SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In Gov. Gavin Newsom's daily press conference on the novel coronavirus situation in California, he announced a "first of its kind" program to support seniors and revitalize the restaurant industry.
The program, effective immediately, will reimburse local restaurants for delivering nutritious meals to at-risk seniors, three times a day, seven days a week.
While there is no cap on the number of meals that will be delivered to some of California's 5.7 million seniors, Newsom said not every person over the age of 65 is eligible. Only seniors who are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, have already been impacted or exposed directly, have compromised immune systems or are below 600% of federal poverty guidelines (which comes out to $74,940 for one person).
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Restaurants will be reimbursed up to $16 for breakfast, $17 for lunch and $28 for dinner deliveries. The funds will mostly come from the state and FEMA funds, though local governments will also pay a smaller share, said Newsom.
Newsom said the program was designed to support seniors, boost the local restaurant industry and help generate local sales tax revenue at the same time.
Local governments will determine which restaurants can participate in the program. The meals will have to follow nutritional guidelines and Newsom suggested ingredients should be locally sourced when possible to support California farms.
He also announced an expansion of staffing for the toll-free Friendship Line, which gives seniors in need of support a person to talk to. Newsom said 1.2 million seniors in California live alone.
While he focused most of his address on efforts to relieve the pain of the pandemic, the governor took a moment to mourn the loss of an additional 93 lives since he last addressed the public Thursday afternoon. He added there was a 5% increase in confirmed cases statewide.
Newsom's remarks usually range from an update on confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, to efforts to obtain more medical equipment, to efforts to reduce the economic hardships caused by the virus.
On Thursday, the governor signed an executive 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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On Friday, Newsom gave a short update on previously announced coronavirus relief efforts. He said the state has already fully reimbursed the cost of 56,000 hotel room nights for health care workers that need a more isolated or closer place to stay between shifts.
Additionally, he said 26,000 Californians have already signed up to volunteer as part of a statewide corps launched this week. Those who are interested should go to californiansforall.ca.gov.
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