in some of the private sector mindset that I have found very, very insightful over the course of many, many years.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (46:48)
We also started something called the RF2 Process. And that is a strategy that moves away from some of the RFPs, RFQs, the old ways of doing business. If I haven’t lost you, you haven’t paid much attention, except to say those [Ackermans 00:15:06], they rely on outdated thinking. So we’re trying to bring modern, more innovative thinking into our processes. I’ve been here 20-ish months as your Governor, not 20 years, not even two years, and I’m committed over the course of the next two years of my term to really initiate some order of magnitude change in this space. We seeded a lot in the last year, year and a half. And all of this experience, it’s only doubled my resolve to do more still.
Speaker 2: (47:34)
[inaudible 00:47:32], news.
Speaker 3: (47:36)
Yes, Governor, I want to ask a fire-related question. Standard & Poor’s has been saying that they’re not sure that the $21 billion in the wildfire funds set up last year for the utilities will be enough considering the size of the fire season already, and the fact that we have at least another month to go. Are you thinking of trying to boost that fund in some way, or is there any effort among the legislators to do it?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (48:02)
Not at this moment.
Speaker 3: (48:03)
[inaudible 00:48:00] or is there any effort among the legislators to do?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (48:03)
Not at this moment. We worked over the course of last year to put together a comprehensive strategy in a record period of time, but very thoughtful judicious process to help support PG&E’s emergence from bankruptcy, but as a completely re-imagined company with completely new strategies and goals, and more importantly, accountability and transparency, the ability to claw back if they don’t meet those goals.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (48:26)
As it relates to the fund itself, we believe that fund, which has leveraged beyond the $21 billion, is substantial, but we’re not naive to the magnitude of this year’s fire season, which, as you know, is historic simply, is not without precedent, or is without precedent. 3.6 million acres, less than 300,000 the entire calendar year last year.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (48:50)
So I certainly recognize the anxiety around the size of the fund, but at the moment, the answer is no. But again, we’re not ideologues. We’re not wedded to the status quo. As conditions change, as some areas’ concerns develop and present themselves even beyond this S&P’s assessment, we certainly will assess the condition of that fund and our capacity as a state to support not only the IOUs, but more broadly, the CCAs and all of the others that are responsible for the procurement and distribution and the reliability of energy here in the state of California.
Speaker 4: (49:33)
Paul Rogers, Mercury News.
Paul Rogers: (49:37)
Hi, Governor. Last week you said you wanted to increase California’s actions to address climate change in the wake of these record wildfires. I understand you’re considering an executive order. What types of measures are you considering? For example, there are nearly a dozen countries, including England, Germany, Israel, and India, who have announced that they’ll ban the sale of new vehicles with internal combustion engines in 2030. Is that something you’ll direct the state Air Resources Board to follow, or where’s your thinking on what we need to do anew?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (50:13)
We’ll be making announcements in due course. And so, look forward to not just making announcements this week, next week, but over the course of many, many months. We are committed to exercising appropriately our resolve to do more than we even have to date in terms of low carbon green growth and begin the process of changing the way we produce and consume energy, both supply, but primarily demand approach.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (50:42)
And that’s consistent with the frame of your question, by the way. It’s also consistent with the frame of the actions that were recently taken by this state that didn’t generate the kind of attention perhaps that they deserved, and that is the fact that California is leading the nation. It just recently adopted strategies on medium and heavy duty trucks to reduce emissions in that space. And we followed up. We now have 15 states that have joined this partnership. We were the first state to do that and we are committed to finding more support from other states across this nation.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (51:18)
So we look forward to working with the legislature next year. The series of efforts we look forward to continuing at the administrative level to do more in this space, and certainly all of our regulatory agencies to continue to advance the collective goal of decarbonizing our economy, which is our commitment and our resolve in this state.
Speaker 4: (51:41)
Brandon Pho, Voice of OC.
Brandon Pho: (51:45)
Hi, Governor, thank you for taking my questions. Always appreciated. There’s been some concern among labor leaders, down here in Orange County at least, and I’m sure other parts of California, about whether you will sign into law AB-3216, the labor Retention law put forward by Ash Kalra in response to the coronavirus era unemployment, amid opposition by corporations and for-profit industries objecting to this bill. What do you say to those concerns? Will you sign this bill?
Brandon Pho: (52:10)
And also, amid the conversation on wildfires and climate change, there’s another aspect of environmental justice slipping by, namely the topic of seawater desalination facilities here in Huntington Beach, this controversial desalination project proposal for the coastline that critics fear would negatively impact low income communities and palpable concern among activists that, Governor, you won’t reappoint the Santa Ana Water Board, a key vocal critic of the project proposal, Director William von Blasingame, amid the pending vote on the project’s permit. Would you say those concerns are valid and will you reappoint Directive von Blasingame to the board? Thanks you.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (52:43)
Well, and forgive me. First of all, thank you for the details of your question, and I don’t mean this to be flippant or dismissive, quite the contrary. As many of you know, I have quite literally hundreds of bills that I am currently going through in real detail and specificity. I have until the end of this month, just nine or so days, to make a determination to sign or veto hundreds and hundreds of bills. We tend not to, as a rule, unless there is some extenuating circumstance, preview where we land on many of these bills. And so I look forward to reviewing the specific bill that you have in question. And we’ll certainly, as we process that, once we sign or veto that bill, we’ll make sure that you are made aware of that decision.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (53:37)
As it relates to the decision, as it relates to personnel, we try not to make decisions about appointments or reappointments, particularly on regional bodies, water boards, and air quality districts and the like in a public manner like this. And forgive me, we have not had the opportunity, my appointment secretary, to adjudicate the quality of those existing appointees, many that I inherited from the Brown administration, many outstanding. And we’ll certainly, again, as we make those determinations, make those public.
Speaker 4: (54:13)
Elex Michelson, FOX 11.
Elex Michelson: (54:17)
Thank you, Governor. One of the Orange County Board of Supervisors’ members is asking President Trump to give coronavirus relief funding directly to the counties and not to the state in order to take away some of your own leverage. What’s your response to that? And what’s your response to the broader question about the power of the states versus the counties when it comes to dealing with coronavirus?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (54:43)
Well, there was something happened many, many moons ago. Founding fathers created a Constitution, created a framework of federalism, states rights. It’s enshrined in the Constitution. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to dust up on some of these constitutional principles to consider these requests in light of how this nation was founded and the framework that has lasted hundreds and hundreds of years. And so with respect, I defer to the wisdom of our founding fathers.
Speaker 4: (55:15)
John Myers, LA Times
John Myers: (55:19)
Hey, Governor, I want to get back to the EDD problems in particular. I mean, the taskforce had an eye popping number on Saturday night saying that the backlog is growing by some 10,000 cases a day. And I just want to know from you, I mean, how can Californians trust that this is going to get fixed and that the numbers you’re talking about now, your projections are going to be right? I mean, can you give them a better metric, that you’ve told your team you want X improvement by the end of September, X by mid-October? I mean, there’s some accountability here that people want to know something’s getting done.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (55:50)
Yeah, that’s why we put together strike teams. It’s why I brought five new people into this agency. It’s why we hired an independent consultant. It’s why we put the consultant report out at the same time we put the strike team report out. It’s why we had EDD respond in kind. And it’s why we moved forward over the weekends so we didn’t waste even a day in terms of our assurance to move forward with a reset.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (56:13)
So all I can say is that, and more, that we are committed to everything that we have asserted in the EDD response letter. And we are committed to work in a collaborative spirit, oversight, the California legislature. We had the opportunity, they have a work group that we had counseled with. They actually provided some very insightful recommendations of their own, and we’re trying to incorporate the same.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (56:40)
And so we are committed to getting this done and we recognize the magnitude of the responsibility and the extraordinary challenge that we have in front of us. And so, we’ll be transparent with you and others in real-time over the course of weeks, not waiting months for the results of these efforts. And that’s another firm commitment that the team is also advancing.
Speaker 4: (57:07)
Final question, Dustin Gardiner, SF Chronicle.
Dustin Gardiner: (57:12)
Thank you, Governor. With respect to zero emissions vehicles and climate change, your administration has moved in the last year to cut rebates for electric vehicles. Even before the pandemic, your budget cut funding in about half, and this was as the state had a surplus. Now, it looks like there could be almost no funding for rebates this year, or very little funding. Why are rebates not a key piece of your strategy when it comes to the transition to electric vehicles?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (57:39)
We’re committed to rebates. We’re committed to a completely comprehensive strategy, from healthy soils, to doing what we can in regenerative agriculture strategies, on supply strategies, on demand, committed to the broader cause of environmental justice, energy efficiency in the state of California, and making sure communities that have been left out are part and parcel of the narrative moving forward.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (58:04)
In terms of our de-carbonization efforts, there’s an enormous amount of pressure, as you know well. I imagine you’ve reported in terms of the cap and trade program and the auction results, though we had much more favorable auction results recently. Working with the legislature, we have committed to a process very shortly to advance those efforts. And I certainly am committed to advancing the efforts on electric vehicles. You may not be familiar, but I was very proud of the work I did as a county supervisor, as Mayor, where we took international leadership, not just national and statewide leadership, during my tenure in those respective roles in electric vehicles. I am committed to doing same as Governor of California. We’re very proud of the work we just did on medium and heavy duty truck, a disproportionate number of… Well, a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions emanating from a relatively small number of those vehicles. We think that was a substantially significant effort in reducing emissions, and one we hope will be replicated even beyond the 15 states that have committed to that cause.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (59:13)
You’ll be hearing more about our efforts as it relates to electric vehicles in the coming weeks and months, and you’ll certainly be learning more, as we’re already in the process of putting together next year’s budget, when I announce those efforts in January.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (59:29)
And so with that, let me thank everybody for the opportunity to update you on some of the announcements we made over the weekend and EDD. Thank you as well to our entire team, particularly the Department of Public Health. It is nice to see a 2.8% positivity rate for the first time in many, many months over a seven day period. It’s nice to see those test numbers begin to increase. Again, not where we need to see either number. Look forward tomorrow to hearing Dr. Ghaly update us on our tiered status.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (59:59)
And again, we thank our partners at Sesame Street and Oscar for his contributions today, reminding all of us the importance, power, and potency of wearing a face covering, wearing a mask. Take care, everybody.