Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: May 20, 2021

Over the last 14 months, the federal and state governments have approved a whole bunch of programs aimed at aiding people and businesses in need.

Most everyone knows about some of these programs. When a $600 check shows up in one’s mailbox, for example, that tends to get someone’s attention.

However, some of the most potentially helpful programs are flying under the figurative radar—and such is the case with various rental-assistance programs.

The Los Angeles Times today reported: “Months after the state approved $2.6 billion to help California tenants pay rent amid hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates say a disappointingly low number of people have applied, as the program has been hampered by a slow start, confusion and bureaucratic red tape. … Tapping federal stimulus money, California’s program includes $1.4 billion to be handed out by the state and $1.2 billion to be dispersed by cities and counties. Applications have so far totaled only about 30% of the state pot, and claims for less than 10% of the money have been approved, but not all sent out.”

The takeaway here: If you have been struggling to pay your rent, or you’re a landlord whose tenants have been struggling, you really should look into whether you’re eligible for one of these programs.

If you’re not struggling, but know someone who might be, you should encourage them to look into these programs.

I reached out to Melissa Daniels, who works for Lift to Rise, the local nonprofit who—along with the Inland SoCal United Way and the County of Riverside—is administering our county’s program, called United Lift. She told me that so far, at least 7,500 households in the county have received more than $30 million in assistance—and she confirmed that there’s a lot of money left to support even more Riverside County households.

The complete United Lift guidelines can be found here. “The general guidelines include being under 80% (area median income) and having a COVID-19 financial impact, such as a layoff, furlough or increased childcare expenses,” Daniels said via email.

She also offered up four bits of information she thought were particularly important:

1. “You don’t have to be behind on rent to apply or be eligible. The program will fund 3 months future rent, and up to 12 months back rent.”

2. If you find the online application process to be intimidating, no worries: You can apply in person. “Our next pop-up is in Coachella at the library on Saturday. It can be easier for some folks to not have to apply online. And this weekend, there will be other resources/vendors at the library, including Desert Oasis Healthcare hosting a vaccination event.”

3. “Patience is an important part of the process! We have about two dozen people who are each working with around 35 applicants on any given day.”

4. “Assistance is provided to eligible applicants without regard to immigration status.”

If you have questions about the county program, and you can’t head to the Coachella Library (1500 E. Sixth St., Coachella) between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. this Saturday, the website again is www.unitedlift.org.

If you want more information on the state-run program—which offers assistance to both renters and landlords—visit housing.ca.gov/covid_rr/program_overview.html

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

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The Weekly Independent Comics Page for May 20, 2021!

By Staff

May 20, 2021

Topics tackled on this week’s Independent comics page include hatchets, the conflict in Israel/Gaza, Liz Cheney, cancel culture, hail storms and more!

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More News

After more than five years as Palm Springs’ police chief, Bryan Reyes is retiring, effective Aug. 23. Reyes has spent a total of 27 years with the Palm Springs Police Department. Newish Palm Springs City Manager Justin Clifton said this, according to the news release: “Chief Bryan Reyes has led the Palm Springs Police Department exceptionally well. … While I have only known him a short time, it is evident that he is a tremendous leader and somebody that provided the continuity, stability and vision for his team and our community. It’s nearly impossible to appreciate how rare, and how special, it is for someone of his caliber to commit 27 years to a community.”

• After being postponed in March 2020 and again in March 2021, the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament will—pandemic permitting—take place this October. According to the news release: “The BNP Paribas Open is thrilled to welcome patrons back to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the first time in more than two years. The tournament will enforce all protocols established by the ATP and WTA Tours, as well as the City of Indian Wells and Riverside County Public Health Department, to ensure the safety of our players, fans and officials. ‘We are ecstatic to have the opportunity to hold the BNP Paribas Open in October and bring professional tennis back to the desert,’ said Tournament Director Tommy Haas. ‘We have never wavered in our desire to create an unforgettable experience this fall in Tennis Paradise for our fans, players and sponsors.’” The exact dates will be announced later, when the men’s and women’s tennis associations finalize their fall schedules.

Here’s this week’s Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and rural points to the east.) All the numbers are holding steady at fairly low levels, which is good. But as a reminder that SARS-CoV-2 remains an unwelcome part of our community, you should know one of our neighbors passed away from COVID-19 during the week ending May 16.

• On a county-wide level, our case rate per 100,000 people ticked up ever so slightly last week—meaning it’s increasingly unlikely Riverside County will ever graduate into the least-restrictive yellow tier before the tier system is slated to go away on June 15. According to the state, 13 counties, representing almost 44 percent of California’s population, are in the yellow tier, while Riverside County and 34 other counties, representing more than 45 percent of the state’s population, are in the orange tier. The other 10 counties are in the red tier.

• Traffic levels at the Palm Springs International Airport are more or less back to normal. According to a news release: “‘We’re seeing consistent month-over-month improvement in our passenger numbers,’ said Daniel Meier, deputy director of aviation, marketing and air service. ‘So far, our daily passenger numbers this month have been at 88% or higher of same day 2019 numbers, with many days in the 90s and some exceeding 100%.’ PSP expects the passenger recovery to continue due to more year-round flights. Southwest launched daily service to Las Vegas this month and Delta Air Lines is expanding their Seattle service to year-round. … Summer flight options at Palm Springs are projected to be up compared to 2019.”

• Riverside County has announced a shift in the area vaccination effort—although thus far, none of the local vaccination sites are affected. According to the news release: “Riverside County health officials are closing two vaccine clinics—one in Beaumont and the other in Menifee—as the county transitions from the larger clinic sites to smaller, community based locations operated by mobile teams. … ‘Our mobile teams provide the flexibility that enables us to focus on individual communities or neighborhoods, then move quickly to other areas where there is a need,’” said Dr. Geoffrey Leung, public health officer for Riverside County.

• Three workforce scholars, writing for The Conversation, note that tensions are beginning to rise between some companies and their employees as those employees are being told they need to return to the office. They write: “As vaccinations and relaxed health guidelines make returning to the office a reality for more companies, there seems to be a disconnect between managers and their workers over remote work. … A recent survey of full-time corporate or government employees found that two-thirds say their employers either have not communicated a post-pandemic office strategy or have only vaguely done so. As workforce scholars, we are interested in teasing out how workers are dealing with this situation. Our recent research found that this failure to communicate clearly is hurting morale, culture and retention.

• While the vaccines are getting most of the attention these days, it’s good to know scientists are making progress and developing effective treatments for the coronavirus as well. MedPage Today reports: “A cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies against COVID-19, casirivimab and imdevimab, reduced hospitalization and death by 71% versus placebo in high-risk, non-hospitalized patients, a researcher said.” (This, the story notes, is the treatment President Trump received last October.)

• A large nurses’ union thinks the feds are eliminating mask mandates waaaay to fast. The Washington Post writes: “Soon after federal health officials announced new guidance telling fully vaccinated people they can go without masks in many places, the nation’s largest registered nurses union issued a critical retort: The pandemic is not over. National Nurses United, which has more than 170,000 members, is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revoke its recommendations, saying they put front-line workers, including nurses, at risk, even though they don’t apply to most health-care settings. Pointing in part to the nation’s daily case counts, which average over 30,000 infections, the spread of virus variants, and questions about whether to trust those who say they are vaccinated, the union’s leaders say they want multiple pandemic protocols—such as mask-wearing and social distancing—to remain in place even as vaccinations continue.”

• And finally: Nonprofit news organization ProPublica continues to do amazing investigative work. Here’s one of ProPublica’s newest scoops: “The shoreline communities of Ocean County, New Jersey, are a summertime getaway for throngs of urbanites, lined with vacation homes and ice cream parlors. Not exactly pastoral—which is odd, considering dozens of Paycheck Protection Program loans to supposed farms that flowed into the beach towns last year. As the first round of the federal government’s relief program for small businesses wound down last summer, ‘Ritter Wheat Club’ and ‘Deely Nuts,’ ostensibly a wheat farm and a tree nut farm, each got $20,833, the maximum amount available for sole proprietorships. … None of these entities exist in New Jersey’s business records, and the owners of the homes at which they are purportedly located expressed surprise when contacted by ProPublica. All of these loans to nonexistent businesses came through Kabbage, an online lending platform that processed nearly 300,000 PPP loans before the first round of funds ran out in August 2020, second only to Bank of America. In total, ProPublica found 378 small loans totaling $7 million to fake business entities, all of which were structured as single-person operations and received close to the largest loan for which such micro-businesses were eligible. The overwhelming majority of them are categorized as farms, even in the unlikeliest of locales, from potato fields in Palm Beach to orange groves in Minnesota.”

Barring major news, the Indy Digest will next be back on Monday. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Read this Daily Digest at CVIndependent.com!

Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. A native of Reno, Nevada, the Dodgers fan went to Stanford University intending to become a sportswriter—but fell...