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San Diego Economy Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, VA Long-Term Care Program, Census Counting Begins, And “Wendy” Re-Imagines Peter Pan

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San Diego economy is feeling the squeeze from the novel coronavirus outbreak as conventions and conferences cancel their events as a precaution. Plus, the V.A. has a program to help war vets pay for nursing homes and home health care, but the application process can be burdensome. Also, the Census Bureau is starting its headcount in earnest today. And, a new take on Peter Pan from Wendy’s perspective.

Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. Media reports say that a Marine at Miramar has tested positive for the covert 19 Corona virus. The Marine is said to be in quarantine at his home off base. We'll bring you more information as it becomes available. Meanwhile, San Diego was nervously anticipating a substantial economic impact from the Corona virus outbreak. So far, conventions have been canceled, cruise lines suspended and tourism is headed down. Add to that the plummeting stock market and national recession fears. And we may be wise to brace for tough economic times ahead. Joining me is university of San Diego economist Alan gin and Allen, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:45 Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:46 So let's start with the stock market. Where apparently in bear market territory, what exactly does that mean?

Speaker 2: 00:53 That means that the stock market is down to 20% from its recent high, so it hit all time high. It's hard to imagine, uh, imagine this better. It hit an all time high just a little while ago, but it's down about 20% from there. And that is considered in a bear market territory.

Speaker 1: 01:10 What are the factors that are freaking the market out?

Speaker 2: 01:13 Well I, I think, uh, this week cause there were a couple, the primary one is this coronavirus situation that's having, uh, you know, disruptive impacts all over the world and a threatens then to push the global economy into a recession. But this week we also had the plunging oil prices as a result of the dispute between OPEC and Russia. And so Saudi Arabia cranked up its production and that caused oil prices the plunge, which could be good news for consumers that really aren't the oil companies, which are part of the, the index.

Speaker 1: 01:42 Did wall street like the travel bands imposed by the president?

Speaker 2: 01:46 Apparently not. Uh, you know, the stock market, the open down [inaudible] at one point was down over 2000 points this morning. It's come back a little bit, but the reaction was not good to the president's address last night.

Speaker 1: 01:59 So Allen closer to home San Diego is in the middle of our major convention season and several conventions are just not coming. They've canceled. What's the impact of that?

Speaker 2: 02:09 I think it's going to have a huge impact. Then on the local economy, we're a big destination as far as tourists and conventions and meetings in are concerned and now these, uh, these meetings are, are being canceled. And so that's threatened then to have a big impact in on our tourism industry.

Speaker 1: 02:26 Should we expect more cancellations?

Speaker 2: 02:28 I, I think, uh, I think we can, uh, you know, the situation is getting more serious. You know, the NBA has canceled the rest of their season. A NCAA tournament then can be played without sands. And so I think these big gatherings then, uh, are going to be restricted, uh, or voluntarily canceled. And I think that we're going to see a lot more meetings canceled here in San Diego.

Speaker 1: 02:50 What about Comicon? Is that too far out to consider at this point?

Speaker 2: 02:54 I think it is a little bit too, too far out that uh, if that is affected, man, that would be a, uh, major blow as far as our local economy then it's concerned.

Speaker 1: 03:02 California has announced new restrictions on gatherings with more than 250 people. And of course, as you said, the NBA has canceled its season. Now given the new state gathering restrictions, do you think the Padres baseball season is in jeopardy?

Speaker 2: 03:17 I think that, uh, at least attendance at the Padres games are in jeopardy. You know, the, uh, season is scheduled to start in a couple of weeks here. And so it could be, uh, that they're gonna play the games, uh, without, without fans in the seats. And so again, that that would have some sort of a negative impact in terms of the atmosphere as far as the games are concerned, but, but also from the impact around the businesses that, uh, that around the stadium, uh, uh, or, or, or the ballpark, uh, in, in the, in the East village, you know, restaurants, bars, things like that then would be negatively impacted by not having the crowd that would normally be, uh, you know, be there after the games.

Speaker 1: 03:57 Now, yesterday the president announced a proposal to provide low interest loans to small businesses affected by the Corona virus. Here's what he said.

Speaker 3: 04:06 Effective. Immediately the SBA will begin providing economic loans in effected States and territories. These low interest loans will help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions caused by the virus. To this end, I am asking Congress to increase funding for this program by an additional $50 billion.

Speaker 1: 04:29 Could these loans make a dent in offsetting some of the economic damage from the outbreak?

Speaker 2: 04:35 It might help some businesses stay in operation, but again, these are loans that will eventually have to be paid back and won't make up then for the revenue that these organizations are lose that these companies lose. And some businesses might decide that, uh, you know, uh, it might be pointless to take out of this loan if a prospect or business then are, are, are not good in the foreseeable future.

Speaker 1: 04:57 Are there any other types of programs that you think could limit the damage?

Speaker 2: 05:02 I liked the proposal that was, uh, that was, uh, announced today, uh, in Congress, uh, where they had, uh, increased, uh, funding for things like sick leave for increases in terms of unemployment benefits, uh, in terms of, uh, food assistance because I think, uh, you know, the economy is going to be negatively affected. Some people, maybe a lot are going to lose their jobs. And so I think there's a need to, to help people then who are gonna lose their jobs as a result in of the, uh, epidemic.

Speaker 1: 05:34 This is hard to think about, but are there any industries that actually could stand to benefit economically from the outbreak?

Speaker 2: 05:40 Well, I think those industries that make the medical supplies then, uh, should benefit from this because there's going to be, you know, increased demands then for things like math and tests and other things that might, uh, might be needed in to, to deal with the situation.

Speaker 2: 05:58 So Alan, finally, how do you see the economic impacts of the Corona virus outbreak continuing to ripple through San Diego's economy in the short and the longterm? Well, I, I think, uh, this could lead to some serious problems. We've already mentioned that San Diego is really dependent then on, uh, tourism, uh, for big part of its economy. And so any, any sort of, uh, impact in terms of people traveling and going to meetings and condenses then will hurt us here in, in San Diego. The stock market drop has reduced people's wealth and so that could adversely impact, uh, their, their, their spending. And, um, if there is, you know, some sort of widespread, you know, quarantine like they're doing an Italy where, where there's are lockdown, you know, that would then just basically stop economic activity. Uh, you know, people would not be able to go to the movies or, or, or shop or things like that. And a lot of businesses, uh, Berkeley small ones then could be hurt by that.

Speaker 1: 06:57 I've been speaking with university of San Diego economist Alan, Jen, Alan. Thank you.

Speaker 2: 07:03 Thank you.

Speaker 1: 07:04 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm worrying Kavanaugh, not everything is getting sidetracked because of Corona virus fears. For instance, this is a big day for the 2020 census letters are being sent out to every household with instructions on how to take part in the national population count. Luckily we can do that from our homes by internet phone or by mail census organizers are hoping for a great response and an accurate count because a lot depends on getting the census right. Joining me is Jorge Gonzales, an organizer with the environmental health coalition, which is working to encourage participation in the census. And Jorge, welcome to the program. Good afternoon. Now tell me more about what starts happening today.

Speaker 4: 07:52 Well, many organizations, dozens of them throughout the County. Uh, under County 20, 20, we're doing essentially outreach to different communities and like you mentioned, uh, we are definitely encouraging folks to, uh, one, uh, making sure that they see, uh, the arrival of their, uh, the senses envelope that they will be receiving with instructions on how to fill it out, the survey via mail, but it also will indicate how to do it online or do it over the phone.

Speaker 1: 08:18 When people get their letters, they're going to re also receive an ID number in that letter. How do they use that ID number to help fill out the census or to access the census?

Speaker 4: 08:29 Well their I their ID number, it's something that they have to include in their survey, uh, to make sure that they uh, correct household gets counted. Um, and they will indicate the number of family members, uh, per household.

Speaker 1: 08:41 What kinds of questions are being asked on the census?

Speaker 4: 08:45 Well, how many people live in your household? Is there any kids in the household? Uh, there will be questioned on, uh, how do you identify yourself? Ethnicity and race, age, basic questions. I would get an idea of the type of communities that live in different demographics throughout the County of San Diego, but specifically to the County 2020. We're working with the hard to count communities and just so you know, and everybody knows that there is no citizenship question. That's one thing that we're really putting out there in the forefront so that nobody gets discouraged from filling this out.

Speaker 1: 09:16 What are some typically undercounted communities that count me 20, 20 in other outreach organizations are going to see that they respond to the census?

Speaker 4: 09:27 Well, historically, I think based on the 2010 census, the the hard to count communities tend to be a neighborhoods that are, have either been neglected by local government officials that either are enclaves as well of immigrant communities that you know, are newly arrivals. These are also a multi multiunit complexes where they're, it's hard to get, uh, there's hard to get access to. They're hard to reach. Um, these are also communities that sometimes, you know, uh, do, are either homeless or live in shelters and sometimes they live in at church, right? These are hard to, hard to get communities that don't necessarily have access to the internet or necessarily have access to a radio per se. So when we talk about the heart, hard to count communities, they, they, they're very much exist in the neighborhoods. A lot of our, the organizations we work with, um, and I work with environmental health coalition.

Speaker 4: 10:21 Uh, we work in these neighborhoods and the, and it has to be predominantly be, you know, uh, efforts that are being conducted, uh, by trusted messengers. So that's the very key thing here that we're, we're, we're sending out trusted messengers to these communities to make sure that every household gets counted and that the word gets out, whether it's at a, at a local, uh, community planning group, whether it's at a local school, whether that might be at the local church. Uh, the outreach is really meeting the communities where they're at and not necessarily at the door at times. We know that in a hard to count communities, many families who have two or three jobs, so you might not find them at home. Uh, so we have to go to locations where they actually are at.

Speaker 1: 11:01 Is there a deadline for responding to the census?

Speaker 4: 11:04 As far as I know it's, it's till the end of July, but what we're saying is you have to do it by the end of April. If you want to avoid numerators coming to your door and looking for, you are looking to see if anybody in the house who lives there. Um, we want to make sure that the families are filling this out by the end of April. That's where we're, that's, that's our message and we're really highly encouraging folks to do it online as a, as an alternative option.

Speaker 1: 11:31 So census takers will eventually be going door to door if people don't respond to the census. But are you concerned that fears about coronavirus will stop people from answering the door and completing the census or make it more difficult to recruit people to go door to door?

Speaker 4: 11:48 I think more importantly our messaging, and we're also doing phone banking, so a lot of a of the organizations under counting 2020 we were doing phone banking. We're diff doing different forms of outreach beyond the door knocking, which is, we know it's vital and important, but the, but the unique thing about this year, like I said again, is the fact that people could do it online. But we are definitely doing the outreach and letting folks know that this is a, a way that for the first time this year in 2020 people can do it. It wasn't available in 2010 and it is available now.

Speaker 1: 12:19 Remind us what's at stake in getting an accurate census count. What do those numbers mean for States, cities, and counties in terms of services and policies?

Speaker 4: 12:29 I like to say that everything around you, right, everything around you that you see in your community is based on the census. But more importantly, uh, uh, bringing the right resources to our neighborhoods, right? There's a lot of millions, millions of dollars at stake as we know, for every fee for every person that does not get counted, we lose approximately a 10,000, $20,000, uh, in the next 10 years. So that's $2,000, uh, per person, just in the city of national city for instance, there was a 30% under count in 2010, um, and the sum of money there with millions of dollars were lost. So that's, that's one key thing and I think that's one thing that everybody should know and, and, and definitely stress to others that there's a lot of money at stake. That if the communities, the communities we, uh, we're working with, uh, don't get counted properly, the, the fundings and the resources that they should be receiving will not arrive.

Speaker 4: 13:19 Right? Uh, the other big one is, is the redistricting. We're coming in, we're, we're on an election year, uh, electoral year and 2022 will be another year where a lot of districts or districting would happen or new districts will, will come in place as a result of a new population count. We know that for every 1 million people in the state of California, we get a new Senator. And the same thing with an assembly member, right? For every half a million people, we get any assembly member, hence 40 million people in California, 40 senators, 80 assembly members based on the population we have today. So that is more than anything. Uh, I think one thing that people should keep in mind when filling out the survey or in talking to other friends and neighbors that people should really know that the census is a matter of money. It's a matter of getting the right resources into our neighborhoods.

Speaker 4: 14:10 It's also about redistricting. Who do you, who will represent you in the near future? Do you have a presentation in your community? Is, is it lacking? And the question is why. If there is, if it is lacking, you might want to ask yourself why. So really working with these hard to count communities in in the, in the S in the city of San Diego and they'll go home and all the neighborhoods in this and the County of San Diego in general that are hard to count. It is pro-bono right for the future of these districts or for the future of getting the precise headcount of of our communities.

Speaker 1: 14:40 I've been speaking with Jorge Gonzalez and organizer with the environmental health coalition, which is working to encourage participation in the 2020 census. And Jorge, thank you much. Thank you. When wartime veterans or their spouses can no longer live independently, a government program can help them pay for nursing homes, assisted living and home health care. The VA's aid and attendance benefit can make a big difference for people struggling to afford longterm care, but the application process is often long and complicated. Stephanie Colombini reports for the American Homefront project,

Speaker 5: 15:25 95 year old army veteran. Bernie Pawlik is attending a birthday party at an assisted living facility near Baltimore for a fellow resident music plays a staff pass around cupcakes for me like chocolate or strawberry. Both public's been at this facility for three years. Staff help him with daily needs and engage him in group activities like these parties and his favorite happy hour. That trait we have. Wonderful. I couldn't be traded better living here. Cost Papa like about $6,000 a month. He pays for it with social security retirement funds and as of January, 2019 about $1,900 in monthly payments from the VA. They helped me out. I know Papa Alec's proud. The VA is recognizing his service in world war II, but securing that recognition took his son Jean nearly two years. How does nearby home, the younger public drops a box of paperwork on his dining room table. There's bank statements, documents about his dad's service, health records and the letters to and from the VA.

Speaker 6: 16:30 It's about 25 or 30 pounds all together as soon to be added to with another a PO Jean Papa

Speaker 5: 16:38 lick applied for aid and attendance for his dad. In February, 2017 his father was legally blind, had a partial dementia and struggled to get around and his net worth was less than the maximum amount to get the benefit then about $80,000 but as of late last year, it's close to 130,000 after months of not hearing from the VA except for a request for his father's medical records from Germany in 1946 Papa lick found out he was rejected.

Speaker 6: 17:07 Yeah, I just couldn't understand why he wasn't approved

Speaker 5: 17:11 and appeal also failed. It was only when Papa Alec vented on an online forum where dozens of others sought help with the benefit that a user pointed out the problem. The family friend, lawyer who helped Papa lick with the application filled out the wrong form. So Papa lick applied again and six months later his dad started receiving the pension. Papa trying to recoup some of the thousands of dollars in benefits his dad would have gotten had they applied correctly.

Speaker 6: 17:37 Well, thank God I retired because this has been my job since then. Basically it's been a strain.

Speaker 5: 17:43 Applications go through several people at the VA, each investigating different parts of the claim like financial assets and tell status so it can be hard to clear up confusion about missing documents or wrong forms, fill it Moleys with the Maryland department of veterans affairs.

Speaker 7: 17:59 The last thing you want to do is get it into a letter writing contest from the VA because it just adds time.

Speaker 5: 18:05 Molly's has vets in their families often wait until they need help to start looking into benefits so they're not prepared for the paperwork and patients it takes to get them.

Speaker 7: 18:14 It's definitely a stressful time for them that you can hear it in their voices. You know,

Speaker 5: 18:19 only urges people to go through an accredited veterans service officer to make sure everything's right the first time. Those people don't work for the VA but can be found at state city or County veterans offices. Then they'll have someone in their corner to advocate for them. So vets like Bernie Papa can get the benefits they deserve as soon as possible

Speaker 7: 18:40 for a [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 18:42 back at the party. The veterans sat near the fireplace and smiled. He'll celebrate his 96th birthday in may.

Speaker 7: 18:49 I hope I can beg it to a hundred then maybe I'll get it off today. Show [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 18:54 reaching that milestone will come with a lot more assisted living payments. But gene PopLock says the aid and attendance benefit relieves some of that stress so the family can enjoy their time with their dad. I'm Stephanie Calambini in Baltimore.

Speaker 1: 19:08 This story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. You're listening to KPBS mid day edition. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh, the San Diego Latino film festival that was to start tonight. Just got canceled due to new state restrictions on large gatherings. So instead of KPBS film critic Beth Huck Amando previewing the festival, we're going to run an excerpt from her cinema junkie podcast. About the new film, Wendy, that opens Friday as with LA Jolla playhouses fly, Wendy turns to jam. Barry's Peter pan for inspiration. Beth speaks with Wendy's writer, director of Ben Zeitlin about re-imagining the story in a modern setting and from Wendy's point of view,

Speaker 5: 20:05 first of all, what attracted you to wanting to reimagine a Peter pan story?

Speaker 8: 20:10 I think a lot of things. I think it was, you know, it was a story that particularly for me and my sister had been part of our personal mythology since we were really small children. You know, I think that I did a play a Peter pan for her when she was two years old, you know, with stuffed animals and like ziplines flying into a puppet theater and you know, it was like a story that we retold to each other and less than kind of like actually we telling the real story of Peter. It was really about, you know, kind of the, the character sort of stayed with us and these ideas and kind of this sort of central theme of, you know, what can lost when you grow up and sort of going from children being sort of, kind of terrified of that loss. I'm always kind of dreading like if somehow we were going to lose some part of ourselves that, um, that we can never get back in the process of growing up.

Speaker 8: 21:03 And then I think as we got older, I think more, you know, reflecting on some of the sort of the, the theme that, that really kind of, we reconnected with the story with [inaudible] at the, at the point where we decided to make the film, what kind of this idea that's kind of in a text that that always, I think continued to sort of terrify me even as an adult, that there's this kind of idea that in order to be, in order to be truly free, you have to be alone and you have to be kind of heartless and really unconnected to other people. And I think it's something that I think everybody really confronted some point is this idea that in order to grow up in order to, you know, have, you know, pursue the dreams of the work you want to do or the career you want to have or the family that you want to have, that there's this kind of sacrifice of freedom and wildness and joy involved in getting those things.

Speaker 8: 22:00 And I think we wanted to explore the notion that that doesn't have to be a choice that you make and that there's, there's that there can be tremendous sort of joy and freedom and wildness within love, within sort of family within kind of the past to getting older. And we sort of wanted to tell a story, you know, not through the lens of Peter who sort of is just this tiny little zealot for never grow up, but through the sort of lens of Wendy who is this kid who goes to experience to sort of adventure, um, and this and this freedom, but then also has to leave and go back and face life and sort of take that, take that with her. And figure out what to do with it and how that sort of confront these losses and not be broken by them.

Speaker 9: 22:43 All children grow up. But some the wild ones escape

Speaker 10: 22:51 your film's arriving at the same time that a play here is opening also re-imagining Peter pan called fly. What do you think about this story? Has given it such longevity and kind of inspired people to reimagine it repeatedly?

Speaker 8: 23:06 I imagine it's something that a lot of artists connect to. You know, I think especially when you're, when your path in life is impractical, you know, which most artists paths are, you know, we are trying to, you know, live for storytelling and imagination and as you get older there's quite a lot of pressure I think for creative people to sort of compromise their vision and their dream of, of what they might do and who they might be. And to get to more practical paths that lead to more financial stability or whatever, you know, lead to that are safer or more or more stable. And I think that, you know, there there's something in, in the experience of growing up, um, as an artist that I, that I, I think probably I certainly connect connected to the conflict and the themes within the mythology. Peter and then I'm sure a lot of other people do too.

Speaker 10: 23:59 Your first film piece of the Southern wild had a kind of social consciousness regarding climate change. This film has a really interesting kind of ecosystem to it. I mean, when the trains are going by, what you're seeing is not like this beautiful pristine landscape. And, and when they get to the Island too, there's trash washing up on the beach. So I'm wondering what kind of kind of themes you were trying to get at with that.

Speaker 8: 24:28 I think it's a couple of things. You know, I think that we, you really wanted the film to sort of celebrate a connection to nature, even if it's not like a pretty and perfect one. You know, we wanted to sort of celebrate something that was more visceral. And you know, the film was, we went through, we went to enormous length to film the, the, to make the movie, you know, on a real Island in the real rainforest. Like we shot on an active volcano, we shot in beaches that were sandstorms and oceans and underwater. And, you know, we tried to always really shoot the film, like truly in connection with nature and, and we wanted to tell a story about sort of childhood adventure that wasn't sort of like synthesize and, you know, built in a computer and, and you know, that really had that visceral, um, contact with, you know, with muck, you know, for, for lack of a better word.

Speaker 8: 25:20 Um, and, and we also wanted to sort of be mad if we talk about how, how that changes, you know, I think that one, one of the, one of the losses that we experience, like going from being children to adult is, are our sort of visceral connection to the planet shifts in a way. I think when we're young, your contact with whatever it is, dirt, bugs, dead things and water, like those things don't feel disconnected from you. You can just sort of be a part of them. And then we slowly learned to not touch things that are dirty and not get germs and you know, to. And as we get older, and I think something that changes, you know, as you become an adult is people really start thinking about how to use the earth to benefit them and to make their lives more convenient.

Speaker 8: 26:04 And, and, and oftentimes that's a very destructive force. And I think that those themes are ones that we wanted to play out in the movie. And so, you know, you're often seeing the world of adults or, or as sort of the sort of perfect world of the children fades you gets invaded by refugees and things that aren't natural. Um, and, and that, that sort of, those are two sort of parallels in the, you know, two, two sort of distinct worlds in the film. One is very much like entirely untouched nature and one that is, you know, much more sort of corrupted by the adult world of, of garbage and, and you know, construction and, and ways in which we use, we use resources to try to, um, live more comfortably.

Speaker 10: 26:48 Talk a little bit about the process that you make films. It's been a long time since, I think it's been like eight years since the piece of the Southern wild and you really kind of invest in these films, finding children who aren't professional actors and going to locations that are not necessarily the easiest to get to. Talk a little bit about that, this process you go through creating these films and how they evolve.

Speaker 8: 27:10 You know, I think we're always looking for ways to make larger than life things feel very, very real and figure out where like where does Neverland exist on this earth. She tried to really commit ourselves to this idea of, of using the real thing as much as possible and hopefully bringing like a real sense of, um, of reality to, uh, to a story that has always been sort of far away magical land that is really a fairy tale and hopefully this is a very different way to kind of think about the ideas and the story in ways that they actually can feel realistic.

Speaker 10: 27:42 That was Beth AGA Mando speaking with filmmaker Ben Zeitlin about Wendy, which opens this Friday. You can listen to the full interview on the cinema junkie podcast.

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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.