From hotel rooms for people who are homeless to restaurant meals for seniors isolating for their lives, California has rapidly expanded its safety net in an attempt to catch millions of residents impacted by the coronavirus and its economic aftershocks.
In daily press conferences during the pandemic’s first months, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new “first-in-the-nation” plans to protect vulnerable Californians from illness or financial distress at a dizzying pace.
But months in, the pandemic safety net strains and sometimes snaps under the weight of Californians’ needs. People spend hours calling agency after agency seeking help to buy groceries or pay rent. Many fall through the cracks.
Approximately 16 million Californians, or 53% of all adults, have lost income since March 13, according to estimates from a Census Bureau survey conducted in mid-June. An estimated 3.5 million residents report their family lacked enough food to eat, up from 2.7 million before the pandemic. And 3.3 million have slight or no confidence that they’ll be able to pay July’s rent.
Whether California’s safety net response represents the best the state could do to keep its residents afloat or a one-two punch of overpromising and underdelivering may lie in the eyes of the beholder.
For some of California’s biggest pandemic safety net programs, here’s how the state’s promises square with reality: