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California lawmakers approve state-specific coronavirus relief package, including $600 checks

Tens of thousands of Californians living in the U.S. illegally but with individual tax identification numbers will be eligible for payments.

Updated: February 24, 2021 - 2:22pm

California lawmakers have passed their own coronavirus relief legislation — a $7.6 billion package that includes $600 stimulus checks — as congressional Democrats continue their efforts to pass a federal $1.9 trillion package for President Biden.  

California's Democrat-controlled legislature passed the measure on Monday, and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into law on Tuesday.

The package includes $2.1 billion in grants and fee waivers for small businesses. The $600 payments will go to Californians earning less than $30,000 annually.

"Our lower-wage workers have been disproportionately impacted," said state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). 

Individuals and companies will be able to apply for stimulus assistance as soon as they file their 2020 tax returns. State officials estimate the entire process should take about four to five weeks. 

"This is such an important bill because it gives millions of hardworking Californians instant money that they so desperately need during this tough time, during this pandemic," said Assemblyman Phil Ting, (D-San Francisco).

About 565,000 stimulus payments will go to residents with individual tax identification numbers who did not receive federal stimulus payments and whose income is below $75,000, many of whom are immigrants in the country illegally, according to the Los Angles Times.

State GOP Sen. Jim Nielsen questioned the idea of committing the state budget to the needs of the undocumented population.

"This budget is going to be creating long-term obligation to the undocumented," he said during legislative debate. 

Another Republican legislator, Assemblyman James Gallagher, said that there would be no need for such an extensive relief bill had the state not forced small businesses to close their doors for such a lengthy period of time. 

"This governor arbitrarily and unilaterally decided to shut down mostly small business in this state, and as a result many small businesses have already gone out of business," said Gallagher, who voted to support the business grants bill. 

Applications for the small business grants will be ranked according to multiple criteria, including the  industry-specific severity of pandemic-related economic losses, as well the needs to ensure wide geographic distribution and the equitable representation of minority-owned businesses in grant distribution. 

"Our commitment in that effort is to underserved communities and underrepresented communities, which means we are going to be very mindful of where those dollars go," Newsom said Monday.