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Workers Weigh In On The End Of $600 Unemployment Benefit, Eviction Crisis Looms In San Diego County, This Weekend In San Diego Art Events

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PHOTO BY PATRICK SEMANSKY AP

Above: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he does not supporting extending additional unemployment benefits that run out at the end of July.

The extra $600 a week unemployment benefit under the federal CARES Act has helped over two million Californians make ends meet. Now that it's ending, nonprofits and the state look to help fill the gap. We hear from two San Diegans on how the end of the extra benefit will impact their livelihoods. Local and statewide moratoriums have kept a wave of possible evictions on hold for months. With those moratoriums expiring in the coming weeks, thousands of San Diegans could end up on the street if legislators don’t act. In San Diego art events this weekend: TwainFest kicks off a virtual festival, stories inspired by art at Lux Art Institute, youth actors present a classic, a poetry workshop with Gill Sotu and the Spreckels Organ Society continues its weekly webcasts.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Additional unemployment benefits expire leaving San Diego with few options.

Speaker 2: 00:05 We need this money to stay alive and above water. Otherwise you're going to have a whole lot of homeless people that are angry.

Speaker 1: 00:13 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition. There's an urgent need to resolve the looming issue of back owed rent in San Diego. I'm supposed to keep my children safe. And how am I supposed to do for that one? When we're about to get addicted when these moratoriums live and online Shakespeare and more coming up on the weekend, preview stay with us for KPBS mid day edition lawmakers in Washington, continue to argue as unemployed San Diego continue to worry. The $600 extra payment from the federal government to augment weekly. Unemployment checks officially ends today. A second federal stimulus packages in the works, but Democrats and Republicans are split about priorities. And the deal is still up in the air support is said to be growing among Democrats in the California legislature to dip into a federal trust fund supplied to the state and have the state continue. The $600 unemployment supplement. If the federal government remains in a stalemate here's San Diego assembly, woman, Lorena Gonzalez on what she believes is at stake. If the $600 supplement ends,

Speaker 2: 01:47 We're going to end up with them at huge housing crisis, um, mortgage crisis, as well as a renter's eviction crisis. We're going to end up with people basically starving to death. I mean,

Speaker 1: 01:57 Tenable, all of this goes on as the reopening of San Diego has been put on hold and unemployment is once again, increasing joining me are two San Diego ones here to talk about the real impact of losing that extra $600 in unemployment benefits. First, we welcome Patrick Ridgewell he's a professional stagehand. He sets up audio and visual elements for events primarily at the San Diego convention center. And Patrick, thanks so much for joining us. Welcome to the program. Hello and good morning. Now I understand that you've been out of work since March when the pandemic first hit. Can you talk to me about your line of work and how it's been affected

Speaker 2: 02:37 The entertainment industry? We do mostly conventions as well as theater, as well as like concerts and at the middle of March, right around the 11th of March. They, uh, told us no mass meetings, so that shut our industry down the convention center shut itself down. And we have no job to go to now because that's where our work is at.

Speaker 1: 03:04 Now, without this additional money from the federal government, how much would you be getting an unemployment?

Speaker 2: 03:10 I would get a total of $450 a week, which $50 of that goes to taxes that totals out to about $1,600 a month. My rent alone is $1,400 a month. So it's really just paying my rent and maybe a little bit of food at the, at the $400 that I get out of it. With the 600, I'm able to pay my rent, I'm able to pay my electric bill. I'm able to pay my car payment and my car insurance. And I'm just me. There's a lot of us stagehands that have families to feed on that.

Speaker 1: 03:51 Do you see as your best option, if this benefit isn't continuing

Speaker 2: 03:56 Well, if this benefit isn't continued, I will have to start thinking about taking away from my retirement fund. I will probably have to take away from it to stay alive, cause I don't want to be homeless. And I, you know, I'm 63 years old. It's a little late to start looking for another line of work when I'm just so close to retirement, as it is every day that I don't work, I'm losing money into my retirement, which is my incentive to really keep working as much as possible, especially at 63.

Speaker 1: 04:30 Yeah. You know, we've heard news stories about people who don't want to go back to work because they're making more money on unemployment with that additional federal benefit than they would be by going back to work. Is that the case for you? Do you make more money on unemployment?

Speaker 2: 04:46 No, I do not. I make a lot more money working than I do on unemployment. Even with the $600, the $600 just keeps me to where I can live without having to go into debt. If I just buy what I need, my food pay my bills as they are. I don't go anywhere because of the pandemic. Of course,

Speaker 1: 05:07 The people in Washington seemed to be talking about perhaps continuing the federal benefit, but decreasing it. How would that impact you?

Speaker 2: 05:15 You'll be, it'll be less money. I'll have to find a way to survive. Like I say, the only thing I can think of is to either go in debt, take away from my retirement, which will make me have to work longer, you know, into my retirement years, which as I'm getting older, it's a lot harder to do. And our work is gone. There's no convention center doesn't have any shows until December. They have two shows in December that are scheduled right now. All the other events are canceled. Sports arena has canceled all their shows all the way through till March, 2021. And if I'm not mistaken, all the theaters are shut down at least

Speaker 3: 05:58 January. And then they're going to go from there till continues. We're still not going to have work to go back to because they aren't going to allow large groups to gather. And that's what we do is large groups together.

Speaker 1: 06:11 Now I'd like to bring in Nunziata Daniella into the conversation she owns and operates a cafe in downtown San Diego called Altea throw panini grill, and Nunzio welcome to the program.

Speaker 3: 06:25 Good morning. Thank you for having us.

Speaker 1: 06:27 You're presently at the grill as you speak to us, is that correct?

Speaker 3: 06:31 I am we, uh, resumed operations a couple of months ago and uh, we are, uh, struggling until the regular work for the offices around us resumed. We will not see any improvements. We are located in the business district of downtown San Diego on third and eight now

Speaker 1: 06:54 Because of the pandemic, unemployment benefits were extended to business owners. And you also got that supplemental additional benefit from the federal government that's ending. Now, how has that additional money helped you and your business?

Speaker 3: 07:08 The additional money as basically kept us in business. We are able to keep our doors open, buy groceries and paper supplies, and pay the essentials. Everything that makes a restaurant run that are things, a regular bills that just don't go away with the doors closed or her open. They're still there now.

Speaker 1: 07:30 Yeah. Talk to me about the ripple effect. I mean, if you no longer get this additional unemployment money, who else would be impacted?

Speaker 3: 07:40 My direct family, my employees have been impacted. My landlord will be impacted. My business Roland or landlord has been impacted. Everybody like creditors, nobody gets paid the grease trap guy doesn't get paid Estee, Jenny doesn't get paid. Name it. There are no oil changes, basic things that you will need in order to continue living. This is how people end up homeless. Basically.

Speaker 1: 08:10 I want to ask you both a final question. What would your message be to lawmakers who are hesitant about extending the $600 supplement? Because it increases the national debt and it may decrease. People's incentive to go back to work. Nausea. Let me start with you. What's your message.

Speaker 3: 08:31 My message is to continue giving the extra $600. I agree that maybe some people are earning more than they would at a regular job. And I'm not sure if there is a way to figure out who's making what and who deserves or can use the six extra $600 instead of giving it to everybody

Speaker 1: 08:56 And Patrick, what would be your message to lawmakers?

Speaker 2: 09:00 My message is this is a lifeline to a lot of families. Without this, these families are going to be homeless. They're going to have nowhere to go, no way to feed their families. I would be happy to go back to work tomorrow. Believe me, if my job was ready, I'm ready to go. And I know that most of the people that I normally work with, we keep in contact with each other and we try to, you know, reach out to each other. And this is what's kept everybody from going literally crazy. As far as you know, we're trying to just stay patient, stay calm, do the right thing. Stay home. If we don't have a job to go to, how was it bad giving us a lifeline. We need this money to stay alive and above water. Otherwise you're going to have a whole lot of homeless people that are angry.

Speaker 1: 09:48 I want to thank my guests, Patrick Bridgewell and nuncio. Daniela, thank you so much for joining us. I really do appreciate you sharing your experience and sharing your thoughts. Thanks a lot.

Speaker 2: 09:59 Thank you.

Speaker 1: 10:04 Meanwhile, rent is due tomorrow for thousands of tenants in San Diego County, but many have not been able to pay it during the coronavirus pandemic, local and statewide moratoriums have kept a wave of possible evictions on hold for months now, but many of those moratoriums are set to expire in the coming weeks. KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler tells us how time is running out to find a solution for tenants and landlords.

Speaker 2: 10:32 The scale of the crisis is staggering. According to a study by the consulting firms, stout over 40% of California's renters are currently unable to pay their full rent and are at risk of eviction in San Diego with its already elevated rents and lack of affordable housing. The issue looks very much the same tenants like Imperial beach resident, Patricia Mendoza suddenly saw their income zeroed out. She's a single mom who was laid off in April and didn't get her first unemployment benefits until June. She hasn't paid her rent in months. It's extremely hard because like I said, I'm the only one here. I'm I'm supposed to keep my children safe. And how am I supposed to do that? When, when we're about to get evicted, when these moratoriums lifts, she's waiting for some plan to come together to help tenants deal with the months of unpaid rent at a time when there's no sign of an economic recovery and low income communities are being hit.

Speaker 2: 11:22 The hardest by the pandemic, help us help us low income communities help our black and Brown brothers and sisters because we need this help right now. Who else can we go to our elected officials? They're supposed to listen to us right now. The region has several overlapping moratoriums placed on possible evictions, but many of them have already expired are set to expire within weeks. The most pressing date for San Diego residents is now August 14th. When the state's judicial council could reopen eviction proceedings across County in places without an ongoing moratorium in June, the San Diego city council committed 15.1 million of federal care Zack money to create an emergency rental assistance program that would help around 3,500 families pay their rent. But Greg Knoll with the legal aid society of San Diego says, that's still not enough. It's going to take government dollars. I believe whether it's local city County or state dollars to help this crisis to crisis that could explode all at once all over us.

Speaker 2: 12:26 Unemployment benefits now cut nationwide San Diego's tenants and landlords have pinned their hopes on Sacramento Bay area assembly member. David Chu is the author of assembly. Bill 1436. It would allow renters in financial distress to stretch out their rent payments accrued during the pandemic until April, 2022 and possibly beyond it would also make it so unpaid rent during the pandemic, can't be the sole basis for an eviction. We all know that it is completely unreasonable to suggest that if you have been out of work or have seen your income dropped dramatically, that come August 14th, you're magically going to have the money to pay any unpaid back rent. In the last couple of months, the bill also includes mortgage for Barron's provisions for landlords. Last week, a group of landlords held a press conference in support of AB 1436. One of those was San Diego landlord, ginger [inaudible].

Speaker 2: 13:20 She doesn't want this housing crisis to be a repeat of 2008, where investors were able to move into a distressed housing market, buy foreclosed properties and drive up rents. They feel like I'm looking at this thing from the perspective as a real estate professional, it terrifies me because renters particularly renters on the, on the lower scale of income, you know, they just are in the habit of being in the business of just being people. They're not real estate professionals, not all landlords are quite on board with the bill. Todd Henderson's the fourth generation San Diego landlord. He says that without more financial support bills like AB 1436 could still leave tenants owing an insurmountable amount to landlord individuals who really are in those positions, frankly, are probably going to pack up and leave in the middle of the night and leave. And that does happen. We haven't happened on a somewhat regular yeah. With the clock ticking. It's now up to state legislators and governor Gavin Newsome to craft a response to the looming eviction cliff that many other cities across America are now falling off of tenants. Like Patricia Mendoza are counting on it. Governor Newsome say, we're in this together. We just want to be accounted for, want to be in it together. You know, that's it. Max Revlon, Adler KPBS news.

Speaker 2: 14:45 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. Lots of stories to be told this weekend,

Speaker 1: 14:52 Preview the arts offerings coming up in San Diego seem extra inclined to celebrate the craft of a great story. Whether it's alongside visual art, exploring Shakespeare or bringing some 19th century literature to life. Joining me is KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon Evans, with all the details and welcome Julia. Hi Maureen. Now first up it's a storytellers of San Diego performance. Tell us about tonight's art inspired reading. Yeah.

Speaker 3: 15:21 So this group has been partnering with Lux art Institute for their entire season. In fact, holding performances alongside each of the galleries, artists and residents. And we talked about the current artists, Cammie Steris before her exhibitions called how neat the fold of time, how easily the crease forgotten. And it features her contemporary sculpture kind of plays on Greco, Roman influences and these local storytellers each picked either a particular piece or the entire exhibition to inspire new original writing can be either fiction or nonfiction and they'll present these works virtually on zoom.

Speaker 1: 16:00 So that's art and stories at Lux art Institute. And that takes place tonight at seven, we can watch us special interpretation of Romeo and Juliet this weekend. That sounds interesting. Yeah.

Speaker 3: 16:12 Yeah. So the old Globes Pam bar summer Shakespeare studio is an intensive program for high school students and recent graduates. And they dig into everything about Shakespeare theory, writing, acting, you name it with some of the best Shakespeare scholars and experts in the country at the globe. And this year's program was entirely through remote learning. The program was also inspired by this current moment. In other ways, in the time of Shakespeare, there is, there was also plague and fighting in the streets and the youth in the program, they've adapted the story to bring it up to today. So they recorded their performance, some video and their presentation also includes interactive parts with the audience that focus on what it means to be a young person living in this current moment.

Speaker 1: 16:59 That's the old globe, summer Shakespeare studio presenting Romeo and Juliet Saturday at 1:00 PM. Speaking of the classics, the Twain fast usually takes over old town in the summer with performances and readings and special events, all connected to 19th century, literature and drama. So how are they adapting to the pandemic?

Speaker 3: 17:20 Yeah, they've had to shift to online models to you, but they're doing this year is delivering 16 days worth of performances and dramatic readings of 19th century works of literature. You sign up for the festival and you'll get a daily email with a live recording from local actors right out loud is the group that coordinates Twain Fest along with old town state, historic park Fiesta de Reyes, Cigna theater, and many, many more. Each day's email will have a theme, whether they're divided by a particular writer or a topic like they have suffrage, adventure, mothers and fathers and they'll feature work from Twain himself, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen, Poe, Thoreau, and a bunch more

Speaker 1: 18:03 Fast. 2020 kicks off virtually Saturday, tomorrow and runs through August 16th. Finally, Spreckels Oregon pavilion has delivered virtual concerts each week throughout the pandemic. What can we expect this Sunday?

Speaker 3: 18:18 Yeah. San Diego is very own civic organist where I will create a Ramirez has been recording at Balboa parks, Oregon pavilion in relative secrecy throughout the pandemic. But starting this weekend, Ramirez will take some well earned time off. So this Sunday they're going to play some of the greatest hits from the last few months. Ramirez is a pretty dynamic organist. I'm talking like fog machines. I've been told we can expect some Bach for sure, like some early music, something romantic, a little something from Broadway and also some classic rock like his very famous take on Bohemian Rhapsody.

Speaker 1: 19:16 I'd love that that San Diego civic organist, or we will create Brito Ramirez performing his rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. The weekly Spreckels organ pavilion webcast will air on YouTube sunday@twopmformoreartseventsortosignupfortheweeklyartsnewslettergotokpbs.org slash arts. And I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon Evans, Julia, thanks so much.

Speaker 3: 19:44 Thanks for having me.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.