Yesterday, we held a historic emergency Los Angeles City Council session to tackle many critical COVID-19 related issues right now. We passed measures that will:
- Protect renters by prohibiting COVID-19 related evictions, be they financial, health or other;
- Require paid sick leave for workers left out by new federal mandates; and
- Add new sanitary protections for workers and require grocery stores to set senior-only shopping time.
We also took a big step to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 financial catastrophe. And, we did it all remotely during the first virtual LA City Council meeting using video conferencing and telephone call-in for public comments.
During the eleven-hour meeting, we heard voices from all around the City, folks who recently lost their jobs worried about making rent, ‘Mom and Pop’ landlords concerned about mortgage payments and their nest egg, small business people persevering to open doors and keep workers employed, and many other struggling Angelenos. Some were angry, others grateful, many had helpful ideas, most were concerned and just wanted solutions. We listened, debated issues, amended proposals, and we voted on legislation.
We passed an eviction prohibition during the pandemic that is one of the strongest in the country and goes well beyond Governor Newsom’s. Even so, some wanted it to go further to prohibit all evictions, even those necessitated by criminal activity, destruction of property, etc. That amendment did not pass, but because of language that Councilmember Koretz introduced and I seconded, we were able to strengthen tenant rights during this emergency by ensuring that you can’t be evicted for:
- Having too many people in your rental (providing elderly relatives refuge, etc.);
- Excessive noise that naturally happens when kids are home all day; and
- Other understandable COVID-19 related situations when families are practicing quarantine and self-isolation.
Because civil court closures prevent evictions right now, the moratorium will be most helpful when the emergency is over. Its protection gives nervous renters some peace of mind. Included in the eviction moratorium ordinance is an important provision that allows renters to pay back missed rent that occurred during the COVID-19 emergency time frame, over 12-months after the emergency declaration ends with no interest charged or late fees levied on back rent payments. Landlords will be given some mortgage payment delay/flexibility by the Federal and State governments that will help them manage these delays in rental income.
A similar eviction moratorium was passed for struggling businesses with a payback period of only three months. Large businesses such as multi-national corporations were excluded and cannot defer rent for any reason.
During this pandemic nobody should be at work if they feel sick. While the recently passed congressional program mandates two weeks of paid leave and provides a tax credit for businesses to pay for it, they omitted businesses with 500+ employees. We added these employees to the 14-day mandate. Knowing that many businesses will not be able to wait for their tax credit and anticipating that a market will develop to buy and sell these tax credits, I put forward a motion to figure out how the City could facilitate such a market so desperate businesses don’t sell their tax credits for pennies on the dollar.
Also, the Council unanimously passed my proposal to redirect $11 million that the City had set aside for micro loans to instead fund a new technical program that would immediately maximize the potential of Angelenos applying for and getting the Small Business Administration and other federal loans as part of the $350 billion COVID-19 response program. Based on population our share should be over $5 billion. So, rather than invent our own “small wheel” program, I thought it would be smarter for us to focus on getting local business a fair share of the “big wheel.”
Lately, we started an important discussion about ways to protect employees who may lose their jobs and protect their rights once the pandemic is over. This issue is extremely complex and is not as time sensitive as other matters, since we are still at least a few weeks from the end of pandemic. Consequently, and literally at the eleventh hour, we decided to gather more information/input and handle this during our next meeting. When we reconvene I also hope to discuss my proposals to help small business by extending certain conditional use permits by 12 months unless LAPD or the Council office objects, temporarily suspend requirements for off-site or valet parking while restaurants are starting to get back up and running, and liberalize some change of use requirements to enable businesses to survive by adapting. Our actual health is paramount, and our financial health is important too, which is why I want to do everything possible to enable our economy to jump start when the pandemic is over.
As we move forward, it’s imperative that I hear from you and how this emergency is impacting you. If you’d like to email, please write to [email protected].
For the most up-to-date information, please check the LA County Department of Public Health website as well at the city’s COVID-19 portal at https://corona-virus.la/. Also, please go to my website to get local updates, tips, and critical announcements: http://blumenfield.lacity.org/