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California Pauses Unemployment Claims For Two Weeks

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

A person looks inside the closed doors of the Pasadena Community Job Center during the coronavirus pandemic in Pasadena, Calif. May 7, 2020.

California will not accept new unemployment claims for the next two weeks as the state works to prevent fraud and reduce a backlog of unprocessed claims. More than 2 million people are out of work statewide during the coronavirus pandemic. Also, a new filing in federal court claims that Customs and Border Protection knew it was breaking the law when it began turning away asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. Plus, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra talks about his more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump Administration, and possibly being tapped to replace Kamala Harris if she and Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden win in November.

officials say california will not accept new unemployment claims for the next two weeks. the state announced the two-week pause on saturday. nearly 600-thousand californians are stuck in a backlog of unprocessed unemployment claims. the state’s employment development department has been hampered throughout the pandemic by outdated technology that’s been overwhelmed by an unprecedented wave of unemployment claims.

It's likely that San Diego County will slip into the state's purple tier for COVID-19 cases. That means more restrictions will return for indoor operations and business. On top of that, many school opening plans would have to be put on hold.

But even if we’re facing more COVID restrictions, the state would still let San Diego Unified School District bring high-needs students back to school for appointment-based in-person learning. Richard Barrera is a school board member for San Diego Unified School District.

"Our ability to move forward with subsequent phases is dependent on the conditions in the community with the spread of the virus."

Some school districts are in zip codes with high case numbers, like Sweetwater Union High in South Bay. They don’t expect to reopen any time soon.

Home prices in California continue to go up...even as the economy is battered by the pandemic. CapRadio’s Scott Rodd explains why.

The median price for a home in California reached a record-high last month, topping 700,000 dollars.
There are a few reasons prices keep going up. Mortgage rates have dipped below three percent...driving more buyers into the market. But inventory remains limited.
Ryan Lundquist is a real estate appraiser and market analyst in Sacramento. He says sellers are at an advantage.
“The winners are people who are downsizing, buying something smaller and pocketing the equity. Or moving out of state into a lower-priced market.
But it puts some buyers at a disadvantage.
“People who have lower-paying jobs and really can’t get into the neighborhood that they want.”
Only two counties in California--Mono and Glenn--saw median prices drop in August.

That was Cap Radio’s Scott Rodd.

On a Monday, september 21st, it’s San Diego News Matters from KPBS News...a daily morning news podcast powered by everyone in the KPBS Newsroom. I’m Anica Colbert. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day.

Elected officials received the audit of San Diego County's regional transportation planning agency SANDAG from an independent performance auditor on Saturday.

An independent audit of San Diego County’s regional transportation planning agency SANDAG was released to elected officials last week.

Elected Officials reviewed the audit findings of San Diego County’s regional transportation planning agency last week. The audit was done by an independent performance auditor.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says allegations of improper bonuses and severance payments got mixed reviews.

The 140-page audit found fault with how SANDAG hires and promotes staff, and how in the past SANDAG made large severance payments to top-level executives without proper oversight from the board of directors, made up of elected officials from throughout the county. The agency's management agreed with some of the findings, but it fiercely disputed allegations that the payments or promotions were outside the authority of the executive director. Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas said she thinks management followed the existing policies set by previous boards. But...
MS: If we're not happy with those policies and procedures that allow for this, then this is an excellent time for the board to regain control and examine those policies, and then put forward the recommendations that we want.
AB: Other board members voiced harsher criticisms of SANDAG management.The board ultimately voted to direct SANDAG staff to come up with an action plan that implements the recommendations board members agreed with. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

A new court filing alleges Customs and Border Protection knew it was breaking the law when it began turning away asylum-seekers at the southern border.

KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler reports.

The class-action lawsuit centers on the thousands of asylum-seekers who have been turned away at Ports of Entry across the southern border since late 2016.
CBP has said they simply didn't have the capacity to process more than just a few asylum-seekers each day. But a series of whistleblowers now say that CBP not only had the capacity to process asylum-seekers, but that by choosing not to, leadership knew it was breaking the law.
Erika Pinheiro is a staff attorney with Al Otro Lado, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Unlike their characterization of events, it wasn't just a few bad apples, it wasn't just a few officers who were turning away asylum-seekers, it actually was a policy and practice that was directed from the highest levels.
A hearing is scheduled for federal court in San Diego in December.
Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News.

Well, it’s official now...COVID-19 has taken a significant cut from San Diego city's pocketbook.

Last week, City officials released projections of a 300 million dollar loss in tax revenue by next summer because of the pandemic. The bulk of that comes from 55 million dollars in lost sales taxes and 220 million hotel taxes.

Miro Copic is the founder of bottom line marketing and a business commentator for KPBS. He said the city could take money from their reserves.

"The city has over $200 million dollars in reserves, they use it for potential lawsuits or workman's comp - you know, resolving those issues, and so the city can use some of that, but what the implication is, is that if they use it now, they're not gonna be able to use it at a later date."

Along with the use of reserve money, Copic says the city might face budget cuts or would be forced to raise taxes to make up for the revenue loss.

Voting season is now officially underway. Overseas ballots for the military went out this weekend.

KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says new rules are designed to boost turnout.

MILITARY VOTE :44
San Diego is one of only 11 counties with more than 10,000 overseas ballots. More than 13,000 overseas and deployed military voters were sent ballots by the deadline Saturday, says Registrar of Voters Michael Vu. The earliest ballots to go out.
"And the reason why is transit time in getting them their ballot. And of course the other reason is giving them sufficient time to vote and get it through whatever postal system of where they are at."
The 45 day window is a federal deadline. Overseas ballots have a lower rate of return than other mail in ballots in San Diego County. Nationally the law changed in time for this election, to allow overseas ballots to arrive up to 17 days after the election, as long as they are postmarked by election day. Steve Walsh KPBS News.

We’ve been saying it for weeks now - California’s wildfire season is gonna be a bit longer this year. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say it’s gonna be a hot and dry fall.

KQED's Kevin Stark has this story, filed for the California Report.

UC Berkeley is opening a new place for scientific study of psychedelics.
KQED's Laura Klivans talked to one of the center's co-founders -- journalist Michael Pollan.

A farm in the South Bay wants to help more people in their community get access to affordable produce and flowers.

KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler reports about this farm's unique business structure, and how it could help promote more urban agriculture.

On a Tuesday afternoon, the Pixca farmstand is open for business. It's one of the few places where people can buy fresh fruit and veggies directly from a farmer in the South Bay.
Selling veggies
While smaller farms are typically owned by families, who often manage their workers, Pixca Farms is different -- the workers are the ones who own it.
Everyone's a leader here, or typically, that's how worker co-ops typically are. We all have a decision on our production, we all have immediate control, we decide what to do as a collective and how to proceed as a business.
Jose Alcaraz grew up in San Ysidro. He has a degree in environmental engineering, but decided to become a farmer and part-owner of a farm, after he found out about Pixca two years ago.
I found this place and just never left, still here.
Around a mile from the border, the ocean, and the desert, Pixca sits in the Tijuana River Valley. The year-round growing season means farmers can pack in a lot of produce inside its small footprint, and experiment with what will flourish and what won't.
Leonard Vargas is a 3rd generation farmer in southern California. Vargas started the farm in 2017 with the idea of making fresher food available to communities that lack access to it.
Really one of the things that we wanted to do is start to provide vegetables to some of those communities that are in food deserts, this gives us a close proximity to that, particularly in the south bay, seems to be struggling with that.
Shortly after Vargas began leasing the land from the county, he was joined by Christina Juarez, who's from Tijuana. The farm, like the surrounding area, is bilingual.
Together, they realized that a workers' cooperative was the best way forward for the farm.
Creo que, se puede hacer trabajo con mas corazon. Cuando te sientos igual con la otra persona. Cuando no sientes no esperen ordenes, cuando no sientes tenga va a reunar porque si algo diferente, entonces tas poniendo como tu corazon y tu alma para hacerlo.
She says ""I believe you can do work with more heart. When you feel equal to the other person. When you don't expect orders from them, when you feel they won't scold you because something is different. And so, you're putting your heart and your soul and your knowledge into something."
But it hasn't been easy. With four worker/owners, they're just beginning to pay themselves minimum wage. And nature hasn't exactly been cooperating. When the Tijuana River Valley floods, all the produce it touches has to be thrown out.
We had a little flood that came through here in December of last year, and took out all our vegetable crops, so we took them out and started all over again.
So Pixca had to get creative.
At that point we decided to add cut flowers to our mix, so that we could be more sustainable, because we are in the floodplain, and we found that people really liked them.
They now sell their flowers at the farm stand and at shops like Gem Coffee in City Heights.
The newest worker/owner, Erik Rodriguez, also grew up in south San Diego. He was furloughed from his longtime job at the beginning of the pandemic. He started helping with Pixca and like Jose, soon couldn't bring himself to leave.
For him, connecting the community to agriculture is a huge part of what Pixca does. They sell and give away saplings for people to plant in their home gardens.
There was a child that came and bought a pepper plant, and then he came back every week, showing me the progress of his pepper plant, and then finally he harvested the pepper plant and ate, I was just like, so into it that he was into it. I just felt super powerful. /cut/ It was super intense. The feeling of joy.
Pixca, whose farmstand is open tuesday, friday, and saturday afternoons in the south bay, is hoping to kick off a local urban farming movement following the worker cooperative model, especially among people of color.
We're an example to other POC that they can be part of a business and an industry, because whether we like it or not, we're still part of the system, but in our own way. With our ownership. It feels really good. I feel a lot more people, a lot more farmers, should definitely feel that.
Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News

That was KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler.

Coming up on the podcast...our partners at CapRadio talk to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra….specifically about his more than 100 lawsuits filed against the trump administration. That’s up next, after this break.

Since 2017, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has sued the Trump administration more than 100 times.

Becerra has also been floated as a pick to fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat should she and Democratic nominee Joe Biden win the presidential election in November.

The Attorney General joined CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon along with other journalists from the Sacramento Press Club for an interview last week.

They first asked Becerra to weigh in on the President’s refusal to acknowledge climate change as a contributor to wildfires.

That was California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, speaking with CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon and other journalists with the Sacramento Press Club. That’s it for the podcast today! Thanks for listening.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.