Due to the extraordinary economic impacts to Santa Cruz County residents from the COVID-19 pandemic, I advocated for the designation of at least $1 million in federal CARES Act funding to assist with rental and utility assistance needs in our community. Last Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed my plan of action. Shortly after the local and statewide implementation of protective measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, unemployment claims rose to unprecedented levels, surpassing the peak of the Great Recession, with 8,000 claims during a single week alone. While the Board and State have taken measures to suspend evictions, additional steps are necessary to allow people to stay in their homes once those measures expire. We know that the best way to eliminate homelessness is to help people avoid becoming homeless in the first place. Working now will help prevent a greater homelessness crisis down the road. It is imperative that we help those in need and prevent a surge in homelessness in our community by allocating these funds to provide rental and utility assistance to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Final details for how the funds will be distributed will become available very soon. I will share them through my newsletter and via Facebook. The County will also be putting information on our website.
Fines Assessed for Health Violations
Responding to increasing infection rates and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an urgency ordinance implementing infractions for violations of a state or local health order. The ordinance allows law enforcement officers or designated administrative staff to issue citations rather than penalize violations through misdemeanors, which carry fines of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. The citations will result in fines of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $500 for a third within a calendar year and is effective immediately. The ordinance covers all aspects of state and local public health orders, including the local order to wear face coverings. Residents are urged to continue to wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing, avoid gathering in groups outside your household, and practice safe hygiene including washing your hands with soap and water frequently. The County’s primary objective continues to be educating individuals on health order requirements. The lower level of enforcement allows law enforcement officers and administrative staff to support community health and safety by quickly addressing situations without escalating them into court cases or arrests. The new ordinance applies only in unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County. Any enforcement within cities is subject to future action by local jurisdictions.