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Biden, CDC Director Warn Of Virus Rebound If Nation Lets Up

 March 30, 2021 at 12:18 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 The race between the COVID vaccine and variant, Speaker 2: 00:04 We do expect to see more illness, especially because we know what these variants, younger people are getting sicker. Speaker 1: 00:10 I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS midday edition. This state Supreme court says cash. Bail is unconstitutional. What it does is it says that when you can't have this kind of those situation where a cash with bail effectively results in a pretrial detention, for those who are poor, even if they're innocent. Plus, we look at how a new rent relief law works for tenants and landlords and a new book examines history through an inclusive lens that's ahead on midday edition. And the past week coronavirus cases have risen by as much as 12% nationwide here in California, we have yet to see an increase in coronavirus cases. Is it coming? What can we do to avoid it? Well, joining me to answer those questions is Rebecca fielding Miller, an epidemiologist and UC San Diego professor Rebecca. Speaker 2: 01:12 Go welcome. Thank you so much for having me. We're currently Speaker 1: 01:15 Coronavirus cases spike here in California. Like they are in other parts of the country, but what are our case numbers looking like statewide and here. Speaker 2: 01:25 So in our region and our state, we're seeing things kind of even out a little bit. They're not really going down anymore, which is too bad. We'd like to see it go down, but they're also not really going up. And I think a lot of that has to do with the very hard emergency brake that we pulled in November and December with the statewide shelter in place, we saw a really precipitous drop immediately after that happened. And then when it was lifted, we saw a leveling off of cases. Speaker 1: 01:52 How likely do you think it is that that could change and we could see increases similar to those being seen in New Jersey, New York and Michigan. Speaker 2: 02:00 Yeah. So the phrase that I think we're hearing from a lot of experts right now is we're, we're really in a race between the vaccines and the variants. So we know that the new variants, this B one, one seven, this UK variant, we know it's here in San Diego. We know we expect it to be dominant within the month. We know that this variant in Brazil is quite contagious. And with both of these, we're also seeing that younger people seem to be, um, both infected more easily and become ill more easily. And so really the only way to keep numbers down in the absence of continuing to close places where people congregate without wearing masks like restaurants and gyms is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. So that those variants don't have a chance to take off. And so that if somebody does get sick, they have less of a chance of, of infecting someone else. And then the virus can't spread as quickly earlier Speaker 1: 02:53 Right now with this, I guess this place in time rather is being described as a race between variants and vaccines. Hasn't that always been the case though? Speaker 2: 03:02 The simple answer is yes. And the thing about COVID is it has highlighted really how much we do not exist in isolation. It's really highlighted how deeply interconnected all of us are. And so of course, it's an individual race to get vaccinated before you get sick. That's always been the case. I would like to get vaccinated before I get sick so that I don't get sick. That makes sense. But the more people who are sick, the more people who are hosting the virus, so to speak, the more opportunities that virus has to mutate in a way that makes it more effective at spreading and it making us sick. And so the race in that sense is really to vaccinate enough people that it shrinks the number of opportunities that that's, that that virus has to mutate in a way that it could potentially take off and, and evade some of these viruses. So it's not just about sort of your individual desire to get vaccinated before you get sick. It's about the need to make sure that we have everybody vaccinated people in Brazil and people in South Africa and people in Malawi, because that's the only way that we're going to dampen down the spread of these variants in a way that will keep everybody safe globally. And in our region Speaker 1: 04:15 Previously, we've seen a spike around holidays, you know, as a Passover Easter, we even just recently had no ruse, uh, and now spring break, they're all upon us. Uh, so do you think we'll see another increase? Speaker 2: 04:29 Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a bit of a bump. Um, all the holidays that you just mentioned involve getting together with family eating food. We just had a Seder with other vaccinated families, and it's hard to ask people not to celebrate these holidays, especially when we're coming up on another year of not being able to spend time with our families. Fortunately, I think that people who are most at risk, especially around these family events are the elderly. And now as, um, more and more grandparents and people over 65 are vaccinated that at least brings the consequences of getting together down. But it does also present an opportunity for the virus to spread more quickly as people congregate and then go back to their daily lives. Speaker 1: 05:12 And if we do see an increase in cases, do you expect serious illness, uh, to stay low? Speaker 2: 05:19 So the really nice thing about the vaccines is we've heard that this one is 95% effective and this one is 72% effective. And people get kind of worried about, I want 95, not 72, but the important thing is they are all a hundred percent effective at keeping you out of the hospital and keeping you from, from dying. And so as more people get vaccinated, it is the difference between a week at home feeling crummy and obese on a ventilator or losing your family, losing you. And so the vaccines are going to make a real difference in serious illness. But we also know that a lot of people haven't had the opportunity to get vaccinated yet. Um, 70% of the County still hasn't even gotten their first shot. And so we do expect to see more illness, especially because we know what these variants, younger people are getting sicker with this UK variant and with the strain that's taking off in Brazil. Speaker 1: 06:10 And what would you encourage listeners to do to slow the spread of the virus? Speaker 2: 06:14 Yeah, so, you know, I also watched the CDC director, his press conference the other day, Dr. Willinsky, um, where she spoke about her, her sense of impending doom and just asking people to hold on. And I can't echo that enough. We are so close. This County has done a phenomenal job rolling out these vaccines. And as soon as we can have enough people vaccinated, that we are all going to be safe, walking around, we're going to have a great summer. We're going to be able to have 4th of July barbecues, but we're not quite there yet. And I think these last six weeks are somehow the most frustrating because the end is in sight, but it's not here yet. And so the more people can just grit their teeth and power through for another couple of months, the more people can be kind and think about the risks that our behavior might be creating for somebody else. For example, going out to a restaurant and what that might mean for a server, a 20 year old server, who hasn't had a chance to get vaccinated yet the sooner this is going to be over. And shouldn't Speaker 1: 07:17 Those who are vaccinated continue to wear masks and socially distance. Speaker 2: 07:21 Yes, absolutely. And the CDC has put out really good guidelines on this. So we just saw some really great data from UCLA, um, saying that it looks like the vaccines, my Darren and Pfizer in particular do prevent about 90% of asymptomatic spread too. But that still means that it's not a hundred percent. So people who are vaccinated can still get the virus. They can still be asymptomatic, they can still spread it. And so it's important that everybody continue to mask to distance. Speaker 1: 07:51 I've been speaking with Rebecca fielding Miller and epidemiologist and UC San Diego professor Rebecca, thank you so much for joining us. Speaker 2: 07:59 Thank you so much. This was fun. Speaker 3: 08:09 Unanimous decision. Last week, the California Supreme court ruled that keeping people behind bars simply because they cannot pay a set bail amount is unconstitutional voters. Last November defeated a measure to eliminate cash bail in California and replaced with a system of risk assessment and supervision. The Supreme court ruling does not eliminate bail, but restricts its implementation based on the resources of the accused. Joining me is legal analyst, San Diego attorney, Dan Eaton, and welcome Dan, good to be with you now, cash bail has been used for years as a way of securing a defendant's appearance at trial. Why is it just now being found unconstitutional will. Speaker 1: 08:53 The short answer is because the was funnily been keyed Speaker 4: 08:56 Up to, uh, the state's high court. This is one of those issues as the court noted in its opinion, that's capable of repetition, but evading review in this particular case, what happened is the bail was initially set at $600,000, then lower to $350,000. And then eventually, uh, the, uh, trial court, uh, uh, eliminated the cash bail and put the person on a, an ankle monitor. But this is really the first occasion for the California Supreme court, uh, to focus on this issue. And they haven't, as you said, in the opening correctly, eliminated cash bail, but they have put strict limits on it, particularly, uh, so that, uh, people cannot be kept in pretrial detention. Pending trial is simply because they cannot afford to pay the set cash bail. Their ability to pay has to be taken into account. Speaker 3: 09:46 How will judges be able to determine if a defendant is not able to afford bail? Speaker 4: 09:50 Well, I mean, there, there are all kinds of evidence affidavits and the like, as far as the, uh, defendant's ability to pay of the same kinds of considerations that go into the assignment of a, of a public defender, but all of that will have to be taken into account. And the court will also have to consider whether there are less restrictive alternatives, uh, to, uh, cash bail, not only to secure their attendance at trial, but also to protect the public and the victim. Speaker 3: 10:19 Okay. Then with no bond and sharing the defendant's return for trial, how will the court monitor their release and get them back in for trial? Speaker 4: 10:28 Thank you, California Supreme court identified actually a number of alternatives. One is the ankle monitor that I think a lot of people are familiar with, but besides the ankle monitor, but there's also the issue of regular check-ins with a pretrial case manager, community housing, or shelter and drug and alcohol treatment, all of which track, uh, the, uh, the defendant, uh, while they are awaiting, uh, while they are awaiting your trial. The issue is really Marina that pretrial detention, uh, said the court has some disadvantages and being able to, uh, help with, uh, preparing for the defense and, and other issues as well Speaker 3: 11:07 Along those lines, then there will still be offenses where there is no bail or release for defendants awaiting trial. Isn't that right? Yes. Speaker 4: 11:15 That is correct. There are going to be some that's why, when you talk about this case is some people are talking about this as eliminating cash bail. That's not quite right. What it does is it sets a limits and says, well, you can't have this kind of a situation where a cash bail, uh, effectively results in a pretrial detention for those who are poor, even if they're innocent, uh, while, uh, cash bail, uh, is, uh, used, uh, if you're a wealthy defendant, you can go free pending the trial, even if you are guilty. And there's a disparity there, Speaker 3: 11:50 The end of cash bail is a movement gaining strength across the country. Isn't it? Speaker 4: 11:55 Well, certainly there are certain jurisdictions where this is coming into play. Obviously there was an attempt here in California last year, uh, with proposition 25, uh, to eliminate cash bail altogether. And the real, the, uh, the impetus behind that, uh, is because you don't want to have people behind bars, even if they're innocent, pending trial at which their guilt will ultimately be determined only because they cannot afford, uh, the ability to post a bond and get out. That's why you are seeing in the nature of criminal justice reform, more and more attention being paid to this, even in the state of California, the state legislature, but Senator Bob Hertzberg of Los Angeles, who author proposition 25, which was defeated, is attempting to integrate this infra in re Humphrey ruling, uh, into legislation that is now, uh, pending, uh, at the state legislature. Speaker 3: 12:47 Well, obviously the bail bond industry is against eliminating cash bail. How much power does that industry have? Speaker 4: 12:53 I, as, as you know, of course I don't practice in criminal law. Uh, but the fact is they are a stakeholder. There are a lot of stakeholders that are involved and it's really not just the culinary interest or the monetary interests that the bail bondsman hold their important interests that also extend to public safety and victim safety as well, that are in play. But there is also this overriding interest in the individual defendants fundamental right to freedom. That's why this issue of due process and equal protection, this hybrid interaction of these two constitutional concepts came into play in deciding according to the California Supreme court justice quire a saying, look, if you're going to do it, there has to be really no other way that you could secure the defendants attendance to trial and protect the public and victim event, a cash bail. And when you're going to do it, you've got to take into account the wealth of the particular defendant. Speaker 3: 13:48 And another factor is, uh, California's high bails doesn't California have very high bails in comparison to the rest of the country. Speaker 4: 13:57 It's really a fascinating, uh, mentioned in Dutch justice quasars, a unanimous decision, as you said, indicating that depending on the jurisdiction California's bail, it can be five, 10 times or what is often the case in other jurisdictions. So there's this sense that it's more onerous than it needs to be. The judges are going to have to make an individualized assessment to see if that can't come down so that you don't have an effect to kind of debtor's prison for people we're awaiting trial on their charge, defenses charge offenses, by the way, that are presumed true for the purposes of doing this calculation. That's one of the reasons the head of the California public defender's association has said the California Supreme court did not go forward. Speaker 3: 14:39 And what does this ruling mean for people who are already being held in jail, awaiting trial, because they couldn't afford the bail set by the judge? Speaker 4: 14:48 Well, it means they're going to be subject to a rehearing, probably in these situations as to whether there are other alternatives that will secure their attendance to trial. And, uh, we'll also protect the public and the, uh, and to the victim. And you can expect that a lot of those people are going to pre released pending trial there. The judges are going to look at their criminal history, whether there is a, a history of compliance with court orders. There are a number of different factors that the California Supreme court has said. The judges will have to look at a new instead of using cash bail as a default, that effectively amounts to keeping, uh, the poor, uh, and accused, uh, in jail, pending trial and a form of pretrial detention. Speaker 3: 15:30 I've been speaking with attorney Dan Eaton, a partner with the San Diego law firm of seltzer Caplan McMahon. And Vitech Dan, thank you so much. Good to be with you. This is KPBS mid-day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade. Heinemann thousands of people across the County get CalFresh, commonly known as food stamps to help them buy food. But KPBS investigative reporter Claire Tresor says the program regularly pushes out people who are still eligible for the extra money, Speaker 5: 16:01 Little fish, well salmon, which is at times very expensive. Maria Gonzalez, uh, Choa stands outside her alcohol apartment and talks about what she likes to buy with her CalFresh food stamps. It was mourn salmon, fresh chicken, the green organic kind. We liked the good stuff when it is available. The 74 year old house cleaner finally got on the program in 2019. It took them a while to reply, but bless be good. They did accept me, but I only lasted a mere two months. Within a matter of months, her elation had turned to disappointment. Gonzalez to Choa was told her benefits had stopped because a report was missing. However, she says, that's not right. You have Layla. I then ask them if they had received Desi. And they said, yes, do you want me to have towards the end of December, I called them. And they said that it had been suspended due to that paper right now under the CalFresh program, which distributes food stamps paid for by the federal government and individual will receive $234 a month, a temporary increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But this money comes with a number of strings attached. Every six months recipients have to provide written proof of any and all changes to their employment, status, family size and living arrangements. They also have to submit to an interview either in person or on the phone. If any of these steps are missed, the money stops. Speaker 4: 17:41 Those are six times more likely to leave the program Speaker 3: 17:45 In which they have to jump through one of these paperwork hoops. Matt unwrap a research Speaker 5: 17:50 Fellow at UC Berkeley's California policy lab says the complicated process regularly drives out CalFresh recipients who are still eligible for the program in San Diego County and across the state between half and three quarters of the recipients who left the program were still eligible for the benefits. According to the study, Speaker 6: 18:12 We think that this has to do with, um, under staffing and a lack of training Speaker 5: 18:19 On a heat Brackey is CEO of the San Diego hunger coalition, a non-profit that helps people apply for CalFresh. She says there needs to be more County funding for caseworkers and call center operators who helped people get their benefits. Speaker 6: 18:35 Um, we are, we will see, um, whether it's been just a lack of funding that has contributed to that, or not now that we've got more political will to make these things happen. Um, but what we're seeing is a little bit too much comfort with how much people suffer, trying to go through the process. Speaker 5: 18:57 San Diego County is doing what it can to help her. Cypriots says Rick Wayne, the county's director for self-sufficiency programs. Speaker 6: 19:05 We do send it to them, uh, by mail with instructions on how to complete it and where to send it back. Um, we include, uh, uh, an envelope with a free postage on it. We also send all of our customers a text message reminder, uh, when their, uh, report is due. That message also has a link, uh, where the customer can actually complete it electronically, Speaker 5: 19:32 But he says some people stop their benefits while they're still eligible because of quote, individual choice. There have been some temporary changes to the program during COVID-19 for six months, no forms were required and the interview requirement has been suspended, but will likely return in July. Also next year, households with only elderly or disabled individuals who have no earned income will not have to submit forms, but unwrap the coauthor of the Berkeley study wants more. He says, all recipients should only file paperwork once a year. Speaker 6: 20:10 It's going to be cheaper for government because you don't actually have to administer, uh, these, uh, re-certifications as frequently. And it saves households a lot of time and stress. And for the most part, you know, that type of reform would, um, more likely benefit a bunch of eligible households then, uh, allow ineligible households to remain enrolled. Speaker 5: 20:30 But that would take an act of Congress. Claire Treg, Asser KPBS news, Speaker 6: 20:36 Johnny Mae is KPBS investigative reporter Claire Tregaskiss Speaker 5: 20:40 Claire. Welcome. Thanks for having me. Now, let me follow up on the last piece of information Speaker 6: 20:45 In your report. Why would it Speaker 3: 20:48 Take an act of Congress to change the six month update requirement for food stamps? Aren't those administrative rules set by agencies and not congressional act? Speaker 5: 20:59 Well, from my understanding it's, it's pretty murky you're right. That it's possible that it might just require a change in policies, say at the us department of agriculture, and there are things the state can do. I'm a spokesman for the state's department of social services said that starting in 2022, for example, they're going to make the six month form requirement waived for households, but only for households with only elderly or disabled individuals who have no earned income, which would be about 500,000, uh, households statewide. Um, and then those households would also be certified for three years. So they wouldn't need to do an interview during that time. So those are things that, that the state can do, but definitely an act of Congress would definitively, uh, make, make the change for everybody. Speaker 3: 21:51 Now, if someone has missed sending in forms and therefore been thrown off CalFresh, how difficult is the process to get back on? Speaker 5: 22:00 Well, they basically do have to do a full re application. Um, my understanding is there is a grace period. So if you don't turn in one form on time, you have 30 days to get that in on time. But then if you don't, you're fully kicked off and you have to reapply. And the application to get on is, um, more onerous than even the full recertification that, um, that initial application that you have to do. Speaker 3: 22:27 What takes place during the in-person or the phone interview that's required? Is there any more information requested than in the paperwork? Speaker 5: 22:36 Well, from what I've heard, it varies some calls, some interviews are short and they just go over your paperwork and walk you through the rules of the program, but others can take an hour, um, and ask additional questions, asked for additional information. Um, and for some people in the program, um, from what I've heard this interview, it, it can sound kind of scary where it makes it seem like you've done something wrong, or maybe you're not eligible. You, you are trying to trick them and they're having to talk to you. So it's important to stress that this is a normal part of the process that everyone has to go through this interview. Speaker 3: 23:12 You say the amount of food stamps per month has been increased during the pandemic. Individuals can receive $234 a month. When does that increase end and has anything in the federal food stamp program been changed or increased by that huge stimulus package that just passed Congress? Speaker 5: 23:31 Yeah, you're right, exactly. The, the latest, uh, federal stimulus package just extended the increase through September. Um, so there's a 15% increase to whatever, uh, household was getting. Um, and that will now go through September. And, you know, the amount that a household gets depends on the size and the amount of money that they earn. So whatever it was, normally, it's 15% on top of that. And, and that'll last through the end of the summer, Speaker 3: 24:02 The CEO of the San Diego hunger coalition had a very interesting quote in your report. She says, she thinks that among County officials there is quote a little too much comfort with how much people suffer through the process of getting and keeping CalFresh benefits. What does she mean by that? Speaker 5: 24:20 Well, I, I think what she means is just that it can be a pretty onerous process and that people really struggle with it and that people are saying, well, that's just, you know, the way that it is, this is what we need to do. And she really, I think would want to append that and say, you know, we need to get people more help, help from, you know, a call center or case managers who can really help them through the process and make sure that they get all the documentation that they need. Speaker 3: 24:51 And are there signs that the County will be devoting more energy to helping people access benefits? Speaker 5: 24:57 Well, you know, it's maybe too early to tell because, uh, the San Diego County board of supervisors will vote on a new fiscal year budget this summer. So I think that would be the time to look for, for those changes. I'm the CEO of the hunger coalition was saying that her hope is now that there is a democratic majority on the board of supervisors. She thinks they will be more favorable to spending money in this area. Um, but I guess we'll have to wait and see on that. Speaker 3: 25:25 And if people were allowed to update their CalFresh information just once a year, instead of every six months, is there any estimate on how many more eligible people would be able to keep their benefits? Yeah, well, Speaker 5: 25:38 The report from the, um, Berkeley policy lab, uh, says, you know, every six months they can see that one in five households leave. Um, so you can't say exactly, but I think that the estimate is if you got rid of that, most of those households would end up staying on. And one way that they are looking at that is back before 2013, the requirement used to be that you had to submit forms every three months. And at that time, you know, more than 10% of households would leave after three months. And when they got rid of that and changed it to six months, that fell down to 3% of households would leave every three months. So you could extrapolate that and say, potentially if we increase the requirement to once a year, then those one in five households would stay on and maybe just a small percentage would leave every six months. Speaker 3: 26:29 Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Tresor and Claire. Thank you. Thank you so much. Speaker 7: 26:41 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 26:44 Nearly 1300 households in San Diego County were denied rent relief last fall because their landlords refuse the money or miss deadlines to file paperwork. I new source investigative reporter Cody Delaney says a new state law aims to change that Cody. Welcome. Thank you. So what prompted this change Speaker 6: 27:05 Saw the non-profits are the ones that were raising the alarms and they were the ones that were saying, Hey, there's a problem here. Either landlords don't understand they're not participating. And I think that's really what was the change in this program. And that's kind of what inspired the change in the state law. Speaker 1: 27:24 Oh, so why did so many landlords refuse rental relief? Speaker 6: 27:29 You know, that's, that's a great question. And we don't really know because landlords weren't required to explain. Um, but what I can say is the vast majority of landlords involved in the county's program, either miss deadlines to register for the program, or they didn't provide the necessary documents to collect the money in time. And, you know, advocates for rental property owners say most of these folks likely didn't have the time to pull everything together because for many of them providing housing, isn't their full-time job. Speaker 1: 28:01 So how does this new program then address Speaker 6: 28:03 That as a state law passed in January that created new rules for how these programs should operate. This time, landlords are offered 80% of what's owed to them in back rent, and they have to agree to forgive the remaining 20%. If they refuse those terms, the tenant will get a direct payment of 25% of what they owe and rent. And as long as the tenant gives their landlord, that money there'll be protected from eviction and the state's largest landlord group, the California apartment association, they're, they're urging landlords to accept the 80% saying that's likely the most they'll ever be able to collect. Speaker 1: 28:44 Yeah. I mean, tell me a bit more about what landlords are experiencing right now. Speaker 6: 28:49 So some of the landlords that I've talked to, some of them haven't collected any rent. And since last March, since the beginning of the beginning of the pandemic, you know, and throughout that time, they're, they're still expected to pay mortgage. They're still expected to, you know, if they pay utilities, they have to keep the lights on and keep everything running. So for, for landlords, they're experiencing a burden, just like tenants. Speaker 1: 29:13 What, what types of situations are they dealing with right now? Speaker 6: 29:16 Yeah. Yeah. Uh, people are struggling. Um, uh, SANDAG report released this month, said one in four people who are working in jobs that don't require a college education are still out of work. We recently spoke with a tenant and Imperial beach named Patty Mendoza. She's a single mom with two children who was laid off from her non-emergency medical transport job. Last April. Her landlord actually participated in the county's first rent relief program last fall. And she was able to receive $3,000 to cover back rent in December. Um, but she's still out of work and hasn't been able to make any rent payments and her apartment building has since changed ownership ownership. So she's, she's applied to the new, the county's new program, but her new landlord has already told her to leave by April 10th. So, you know, that's definitely causing some stress for her and her family. Yeah. Speaker 1: 30:10 I mean, you know, for P for people who are struggling, they're on the verge of eviction, like the one you just mentioned will this resource come in time. Speaker 6: 30:20 Yeah. Well, the, the, the new law extends the eviction moratorium to July. And if Mendoza's landlord does in fact decide not to participate, she'll end up receiving a direct payment of 25%. And as long as she pays her landlord with that money, she'll be protected from eviction until July. Um, and her landlord under this new law would be required to accept that money, Speaker 1: 30:46 How much money is available for this relief program, Speaker 6: 30:50 Because the money was based on population. Uh, the San Diego region received more than $211 million from the state and federal governments, specifically the County, as well as the cities of San Diego in Chula Vista all received money for their own rental relief programs. Speaker 1: 31:06 So walk us through the process then to get this rental assistance. Speaker 6: 31:12 Yeah. A number of factors determine a tenant's eligibility, but the big one is whether you're whether or not you fall within a certain threshold for income. So if you have a family of four, that would be $92,400 a year. And if you live in the cities of San Diego or Chula Vista, you can go directly on their websites, the city websites, and navigate there and find, find the programs through there. If you're a tenant that lives any other part in the County, just go ahead and, uh, apply through the county's website. Speaker 1: 31:44 I've been speaking with Cody Delaney, a reporter with I new source Cody, thank you very much. Thanks so much for having me Speaker 3: 31:57 The massive failure of California's unemployment insurance program during the pandemic has highlighted yet. Again, the state's outdated technology, billions of dollars were lost to fraud as people in need of help waited weeks for relief. But despite these public failings, or maybe because of them, there is a push at the highest levels of state government to change how California goes about procuring and updating its technology. [inaudible] Katie or reports. The news reports on the size and scope of the unemployment fraud at the employment development department were jaw dropping at least $11 billion in fraudulent claims, paid to crime rings and incarcerated. Speaker 8: 32:40 Just the tip of the iceberg. More than $500,000 in unemployment benefits went to a group of prisoners, including two serving life sentences, according to orange. But this is hardly the first high-tech meltdown. The state has experienced. Some of California's largest agencies rely on a 60 year old computer programming language for some of their operations, including EDD, the DMV and Medi-Cal is fee for service program so-called legacy systems. Assemblyman David Chiu has served on the assembly budget committee for six years. He says efforts to modernize. These systems tend to go off the rails. Speaker 9: 33:18 As legislators. We are often asked to approve tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions of dollars on top of budgets that have been blown projects that are years behind in being completed, right? Speaker 8: 33:33 Perhaps one of the largest culprits is fiscal, which is supposed to improve the state's financial management. The original $138 million budget has grown to about 10 times that amount. And the completion date has been pushed out by more than 10 years. Chu says lawmakers are often put in tough positions when dealing with half done projects. Speaker 9: 33:54 From my perspective, the legislature generally acquiesces to the incremental budget requests, where we continue to throw good money after bad. Speaker 8: 34:05 Amy Tong knows she's facing a lot of skepticism from lawmakers she's California's chief information officer and director of the department of technology. And Tom says the state has become a lot more transparent about its it failures. Speaker 10: 34:20 We're out front. We're not like saying, Oh, not a problem. We own it. We fix it, which is moving. That is a culture shift. Speaker 8: 34:26 The department has laid out its goals and its vision 2023 strategic plan, which includes delivering fast and secure public surfaces and making common technology easy to use across government Tong says the state also recognizes that overhauling an entire system at once isn't practical. So Speaker 10: 34:46 No more, a big ribbon to replace a big system because when you do that, imagine the retraining it's awful. Speaker 8: 34:54 Instead she says something more manageable. Speaker 10: 34:57 Let's take a look. What are the big things you need to do, but doing it in a more modular manner. And then you can do a lot quicker. Speaker 8: 35:03 The key part of this new strategy is a change in how California procures its technology in 2019, governor Gavin Newsome signed an executive order, implementing a new procurement system instead of the state telling vendors, what it needs and how they should get there. Tong says, California is trying a new approach of presenting a specific problem to vendors. Speaker 10: 35:26 Tell me what idea you can bloom forward in solving that and demonstrate to me how you would solve that. So that's the two step process that we have implemented this new method. Speaker 8: 35:38 Won't help with the current EDD mess. And while it's been shown to work on smaller projects, it hasn't yet been proven when it comes to updating legacy systems, but as more departments move toward upgrading their technology, the state will soon see whether this latest approach helps bring California into the future or ends in another expensive it mess I'm Katie or in Sacramento. Speaker 3: 36:02 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade. Heinemann the American history. Most of us learned in school left a lot out. We learned about the contributions of some great and some not so great white men, but the life and work of women and black and Brown Americans were usually not the focus of those histories. Now a project created by a San Diego woman is recruiting the family stories of the people who got left out of history. Our genetic legacy is combining those stories with DNA technology in an effort to help black indigenous and people of color claim their rightful place in the American story. Joining me is Shelley Baxter, she's founder and CEO of our genetic legacy. Shelly, welcome to Speaker 11: 36:50 Thank you. Thank you for having me. Do you, Speaker 3: 36:53 Or what learning history was like when you went to school? Speaker 11: 36:56 Didn't like history in school. Um, it's kind of funny that I've now have a history profession, but you know, humanizing it and adding the stories to it and adding people who look like me to that made me interested in learning more. And that's when I became interested in history. Because in school you just learned about people who you didn't feel you could relate to, or that you could look up to become because they didn't look like you now in standard Speaker 3: 37:24 History texts, the stories of black and indigenous people seem to begin at either enslavement or colonialism. How do you think that misrepresents their legacy? Speaker 11: 37:35 There's so much more to our legacies, that enslavement and the way the history books have recorded it and told our stories. It's like that's the beginning and the end where my existence alone shows that there was so much more the fact that these legacies have continued on despite all of the trials and tribulations and that our resilience, our strength and our purpose is not being examined or properly told in the history books. And so this is our opportunity to own our own stories, to tell our stories in our voice, Speaker 3: 38:11 Your effort to document overlooked family stories is called the history makers workshop. Can you tell us about the scope of the project? Speaker 11: 38:20 So when, when he teaches legacy tracing legacy tracing is the complex process by which BiPAP black indigenous and people of color have to go through in order to reclaim their loss ancestral legacy as a result of the ongoing inheritance of enslavement, because our names weren't on documents other than in wills and sometimes in Bible records. And many of those have not survived the test of time. So we use the DNA to overcome that bridge, that gap and information in order to Tracy's ancestral legacy so that people can learn more about themselves and be able to tell their story and their voice about their ancestor, because the way that we have done it, as you said, white men have been telling our story since the beginning of time. And this is time for us to take back our voice, our stories, and to claim our place in American history. Because so often we're portrayed as the tools. We're not people were the tools by which, you know, America was built, but we're not the people that built America. And that's what we want to demonstrate in these history books and to provide content for curriculum. So that, that removes the excuse of you're not represented because we don't have the history of books in order to teach that from. And so that's where the inspiration for the format came about because we want this to be taught to children and to appeal to all ages. Speaker 3: 39:49 Now, do people have to know a lot about their family history to take part? Speaker 11: 39:53 No, because the way the DNA works is it's a collaborative process. So you will do your DNA and then you will compare against other relatives of yours. And then you start that process of, you know, using the science to trace the lineages. And then you can have those conversations to potentially find stories and information that you personally didn't have access to because you didn't even know the names. A lot of the cases that I've dealt with deal with, you know, adoption or unknown paternity cases. And we are oftentimes able to, you know, reclaim, we're always to be able to reclaim the history, the full extent of the history that we're able to reclaim really depends upon the individual, but it does require this complex process. And so that's why we set up the history makers workshop in order to help people do that. Because ancestry commercials don't tell you that they just say, you know, you submit the sample and then you'll know who you are, but especially for people of color, that's just not the case. And I really want to level that playing Speaker 3: 41:00 Shelly, do you draw any inspiration from research into your own family's history? Speaker 11: 41:04 Absolutely. Um, I just recently found out that one of my cousins was Martin Luther King's bodyguard. I never knew that, um, I ordered a magazine that a family member told me that there was a story and he was talking about, he called Martin Luther King and Mike, like, that's my cousin. So yes, I draw a lot of inspiration from the stories that I find and the conversations that I have as a result of doing this research. Speaker 3: 41:29 And what about the effect of this reclaimed history on individual families? How does knowing more about your own family affect a sense of connection to the larger story of America? Speaker 11: 41:43 Me personally, what I have seen in my own family with my children, because this is really part of what inspired it. I wanted to give them a book and say, here's who you are. And this has just been an ongoing part of that process, but I've seen how the pride that they have in their lineage and the fact that they don't get feel the restrictions that they may have once had because they're, so they're not so stuck in their own head. They can look at the stories of what other people have accomplished in their own family and have that connection and believe that they can do more and they can do those things as well. Speaker 3: 42:17 And do you hope that perhaps this project will result in a new way of teaching and learning about black and indigenous people of color in our history? Speaker 11: 42:26 Absolutely. Absolutely. I want for the history to be told from the perspective of the individuals who lived it. And so that means there is very, there's a lot of validity to the white male voice that history is generally told in, but it's taken up the entire genre. So now we want to add our voices to it so that we can give a more detailed and accurate representation of what life in America has been. Speaker 3: 42:52 I'm wondering how you think this effort will open up the range of experiences and contributions made by black Brown and indigenous Americans. Speaker 11: 43:01 We conducted our beta test, um, last year of the project and we had, um, participants aged 13 to 78 and 100% of those participants became more interested and not only learning about their own history, but learning about the contributions of other BiPAP Americans. So we know that the sit, the process, the process works Speaker 3: 43:21 And how can people actually take part in this project? Speaker 11: 43:25 They can apply online for the history makers workshop, tell your American story project. There's an application process. And we will assign the legacy tracing team to those selected participants. And that book will come out in February of 2022. So that is what we are currently on registering people to apply for that process. And then we are also having other workshops and seminars for people to be able to participate and learn how to do their own legacy tracing and not just wait for the call. Speaker 3: 43:57 Okay. Then I've been speaking with Shelley Baxter, she's founder and CEO of our genetic legacy. Shelley. Thanks a lot. Speaker 11: 44:05 Thank you so much.

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In the past week, coronavirus cases have risen by as much as 12% nationwide. Will a rise happen in California too? Plus, the California Supreme court ruled that keeping people behind bars simply because they cannot pay a set bail amount is unconstitutional. And, thousands of people across the county get CalFresh, commonly known as food stamps, to help them buy food. But a KPBS investigative report found the program regularly pushes out people who are still eligible for the extra money. Then, there’s a push at the highest levels of state government to change how California goes about procuring and updating its technology. Plus, the city of San Diego and the county set aside $40 million in rental assistance last year to help low-income families. But some renters weren’t helped because their landlords didn’t take the money. Finally, a project created by a San Diego woman is recruiting the family stories from people of color who got left out of history.