Political Watch: March 23, 2023

• U.S. Reps. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Santa Cruz) joined 24 members of the California congressional delegation in calling for a delay of the March 16 deadline for families impacted by January’s severe storms to apply for federal aid, according to a March 15 statement from Carbajal’s office. Amid multiple new storms that have caused renewed flooding and displacement of families on the Central Coast, the bipartisan group of lawmakers asked the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to extend the deadline for direct support to offset costs of home repairs, temporary displacement, and other costs associated with the January storm. “Our constituents are currently facing yet another flood event, and many have been displaced right before the March 16, 2023, deadline. Extending this deadline will allow victims to focus on their safety, instead of paperwork, as they continue to experience the fallout from current winter storms,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are confident that FEMA did not anticipate this current storm when setting the current March 16 application deadline. We urge you to extend this deadline for our constituents who have been unable to recover between historic storms and have faced emergencies and losses twice in the past three months.” While President Joe Biden has approved another federal emergency declaration for the most recent storms hitting the Central Coast, applications for FEMA disaster relief cannot be used for damage caused by the most recent flooding events.

• U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California) joined several of his colleagues in sending letters to the nation’s largest pharmacies—including Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, and Walmart—urging them to ensure their policies provide the strongest possible legal access to mifepristone, an FDA-approved abortion medication, according to a March 14 statement from Padilla’s office. In their letters, lawmakers ask companies to fully assess the laws in each state they operate in and ensure their policies provide the widest legal access to critical patient care, as well as clarify how they inform customers about access to the medication. In their letter to Walgreens specifically, the senators called out the company’s “confusing announcement” about its plans to dispense mifepristone to customers, writing, “At a time of great confusion about abortion access, your company has done the disservice of adding to it.” In the aftermath of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, access to medication abortion is more vital for patients than ever, Padilla said in the statement. Across the U.S., medication abortion is the most common way women get abortion care, and mifepristone is one of two drugs used in most medication abortion care. Approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago, mifepristone’s safety and efficacy have been affirmed time and again by scientific evidence, research, and clinical experience.

• Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the release of $1 billion in Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention Round 4 funding to support communities across the state stepping up their work to reduce homelessness, according to a March 16 announcement from Newsom’s office. In 2022, Newsom paused this funding to local governments and demanded greater ambition when they collectively proposed only a 2 percent reduction in unsheltered homelessness. Local governments have since revised their plans, now targeting a 15 percent reduction in homelessness statewide by 2025. Additionally, he announced the state’s largest mobilization of small homes to serve people experiencing homelessness, especially those living in encampments. The California National Guard will assist in the preparation and delivery of 1,200 small homes to Los Angeles, San Diego County, San Jose, and Sacramento—free of charge and ready for occupancy. “In California, we are using every tool in our toolbox—including the largest-ever deployment of small homes in the state—to move people off the streets and into housing,” Newsom said in the statement. “We are tackling this issue at the root of the problem by addressing the need to create more housing faster in California.”

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