Coronavirus California: Gov. Newsom announces change to stimulus check payments

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In his daily address on the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom focused on the economic impact of the virus.

The governor signed an executive order Thursday to prevent debt collectors from garnishing stimulus checks Californians have received or will receive as a result of the CARES Act. The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), passed by Congress, gave Americans an advanced tax credit of up to $1,200, depending on income.

"Now is not the time to garnish those emergency contribution checks," said Newsom.

He said the executive order is retroactive, so any debt collectors who have already garnished Californians' stimulus checks will have to pay them back. There are exceptions for those who owe child support, spousal support or payments to a victim; their CARES Act checks can still be garnished.

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Newsom also announced 21 of the 24 largest student loan providers in California have agreed to stop collecting payments for 90 days, impacting 1.1 million people in the state. Borrowers won't incur any late fees, fines or have their credit rating impact during the 90-day period.

Wednesday was the deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic in California, said Newsom. An additional 115 people lost their lives, bringing the total death toll to 1,354.

After that somber message, Newsom shared a glimmer of hope: while COVID-19 deaths spiked, hospitalizations and ICU hospitalizations both declined, as did "PUIs" or "persons under investigation" as suspected coronavirus cases.

With sunny and warm weather in the forecast, Newsom expressed concern we'd see a "significant increase" in visitors to beaches along the California coast. He warned people to only visit beaches that are open and to maintain social distancing while visiting. Newsom said if people didn't follow state and local public health guidelines, we'd likely see an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations next week.

The governor's daily remarks have become must-watch events for those who are closely tracking the COVID-19 pandemic and the state's response. Nearly every day, Newsom has announced a new initiative to help fight the virus' spread, support those affected or move toward reopening the economy.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom announces steps toward reopening, declines to give specific date

On Wednesday, the governor addressed the pressure he's feeling to reopen broad sectors of the state.

"You'll be left wanting if you woke up to this discussion and (thought) we're going to hear that we're reopening large sectors of our society. We are not prepared to do that today," said Newsom.

The governor instead announced a modest step toward normalcy: starting to schedule essential surgeries once again. The change is being done in coordination with Washington and Oregon and is effective immediately, he said.

REOPENING CA: Here's when researchers project California can start to lift restrictions

He also announced new COVID-19 testing sites and a massive statewide contact tracing initiative, both of which Newsom says are essential before lifting restrictions. (Read the details here.)

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