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Good afternoon, and welcome to the Fresnoland Lab newsletter. Today is Friday, April 24th.
Earlier this week, we shared the story of Jessica Tiberio, a Fresno millennial who has lost both of her jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. She’s protected from getting evicted, for now, but nervous about what happens when a bill of several thousand dollars is due for unpaid rent, if she can’t jump back into work or access unemployment benefits, something many Californians are currently struggling with.
The Fresno City Council narrowly approved a $1.5 million relief fund on Thursday for renters impacted by COVID-19. Grants of up to $1,000 will be targeted to people making at or less than 80% of area median income (~$55,900 in Fresno County for a family of four). Funds will be prioritized for people ineligible for federal assistance, including undocumented residents and some college students.
Clovis is working on setting aside $1 million for rent vouchers for people impacted by COVID-19. A new state Senate bill, SB 1410, proposes to provide rent vouchers for people impacted by the coronavirus crisis. It is sponsored by the California Apartment Association, the most powerful landlord lobby in the state.
The shelter-in-place orders have highlighted the sheer humane, public health need to keep a roof over everyone’s head. Fresno County has been successful with getting at least 500 homeless people into shelters or motel rooms since the crisis hit, but another several hundred remain on the streets, according to Laura Moreno, chair of the Fresno-Madera Continuum of Care.
Ultimately, if the commitment to keep everyone sheltered in the long-term continues, even as the economy reopens, the policy solutions may have to take on a new scale to meet the need. Can we build enough affordable housing? Will a massive expansion of rent vouchers do the trick, even if our supply doesn’t grow? Will landlords, many reluctant to work with voucher holders, change their attitudes in a suffering economy? We’ll be tracking these questions moving forward.
And now, the week’s top reads.
(For the most recent local coronavirus updates, visit fresnobee.com/coronavirus.)
Southeast Asian farmers and business owners struggle to access government assistance, as the pandemic exposes linguistic and cultural barriers. Fresno Bee
For many Valley residents facing poverty and poor air quality, COVID-19 exacerbates those burdens on their health. Fresno Bee
A southwest Fresno meat processing plant — long a smelly nuisance for neighbors — plans to close permanently by 2023. Fresno Bee
(Related: Community leaders propose spending money set aside previously to support relocation of the plant on health efforts; City Council delayed decision. Fresno Bee)
Nearly half of Tulare County coronavirus cases due to nursing home outbreaks. Valley Public Radio
When Fresno enforced masks during a pandemic, and other interesting facts from the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic. Fresno Bee
Battered cities, states are struggling to pay the bills as Congress delays bailout. Politico
How does overcrowded housing affect the spread of coronavirus? Los Angeles Times
The death of the department store is looming. New York Times
California could house its entire homeless population in hotels right now. Curbed
Why is it so hard for the government to build anything? Vox
NIMBY groups clash with local efforts to expand homeless shelter capacity during the pandemic. Los Angeles Times
A longly awaited law governing the impacts of new transportation projects is going into effect on July 1st. Streetsblog California